In anticipation of holiday gift money, you may be wondering what pair of true wireless earbuds you should invest in. After all, they seem to be all the rage what with the AirPods’ explosive ubiquity. If you’re considering truly wireless ‘buds, then you’ve likely thought of wireless earbuds, too, and wondered if they still have a place in the world of audio. Today, we’re making the case for wireless earbuds.

True wireless earbuds: an ongoing evolution

Pictured are the Anker true wireless earbuds next to the charging case.

The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air copy the stem-like look of the AirPods, but they come in all-black.

Just over a year ago, true wireless offerings were slim. We had had our choice of the Bragi Dash Pro, JLab Epic Air, and maybe the Crazybaby Air Nano. Fast-forward and we see a whole new world of possibilities at the local Best Buy. There are even affordable and AirPods alternative-specific options available.

While connectivity and battery life have been the Achilles’ heel of truly wireless technology since its inception, things have improved. Premium models, like the RHA TrueConnect, support Bluetooth 5.0 right out of the box. What’s more, even reasonably priced options like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air earbuds grant ample standalone playback time, which is only extended by the included charging case.

We’re also beginning to see more specialized options like the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100. With the advent of true wireless earbuds, it seems traditional wireless options may be rendered obsolete. There are, however, still a few reasons to go for the older tech.

Wireless earbuds remain reliable with far more options

true wireless - Phiaton Curve BT 120 NC: An image of the neckband earbuds laying on a grey cloth surface with light leaking in from the left vertical frame.

For just $79, the IPX4 water-resistant Phiaton Curve BT 120 NC is a comfortable set of affordable wireless ANC earbuds.

Ultimately, a pair of wireless headphones is only as good as its connectivity. You could have the fanciest pair of true wireless earbuds available but if they can’t maintain a reliable connection, they’re nothing more than overpriced earplugs. Although listeners still come across connectivity hiccups with wireless headphones and earbuds, the issue seldom arises compared to true wireless counterparts.

Additionally, while we’re witnessing an increase in cheap true wireless earbuds, the fact remains that if you want the best-untethered bang for your buck experience, wireless earbuds will outperform true wireless ones, hands down. It makes sense: the technology has had more time to mature, and there are fewer spatial limitations when it comes to engineering regular wireless ‘buds.<

 Pocket to earbuds (dBm)Far pocket to earbuds (dBm) Signal strength: 0m from phoneSignal strength: 1m from phoneSignal strength: 2m from phoneSignal strength: 3m from phoneSignal strength: 5m from phone
Erato Apollo-55-63-29-45-65-67-84
JLab JBuds Air-42-50-22-45-59-63-83
Rowkin Ascent Micro-50-55-29-48-55-57-72
OnePlus Bullets Wireless-42n/a-23-39-55-63-72

Not only that, but there are far more niche options in the wireless earbud market. We’ve seen plenty of noise cancelling, workout, and general-purpose products come our way. Sure, not every product is groundbreaking, but it tends to offer a stable connection and better battery life than something of the true wireless variety.

Who should buy true wireless earbuds and who should buy wireless earbuds?

Jam Live True wireless earbuds: A woman wearing the earbuds.

Working out in anything but true wireless earbuds seems a hassle at this point.

Listeners who prioritize freedom of movement and convenience, even at the expense of reliability, above all else should invest in true wireless earbuds. As an athlete, I’ve found it nearly impossible to return to wireless earbuds and consider wired earbuds for exercise sacrilegious. Additionally, if you pride yourself on being in the know when it comes to audio, then the novelty of true wireless earbuds may very well appeal to you. Granted, you’ll be paying a premium for it most of the time.

If you're on a budget and need the most out of your nickels and dimes, wireless earbuds still trump true wireless ones.

On the other hand, those who don’t mind the less futuristic aesthetic of wireless earbuds and feel battery life and sound quality shouldn’t preclude convenience should invest in wireless earbuds and headphones. Perhaps you won’t look like a chic background character in Bladerunner 2049, but at least you won’t have to worry about sputtering connectivity issues.

While 2019 could be the year truly wireless earbuds outperform their similarly priced wireless competitors, that’s not the case quite yet. If you’re just looking for a pair of earbuds to tide you over for daily use and aren’t too concerned with much else, you’re best off investing in an old, but a reliable pair of wireless earbuds.

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