This month I’ve rounded up four pairs of true wireless earbuds that would be ideal for the gifting season. I call it the “gifting season” as I’m aware it isn’t only Christmas when gifts are exchanged at this time of year. So, if someone if your life is on the lookout for a new pair of true wireless earbuds, I have four of the latest offerings at various price points that might just fit the bill.
The first two pairs of earbuds are Apple AirPod lookalikes. Now, I’m not claiming that they sound like Apple AirPods, but they do bear a striking resemblance. I don’t get on too well with the AirPod design of earbud, but I know many people do. I prefer the IEM-type where the ear tip goes right into the ear canal and creates a good seal while stopping a lot of external noise from interfering with the music.
Defunc True Go
I can’t decide if Defunc is a clever name for a pair of earbuds or not. On the one hand, I can see Da Funk sounds a bit urban and edgy, on the other hand, it sounds a bit too like defunct to my ears. No matter. These Swedish designed Defunc True Go earbuds are available in blue-red, white and black finished and they are housed in a flip-top box where they can be topped up by a battery that’s built into the case. The case battery offers up to 14 hours of playing time and the earbuds will play for about three to four hours between recharging. The case and earbuds are coated in a slightly soapy-feeling silicone material and the front of the case sports four blue LEDs to indicate how much battery charge is on board.
An important fact to note about the Defunc True Go earbuds is they don’t support advanced high-quality audio codecs like aptX or AAC, but they still sound more than acceptable using the basic SBC protocol. What I like about these earbuds is their silicone ear-tips and something called an ear-heel. The combination of ear-tip and ear-heel means these earbuds sit in the ear much more securely than Apple AirPods and make a secure seal for better bass response. You get all the advantage of AirPod-style and the seal of an in-ear monitor. If you’re a runner, these earbuds are perfect. The other thing that’s good about the True Go earbuds is they are very loud. Often, AirPod-style earbuds let in so much ambient noise they never really sound loud enough. These are different.
The True Go earbuds are water-resistant to IPX4 standards plus they include a microphone for making and taking phone calls as well as dishing out orders to Siri or Google Assistant. There are touch controls on each earbud for volume or pausing and skipping tracks.
Verdict: The Defunc True Go earbuds produce a big and beefy sound that’s ideal for pop, rock and hip-hop genres and would make an ideal gift for any young music lover. They’re not the highest audiophile quality but for the market they are aimed at they are perfect. They look cool, sound fine and are priced right.
Price: $49 / €49 / £49
I recently reviewed the EOZ Air earbuds which sounded excellent, so I was intrigued to see that EOZ had made a pair of AirPod-style earbuds using improved 6mm graphene-coated drivers. The earbuds are housed in a compact charging case that’s starts the pairing process the moment its lid is flipped open. Unusually, the EOZ Icon earbuds are driven independently rather than one unit being the master earbud and the other being the slave. This makes for a more solid sound and it means you can use just one earbud if for some reason that’s what you want to do.
The storage case has a rechargeable battery built-in with around 20 hours of battery time on board. The case can be recharged via the USB-C charging port and there’s a suitable cable is supplied in the box. The earbuds themselves can play for up to five hours on a single charge before they need to be popped back in the case for a top-up. Their build quality is exemplary, and the EOS Icons are supplied with a choice of different sized ear-tips and fit well in the ear, although they don’t make quite as secure a seal as IEMs that fit inside the ear canal.
The sound from these earbuds is superbly clear and there’s support for SBC and AAC audio codecs. I think they are slightly light on the bass which is mainly due to the AirPod-style of fit; the amount of bass you can get out of them is down to the shape of your ears. AirPod-style earbuds don’t suit my ears too well but if you find Apple’s AirPods work well for you, then you’ll love the EOZ Icon earbuds as they can recreate an impressively wide soundstage with great stereo imaging.
Music and volume can be controlled simply by tapping on the earbuds, and saves having to scrabble around looking for your smartphone to skip a track, pause the music or turn up the volume. Finally, the EOZ Icon has a built-in microphone that’s great for making phone calls. There aren’t many true wireless earbuds that I feel happy using for making calls, but the EOZ Icon are an exception.
Verdict: These stylish earbuds from EOZ produce a high-quality sound that may be a little light on bass for some people’s tastes, but what it lacks in the bottom end is more than made up for in the midrange and treble. If you like Apple AirPods, the EOZ Icon provides a more affordable alternative that offers great sound and reliable connectivity thanks to its multi-channel Bluetooth support.
Price: $89 with free worldwide shipping
Back Bay Duet 50
We’ll leave the AirPod-style earbuds now and turn to a couple of pairs of IEM-style (In-Ear Monitor) earbuds that create a more secure fit with ear-tips that fit right inside the ear canal. This method creates a tighter fit and that means more bass and less noise from eternal sources.
The Back Bay Duet 50 come in a tubular, hinged pod that houses a battery with an astonishing 32 hours of charge on board. With the earbuds able to play for up to eight hours between charges, that means the case can refresh the earbuds four times. With the existing eight-hour charge already in the earbuds, that’s a theoretical playing time of up to 40 hours before a complete recharge is required using the supplied Micro USB cable. In real-life use, that will be less, but still fairly impressive.
The Duet 50 earbuds are supplied with five different sizes of ear-tips and there’s support for SBC, aptX, and AAC audio codecs, so bother Apple iOS and Android smartphone users will be happy. The sound is impressive with plenty of bass and a well-articulated treble that handles cymbals and guitars well. I found a few issues when pairing and had to reset the earphones but once I’d done that, they behaved themselves and created a reliable connection.
For gym bunnies, the Duet 50 earbuds are rated at IPX4 for water resistance, and they have a nano-coating which the manufacturer says can resist sweat. There are clickable control pads on each earbud for doing things like skipping tracks, pausing music, taking calls or simply adjusting volume. I found the fit to be comfy and it’s possible to push the buds right into the ear canal for a good seal and a great sound.
Verdict: These earbuds work extremely well. They’re small and light, with a microphone built-in for taking phone calls and issuing voice commands. The sound is more than adequate, and the price is more than fair. The build quality is good too. If you’re looking for a pair of true wireless earphones that support all the Bluetooth codecs and won’t break the bank, you could do a lot worse than buy the Black Bay Duet 50.
These dinky little true wireless earbuds from Tribit are a similar design and fit to the Duet 50 model reviewed above. They are housed in a small square case that has a battery inside with up to 30 hours of battery power onboard that can be used to top up the earbuds whenever they’re put back in the case. The earbuds can play for up to six hours and in my real-life tests that was a fairly accurate figure, depending on the volume level.
The case is recharged using a supplied USB-C cable. I much prefer USB-C as it’s a more robust design and it doesn’t matter which way round you plug it in. Like all the other earbuds on test here, the Tribit FlyBuds have a built-in microphone, touch controls and they’re rated at IPX5 for water-resistance. They’re also sweat-resistant which makes them ideal for use at the gym.
The Tribit FlyBuds support both AAC and SBC codecs, which makes them ideal for both iOS devices and smartphones running recent versions of Android. The sound quality is good although perhaps a little compressed in the bass and not all that loud. If you are looking for a pair of earbuds for younger people and you don’t want them damaging their hearing by turning the music up full blast, then these are a great option as their volume levels certainly stay within safe levels.
Verdict: The Tribit FlyBuds are a rugged pair of true wireless earbuds that feel well made and would be ideal for gym work or for people who want to protect their hearing. They’re supplied with three different sizes of ear tips, but the shallow design of the tips slightly limits the seal and therefore the impact of the bass. Battery life is good, and they feel comfortable to wear.
Price: £54.99 / $64.99