Updated: May 3rd, 2010
When I was working in Radioshack 8 years ago, I remember selling the newest craze: gigantic wireless headphones that were awkward and bulky. The only thing you could do with them is pose as the Verizon guy, running around screaming "can you hear me now?" If you stood at the wrong angle to the receiver, the signal cut out, or even worse, terrible interference turned the most patient people into fiery monsters. I suppose the quality and size of wireless headphones improved over time but they're still unusable in real life because they're completely immobile.
Recently Logitech released a bunch of semi-compromises, like these FreePulse loop-around headphones for $79.99 with a questionable rating and OK reviews, mostly due to crappy sound and fit.
So what's next? Today, while watching Definitely Maybe (I swear, not my idea (!) but I admit it was quite a good movie), I saw Ryan Reynolds wear wireless in-ear buds, listening to his MP3s. After doing a bit of research, I found that wireless buds actually exist (and you can even hook them up to your cell phones and not just audio players)! Some of them are not cheap at all, so if you have a weak heart, move away from the screen and close the browser now.
#1 Sennheiser MX W1
Enter Sennheiser MX W1 at a whopping $499. I'm not confident these are the same ones Ryan was wearing, but they look quite nice and promising – they use the same technology as the ones in this Wired review from CES 2007.
There are 6 reviews as of today, with an average of 4 stars, which is quite good. As of 11/27/2008, the earphones dropped $50 since I wrote the article. Check out the sweet pics, courtesy of Amazon and Amazon reviewers:
#2 Plantronics Versa
In even more of a concept stage: Plantronics Versa. The looks are OK but the availability is far from reality, it seems.
#3 Etymotic Research Ety8
Added 12/20/08: If you don’t mind wearing a freaking remote on your ear like the dude below, these Etymotic Research Ety8 (ER – quite a respectable company) may be for you. They certainly have a surprisingly optimistic 4 star rating from currently 15 reviews and a decent <$200 price tag. Let’s see some pictures:
#4 DigiFi Opera
Added 12/23/08: DigiFi Opera wireless earbuds (with Kleer technology that’s supposed to be 10x more energy efficient than bluetooth). These are similar to the Etymotic Research ones because they both contain a wire joining the 2 buds together, but the Kleer ones are different in a couple of ways:
your ears don’t look like they are about to eat a small TV remote
you don’t resemble a drag queen wearing remote-earrings
you are not immediately confused with someone leaving a frat party the next morning after passing out on the floor and having crap drawn on your face and remotes attached to your ears… errr wait, how did I come up with that?
they’re not sold on Amazon, so I don’t have a rating and reviews to go by
and finally they have an awesome review all in Korean, crazy Asian style, with cartoons (love it!): http://digifi.kr/include/pop_img.asp?imgname=aaa.jpg.
However, with a price tag of $98, they’re about twice as attractive as the ERs (though, again, I’m not sure how good the sound and reception actually are). Here are a few images:
#5 Panasonic RP-BT10
Added 12/23/08: Panasonic RP-BT10 Bluetooth Headphones. $25 from Amazon! Bluetooth! 4 stars from 3 reviews! Hey, that’s not bad at all! Exclamation mark!
Not so fast though. In reality, it’s just a pair of wired earbuds, a receiver, and an iPod only transmitter. Boohoo :-/
#6 Sleek-Audio SA6 W1 Wireless Bundle
Added 12/23/08: Sleek-Audio SA6 W1 Wireless Bundle. Take a great pair of earbuds Sleek Audio SA6 and pair them up with the custom Sleek Audio W1 wireless adaptor and you have yourself a really nice set of wireless earbuds. Excellent review by TrustedReviews.com. Check it out:
#7 JayBird Bluetooth Stereo Headsets
Added 3/31/09: JayBird Bluetooth Stereo Headsets. JayBird is the newest addition to the list, as it just popped on my radar. They make a really solid set of earphones either separately for bluetooth enabled devices (currently $120) or as a bundle with the iPod bluetooth adaptor (currently $147). Slick and sexy looking, I think, though too bulky to be called earbuds anymore. Have a look at the photos:
If you don't own an iPod or a bluetooth enabled device, JayBird also allows you to get the standalone JayBird universal bluetooth adaptor.
#8 Motorola S9-HD
Added 3/31/09: Motorola S9-HD Headset with D650 iPod Adapter. About $100, good reviews, though not earbuds again – those still seem hard to come by.
#9 Kleer Digital Opera S2 and S5
Added 6/10/09: Kleer Digital Opera S2 and S5. These bad boys are set to arrive on June 20th and there's no word on pricing yet. S2 is an upgrade to the previous Digital Opera and S5 adds an iPod-compatible transmitter and some buttons.
So there you have it – our future is wireless, small, and shiny. I'm still unsure what Ryan had in his ears though – if anyone finds out, be sure to share. If there's an even cooler pair of wireless buds that I missed, definitely leave a comment.
Added 12/23/08: here are a few other interesting wireless audio related items to help get rid of those annoying wires.
CyFi Wireless Sports Speaker – Bluetooth Red – wireless bluetooth sports speaker for biking, boating, camping, etc.
Sony Bluetooth Wireless Transmitter for iPod (Black) – This convenient transmitter lets you enjoy your iPod music wirelessly on a compatible Bluetooth sound system. It doesn't use a battery, and draws minimal power from the iPod. Also available from JayBird.
Arriva cordless iPod Shuffle headphones with in-ear earbud – excellent idea for ipod shuffle users. No need for wires, no need for bluetooth, just sit your Shuffle behind your head.
In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.