Cutting the cord has been the way to go in audio this year. This needs a special mention for wireless IEMs this year which face stiff competition from wired IEMs. They offer better quality while true wireless IEMs on another taking portability to the next level. Wireless IEMs, with cords tying the two buds together or with a neckband design, have the responsibility of making both worlds meet and do so in a way that is impressive yet budget-friendly.
Things look promising on the higher end too. With better codecs coming into play on smartphones packing better hardware, IEMs have caught up with the trend and have packed in support for quite a few advanced codecs. As a result, wireless IEMs this year sound better than ever and form an interesting category for Zero1 awards. Let’s have a look at this year’s winner.
2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Beoplay E6
Bang and Olufsen need no introduction. The Beoplay E6 follows their signature design style and definitely looks and feels premium. The Beoplay E6 defies its size and makes quite a few tracks sound grander than you would expect from a wireless IEM by featuring sound that is big and full. The bass response is quite perfect, without any unnecessary overpowering.
While it doesn’t compare to the best that wired IEMs had to offer this year, it offers a great option to people who need to go wireless and don’t want to cut corners when it comes to build quality and audio performance. Coming back to the audio, the E6 also handles the mids exceptionally well. with powerful vocals in the high mids like those of Adele soaring amid the detailed instruments around it. The lower mids are also handled well.
Tracks like Choti Si Asha let the E6 showcase its ability to handle detail, with each individual instrument being reproduced accurately, with just the right amount of balance between warmth and brightness. The highs are also well rendered throughout the listening experience. The E6 allows you to fine-tune the sound but we went with its default performance which was enough to get it the top position.
Runner-Up: Sennheiser Momentum Free
Sennheiser’s Momentum series has a reputation to maintain and the Momentum Free it did not fail to impress. The Momentum Free held its own in our tests with most tracks that we could throw at it but it lagged a bit behind the E6 in terms of detail and soundstaging. On the lows, it packed an adequate punch but lost out on timbre, which was handled well by the E6.
The Momentum Free sounded much better on tracks that are quieter overall as compared to densely packed music. The overall sound can be described as warm, but with a sweetness that the Momentum lineup is known for.
Best Buy: Jays a-Six Wireless
Not winning material but the Jays a-Six is definitely going to strike a chord with fans of popular music. Its sound signature is considerably on the warm side. However, it also does justice to the rest of the spectrum, to the best of its abilities. The a-Six wireless is the Swedish audio house’s first wireless piece. The inexperience does show through when pitted against more capable counterparts.
However, there’s a significant price difference between them and the a-Six Wireless, which makes it an excellent choice in case you’re looking to get a good sounding pair of wireless headphones on a budget.