Since the inception of Apple AirPods with Charging Case (Previous Model), wireless and cordless earbuds have become all the rage. While the first party option will give some status points, they don’t offer much outside of their cordless form.
At nearly $200 Apple AirPods with Charging Case (Previous Model), the price is a little bit difficult to justify, considering the buds don’t sound much better than the included Apple MD827LL/A EarPods with Remote and Mic - Standard Packaging - White. At a slightly higher price point, the Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds: 3-in-1 Noise Cancelling & In Ear Bluetooth Earbubuds - Android app & Bluetooth and iPhone Bluetooth Compatible (White) provide the same wireless and cordless form with an extended feature set and great sound.
|Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds: 3-in-1 Noise Cancelling & In Ear Bluetooth Earbubuds - Android app & Bluetooth and iPhone Bluetooth Compatible (White)||Apple AirPods with Charging Case (Previous Model)|
|Battery life||2 hours||5 hours|
|Additional battery life||6 hours||19 hours|
|Time to 100% charge||1 hour||30 minutes|
|Frequency response||40Hz – 16kHz||50Hz – 16kHz|
|Price||$299.99 Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds: 3-in-1 Noise Cancelling & In Ear Bluetooth Earbubuds - Android app & Bluetooth and iPhone Bluetooth Compatible (White)||$159.99 Apple AirPods with Charging Case (Previous Model)|
The Here One buds are more than just a set of headphones. They integrate into your smartphone in a seamless way and provide the customization that would be expected when dropping this kind of coin. While they don’t grant the status, they’re far superior to the Apple AirPods.
Of course, the core feature of the Here One earbuds is the wireless and cordless form of them. However, they’re more than just that. Here One has some features to push these earbuds over the edge.
The first is the active and smart noise cancellation. While there are plenty of headphones that feature active noise cancellation, Here One has what they’re calling “smart” noise cancellation. With it, you can blend real-world volume and music volume, and even set custom noise filters depending on your environment.
This setup breaks the chains that once held active noise cancellation and provides a sound tailored to your ears and environment.
This continues into your listening profile. Your right and left ears have slight variations in them, causing the imaging or whatever to be skewed. Here One learns your hearing preferences and creates a personal listening profile that optimizing real-world sound and your music. The earbuds morph into something specific to you and your ears.
For taking phone calls, Here One has you covered as well. Your profile is taken to reduce echo and amplify your voice for the earbuds when taking calls. To answer, simply tap the sides of the earbuds. Tapping provides a few other features as well, with a double tap giving you Siri or Google Now and a single tap (when not receiving a phone call) giving a pause to hear the world around you.
Everything is set up and shown within the Here One app, thankfully available for both iOS and Android. The app keeps itself and the earbuds updated and shows everything from your listening profile to your noise filters.
The look and feel of the Here One earbuds are exceptional. At first, the vented design on the outside turned me off, but I gained an appreciation for them over time.
As opposed to the stick design of the AirPods, Here One has opted for a circular one. Nothing sticks out of your ear beside the back of the earbud. The circular design makes this area bulkier, but that makes for a more snug fit.
The drive curves down diagonally into your ear, so the circular area of the earbud sits right above your ear canal. This reduces strain on the lower cartilage of your ear, providing longer, strain-free listening sessions.
The included box is longer than the AirPods one but also feels more substantial. Opening, there’s an area for the left and right earbuds, a four light battery indicator, and a smooth Here branding to make them feel ultra premium.
They come in both white and black as well, giving a bit more flexibility in terms of the look. The Here One earbuds look and feel premium from top to bottom, edging out in terms of both looks and comfort.
Battery life is also important when considering the design. The Here One earbuds have decent battery life but is vastly lower than that offered by the AirPods. On a single charge, you can get two hours of listening time, with the case providing three additional charges. It will take an hour for the earbuds to get back to 100% after sitting in the case.
In terms of sound quality, the Here One earbuds are excellent. The smooth curve provides a sound that is very surprising considering their Bluetooth status.
The ports sitting on the outside of the earbuds are evenly dispersed, giving an open and natural sound. Combine that with the active noise cancellation and blending options and the result is a sound that is natural while blocking out external noise.
Frequency-wise, these earbuds aren’t breaking any records, though. A modest 40Hz – 16kHz seems a little disappointing on paper for audiophiles. However, most mainstream users will find little to no issue here. Despite the lack of super subs, the earbuds crank out some nice bass. Rolling off the extreme lows tightens the overall bass response, giving a punchy and tight sound.
The midrange is a bit scooped for my tastes. It’s clear that Here One didn’t give much attention to an accurate sound in this area. That’s not a bad thing, though. The slightly scooped sound accentuates the highs and lows and provides a lively (albeit scooped) sound.
I was pleasantly surprised with the top end as well. I expected the highs to be shrill and harsh, but that’s not the case here. The highs are nice and crisp without digging into your ears too much.
The overall sound is a bit trendy, not timeless like something from a Klipsch speaker, but it’s still very satisfying. While it isn’t the pinnacle of audio, it’s well worth the asking price.
Here One Overall
Here One has made an exceptional earbud that gives AirPods an insane run for their money. The sound, look, and design feels more premium easily justifying the slightly higher asking price.
When Apple ditched the 3.5mm jack on their phones, the world nearly imploded. Consequently, they had a pair of wireless and cordless earbuds to fill the hole the lack of a 3.5mm jack left. While they aren’t the best of the best, the paved a way for a whole new generation of earbuds to be pushed into the mainstream.
Apple advertises the AirPods as “magical”. And, for iPhone users, this is true. The AirPods integrate seamlessly into the Apple ecosystem, and create, unsurprisingly, one of the best experiences for the user.
The core of the whole thing is the Apple W1 chip built into the AirPods. Optical sensors and motion accelerometers work with the chop to automatically control audio and engage the microphone. This means, as soon as the earbuds are in your ears, music can start playing immediately.
The voice accelerometer performs similarly with your voice. When you start speaking, the chip begins filtering out background noise to focus on your voice. This works if you’re just talking to Siri or taking a phone call.
Speaking of which, taking phone calls is similar to the Here One earbuds. Simply tap the side of one of the earbuds to answer a call. Accessing Siri is a similar process, just double tap and speak.
What’s missing is some sort of tuning profile for your voice and music. Unlike the Here One earbuds, there’s nothing here to tune the earbuds to your tastes.
The crowning feature is also the biggest weakness for the AirPods. The integration with the Apple ecosystem makes it simple to pair and switch devices. Literally, take them out and they’re ready to go with your devices, all you have to do is switch.
Which brings up the weakness. Apple products. In true form, the AirPods are incompatible with other devices, lowering the market for them significantly. If you don’t own a Mac, an Apple Watch, and an iPhone, you’re automatically missing out on all these earbuds have to offer.
If you’ve seen the Apple EarPods before, then you’ve seen the AirPods. They’re the staple Apple earbuds, minus the cord. The only real difference is a bit of a silver accent on the bottom of the drivers to add
The stick-like design can become a bit uncomfortable in the ears. As opposed to having an in-ear design, the AirPods are made completely out of plastic and simply sit in your ears. This not only hurts over time, but drastically decreases the sound.
The charging case is also disappointing. While the AirPods fit in there comfortably, the case doesn’t provide any useful information like a battery indicator. Really, the case looks like a thing of floss, and I would’ve expected more from Apple.
Where the AirPods really win is in the battery life. Thanks to the proprietary chip, you can get five hours of listening on a single charge. The case will give you an additional 19 hours as well. Pop in the AirPods for 15 minutes and you’re good to go for another three hours.
Unfortunately, the Here One earbuds simply don’t come close to the battery life of the AirPods, giving them the win here.
Where the AirPods start to fall apart is in their sound quality. Again, like the Apple EarPods, the sound is exactly the same. If you’ve listened on a pair of the included earbuds before, then you’ve heard
The bass lacks significantly due to the earbuds just sitting in your ear. Instead, there is a bit of a perceived low-end, but no satisfying punch. Thankfully, Apple doesn’t try to push bass out, so this doesn’t muddy
What does muddy the sound is the midrange. A complete lack of tuning here gives a washy sound. When they’re quiet, it’s not as offensive, but the moment the volume is turned up the sound completely falls apart due to an inefficient and over-inflated midrange.
The highs tell a similar story. They’re fine at low volumes, but quickly become distorted and shrill at extreme volumes. The highs aren’t over exaggerated, but they combined with the midrange yield a muddy sound.
Audiophiles can’t and shouldn’t expect much from Apple in terms of sound quality. The earbuds sound like a cheap pair because they essentially are. In terms of sound quality, I mean, the price tag is still high, which is difficult to justify.
The AirPods are great if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem. If you’re already there, the best of the best may not be a concern for you anyway. However, if you even sit slightly outside of that realm, then the AirPods are probably one of the worst choices for wireless and cordless earbuds.
Apple really did bring the wireless and cordless earbuds into the mainstream. However, their offering falls severely short now that the competition has presented itself. If you’re looking for something that works with all your Apple devices, then the AirPods may be for you. However, you want any sort of real functionality, the Here One earbuds win almost every time.
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