Which 2017 True Wireless Earbuds Should You Buy?

From the moment that Apple made its “courageous” call to kill off the headphone jack, the race has been on among audio, tech and even werables brands to seize a dominant stake in the true wireless earbuds category.

What’s more, even twelve months down the line, the crown still very much anyone’s game. Sure, the Apple AirPods might have sparked mainstream adoption of the category. However, they are far from the only wire-free game in town.

With the holiday season creeping up on us, now is a great time to recap and take stock of what true wireless earbuds are and aren’t really worth your money.

Jabra Elite Sport (2017)

What’s the sound quality like?

The Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds boast a set of bespoke bass-enriched speakers with a punchy 20Hz to 20kHz frequency range and built-in passive noise cancellation.

Generally-speaking, they sound pretty good. If you’d like to know more, you can read our full review of the Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds here.

Are they waterproof?

The Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds are IP67 rated against dust and water damage. They’re also boast sweat resistance that’s backed up by a three year warranty..

Do they integrate with an app?

The Jabra Elite Sports earbuds integrate with Jabra Sports Life app. This is a fairly robust piece of software that not only allows you to track your workouts but also develop, manage, experience and evaluate workouts designed to help you meet your meet your fitness goals.

It’s good, but if you’re already someone using a Fitbit there will probably be a bit of overlap here when it comes to tracking etc.

Do they come with a warranty?

The Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds come with a three-year warranty against sweat damage.

How long does the battery last?

A single charged set of Jabra Elite Sports wireless earbuds will last four and a half hours. The charger case that comes with the buds holds two more full charges, bringing the total use time to 13.5 hours.

Do they work with voice assistants?

Pressing and holding one of the buttons on the Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds acts as a shortcut to your voice assistant of choice: be it Siri, Google Assistant or Bixby. Currently, there’s no support for Alexa or Cortana.

How much do they cost?

In Australia, the Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds are priced at $349. This makes them one of the more expensive true wireless options out there.

Where can I buy them?

In Australia, the Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds can be found in most JB Hi-Fi and Harvey-Norman stores. They’re also available through Jabra directly.

Samsung IconX (2017)

What’s the sound quality like?

The exact sound-quality you’re getting out of the Samsung IconX earbuds depends on whether or not you make use of the on-board storage. If you are, they’ll sound a little better due to the lowered compression loss but the difference isn’t huge. The new buds boast a 5.8pi dynamic driver and built-in mic.

If you’d like to know more, you can read our full review of last year’s Samsung IconX true wireless earbuds here.

Are they waterproof?

They are not. Like last year’s earbuds, the new Samsung IconX earbuds come with a sweat resistant coating but no formal durability rating beyond that.

Do they integrate with an app?

The new IconX earbuds integrate with both the Samsung S Health app and the Samsung Gear app. The former allows for the tracking of distance, speed, duration, heart rate and calories burned while the latter allows you extra customization over the audio playback in the earbuds.

Using the Samsung Gear app, you can toggle where the IconX pull audio from, what apps are allowed to push through notifications and whether or not you’d like to make use of the IconX’s built-in audio coach during workouts.

What’s more, the built in accelerometer and heart-rate sensor in the IconX allow it to automatically start fitness tracking if it detects that you’ve been on the move for the more than ten minutes.

Of course, the biggest sell here is that the Samsung Gear IconX boast 4GB of on-board storage not offered by other true wireless earbuds. This means you can pull music over onto the device a PC and use them without needing to carry your phone with you.

Do they come with a warranty?

The Samsung Gear IconX true wireless earbuds come with Samsung’s standard 12 month warranty.

How long does the battery last?

Samsung say their new and improved IconX earbuds will deliver your choice of 7 hours of playback using on-board storage, 4 hours of talk time or 5 hours of music streamed from your phone per charge. As with the first-gen IconX, the case doubles as a charger. Unfortunately, unlike other earbuds, the charger only gives you a single extra full charge for the buds.  

This brings the total battery life to 10 or 14 hours, depending on your music source. However, unlike the original IconX, the new buds do support a form of fast-charging, promising up an hour of use in just ten minutes of charging.

Do they work with voice assistants?

Assuming you have a Samsung smartphone it can pull from, IconX earbud users can summon Bixby by tapping and holding on one of the earbuds. We reached out to Samsung to confirm whether the buds would be compatible with any other voice assistants and will update this article when we know more.

How much do they cost?

The new and improved Samsung Gear IconX earbuds have an RRP of $299.

Where can I buy them?

In Australia, the Samsung Gear IconX wireless earbuds are available through JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and Samsung’s own online store.

Apple AirPods

What’s the sound quality like?

Apple’s AirPods might have fired the opening shot in the most recent war on wires. However, when it comes to audio quality, they’re far from exceptional - even if they are perfectly listenable. The real sell here comes with their integration with Apple’s W1 Bluetooth chip, which delivers wider connection range and reduces battery drain - as long as you’re using a compatible iOS device.

If you’d like to know more, you can read our full review of the Apple AirPods wireless earbuds here.

Are they waterproof?

Neither the Apple AirPods nor their charging case are not water-resistant in any measurable way. However, there are some third party cases out there that you can get for your AirPods charging case that are waterproof.

Do they integrate with an app?

They integrate with iOS and Apple’s own iCloud service in a number of capacities but don’t have a dedicated app to pair with.

Do they come with a warranty?

Apple’s own Limited Warranty covers your AirPods and the accessories that come with them against manufacturing defects for one year beginning on the purchase date.

How long does the battery last?

Apple’s AirPods offer up five hours of wireless use per charge. However, unlike other wireless earbuds, the charger-case that comes with the AirPods doesn’t hold another two charges. It holds another five. With a total use-time of 25 hours, this puts at the top of the ladder when it comes to total battery life.

The Apple Airpods also boast a form of quick-charging that Apple promise allows for 3 hours playback in fifteen minutes.

Do they work with voice assistants?

Obviously, the Apple AirPods are designed to work best with Siri. However, that’s not to say they can’t be used with other voice assistants.

It might not be officially endorsed by either Apple or Google, but there is a free app available on the Play Store that opens the AirPods up for use with Google Assistant. Unfortunately, no such app or compatibility exists for Bixby, Cortana and Alexa.

Can I use them without an iPhone?

Absolutely. Unfortunately, using the Apple AirPods without an iOS-based device will subtract a few of the neater features the buds offer. For example, the AirPods won't automatically pause when one bud is removed and you won’t get any of the technical improvement offered by the W1 chip.

How much do they cost?

In Australia, the Apple AirPods are priced at approximately $229. This price-point, along with the extra-buff battery life, makes them a pretty appealing option for even non-iPhone owners.

Where can I buy them?

In Australia, Apple AirPods can be found in JB Hi-Fi, Harvey-Norman and Apple stores. They are also available through plenty of online resellers.

Jaybird RUN

What’s the sound quality like?

The sound quality in the Jaybird RUN wireless earbuds is surprisingly good. However, it still sits firmly within the domain of what you’d expect out of Bluetooth-based audio. Unfortunately, the reliability side of things is a little more inconsistent. It’s Jaybird’s first stab at the true wireless category and the experience reflects that.

If you’d like to know more, you can read our full review of the Jaybird RUN wireless earbuds here.

Are they waterproof?

The Jaybird RUN wireless earbuds don’t have an official IPX certification against water or sweat damage. However, the buds are coated in a sweat-resistant and hydrophobic gel.

Do they integrate with an app?

The Jaybrid RUN earbuds integrate with the Jaybird Sound+ app, which allows you to set (and save) EQ settings for the buds and share Spotify playlists with nearby runners.

Do they come with a warranty?

Jaybird’s warranty covers the RUN earbuds against manufacturing defects for one year from the purchase date.

How long does the battery last?

The battery life for the Jaybird RUN earbuds is four hours per charge. The case charger brings the total use-time to 12 hours.

Do they work with voice assistants?

The Jaybrid RUN earbuds do not integrate with any voice assistants.

How much do they cost?

In Australia, the Jaybird RUN true wireless earbuds are priced at $249. This puts them just above the AirPods and well below the competing Jabra Elite Sport and Samsung Gear IconX -  though it does lack some of the extra features that come with the latter.

Where can I buy them?

The Jaybird RUN earbuds are available through JB Hi-Fi in Australia.

Sony WF-1000X

What’s the sound quality like?

The sound quality on the Sony WF-1000X is by a wide-margin the best we’ve experienced in a set of true wireless earbuds to date. So far as we’re aware, they’re the only option that comes with noise cancellation and the Sony earbuds’ 6mm drivers are free to work aural wonders as a result.

If you’d like to know more, you can read our full review of the Sony WF-1000X wireless earbuds here.

Are they waterproof?

Sony’s WF-1000X wireless earbuds come with no sweat or water-proofing. They’re aimed more towards the executive market than they are the fitness crowd.

Do they integrate with an app?

The Sony WF-1000X wireless earbuds integrate with the Sony Headphones Connect app. This allows you to configure the ambient sound settings and adjust the sound levels using an equalizer and also modify the amount of ambient noise that the earbuds allow in.

How long does the battery last?

The battery life for Sony’s WF-1000X wireless earbuds is a little on the shorter side. It offers only 3 hours per-charge. An additional two charges in the case brings the total to 9 hours. It does have some fast-charge capabilities, allowing you to net an about 70 minutes worth of playback from just 15 minutes of charging.

Do they work with voice assistants?

The Sony WF-1000X have a built-in mic, allowing you to both use them for calls and easily pull up either Siri or Google Assistant.

How much do they cost?

In Australia, the Sony WF-1000X true wireless headphones are priced at $349. This makes them one of the more expensive options around. However, they are the only option to feature noise-cancellation - which does help justify the higher price.

Where can I buy them?

They’re available through JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and all the other usual suspects when it comes to Sony’s audio products.

Which wireless earbuds have the best battery life?

If you’re looking to pick up the buds with the longest lasting battery life, Apple’s AirPods are still the category-leading choice here. They boast five hours of use to a single charge and, more-importantly, offer an additional five charges where other brands offer only two.

The chart below illustrates how each brand ranks when it comes to battery life.

Which earbuds have the best durability?

If you’re planning on intensive sports use, you can’t really go past the Jabra Elite Sport. Where the other true wireless earbuds available have gone for hydrophobic coatings that present a degree of water resistance, Jabra have gone and gotten a proper, formal, certified IP67 rating against dust and water damage.

Which earbuds have the best sound?

Again, this is a tough-call. For the most part, the audio quality in all true wireless headphones is still Bluetooth-based. What’s more, it’s Bluetooth-based without the aid of Qualcomm’s AptX compression tech.

The reduced compression you get from the local storage on Samsung’s IconX earbuds does give an edge here. However, on the other hand, the integration of proper noise cancellation in Sony’s WF-1000X earbuds does go a long way towards making listening experiences with them sit well above the other options.

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Tags Jabra Elite SportTrue WirelessSony WF-1000XSamsung Gear IconXTrue Wireless BudsJaybird RUNAirPodsWireless Earbuds

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Fergus Halliday

Fergus Halliday

PC World
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