True Wireless Headphones: How To Find The Right
True wireless in-ear headphones like Apple's Airpods are extremely compact and ideal for commuting and sports. Since there is no longer a connection cable between the right and left earplugs, you will hardly notice good models after a short time. In the CHIP comparison test, we checked numerous true wireless headphones and tell you where the basic strengths and weaknesses of the products are and what you should pay attention to when buying. Our top recommendation is the almost perfect Sony WF – 1000 XM3, this one is for round 250 euros quite expensive. You can get a significantly cheaper True Wireless headphones with usable performance for 30 Euro.
True wireless in-ear headphones (selection)
Test winner: Sony WF – 1000 XM3
- Very convenient
- Excellent sound
- Persistent battery
- Not waterproof
In the test, the Sony WF – 1000 XM3 (for testing) the best overall rating: In all categories we give the in-ear headphones the grade “very good”. The sound is great, the headphones sit comfortably and do not slip, have an excellent battery life and almost perfect equipment. The sound is very clear, with rich bass. We like both the mids and the highs, but with the latter the sound has a little too much energy. We still rate the softer and more spacious sound of the Bose Soundsport Free a bit better here because it is more natural. The sound of the Sony is absolutely great for true wireless in-ear headphones.
For convenience, Sony provides various attachments, from which the user can do that can choose the best fit for you. The in ears are pushed into the ear canal and rotated until they are firmly seated. Thanks to active noise cancellation, the WF – 1000 XM3 effectively tested ambient noise , The touch controls are good. In our test, the WF – 1000 XM3 without using noise canceling nine hours through – with charging in the battery case you get a total runtime of very good 38 hours. The Price of around 200 Euro (as of January 2020) is appropriate for the strong performance.
Airpods with noise canceling: Apple AirPods Pro
- Strong sound
- Very good noise canceling
- Long battery life
- Not all functions under Android
Apple's completely wireless in-ear headphones Airpods Pro with noise canceling made an excellent impression in the test. The active noise cancellation works very well, the sound is great, the battery life is long and the comfort is high. Apple's Airpods Pro performed better in every respect than the normal Airpods . If you are used to the latter, you have to get used to it a bit, because you no longer just hang the Airpods Pro loosely in the ear cups, but press them lightly into the ear canal. However, we find the comfort to be excellent.
The battery life is also excellent – but not quite at the top level of the best models on the market. With one charge, the Airpods Pro last almost 5.5 hours without using ANC (on an Android cell phone), including recharging in the carrying case, you can run for just over 27 expect hours. With the ANC activated, the runtime hardly differs. Who only 15 minutes that have completely drained Charging earphones has a very good remaining life of just over 2.5 hours.
The price from around 280 Euro but it has in yourself.
Perfect for sports: beats Powerbeats Pro
- Excellent battery life
- Firm, comfortable fit
- Fun sound for electro
- Height display sometimes a bit exhausting
The Beats Powerbeats Pro (to test) are With their ear hooks, they are ideal for users who can easily slip other in-ear headphones out of their ears or who want to be sure not to lose their earplugs while exercising. The Beats Powerbeats Pro are stuck without pressing and practically no longer attract attention after a short time. They are also protected against splash water in accordance with IP standard X4. Handling is also easy: the Beats Powerbeats Pro have small buttons instead of touch fields, but we like the controls very much. The noise insulation is decent.
The sound of the Beats Powerbeats Pro is clear and bass-strong. Electronic music in particular comes into its own so well. The heights are open, but tend to be hard and “biting”, which harm harmony and relaxation. Voices also appear a bit cool and hard and not entirely natural. Overall, the sound is good. In terms of battery life, the Beats Powerbeats Pro hold spectacular 11: 44 hours through – that's almost over-ear headphone level. Including the charge in the battery case, there are strong 28 hours of runtime. The Price of around 240 Euro is quite high.
Great sound: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
- Strong sound
- Higher comfort
- Top Features
- Control takes some getting used to
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless (for testing) shows that users with an in-ear headphone in the price range below 250 Euros hardly have to compromise on sound quality compared to strap-on headphones. The Momentum True Wireless sounds excellent, even if it lacks a little space compared to over-ear top models. The bass is powerful, mids are very present, and the sound is still clear. In the treble range, the details are slightly lacking, but the True Wireless model basically has all kinds of music. The earplugs sit firmly and comfortably in the ear canal.
We liked the handling of the Sennheiser True Wireless by means of sensor surfaces: you only need to place your finger loosely on the outside of the plug to change tracks, pause or adjust the volume. The excellently processed in-ear headphones are splash-proof in accordance with the IP standard IPX4, and we also like the fabric-covered case. The battery life is 4.5 hours, which is good to average. If you charge the plug with the battery case, you get a total runtime of just under 14 hours. The Price is around 230 Euro but still quite high.
Price tip true wireless headphones: QCY T1
- Very low price
- Decent sound
- Good battery life
- Case without cover
- No volume control on the headphones
Only round 38 Euro you pay for the QCY T1 (for test) – and for this low price, the small true wireless in-ear headphones are surprisingly good. It sounds quite balanced and pleasant, if not as natural as the top models. The heights are a bit pointed and not particularly detailed, and it could also appear a bit fuller in the middle. Overall, the sound is okay and should satisfy many users.
The battery life of 3.5 hours without recharging and 15, 5 hours including battery case is also good. The low price is noticeable in the build quality. The plugs are held magnetically in the case, which is practical. But this has no lid, which can allow dust and dirt to enter. The processing of the plugs looks solid.
Advantages and disadvantages: What does True Wireless mean for in-ear headphones?
When buying headphones, it is always a matter of making the right compromises, because there is no such thing as the perfect headphone for all application scenarios. The so-called true wireless or Truly wireless in-ear headphones are ideal for users who travel a lot and want to carry models that are as compact as possible; or playing sports and looking for headphones that are both firmly in the ear as well as “disappears” when worn. Because, unlike over- and on-ear models, they are tiny.
Since they completely do without cables – there is no cable between the left and right earpieces either – you hardly notice them after a short time; if they fit perfectly. Some of them are even waterproof or at least splash-proof. But the battery life of the little things is rather short, but sufficient for most situations, and the sound of expensive over-the-ear headphones often appear fuller and more relaxed, although there are also in-ear top models that stand out from under-the-ear headphones. Some in ears on the other hand sound really bad.
True wireless in-ear headphones: this is what you get for your money
There are also differences between the in-ear headphones, which affect not only the sound quality and battery life, but also the comfort and handling. In addition, the fit in the ear strongly depends on the respective physiognomy of the user. And without a perfect fit, the sound quality also suffers – more on that later. The price range is also enormous, from 30 Euro to 350 Euro is in our test field something for every budget. There are both expensive models that we think are not worth their money, as well as cheap ones, with which many users should be very satisfied.
By the way: Many domestic Ear models seal the ear canal and isolate outside noise very well. If you want ANC in a larger format, you should take a look at our Overear test throw.
How do we test true wireless in-ear headphones?
The various models of true wireless in-ear headphones are tested in the CHIP test center. They have to convince in the categories of sound quality, mobility, comfort and equipment. The sound naturally makes up the largest part of the overall grade, namely 40 percent. In the test, we stream music in maximum quality via Spotify, while the headphones are connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth. This is a practical test scenario in which we only evaluate subjectively. Two testers assess the clarity and naturalness of the sound, the bass character and the voice representation. There are extra points for active noise cancellation (ANC).
With 30 percent the mobility category contributes to the overall rating. Here, the CHIP testers check the battery life of the headphones and the total time including the battery case and the charging time. It is also relevant whether the case can be charged wirelessly. To the category comfort and equipment, which also 30 Percentage in the overall grade belongs on the one hand Features such as automatic switching on and off, noise canceling, the available control functions and radio standards. On the other hand, the CHIP editors subjectively evaluate the firm and comfortable fit of the headphones in the practical test.
You can find the detailed results in the CHIP leaderboard of true wireless in-ear headphones .
Comfort with in-ear headphones: trial wear required
Before you can hear the first tone, you must first attach the True Wireless headphones securely and precisely in your ear. The reactions to some models in our editorial team were very different and ranged from enthusiasm to lightness and unobtrusiveness to physical aversion – the colleagues literally refused to wear certain models for longer than a few minutes. In some cases, some earphones that were good for some colleagues could not even be attached to the ears of other colleagues so that they easily fell out.
This experience shows that people Judge in-ear headphones very differently due to their specific physiognomy and you should definitely try out products that are shortlisted. It is also important to try out all of the supplied different sized and sometimes differently designed ear pads (rubber or foam) until you have found the best fit. If the in-ear models are too loose in the ear or if the driver is not ideally directed into the ear canal, they clearly lose sound quality.
Types of in-ear headphones: ear canal or pinna
In-ear headphones are either pressed firmly into the ear canal or rather loosely hung in the ear cups. Both have advantages and disadvantages. They sit more firmly in the ear canal than in the ear, isolate outside noise better and can produce a richer bass. The so-called occlusion effect is very pronounced: steps and jaw movements influence the sound. Such a tightly closed ear canal can also feel uncomfortable because the air cannot escape. This is noticeable, for example, with the Audio-Technica ATH-SPORT7TW, but also affects many other plugs. Apple's Airpods Pro are stuck without creating disruptive pressure – that's great. In-ear headphones like Apple's Airpods 1 and Airpods 2 , which are only hung in the pinna, sit looser and almost inconspicuously because they do not create pressure in the ear canal. But you have to take care of them a little better during sports and they do not isolate ambient noise so well.
In order to ensure an even more reliable hold, there are some Wings in-ear headphones that are either clamped behind the ear or ensure a secure fit inside the ear. Most models simply trust to sit so deep and firm that they can do without such aids. This usually works well, but not always – and when in doubt depends on the shape of the ear or ear canal. If individual models loosened slightly in our test while bouncing, we devalued them.
Control of true wireless headphones: touch is often better than button
Compared to over-ear headphones, which offer a lot of space for control buttons, the operation of the tiny in-ear plugs is somewhat less practical. Basically, we rated models that use touch instead of button operation a little better, since capacitive fields are simply more practical in this case. You can use it to control an ear plug loosely with your finger, instead of feeling it in search of the millimeter-sized buttons or having to press it painfully when using it.
But we did also looked at the possible control commands and their implementation. Can the functions volume up, volume down, forward, back, play, pause or only a part of it be carried out? And how comfortable is that? With some models, users can only control the volume via their cell phone and not via the ear plug – the Airpods, for example, only allow play / pause with the touch of a finger. And sometimes it is hardly possible to jump to the previous track because you have to press a button for two seconds, but due to the sluggish response, it only comes to the beginning of the song you are playing. There are definitely differences in comfort between the products.
The familiarization phase is longer for in-ear models than for conventional temple headphones because users have to internalize it first Which functions the manufacturer has placed on which ear piece. We had to study the instructions more often. But that's ultimately just a question of getting used to.
Handling the in-ear headphones: the charging cradle is always with you
Also important for handling comfort is the supplied transport cradle, which also serves as a charging cradle. Some cases are tiny and can be stowed inconspicuously in trouser and jacket pockets; the Airpods are outstanding here. Others – like the Bose Soundsport Free – look more like small glasses cases. We also give pluses when the ear studs are held in the case with magnets: on the one hand, they don't fall out unintentionally, on the other – and this is even more important – you practically only have to let the in-ears “fall in”, and they dock themselves. That feels pretty satisfying and is of course also practical.
We also rate it positively if the headphones switch on automatically when they are removed and if they go out as soon as they are back land in the charging cradle. This is the case for most models, but not for all. Incidentally, the automatic switch-off only works when the battery case is still charged, otherwise the music continues to spin until the plugs are exhausted. Sometimes individual in-ears switch off briefly or are mute when you take them out of your ear for a conversation; if you plug it back in, you can hear the music again.
We also give points for an ambient noise function that some Noise-canceling headphones knows. Then the ear plug uses its integrated microphone to loop through external noise. This way you can hear the road traffic better when jogging or any announcements on the train and plane – if this is not desired, you can often benefit from good passive shielding by closing the ear canal.
You can see which features the models support in detail in the detailed view of our True wireless In -ear headphones leaderboard (in the standard view on the PC or notebook click on the button “All products in detail”).
True wireless headphones' battery life is usually okay
The battery life that in-ear headphones can last without recharging is rather modest compared to other wireless headphones: On average, the ones we tested play Models just over 4 hours of music, the worst came to around 2.5 hours, the best by far impressive 11: 43 Hours ( beats Powerbeats Pro ). This means that only a few in-ear models are suitable for continuous use on a journey lasting several hours. Over- and On -ear headphones have with their 11 to 40 hours significantly more runtime reserves.
However, there are hardly any practical restrictions in everyday in-ear use, since after use, the small plugs are always stowed in their transport tray with an integrated battery so that they are not lost. As a result, the case automatically charges them without any further action. This is very practical and puts the short continuous operating time into perspective. Charging is not possible without a case, the plugs do not have a separate cable connection. Incidentally, no extra audio cable connection such as over-ear Bluetooth headphones.
This puts the focus on the total running time that the transport / battery tray enables. It determines how often users have to recharge the case. The test showed astonishing results: The Master & Dynamic MW 07 Plus, for example, even blew up the 40 hour mark; that is extremely long. On average, the devices come up 14 to 16 hours, which is okay. So you have to plug in the charging cradle products about as often as strap-on headphones with a medium runtime.
Finally, we checked which battery runtime is available if users only 15 minutes to recharge the empty plugs. Many models only offer in this test 30 to 60 minutes remaining, the Galaxy Buds, Jabra Elite Active 65 t and Apple Airpods, however manage almost 2.5 hours; that's great. The total charging time for the empty plug including the empty battery case also flows into our battery note. Here you wait an average of 2.5 hours until the devices are fully charged.
Sound quality of the in-ear headphones shows big differences
Almost all of the temple headphones we tested can be heard well to very well. The situation is different with the in-ear models, because there are major fluctuations. Some models sound excellent, even though each headphone has its own sound characteristics and none is “perfect”. In terms of sound, we count the Bose Soundsport Free , the Sony WF – 1000 XM3 , the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless , the Audio-Technica ATH-SPORT7TW and also Apple's Airpods . Which sound you prefer here will depend on how well the devices are in your ear, how your hearing is, and which headphone sound you already know and prefer.
The Sony, for example, is very clear, present and lively – but the heights have a bit too much energy for our taste. This can be heard, for example, with string instruments, which should have a little more feeling. In these cases, the Sony doesn't reproduce the dynamic of the music quite as well. The situation is similar with the Sennheiser, the detailed representation of which is somewhat reduced in the heights, violins seem a bit synthetic. Piano music and vocals come very well, and the bass is full. Boses Soundsport Free plays voluminously, warmly and naturally and is the ideal relaxed all-rounder, but should appear a bit more lively. The Audio-Technica has a very nicely detailed, not exaggerated treble range, but a little more distant voice representation.
Apple's Airpods also appeal with a warm and natural sound, which is due to their very relaxed Seat is quite surprising. We miss bite, resolution and pep in the high range. The Airpods 2 sound to us essentially like the Airpods 1, so they are still very good, but not quite as fun as the Bose, for example. The Airpods Pro are livelier and more defined.
Ultimately, however, only trial listening or the choice of other categories such as comfort and battery life helps. There are also special features again and again: The True Wireless from Sennheiser, for example, initially tested in the 100 – Hertz area generates an annoying crack, which the manufacturer finally fixed with a firmware update.
In the middle class you will find partly exaggerated or weak basses, partly too distant mids and either rather matte or exaggeratedly sharp and hard highs – but mostly the sound is still here for the purpose of the headphones completely okay. However, we were disappointed with the expensive B&O E8 2.0 , which we found very clear, but ultimately colorless and listless. Also the sound of the also expensive Master & Dynamic did not ignite with us.
Sometimes also very bad sound
At the bottom it gets a little more problematic. For example, there are models that sound very thin and artificial and are simply not fun. On the other hand, we also devalued some headphones, regardless of their otherwise decent overall sound characteristics ( Auvisio and Kygo ) for example), because for our perception they are distorted or have a very imprecise range of heights. It manifests itself in the fact that, for example, cymbals are accompanied by sound hems that do not belong there. But piano sounds were sometimes not clear, but unnaturally scratchy , Whenever we noticed something like this, we carried out a devaluation – that was the case with eight models in the test field.
We have some models (the Kygo and the sound still) significantly worse Motorola Verve Buds ) have the exemplary audio test laboratory HEAD acoustics test them for intermodulation distortion and after distortion in the frequency spectrum while playing a 20 – Hertz sine signal wanted. According to the experts, this test did not produce any striking results. There are distortions that are measurably higher than, for example, the sounding good Jabra Elite Active 65 t , loud the measurement engineers should not play an acoustic role in practice. What we could not do due to time constraints was to test all relevant frequency ranges against each other, so our devaluation, like the overall assessment of sound quality, is ultimately based solely on our subjective sense of sound. If you listen less closely or don't know the music played from really good headphones, you may not notice this effect at all or not immediately – but it really disturbed us in the test.
Basically, we also found that listening with plugs that are deep in the ear feels more stressful for the ears than listening to music with over-ear models. A few times after hours of listening, we had the feeling that our hearing was tired. With this in mind, we can only advise you not to turn up the volume too high.
You can see the ten best in-ear true wireless headphones we tested in this always current list. You can find all details in our detailed leaderboard .
True Wireless In-Ear in the test
Master & Dynamic MW 07 plus
Offer from BestCheck
- Sound quality (2.3)
- Mobility (1.0)
- Comfort + equipment (1,3)
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