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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.

giant-wireless-assphones

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.

freepulse

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.

Edit 11/27/2008: You can preorder order the MX W1s on Amazon for $549 $499, no tax, and free shipping.

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:

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#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.

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#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:

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#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:

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#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 :-/

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#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:

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#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:

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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.

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#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.

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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.

Bonus Round

Added 12/23/08: here are a few other interesting wireless audio related items to help get rid of those annoying wires.

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● ● ●

Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer, blogger, and future millionaire (that last part is in the works). Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.



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  • Jon

    yeah i saw this too and i wanna know lol

  • CK

    yeah, i read that the specific buds ryan is wearing do not yet exist… perhaps his use of them was a marketing technique for a future product. hopefully the technology will come soon, and definitely not @ $600 a pop.

  • Shawn

    I am definitely in for one when they come down in price.

  • walt

    i want some wireless ear buds so bad. i have an idea on how to make some. Take an fm transmitter and plug it into your device set it to an unused frequency. then take some ear buds and install a low energy (hearing aid battery powered), short range (3ft), single frequency receiver that receives the same frequency as the transmitter is transmitting. you could easily overpower the radio stations because the transmitter (in your pocket) is 3 ft away from the receiver and there would be no use for a long antenna over that short of a distance.

  • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

    walt, I'm sure they've thought of this before and dismissed it probably due to the fact that FM transmitters (at least anything I've tried – in the car, in the gym) produce too much interference and do get mixed up with the radio stations. Additionally, the signal is analog which doesn't help reception, and with bluetooth it'd be digital.

  • SkyKast

    they are in Hamacher Schlemer for five hundred

  • walt

    sorry, Artem Russakovskii, but bluetooth can't carry stereo transmissions vary well at all… maybe you find a frequency in the gigahertz range that can already carry data which enables it to carry the highest quality sound…

  • Henry

    I picked up the Etymotic Research ones (#3 above) a few weeks ago from Amazon and they are quite amazing. Finally no wires to worry about and the quality of Etymotic earbuds. The noise cancelleation or blocking rather is superb.

    Wish I could get my hands on #2 those look sweet but look like something from the AI movie.

  • zhi

    I have sleekaudio SA6 and I like them very much. I am definitly going to try to convert them to wireless. Thanxx.

  • Stefani

    I'm pretty sure Ryan was wearing the RCA Jet Stream earbuds. They come with this MP3 player, and my understanding is that they only work with that specific MP3 player, with which they are sold.

  • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

    @Stefani
    I don't think so. Take a look at the earbuds – they have a string connecting them. Ryan's were clearly not connected.

  • http://www.kleer.com James Elrick

    Hi Artem,

    Just a quick word of thanks as I noticed your website was sending web traffic to the Kleer website.

    I don’t know if you’re aware but a substantial number of the products you list use Kleer wireless audio technology to enable their wireless earbuds, earphones, and speakers, including:

    • Sennheiser MX W1 true wireless earbuds
    • DigiFi Opera wireless earbuds
    • Sleek Audio SA6 wireless accessory
    • Cy-Fi wireless sports speaker, which has two options, one which uses Kleer technology and is iPod™ certified
    • RCA Jet Stream wireless earbuds and MP3 player

    And you can now purchase the DigiFi Opera wireless earbuds in the United States online at http://www.kleer.com/purchase/digifi_opera.php.

    Also, let me know if you’re interested in adding the Kleer blog (http://kleerwirelessaudio.blogspot.com/) to your list of blogs that you are following and I’ll add beerpla.net to my list. Might help a bit with traffic.

    Thanks again for collecting a great list of wireless earbuds that use Kleer technology and for pointing them to the Kleer website.

    Best regards,

    James Elrick
    [email protected]
    http://www.kleer.com

    PS: Funnily enough, I was talking with my counterpart at Sennheiser during CES 2009 and the subject of the Ryan Reynold’s movie Definitely Maybe came up. We’re quite positive that they’re not Sennheiser MX W1 earbuds although they do look a lot like them. We figure that in the movie, they put earbud-looking plastics in Ryan Reynold’s ears and he pretended (or acted) to hear music.

  • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

    @James
    Thanks for posting. I did realize that Kleer technology was being used in some but wasn't aware that it's used in almost all. That is surely impressive.

    I'm also inclined more and more to to think that Ryan's earbuds were fake but the marketing thought behind that completely baffles me: it was the perfect spot for product placement, so it would only make sense if he was wearing an actual product. Otherwise, what was the point, it seems so random? Or at the very least they could have just as easily replaced them with some known brand to get some money out of it. Bizarre…

  • rudie

    I just saw the opening scene of Definitely, Maybe and I too would be willing to give my firstborn for a pair of earbuds like the ones Reynolds had.

    While I was in London a few years back(2006) I saw a museum exhibit about emerging earphone technologies(the whole exhibit was about communication technologies I believe). In any case, a few companies had incredible concepts such as Band-Aid type dots that used Bluetooth-like technologies to receive a signal and then transmit the signal through your jawbone into your inner ear. So, the technology is definitely out there and someone is trying to get it to us.

    Anyways,I hadn't seen anything on the market which I thought was small or sleek enough for me to actually spend money on. Thank you for pointing me in some direction.

  • HogieWan

    Check out jaybird – jaybirdgear.com

    nice little set of phones

  • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

    @HoogieWan
    Checked out and added to the list. Thanks!

  • B-rad

    The funny thing is that my viewing of Definitely Maybe led me to this spot…

    Damn hollywood tricking us all…

    Thanks for the research. I'm considering splurging on the Sennheisers.

  • Ronald the net addict

    Great technology. Just mean that technologies kept on innovating. Thanks for the info and list on wireless earbuds.

  • http://donthaveawebsite.com dylan

    Guys, I'm looking for a pair of wireless earbuds that i can wear at work (I clean and restore wood furniture). I move up and down a lot and want wireless earbuds…

    Does anyone make a pair? I'm picturing earbuds with the wires clipped off (maybe a little bigger to accommodate batteries), and something to plug into my phone's aux hole (the source of the music).

    Is there anything like that out there???? I've looked around but can't find anything

  • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

    @dylan
    You're kidding, right? Did you even bother to look at the earbuds in this article?

  • Marx

    I also watched this movie and now want those earbuds! I googled a little and found somekind of future concept from Motorola (from 2003) http://www.phonescoop.com/articles/article.php?a=9
    For me it seems that Ryan might have been using Motorolas future phone and wireless airbuds.

  • Ertalyte

    All this stuff looks really cool and makes me wish I could use ear buds. I get terrible headaches if I have them in for more than two minutes.

  • kerryzuedy

    Thanks for your info sharing..I think this is great..emm..may be one day we will have this gadget with using solar energy…it is worth it??

  • Steve

    Just an FYI, the earbuds he was using in the movie are not real. at least not as headphones. They are a Bluetooth earbud that you can use with a cell phone for calls. The part that doesn't work is that they are not stereo earbuds. You can put one in each ear, but your phone only connects to one. The second one was a prop for the movie. If you keep searching the web you will get the model, as everyone is looking for these. However the stereo technology isn't there yet in such a compact size. A few more years folks. Other wise you have to go with one of the options above.

  • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

    Thanks, Steve. I think we pretty much arrived at the same conclusion.

    I am glad the movie producers decided to introduce that little nuance into the movie as it gave all of us reasons to salivate and bug earphone manufacturers.

    I think Apple's next big thing should be wireless earphones for their iPods. They really have the power to introduce them to the masses.

    • Cruz

      Hey Artem,

      I've been looking into these for years and am now just coming across this blog. It's been a few years since you've been discussing it. Curious to know if you've come across any on the market under $300-$500?

      Thanks man,

      Cruz

      • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

        My favorites right now are the Jaybird Bluebuds X for $180 MSRP.

  • http://www.kleer.com James Elrick

    Hi Artem,

    Don't know if you've heard of the new Sennheiser RS 160, RS 170, RS 180 wireless headphones that use Kleer technology. So same wireless audio technology as the Sennheiser MX W1, but this time in headphones (cans).

    Designed for home audio use (watching television, listening to home stereo system) these new headphones from Sennheiser and Kleer are a watershed as they're the first true headphones (not earbuds) that use Kleer technology.

    Here's a link from Sennheiser USA http://www.sennheiserusa.com/private_headphones_wireless-headphones for more info.

    Only place I'm aware of you can purchase them is http://www.jr.com if you want them in time for the holidays.

    Cheers!
    James

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      James,

      thanks for stopping by. All those are headphones while the post is looking into earbuds only. But thanks for the extra info.

  • piano man

    great review, did you ever test the beyerdynmac dt 770 Pro? I have to decide between these and this ones.

  • DrTim

    Hi,

    So it sounds like the Opera S2 are the go. £68 on amazon sounds pretty good! I mostly want to watch TV and move around my apartment a) without disturbing my newborn, and, b) without disturbing my sleeping wife :)

    Thanks in advance,
    Tim

    • http://beerpla.net Artem Russakovskii

      Opera S2 sure seems like a fine option at a reasonable price, yeah.

  • Scarlett

    Wow, I really like the Sennheiser MX W1, can't wait to have it! :)
    The bonus from Opera S2 and S5 are also so tempting.

  • keisha

    I really like those Etymotics. Apparently the non-wireless
    versions are the best in-ears in the whole world. I'm always
    a little skeptical of wireless stuff though. Usually it affects the
    dynamic range quite drastically and of course interference
    sucks too.

    Maybe they rule though. Who knows.

  • Best Headphones

    Those are pretty sweet, I like the Sennheisers I feel they make the best headphones.

  • Techazine

    This is the best site for propiding all kinds of service at ipad and apple mobile.

  • Killian

    Its nice that you post the different models of headphones here because i get to see the image and the names. Great help

  • eric5theredcorvettes

    I purchased a set of sony mini-earbude an plugged into my cheap radio shaft wireless camcorder system receiver and glued a belt loop onto it. then I took the output (record out) into the the input of the transmitter (3.5mm mini-stereo) and turned it on and waallllah ! works perfect. the singer hears her singing mixed with the instruments and tells her how loud or quietly to sing. she love it.

  • Alnor

    Artem Russakovski,

    Hi! Nice site. Awesome indeed. I am in need of a wireless earphone/earbud with PTT device that can be used or incorporated with any wireless UHF radio transceiver. What can you suggest or recommend? Thanks.

  • sennheiser pxc 250

    Sennheiser professional webcams cater to client's needs through its superb features and the HD555 professional headphones is a very good example of a high-quality product. The best feature of the gadget includes a surround reflector which is capable of generating spatial sound field.

  • Joe Bloggs

    A number of modern hearing aids, will link
    up wireless via a MHz band (iirc, b/w is about 400 kbps) to a transceiver worn like a medallion, or in a shirt pocket.

    This transceiver has Bluetooth capabilities (currently/usually only BT v1), so one can listen to tv/mp3 players/cell-phones streaming up to about 30 ft/10m away.

    Such hearing aids are about $2500 USD each.

    The link setup/gadgets, are approximately $250 USD, probably sold at loss, to promote the
    hearing aid sales.
    (google on 'Phonak iCOM', for example)

    Not that many here will care about
    streaming to hearing aids but it does illustrate what's available/possible right now.

  • Best Earbuds

    The idea of wireless earbuds is great, but they are a little big. I'm looking forward to the day that wireless earbuds can fit in the ear like a hearing aid.

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