Ever since Apple released the wildly popular AirPods in 2016, audio companies have followed suit and released their own renditions of truly wireless earbuds year after year. The category has exploded in popularity and now you can get TWS (truly wireless) earphones ranging all the way from 1K to 25K or even higher. Owing to this, we decided to divide this segment of audio into two different categories this year - Premium (above 10K) and Budget/Affordable (under 10K). 2020 saw a lot of action in the premium true wireless segment with manufacturers pushing a horde of features in their offerings such as Active Noise Cancellation, wireless charging, smart pause and play, multipoint connection, and much more. The audio quality and wireless connectivity have progressively become more sophisticated since the inception of TWS earphones, and this year, we saw multiple premium truly wireless earbuds offer excellent audio chops in addition to improved features and build. So let’s get right into revealing the winner in this burgeoning category.
Note: We recently updated our test process for IEMs to include objective scoring in addition to our subjective assessment. We utilise an innovative product from SLS Audio (Denmark) which is specifically designed to test in-ear headphones called the 07mm MiEMi-M & iSEMcon EMX-7150 Measurement Mic. This is plugged to our audio interface device - Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. To measure the frequency response of the earphones captured by the microphone, we hook these devices up to a PC running the comprehensive SMAART-Di v2 software. We measure pink noise to get a frequency response graph of the earphones and pit them against each other. Once we have the frequency graph, we can look at it to determine how the audio device is colouring the sound, and arrive at the objective sound profile of the device.
Uncompensated frequency response graph of the winner, runner-up and best buy in the Premium TWS category.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 is the company’s flagship truly wireless earphone which comes equipped with Sony’s lauded QN1e chip that shows its prowess when it comes to Active Noise Cancellation and even sound quality. The earphones are exceptional at cancelling out an array of ambient sounds all the way from low-frequency, constant sounds such as AC drones to human voices. These earphones beat out the runner-up with ease when it comes to ANC. Coming to the sound quality of these earphones, in our objective test, the generated frequency response graph shows us that the WF-1000XM3 does extremely well in the low and mid frequencies with very few sudden peaks and drops. Sony earphones usually have a bass-forward sound profile, but with the WF-1000XM3, the company has gone for a more neutral sound profile with warm vocals, detailed mids, punchy lows, and smooth highs. While the Sennheiser does have slightly better reproduction of sound in the bass region, it falls behind the Sony when it comes to reproducing highs due to the sharp drop off in the 4-6K region of the frequency graph. Overall, Sony’s vibrant, yet balanced sound profile and excellent Active Noise Cancelling abilities won us over, leading to the product being crowned the winner in this category.
The successors to the famed Sennheiser MTW, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 came with a few improvements to the build and Active Noise Cancellation, which wasn’t present on its predecessor. The bass response of the earphones is rich and textured and the lows sound incredible and don’t distort even at unwise listening levels. The mids are detailed and sound natural in most tracks. However, the frequency response graph shows a massive dip in the low treble range which leads to the details in this range being slightly veiled. While Sennheiser usually drops this part of the frequency range in order to not subject human ears to slightly harsher sounds in this range, the dip on the MTW2 is more pronounced than previous iterations which make highs sound slightly meek in the mix. Moreover, while the Active Noise Cancelling is pretty decent on the earphones, they aren’t as proficient as the Sony WF-1000XM3 when it comes to diminishing low-frequency ambient sounds, which is why it ended up as the runner up in this category.
Priced at Rs 12,990, the RHA TrueConnect 2 is a solid buy for those looking for good sounding pair of true wireless earphones under 15K. While these earphones don’t come with bells and whistles such as ANC and Ambient Sound mode like the winner and the runner up, they have an impressive sound quality which is drastically improved from the original RHA TrueConnect which had a pretty bass-forward sound profile. The RHA TrueConnect 2 comes with a comparatively tamed bass response, with the bass and mids being uniformly reproduced to make tracks sound more natural and detailed. These earphones also have excellent passive isolation, so you won’t miss ANC too much. In the frequency graph, we can see that the range from 4K to 8K has been slightly boosted which pulls out details from the highs making instruments such as cymbals and hi-hats more prominent in the mix. Overall, these earphones offer solid value at under 15K, which is why it receives our Best Buy mention
About Digit Zero 1 Awards:
With a legacy of 20 years, the Digit Zero 1 Awards is recognized as the Industry’s only performance-based awards. Digit rewards brands for putting in years of research in developing and introducing performance-driven products for their audience. All products are made to pass through a rigorous and scientific test process and compete with competitor brands in the same category. The Winner in each category is announced on the basis of their total score post complete performance analysis done across an average of 56 tests conducted for every category, across key performance parameters. The test process for the Zero1 Awards does not consider scores for features, price or design. The aim is to identify the very best products that money can buy, celebrate the innovations that push the industry forward, and reward the products that dare to disrupt the market.
Perpetually sporting a death stare, this one can be seen tinkering around with her smartphone which she holds more dear than life itself and stuffing her face with copious amounts of bacon.