The best truly wireless earbuds in 2019 – Mr. Phone picks

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I’ve been itching to do this comparison for a long time now. Yes, I am talking about comparing the best truly wireless earbuds out there as the title suggests. We have five of these buds in the first edition of this comparison: AirPods 2/AirPods (2019), Samsung Galaxy Buds, Nokia True Wireless, Jabra Elite Active 65t, and the RHA True Connect.

Let’s jump right in.

Box and earbud design

Let’s start by talking about the design. The Elite Active 65t comes in a matte finish charging case that looks attractive but it has a very rigid opening mechanism. Moreover, locking the earbuds into place is a very weird mechanism. That said, the individual earbuds look very good in my opinion. Yes, they are big but they also pack in a lot of technology. I like the matte finish and the fact that it is available in multiple colours is an added advantage. They are fairly lightweight too. But weirdly, the right earbud weighs slightly more than the left one. That said, it is fairly inconspicuous as they sit in the inner part of your ears. 

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But even more inconspicuous are the Black variant of the Galaxy Buds. These things are tinier than the Elite Active 65t. Again, you get different colour options. The one we have here is the White one and you can get one in Yellow as well. The charging case is pretty small too. It is fairly easy to open compared to the Jabra. It is also pretty straightforward and easy to remove, and place back the Galaxy Buds in the box. My only concern with the White one is that it gets dirty very easily. 

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The shiny box of the AirPods get super dirty too and so do the buds themselves. The problem is that you don’t get the AirPods in a different colour either. Having said that, I can never ever get over the satisfying opening and closing mechanism of the AirPods’ box. This is addictive AF! Removing the AirPods from the box is easy and it slots in super easily too. The AirPods have stems and they look like a pair of earrings. The flashy design is visible from anywhere. And, now they have become commonplace so much so that there are at least four people in our office using it and many more out there in the real world. 

Coming to the Nokia True Wireless, it has the most unique design of all with a slim cylindrical charging case. It is too tall, in my opinion. Anyway, you get a single-push button spring release system. It works well but removing the earbuds and placing them back again in the box requires some sort of special training. It takes time and is not a very seamless experience. As for the earbuds, they are fairly tiny but they look very average. What is the point of winning the Red Dot award for design if it is not functional? 

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Finally, the RHA True Connect has the most premium-looking box of all the earbuds. The metal railing connected to the polished matte-plastic lid looks very sexy. And you know what? The opening mechanism is almost as addictive as the one used by the AirPods. You can even remove the buds and place them back in easily. Coming to the buds, they look staid in grey with a matte finish. This finish attracts a lot of body oils though and it is visible on the dark colour. These earbuds also have a stem like the AirPods and therefore not very inconspicuous. 

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My pick: RHA True Connect

Fit and comfort

As for the fit, I think the Jabra and the Galaxy Buds trump the competition here. I found them to fit neatly in the ears. The Galaxy Buds are small and lightweight too. And compared to the rest, it can be worn for long hours once you find the right-size fin and tips combo for your ears. The Jabra is equally good but it gets uncomfortable during long listening sessions. 

As for the AirPods, they kept falling out of my ears during a head-banging session and when exercising. This happened primarily because, unlike the others, the AirPods are at proper earbud design and it is not the in-ear type. That said, they are comfortable in the ears. In comparison, the fit of the Nokia True Wireless Buds is solely dependant on the tips because there is literally no support or fin.

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And, last but not the least, the True Connect fits well but again you need to get the right fit with the right tips. RHA makes it easier by providing Comply Foam tips, which are not only comfortable but can also ensure that the buds don’t fall out easily.

My pick: Jabra Elite Active 65t and Samsung Galaxy Buds

Controls

One of the things about the new AirPods is the improved H1 chip. It has always-on Siri and lets you control your music with your voice. I think that it is super convenient to control music and removes the need for a physical button/gesture control. This ensures that you don’t have to keep touching the earbuds either. The “Hey Siri” function, honestly, works really well. 

While the AirPods are great, the Jabra Elite Active 65t includes actual physical buttons with intuitive controls and tactile feedback. You have to merely press the right button to pause music or accept a call. And, you can use the volume button on the left to change the levels or even the song. All this is pretty convenient and handy. I think when it comes to controls, the Elite 65t definitely take the cake. 

The Galaxy Buds use a touch-sensitive panel for controls. You can also long touch the left bud to invoke your personal assistant of choice. In fact, you can even assign a long touch to increase or reduce the volume. Honestly, I found it iffy to touch a small area on the panel. I just stuck to tapping it for playing/pausing music. That’s about it. 

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The True Connect has physical buttons like the Jabra but you have to double press to increase the volume and triple press to decrease it. Try getting that right. I couldn’t do that properly even once. And as for the Nokia, it has tiny buttons on the underside of the earbuds. My pudgy fingers couldn’t double click on the right button to increase the volume and left one to decrease it. It was just super unintuitive and better left unused. 

Therefore, as far as controls go, the Jabra takes the lead with the AirPods coming in a close second.

My pick: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Connectivity and connection stability

With wireless products, a stable connection is vital and that has been the biggest struggle for the truly wireless earbuds. However, the AirPods are definitely an anomaly in that regard. Firstly, the H1 chip offers faster discovery and connectivity. All you need to do is flip open the lid for the iPhone to detect you and you can seamlessly switch between your other Apple products too. And, the connection stays super duper stable as well, both with Android and iPhones. The AirPods aced my tight jeans test too. Meaning, it managed to stay connected to the phone with no dropouts even when it was in the pocket of my tight jeans. 

Now with the Samsung Galaxy Buds you will notice that Samsung is trying to follow Apple’s footsteps: when you connect the Buds to a Samsung phone a card that pops up on your screen. Essentially, you need the latest SmartThings app on your Samsung phone and the moment you pop open the lid the Buds will detect your phone. It is not as fast as the iPhone but it works as advertised. And, the connection was stable for the most part of my testing but there were a few drops in my tight jeans test. 

While the Elite Active 65t has no such party trick like the AirPods or the Galaxy Buds, it manages to offer a rock solid connection for the most part. However, there were a few dropped connections in my tight jeans test. Also, the Elite Active 65t has a Micro-USB port on the box while the others have a Type-C port or a lightning port, in the case of the AirPods. 

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Not only is it super weird to switch on the Nokia True Wireless buds individually, but it also skips audio once in a while. But the worst offender is the RHA True Connect. The left earbud just cannot sync with the right one and I kept facing dropped connections. This breaks the flow of listening to music and I really cannot recommend the True Connect to anyone in this state. 

P.S. all the earphones use the Bluetooth 5.0 standard for connecting. 

My pick: AirPods (2019)

Isolation

None of these products provide active noise cancellation, but the Jabra Elite 65t blocks out most of the external sounds even when music isn’t playing in the background. In comparison, the AirPods leaks a lot of noise and does very little to block out external sound. The rest are as good as in-ear earphones get. 

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My pick: Jabra Elite Active 65t and Samsung Galaxy Buds

Overall sound quality

All the earbuds use the SBC codec and none support aptX, let alone LDAC. The AirPods 2 can do the slightly better Apple-proprietary AAC codec, though. (As pointed out by a reader, AAC is not an Apple-properietary codec.)

Starting with the Jabra Elite Active 65t. It has a very clean sound with an emphasis on details and clarity more than anything else. The tonality is good, especially when the wobble of the guitar pluck hits your ears in  Do I Wanna Know by the Arctic Monkeys. However, the chorus eats into the instruments in the same song. The instrument separation and the sound staging could’ve been slightly better in my opinion. 

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The bass is full-bodied and the attack is pretty tight too as is evident from the song Mucho Macho by Divine. What’s particularly great is the clean treble response and the excellent mids. It is a fairly neutral sound with a very little emphasis on any particular frequency. I can say this with a fair amount of confidence because, in the folksy Theeyame from Angamaly Diaries, the Elite Active 65t doesn’t overplay the vocals and drowns out the other instruments in the background. 

In comparison to the Jabra Active Elite 65t, the Galaxy Buds offer better imaging and soundstaging. But, the bass attack is not as impressive. These buds are tuned by AKG and are again pretty neutral for the most part with an increased emphasis on the mids and the treble. In the very crowded penultimate section of Do I Wanna Know by The Arctic Monkeys, the Buds just shine through and through. What impressed me, even more, was the great Treble response with the right amount of peak to ensure you get a near audiophile-grade sound. That’s high praise, I know but it is true. 

The AirPods 2 are very heavy on bass. The big sound is very commercially viable and would definitely excite a lot of listeners. Which is possibly the reason why a lot of folks are gravitating towards the AirPods. But, the sound is not as clean and defined as the Elite Active 65t or the Galaxy Buds. You will hear the muddiness clearly in the penultimate section of Do I Wanna Know by The Arctic Monkeys. The AirPods actually excel when there are fewer instruments. But the one thing that annoys me about the AirPods is at anything above 80% volume, the buds leak a lot of sounds. 

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As for the Nokia True Wireless, they don’t sound as full and sound thin for the most part. Moreover, the bass is definitely not as refined and it is seriously lacking the punch. Honestly, I think you are better served in the sound department with something like the Galaxy Buds or the AirPods, if you are looking for good bass. 

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I am not even going into the RHA’s audio quality because the right, left sync is broken beyond measure. I like the sound. It is clean and slightly treble-focussed making it perfect for audiophiles. That said, the connection drops are going to ruin your listening experience. 

My pick: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Audio sync in video streaming

Truly wireless earbuds have traditionally suffered audio lag when playing video on your phone. So, I decided to stream Petta on Netflix to test the audio lag. Side note: what was Karthik Subbaraj thinking when he made Petta with Rajnikanth. The movie was bad. 

Coming back to the point, the Elite Active 65t offered stellar sync with no lag whatsoever. The Nokia was equally stellar. I noticed a very slight lag in the sync on the RHA. The AirPods 2 offered a rock solid sync with an iPhone but they struggle to keep up the same quality on Android with an initial hiccup while streaming audio. Also, despite a software update to fix this specific issue, the Galaxy Buds had a discernible lag. I mean, the video-audio sync was not so bad that it’d break the experience of movie watching or anything. That said, the others were better. 

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My pick: Jabra Elite Active 65t and Nokia True Wireless

Call quality

One of the primary functions of these buds is to take calls. So, we tested the call quality on an Airtel VoLTE network on both the ends. The best sound quality and noise cancellation was undoubtedly achieved by the AirPods. Seriously, Apple has nailed the quality of the mic and the overall call processing when it comes to these tiny buds. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the stem, which includes the mic, is closer to the mouth.

In comparison, the Nokia sounded really bad with the audio skipping and muffling as well. The Galaxy Buds was only slightly better. The Jabra had crystal clear quality but the volume level was low. However, that doesn’t matter much because the Elite Active 65t offers excellent passive noise isolation from the outside world. The RHA sounds good, as well, in calls but not as good as the Elite Active 65t or the Airpods. 

My pick: AirPods (2019)

Battery life 

When it comes to battery life, you have to take into account the additional charging case and how many charges it can hold as far as truly wireless buds are concerned. And that is where the AirPods take a leap. It offers around 5 hours on as single charge for the buds and the case offers extra 24 hours of battery life. That is indeed great. That said, there have been various reports from users that the battery life of their first-gen AirPods has been deteriorating. So, you have to be wary of that.  

Technically, the Galaxy Buds offer the best battery life when it comes to truly wireless buds. It offers 6 hours of playback on a single charge. That said, the charging case has a fairly small battery and therefore you get only 7 hours of extra charge, which is not too great. Point to note here: these are standard battery numbers as stated by the brands themselves. However, in my testing, I noticed that it was mostly in the vicinity of what the brands actually promise. For example, I did indeed get close to 6 hours of playback at 70 percent volume on the Galaxy Buds. 

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Moving on, the RHA True Connect offers the second best battery life and it might as well do that considering it has the largest case of the lot. For example, you get 20 hours of charge from the box and 5 hours on the buds themselves. The Elite Active 65t offers 5 hours of charge on the buds and 15 hours on the box. And finally, the worst of the lot is Nokia. You can get around 4 hours of playback from the True Wireless buds and 12 hours of backup from the case. 

My pick: AirPods (2019) and Samsung Galaxy Buds

Additional features

Jabra just tramples over the competition when it comes to additional features. From the HearThrough (ambient listening) option in the app to the activity tracker, the Elite Active 65t is very versatile. Moreover, the bundled app itself is really good with the option to adjust the equaliser as well. Obviously, it has the integrated Alexa option as well and IP56 certification.

With the Galaxy Buds you get a wireless charging case. And it has the same ambient listening option like the Elite Active 65t. The new AirPods come with a wireless charging box too. The Nokia has IPX4 certification as an extra. And the RHA True Connect has a slightly better IPX5 certification. 

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My pick: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Price and value for money

So, let’s talk prices. The Nokia is the most affordable of the lot right now with the price cut. You can get one for Rs 7,999. Although, I don’t really think it is valuer for money as such. The product itself does very little to redeem itself. The Galaxy Buds are definitely the best value considering the Rs 9,990 price tag. The AirPods 2, at Rs 14,900 without the wireless charging case and Rs 18,990 with the wireless charging case, are on the most expensive of the lot but they are fairly good value for money for all that you get with it. 

The Jabra Elite Active 65t are rightly priced at Rs 12,149 but the RHA True Connect at Rs 14,999 are definitely expensive. 

My pick: Samsung Galaxy Buds

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Conclusion

I really think the Jabra Elite Active 65t is the best overall option with great sound, crystal clear call quality, a good, secure fit, excellent connectivity, and the works. And, the Galaxy Buds sound the best of the lot. And finally, if you are an iPhone user and are into the Apple ecosystem, it is almost a no-brainer that you must pick up the AirPods (2019). In fact, even if you are an Android user, the AirPods will serve you well with excellent call quality. No wonder these things are flying off the shelves and the competition is still playing catch up.

It is a pity that the Nokia and the RHA couldn’t hold up in the comparison. I wanted to add the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless and the Skullcandy Push into the equation but the companies either didn’t comment at all or took their own sweet time to respond. 

Anyway, what did you guys think? Liked this comparison? Want to see more such comparisons? Do let us know in the comments section below. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?