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Hands on: Earin wireless earbuds

The first truly wireless earbuds are infomercial-amazing, without the catch

Cables are the most annoying part of wearing headphones. They bounce around when you run, they get tangled on clothes and yank your cord out, and they’re always the first part to break.

But typical Bluetooth headphones hardly represent salvation. They’re bulky, heavy,  uncomfortable, unsightly, and there’s usually still a wire involved in there somewhere. If this is starting to sound like a bad infomercial, perhaps it’s because that’s what a lot of Bluetooth earbuds feel like.

It’s no wonder, then, that every single project on Kickstarter and Indiegogo promising a truly wire-free earbud has been met with funds aplenty. People have been longing for this technology, but it’s been exceedingly difficult to create. One project after another has fallen flat. But, at long last, the code has been cracked.

Sweden-based Earin has finally produced the world’s first truly wire-free earbud. And to take things a step further, the company just distributed 1,500 pairs out to 650 Best Buy stores across the US, making Earin the first commercially available, truly wireless earbud.

At $249, Earin’s buds beg a premium, but that’s to be expected considering this is a first-gen product with zero competition in the market. The question is: Are they worth the money? Oh, but they are. They’re just that cool.

The presentation

When the Earin arrived at our desk, we were almost as impressed by the packaging as the product itself. The box material is made of what appears to be compressed recycled paper, but it feels like wood. When you open it, you feel the pull of magnets, but you don’t see them anywhere, and the pull of magnets reasserts itself as you liberate the earbuds from their little custom cut-outs.

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Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The package also includes a tube for storing and charging the buds, and a box of accessories including an inexplicably short USB charging cable, sport hooks to stabilize the earbuds during exercise (smart move), and one pair of Comply foam ear tips.

Where’s the ear tip buffet?

A good fit is the most important contributing element to an in-ear headphone’s sound quality — if you can’t get the fit just right, you’re not going to get the best sound. By extension, that means it’s essential to get a wide variety of differently sized ear tips — at least, that’s been our experience. We were somewhat dumbfounded, then, at the fact that Earin included only two sets of Comply foam ear tips. Turns out, Earin has a very specific reason for that.

Our real beef with Comply tips is that they usually roll off a wide swathe of the treble, robbing music of its sparkle and detail.

If you aren’t familiar, Comply foam tips are like the memory foam of ear tips for in-ear headphones. You squish them, place them in your ear, and they expand, adapting to the shape of your outer ear canal in the process. On the plus side, this provides an outstanding seal, which makes for some great passive noise isolation and better overall sound quality. But they’re also ear-wax magnets, and tend to get gross quickly — we can’t help but imagine them just soaking up the funky yellow-ish stuff. But, setting that aside, our real beef with Comply tips is that they tend to roll off a wide swath of the treble, robbing music of its sparkle and detail.

Fortunately for Earin, though, the Comply tips work really well for us here, and that’s by design. Earin tells us it chose the Comply tips very carefully after a panel chose the Comply tips over silicone options every single time. Moreover, Earin felt its earbuds sounded better with the Comply foam working with it’s balanced armature driver rather than against it.  That’s kind of a bold design choice, but we’re feeling pretty satisfied right now, so it was clearly the right one.

Editor’s note: In our video above, we expressed our displeasure at receiving only one pair of ear tips with our review sample. Earin has since confirmed with Digital Trends that it ships all Earin products with two pairs of Comply Tips, both small and medium, to accommodate the widest array of ear sizes possible, and that our particular sample was an anomaly. 

Stupid easy setup

We expected to wrangle with multiple minuscule buttons and a complicated smartphone app get the Earin not only paired with our phone, but also paired with each other. But there are no buttons, and the Earin app, while handy, is not required. Once charged, the Earin buds automatically spring to life and go into pairing mode. Once you find them in your device’s Bluetooth settings, you click to connect, and that’s it. You are now paired. Every time you put the buds in their charging tube, they’ll shut down. And every time you pull them out, they’ll pair with your device in mere seconds. That’s all there is to it.

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Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

As for the Earin app: It never worked for us. The app failed to recognized the presence of the earbuds, though our phone was very clearly paired with them. This was a disappointment, as Earin wisely includes a balance option and a bass boost button, which we’d like to have played with.

Battery life: Manage your expectations

Look: these buds are tiny. The battery inside them is even tinier. The fact that Earin has managed to get 2.5 to 3 hours of playtime out of a single charge is, we think, outstanding. For extended use, a full charge is less than 25 minutes away. If you want longer battery life, you’ll need to wait until another, bulkier, wireless earbud option is on the market. Or you can go with traditional Bluetooth headphones, with big battery packs you strap on like a necklace.

Sound quality

The Earin wireless earbuds far exceeded our expectations in the sound-quality department. A first-generation product like this would have received a little leniency from us, but we didn’t have to dish any out. The balanced-armature drivers at work inside the buds offer impressively deep bass with exceptionally clean attack and just the right amount of punch. The midrange is largely free of congestion, though it comes with just a tiny bit of pinch in the upper midrange area, where vocals can sound just a bit smaller than they do through large, over-the-ear headphones. The treble, while kept warm by the Comply foam tips, has plenty of sparkle and detail, and a pleasant bit of dryness that lends itself well to shimmering cymbals. Again, we have to mention the clean and tight attack with entertaining transient response the Earin deliver are hallmarks of a quality headphone.

Related: How Pearbuds Kickstarter will ultimately succeed

To be absolutely clear: The Earin are no gimmick, they are a bona fide breakthrough in headphone technology, and sweet-sounding one at that.

The quirks

Nitpickers are going to pick up on a couple of quirks, but none of them are serious enough to rethink purchasing the Earin.

We think this little startup did an outstanding job with its first product.

First: Sensitive ears will pick up on just a tiny bit of buzz (likely in the right earbud) until a signal is received from a source device. After that, you will not hear it again.

Second, and more notable: The Earin exhibit this odd balance shift every so often. It’s almost impossible to detect when listening to music or watching video, but if you like to listen to podcasts, you may notice that vocals presented right in the center of the mix (equal parts left and right) will shift to the left just a bit, then maybe to the right for a while, then settle in the middle. We’re not sure what’s happening here, but so far it’s been more of an occasional oddity than a hindrance, and it’s certainly not something we’d get in a twist over.

Go buy them

If you’re the sort of person who loves having the latest, coolest gadget, then you need to get yourself a pair of these wireless earbuds. You can only be the first kid on the block to have something so many times in your life, and we think $250 is a small price to pay for something that is not only novel, but genuinely useful and entertaining. Perhaps the Earin aren’t ideal for marathoners, triathletes, long-haul cyclists, or frequent long-distance fliers, but for those who enjoy their music for hours — not days — at a time, we can think of no earbud that provides as much freedom, fun, and straight-up excellent sound quality as the Earin. We think this little startup did an outstanding job with its first product, now we just want to see it ramp up production, and show us what it’s got for us next.

Highs

  • Outstanding sound
  • Great build quality
  • Super easy to use

Lows

  • Would prefer silicone ear tip option
  • Balance shifts occasionally

Available Exclusively at: Best Buy