Skip to main content

Can hybrid wireless earbuds fix the lossless audio problem?

Traditionally, music lovers have had to make a choice between convenience and sound quality when it comes to their earbuds or headphones, but the Zorloo Zophia aims to give these folks the best of both worlds in a single product. The Zophia is a set of true wireless earbuds that can be connected to a wired digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amplifier for fully lossless, hi-res audio from any computer or smartphone. Zorloo is launching the Zophia as a Kickstarter campaign on January 28, with backer prices that start at $140.

If the Zophia lives up to Zorloo’s promises — and with that caveat, don’t forget our general advice as it relates to any crowdfunding project — these hybrid wireless earbuds could provide a solution to a problem that has been dogging the wireless audio world for years: Bluetooth headphones and earbuds — even ones that support Sony’s LDAC or Qualcomm’s aptX HD codecs — aren’t compatible with truly lossless audio, even at the lower, CD-quality end of the lossless spectrum. As a wireless technology, Bluetooth simply doesn’t have enough bandwidth to support lossless audio, making it incompatible with the huge number of lossless audio tracks now available from Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, and other streaming music services.

Zorloo Zophia hybrid wireless earbuds.
Zorloo

That will eventually change for select phones and wireless headphones/earbuds as Qualcomm rolls out its aptX Lossless codec, but support for this new codec could be sparse for a while, and it will likely never come to Apple’s devices.

The Zophia earbuds come packaged with a cable that embeds a hi-res DAC/amp. It’s the same technology you’ll find in the company’s tiny Ztella DAC/amp dongle. Connecting this cable to the earbuds and to a phone or computer simultaneously disables the Bluetooth radio and overrides the earbuds’ built-in circuitry, effectively turning them into a set of wired earbuds. With a claimed frequency response of up to 40kHz, they should be able to reproduce the full range of hi-res audio tracks when in wired mode.

It’s not the first time a company has given wireless earbuds the ability to go wired — Motorola’s Tech3 use a similar design — but the Zophia are the first to combine wired use with a lossless, hi-res connection.

The Zorloo Zophia hybrid wireless earbuds.
Zorloo

There are two versions of the USB-C DAC cable, one which supports PCM audio at sampling frequencies of up to 384kHz and DSD audio at up to 5.6MHz, and a more expensive version that adds full MQA rendering (with a compatible app) along with PCM at up to 768kHz and DSD at up to 22.5MHz, which pretty much covers any lossless audio formats you could ask for. Regardless which cable you choose, there’s a USB-A adapter for use with a computer. There’s also a Lightning adapter for Apple’s iOS devices, but that’s an optional upgrade.

Cleverly, Zorloo has designed the Zophia’s cable connection ports to be backward compatible with standard 2-pin, 0.78mm audio cables, so even if the included DAC cable becomes damaged, or you simply want a way to use the earbuds as straight-up analog in-ear-monitors, you have another connection option.

When using the Zophia as wireless earbuds, the feature set is a little less impressive. There’s no active noise cancellation or transparency mode, and no wireless charging. Battery life seems adequate, at a claimed five hours per charge and a 25-hour total runtime when you include the charging case.

The earbuds are rated IPX4 for water resistance, so even a sweaty or rainy workout shouldn’t compromise their integrity. Zorloo has given the Zophia SBC, AAC, and aptX codec support and the earbuds run on Bluetooth 5.2, so connectivity should be very stable. You’ll also be able to use each earbud independently for calls and music.

Zorloo’s backer pricing on the campaign starts at $140 for the early-bird standard (non-MQA) version, and $163 for the early-bird MQA version, both of which are slated to ship by April 2022. After the campaign, these prices will go up to $179 and $199 respectively, and Zorloo says it expects the Zophia to hit regular retail outlets by April or May 2022.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
Ifi says its latest portable DAC restores the missing quality in digital audio
Ifi Go Bar Kensei.

Wired headphone and in-ear monitor (IEM) fans now have a new option when it comes to hearing bit-perfect digital audio on the go: Ifi's new $449 Go Bar Kensei takes one of the best portable headphone DAC/amps and adds two made-in-Japan technologies.

On the outside, the Go Bar Kensei's chassis is made from Japanese stainless steel -- an homage to the blades wielded by legendary Japanese swordsmen that also lends the DAC better structural integrity.

Read more
Audio-Technica’s latest hi-res earbuds debut at CES 2024 for $199
Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 wireless earbuds.

It's been a surprisingly quiet CES 2024 for new headphones and earbuds, but Audio-Technica (A-T) hasn't disappointed us. It launched its ATH-TWX7, a new set of hi-res, noise-canceling wireless earbuds that fill a big gap in the company's product lineup. The ATH-TWX7 come in black, white, or grey colors and are available starting January 9, for $199.

The ATH-TWX7 share a lot in common with A-T's flagship ATH-TWX9, but at $199, the TWX7 are a lot more affordable than the $299 TWX9.

Read more
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 debut with lossless audio, but skip the spatial trend
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 in copper/black.

Sennheiser has revealed its latest flagship wireless earbuds at CES 2024: the Momentum True Wireless 4. Though the company claims there are over a dozen upgrades and future-facing technologies onboard -- like lossless, CD-quality audio -- it has conspicuously side-stepped the spatial audio trend embraced by its biggest competitors.

The Momentum True Wireless 4 (MTW4) have been priced at $300 ($50 more than the previous generation) and will be available for preorder on February 15 in three colors: black copper, metallic silver, and graphite.

Read more