The problem with so-called “wireless headphones?” They all, rather ironically, have some sort of wire involved. That is, perhaps, until now.
What you’re looking at in the picture above are not gadgets from a Bond film. However, to mobile music lovers, they have the potential to be just as intriguing. Dubbed the Earin, these miniature wireless ear buds searching for pledges on Kickstarter are designed to do what virtually every other pair of wireless in-ear headphones on the market has yet to accomplish: eliminate all cables in the system to truly cut the cord, once and for all.
Inspired by a Ryan Reynolds movie (almost certainly the only time you’ll ever hear that) which shows the actor galavanting around the city with nothing but two tiny beads in his ears, Earin’s Olle Linden set out to make those buds a reality. To do so, his Swedish company tackled a host of technological problems along the way, birthing some pretty creative solutions in an attempt to revolutionize the status quo in wireless audio.
The primary problem Earin’s creators faced was how to eliminate the last link in the chain. Almost all ‘wireless’ earphones utilize a tethered, or halo design, which connects the two earpieces together. Usually, one earphone receives the source signal via Bluetooth from your mobile device, and then sends the signal to the partner earpiece over the wire.
“Wires (are) always the first point of irritation with headphones,” says Linden on Earin’s Kickstarter page. “They are in the way, create sound when touching your clothes or cheek, and get pulled out of my ears whenever I am on the move.”
To eliminate that wire Earin utilizes some cutting-edge technology, including a specialized Bluetooth chip which receives the wireless signal from the source in the left earpiece, and then re-transmits it to the right earpiece for fully autonomous stereo sound.
The next major obstacle Earin faced was miniaturizing everything to fit into these tiny buds. That meant reducing all the electronics, cutting out extras like microphones or on board controls, and perhaps most challenging, finding a battery small enough to fit inside that would power the Earins for extended periods.
After automating on-board features like pairing and powering on, Linden’s team went the obvious root for miniaturizing the speakers inside the buds. The team chose to employ balanced armature drivers, which were developed to be extremely small for use in hearing aids, and are now often used in high-end in-ear monitors and earphones.
In order to find a battery that would power the headphones for extended periods, however, the team came up with a more creative solution: they didn’t. Instead, the team split the load, placing a small battery inside the earbuds that gives a short runtime of about 3 hours, and placing another inside the Bond-style carrying case to double that. The earbuds are always charging while inside their metallic home, and users plug in the case at the end of the day to charge the entire system.
Other clever features for the tiny buds include a silicon “Concha Wing” adapter piece that helps keep the buds in place when under duress, ultrasonically welded covers to create a water-tight seal, and angled ergonomics to keep a tight seal inside the ear.
The most interesting feature may be the price. While the Early Bird special of around $107 U.S. dollars are all gone, backers can still get in for a relatively affordable $134 and change. Of course, whether or not all of that tech works (or even sounds good) is a big question. Apart from the mechanics of wireless delivery in such a small package, we’re a little concerned about the use of single balanced armatures, which have a notoriously tough time reproducing balanced audio, especially in the bass.
We’ll have to wait for our own pair before we’ll have any idea as to whether the Earin can create a pleasurable experience on all fronts. However, if you’re convinced by the design, or you simply can’t resist sporting the tiniest wireless buds on the planet, you can pledge at Kickstarter today. As of writing this article, the Earin is in the home stretch, just $12,220 shy of its $242,920 goal, with 37 days left to go.