It wasn’t long ago that true wireless earbuds, those that don’t need any wires even between the earphones, weren’t very good. Solid connectivity was a challenge, dropouts were infuriatingly common and battery life was woeful.

But they all offered that taste of freedom from wires that is like a ratchet – once you’ve experienced tangle-free listening, you’ll never go back.

Now there are loads of truly wireless earbuds on the market offering all sorts of features, designs and sound. None of them are bargain basement, and it’s difficult to know which ones are worth buying. So here’s a guide to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This Guardian buyer’s guide to true wireless earbuds was last updated on 1 May and represents the best available models at the time. As new models are released and tested, this guide will be updated to help you choose the right earbuds for you.

Nailing the combination of connectivity, sound, in-ear comfort, controls, and case size has proved far more difficult for truly wireless earbuds than you might expect. Thankfully Samsung has managed it on the third try.

The Galaxy Buds are small, light and comfortable earbuds, with a traditional silicone tip on one end and a small body that sits within your concha, even if you have fairly small ears, allowing you to completely forget about them. They come with a series of soft stabilising wings if you need them, but stay put perfectly fine without them.

A touchpad on the outside takes care of controls. Tap to pause or play, double and triple-tap to skip track. A touch and hold gesture can be switched between turning on or temporarily piping ambient sound into the earbuds, triggering your voice assistant or to change the volume (left to go down, right to turn it up). Take both earbuds out and the music automatically pauses. It all works very well, although I wish you could trigger ambient sound on pause.

The Galaxy Buds sound pretty good too, with reasonable sound isolation and a well-rounded tone most will like. They’re fairly balanced, not overly dominated by bass or treble, with good separation and punch where needed. The buds are capable of uncomfortable volume levels when cranked right up and there’s a limited EQ available in the Galaxy Wearable app. Audiophiles might turn their noses up, but they sound good compared with the competition at this price.

Bluetooth connectivity between the buds and to the phone is rock solid, regardless of whether you’re using a Samsung or other phone. They can be used as a stereo pair, individually and hot-swapped between left and right in mono without skipping a beat, even when on a call – something only Apple’s AirPods has been capable of until now. The Galaxy Buds support AAC and Samsung’s proprietary scalable codec for high-quality music, with no noticeable lipsync issues even when connected to a non-Samsung device. Call quality is good, but a little distant similar to when you’re on speaker phone.

Even the case is really good. It flips open and closed with a satisfying snap, is small enough to fit in the money pocket of a pair of jeans and provides just over one full charge of the earbuds. Combined that means the Galaxy Buds will last up to six hours of continuous playback with an additional seven hours in the case. In practice that means having to charge them once a week for the commute via the USB-C port or even wireless charging on any Qi-compatible pad or phone.

Pairing with an Android phone with Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app installed is as easy as opening them up and waiting for the prompt. Everything else needs a quick trip into the settings menu like any other Bluetooth device. They worked well with various Android phones, PCs, iPads and iPhones.

When paired with an Android phone you can also get the Galaxy Buds to read out notifications, which is far more useful than it sounds; if you limit the number of apps, that can interrupt your music to just a few. There’s no iOS app for changing settings, which means you need at least one Android device in your life to make sure they’re up to date.

source: The Guardian