TWS Headphones

This is a somewhat random collection of my thoughts about wireless headphones, specifically including true wireless stereo.

So most common Bluetooth earbuds share a lot of the same design flaws as a result of being wireless and smaller than typical headphones.

On their own most wired in-ear headphones are extremely lightweight due to the design being minimal. However with wireless headphones you need to add extra components, which add extra weight. True Wireless earbuds need their own battery, amplifier, Bluetooth radio, controls, as well as a logic board with chipsets to make the headphones work.

With wired headphones those components are housed within the phone, PC, or amplifier the headphones are connected to. So with only the sound drivers and wiring being inside the headphones, wired earbuds can be very light making them very ideal for mobile use.
With over the ear Bluetooth headphones the weight of adding “wireless” components is typically offset by the support of the headband and isn’t too noticeable compared to wired headphones. Neckband Bluetooth headphones typical house the electronic components and controls in the neckband itself so there is no extra weight added to the earbud. However, typically with TWS all of the electronic components add the extra weight to the earbud which is carefully balanced on the ear.

With a lot of common earbuds like the Apple Airpods or Samsung Galaxy Buds, which make up the lighter side of headphones this isn’t as much of an issue. Unfortunately more premium in ear headphones like the Sony WF-1000 or Sennheiser Momentum tend to be larger with more weight.

As a result of all this, wireless in ear headphones can have issues with maintaining a proper seal within the ear which is required for bass and volume if they move out of place due to the weight. Furthermore without being attached to anything its common for the headphones to fall out while exercising or walking. Both Bose and Sony have sport models that a hook designed to keep the headphones in place that rests against the ear. However from reading reviews it seems like the hooks could become uncomfortable after long periods of use.

Another issue with true wireless headphones is the replacement of physical buttons with capacitive touch buttons. Touch controls can be accidentally triggered when handling headphones or have issues functioning in cold weather.

An absolutely critical issue to me is the lack of standalone power controls on the headphones. Most TWS headphones lack a power button, only powering on and off when removed and replaced from or into the case. This immediately becomes a problem when the case runs out of battery. If the case loses power while using the headphones, the headphones cannot be turned off. Likewise, if the cases loses power before using the headphones, the headphones will not start when removed from the case, even if the batteries in the headphones are fully charged. If the headphones cannot be manually powered off, they will run until they expend the battery charge. Although some headphones do auto power off when disconnected from Bluetooth.

I bought the original Samsung Galaxy Buds the first year they were released to replace my outdated Motorola Buds. Functionally there’s nothing with my Motorola headphones. The Motorola Buds I have go by the model number “SF500”. They were released in Late 2013 and I bought my pair in Mid 2014. At the time switching to Bluetooth headphones was a way to stay connected to calls and music without always needing to be attached by a wire. Not to mention its much easier for wired headphones to get tangled and damaged with regular use. I welcomed to switch to wireless after wearing through multiple headphone cables only to keep buying the same headphones again.

Neckband Bluetooth headphones such as the Motorola Buds, LG Tone, and Sony WI-1000X aren’t as ideal as true wireless stereo earbuds but they were one of the more portable options before the Airpods design become a thing. They were more compact and lighter than full size over the ear headphones.

Unfortunately when wireless earbuds became a trend a lot of brands discontinued developing new Bluetooth neckband models. This leaves some of the most popular headsets with limited battery life, older Bluetooth versions, and outdated charging connectors such as micro USB.

Sony has released an updated version of their WI-1000 neckband headset which updates it to Bluetooth 5 and switches to USB-C for the charging connector along with adding fast charging. However it still maintains the same 10 hour battery rating from the old model and retails for a steep $299. On the hand the new WF-1000XM4 earbuds have all the comparable features of the neckband model, is more compact, and offers much longer battery life when including the extra hours from the charging case.

Considering the WF-1000XM4 retails for $50 less than the neckband model it would seem Sony is prioritizing sales of their earbud models over other headphones. At 299 USD the WI-1000XM2 competes with the highest end of consumer wireless headphones including the Sennheiser Momentum 2 wireless earbuds as well as Sony’s own WH-1000XM4 wireless over ear headphones. For that price there are more affordable options with both premium sound quality and noise canceling such as the Bose QuietComfort earbuds which retail for $279 or the Apple Airpod Pros which retail for $249.

LG still currently sells their Tone neckband headsets as of early 2022. They are have USB-C, fast charging, and Bluetooth 5.0 at a much cheaper MSRP than than Sony’s neckband models. On Amazon, There are also even more affordable options for neckband headsets with modern features. However I wouldn’t recommend the LG Tone models are the earpiece wiring is very thin and may not last over time. The thinness of the wires also conducts a lot of outside sound from wind or clothing.