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Of smartphones and in-ears - Are Bluetooth headphones/earphones "there" yet ?

vert

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#1
I switched phones recently from a Sony Xperia XZ to a Samsung Galaxy S10. The S10 seemed like a very good phone - it is in actuality - and was practically given away with a generous Samsung cashback. I'm very happy with the S10's sound. I've had a few in-ear headphones, Sony MDR650, RHA MA750, Fiio F9, Xiaomi Pro HD, all disappointing to a degree. I commute to work and a good sounding mobile setup is important to me. I'm leery about spending too much on in-ears, as I don't trust most reviews. For instance, Fiio headphones get rave reviews, but my experience with Fiio matches exactly what's described in this video:
The F9 had very similar problems in the treble, just a horrible sound. Plus the connector came lose after a few months of light use. I was able to return it under warranty.
The praise lavished on those headphones on Head Fi and elsewhere, in some very carefully crafted reviews, raises some disturbing questions.
My RHAs still sound decent, but contrary to what almost every review will tell you, the build quality isn't "like a tank" but is junk. The plastic of the cord has started gasing out and has become sticky all over, and is starting to break in one spot.
As to the "Samsung tuned by AKG" set that came with the S10, I had high hopes, but as pointed out by "oluv's gadgets", those suffer some inconsistencies : my pair isn't satisfactory.
Looking at the landscape of portable headphones, it seems manufacturers are now invested heavily into wireless models. Samsung's Galaxy Earbuds have been praised by Sean Olive himself. I'd be interested to hear about people's experiences with wireless headphones. Do they perform identically or better than wired headphones? I've narrowed down options to either this, or monitor-type in-ears, such as the Sennheiser IE40, or the equivalent Audio Technica model.
 
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JJB70

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#2
I don't know much about wireless IEMs but wireless over-ear headphones like the Sony 1000XM3 and Bose QC35 II are excellent so I see no reason why equivalent IEMs shouldn't also be good.
 

solderdude

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#3
Samsung's Galaxy Earbuds have been praised by Sean Olive himself.
Samsung owns Harman where Sean Olive works. May be a reason to endorse it.

Have extremely little (and disappointed) experiences with IEM's and decided not to shove things in my ear that push back earwax that was trying to escape from my ear canal.
 
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#4
The other option is a dongle which has mmcx terminations.
I have this one from Sony (I picked it because it has LDAC capability, there are others out there that are cheaper)
https://www.headfonia.com/review-sony-muc-m2bt1-wireless-audio-receiver-dont-forget-your-phone/
That way you can just swap to wireless when you need the flexibility and switch back to wired when you want full resolution - best of both worlds. Shure and Westone do them too, as do several other companies.

I haven’t seen many with 2pin 0.78mm terminations, but I haven’t looked recently
 

Berwhale

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#5
I commute to work via train and have the following wireless setup...

Galaxy Note 9 8GB/512GB + 512GB microSD card (contains 465GB of FLACs) + USB Audio Player Pro + MorphIt in-app purchase for EQ.

Radsone ES100 + MEEAudio Pinnacle P1's with Comply foam tips (P1's sound terrible without foam tips) + Fiio 2.5mm balanced MMCX cable. The ES100 is on a lanyard, so I can hang it round my neck and still clip it to my shirt if it swings around whilst walking.

The Note is connected to the ES100 using the LDAC codec at high quality (990kbps).

Benefits for me:
  • Phone is not connected to IEMs - It's easier to get the phone out to use it, less cable wear and tear.
  • ES100 has balanced output to drive the P1's which are not very sensitive (the dual amps can also drive the unbalanced 3.5mm output to increase it's output)
  • MMCX cable is replaceable.
  • EQ can be set and stored on the ES100 - I used this a lot before discovering Morphit.
Downside:
  • I have to spend £4 per month on Comply foam tips.
 
Joined
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#6
I use cheap ear buds. can't ever find iems that are comfortable. My Fiio BTR1k with Sno lotus or Panda PK2 or Yincrow RW9 $10-20 buds is a great-sounding portable set up...
 
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#7
I think recent Bluetooth ear/headphones are more than satisfactory for commuting applications where "critical" listening is not realistic.

When I want to hear some degree of ambient noise, I use Bose Soundsport Free Wireless Earphones. These are great for walking/running and very easy on the ears (sound and physically.) They work fine with my Note 10+ and the S8+ before that, but have trouble with some of my other devices and have somewhat of a reputation for dropping connections. They also don't work well for talking on phone calls in noisy environments. But, the sound is amazing for such a small device.

I also use the Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise cancelling headphones. These had about the best noise cancellation when I bought them a few years ago. Again, good sound for on the plane, bus...Also, not great for phone calls. I think there is a new version Bose 700 Headphones which have better everything the 35's have but are also better for making calls.

For critical listening, I think you need to go to wired in-ear custom molded earphones (IEM's). I have the J Harvey 13 Pro v2's which are superb. Isolation is generally better that active noise cancelling.

If you are on a noisy plane, and really want to listen, put in the IEM's and then put the QuietComforts on top. The IEM's insulate the highs and the QC's take out the lows. Pure bliss.
 

jhaider

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#8
I think recent Bluetooth ear/headphones are more than satisfactory for commuting applications where "critical" listening is not realistic.
Agreed. On flights lately I've been using a 12 South bluetooth broadcaster on the in-flight system with a pair of NAD HP70s. Program is only TV/movies or stand up comedy anyway, so sound quality does not matter.
 

maxxevv

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#9
If you want a viable option, just get a set of TRN BT20S dongles that connect directly to you favourite earphones.
You don't even need the phones to be very good, as long as they support BT 5.0 and all the desired transmission codex. Up to 8 hours on 1 full charge, so more than enough for a typical day's commute or most of the day at the office too.
 
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#10
A small update...

Since I last wrote I tried the Sony 1000XM3 in a department store - just the noise cancelling function though, as I couldn't figure out how to play music, or their listening station wasn't working. Impressive noise cancelling to be sure, I can see why people use such headphones in planes. After taking off the headphones I noticed how extremely noisy the store was, which I hadn't before. I only fly twice a year at most, though.

I've ruled out wireless for now and will be going on a budget earbud buying spree. My assessment of the Samsung "tuned by AKG" buds was too hasty. I like them as they are a lot better than the boomy RHA MA750s (~$100 at the time). I'm going to order a second pair of those to see if there's any difference. Along with that, I want to hear for myself what all the hype about Sony's super cheap MH750 and MH755, but mostly the MH755, is all about (https://www.audioreviews.org/sony-mh755-review/). Some '50s are already on the way and I plan to get some '55s too. The main difference is the '55s come with a normal cable + mic and are supposed to be more bassy. The '50s have a short cable and need to be rewired.
 

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