Digit Zero 1 Awards 2020: Best Performing Wireless IEM

Digit Zero 1 Awards 2020: Best Performing Wireless IEM

Dhriti Datta | 11 Dec 2020

Nesting between wired IEMs and truly wireless IEMs, wireless IEMs take away a part of the cord that connects the device to the source but still retain the wires between the two earbuds. These earphones are the bridge between the aforementioned two categories and serve as a good entry point into the wireless audio segment for those who desire wireless connectivity but are also afraid of misplacing the tiny truly wireless earbuds. While most companies were hyper-focused on perfecting their truly wireless offerings, given the sheer popularity of the segment, wireless IEMs didn’t lag too far behind in terms of innovation and creativity this year. Manufacturers worked on increasing battery life, bettering latency, and developing sound quality which produced some decent products in 2020. We tested a bunch of wireless IEMs this year and have nailed down the winner for this segment.

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, first runner-up, second runner up and Reference IEM (Sony WF-1000XM3) in the Wireless IEM category. 

Winner: RHA T20 Wireless

RHA T20 Wireless

With the RHA T20 Wireless, you get access to not just one sound profile, but three! That’s right, RHA has provided a total of three sound filters with the T20 Wireless including a bass filter, a reference (balanced) filter, and a treble filter which you can switch out as per your liking. While we were sceptical about the merit of these filters at first, after extensive testing we found that the filters really do work. The bass filter extends the bass response and lows, while the treble one slightly diminishes the same. In our objective testing, we used the balanced filter since that is the one that comes installed by default. As per the graph, the RHA T20 Wireless comes with slightly underextended lows, fairly balanced mids and extended highs. However, no frequency is under or overextended to a point where it sounds jarring and the overall sound profile of the earphones are excellent with oodles of detail across the frequency spectrum. The instrument separation and passive isolation are also excellent, which makes the T20 Wireless a solid buy all-in-all, especially if you’re an audiophile or sound engineer.

Runner up: Sony WI-1000XM2

Sony WI-1000XM2

The Sony WI-1000XM2 brings with it Sony’s excellent Noise Cancelling chops. The ANC performance of these earphones is stellar, with the earbuds being able to diminish a fair amount of ambient noise in various situations. The sound profile is slightly bright, with the bass response being slightly timid compared to what we usually get from Sony flagships such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Sony WF-1000XM3. Nevertheless, the mids are reproduced well with good clarity and detail. In the frequency graph, the 500 to 1K range is slightly extended which enhances the sound reproduction of the high-lows and the mids. Vocals are especially well-reproduced on these earphones, with most vocal-centric tracks sounding sublime. Overall, the Sony WI-1000XM2 does enough to become the runner up in this category, however, the muted lows and bass response draws it away from the winning spot, since the RHA T20 Wireless convincingly took the lead due to much better bass reproduction and excellent instrument separation.

Best buy: Sennheiser CX 350BT

Sennheiser CX 350BT

Priced at Rs 7,490, the Sennheiser CX 350BT takes on the heavyweights in this category with ease and comes closest to our reference IEMs when it comes to frequency graph reproduction in our objective tests. The Sennheiser CX 350BT, however, features a dark sound profile, unlike the reference IEMs (Sony WF-1000XM3) which has a boost in the highs, which makes it a V-shaped sound profile. Dark sound profiles, on the other hand, are shaped like a slanting line which means the lows are extended, the mids softer than the lows, and the highs are even softer than the mids. This creates a grungy sound profile that may not work well with some genres of music. Nevertheless, for the price, the Sennheiser CX 350BT puts on a decent performance with great passive isolation, clear vocals, and controlled bass response therefore, it ends up getting our best buy mention.

Dhriti Datta

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.

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