Ever since the movie Her came out in 2013, tech geeks everywhere have been dreaming of the small, discrete earbuds that the main character uses to communicate with his AI assistant. And while the era of AI helping us schedule our meetings or lulling us to sleep with a bedtime story may still be a few decades away, thanks to products like the Earin, the moment of truly wire-free is finally upon us.
Earin Release Date: Sept/Oct 2015
Where To Buy: Earin Amazon (not yet), Earin Best Buy – $299.99
Summary: The Earin Wireless Earbuds are a huge achievement for mobile audiophiles, but as great as they sound, version one isn’t without its problems.
What We Liked:
- Great sound quality
- Awesome design
What We Disliked:
- Difficult to pair (sometimes)
- Battery charging indicator is confusing
What Does “Wire-Free” Really Mean?
I say “finally”, because as someone who’s followed this product (and several others like it) since it first launched on Kickstarter, I know all too well about the delays, production challenges, and technical faults the company has had to work through to get a functioning product out to market.
“Bluetooth headphones have been out for years, what’s so new about these?”, you might be asking yourself right now. What differs Earins or the Dash (Bragi Dash review coming soon) from other Bluetooth headsets is unlike those, these are truly “wireless” headphones, in that there’s no cable connecting the two earbuds to each other or anything else.
The challenge in getting this technology to work correctly is because there’s no wire between them, the buds need to have two separate Bluetooth channels opened (one for each bud), and then both need to sync themselves up together to give a seamless listening experience.
If the delays are any indication, this is a feat that’s much easier said than done: but the Earins definitely get it done in all the best ways possible.
Out of the (Beautiful) Box
The first thing you’ll notice while stripping your pair of Earins from their plastic housing is just how damn sexy the packaging that surrounds them is. Surrounded by some kind of heavy, sultry cork, the Earins immediately exude an air of lavish luxury, making you believe that your $299.99 was well spent before you even have a chance to turn them on.
Myself, I’m a clutter-phob. As soon as an Amazon package arrives I’m already breaking down the extra boxes and crumpling up the shell into its appropriate recycling bin once I get to the intended product, but Earin’s packaging is so beyond anything you’d expect. There’s a moment where you understand the amount of work, planning, and tinkering that went into the mere presentation of the product that beckons you to think twice about the earbuds themselves as something more than just “another pair of Bluetooth headphones”.
That attention to detail only continues to impress as you take out all the various parts, which amount to several different sizes and types of earbud tips (both foam and silicon), the discretely tiny charging cable, and the carrying case. Like the other wire-free earbuds that are soon to come to market, Earins charge via a small case that can keep the buds alive throughout the course of the day. Although we only averaged around 3 hours per charge on the bud’s internal batteries, by alternating them in and out of the charging case we were able to leave the house and stay rocking for about 10 hours in total.
Long life aside, the battery charging situation is one area where the Earins take a bit of a dive. The LED charging indicator on the case only has two settings: on, or off, which makes it confusing to understand whether your buds are done charging (signified by the light turning off), or that it’s run out of battery. Sure, we can check the battery on an app, but if you’re paired to your laptop or your phone is dead, knowing how much listening time you’ve got remaining is left entirely up to guess work.
Earin Sound Quality
As someone who (even as an avid runner and jogger) has never owned a pair of true Bluetooth headphones in his life, I was astounded at the quality of the sound the Earins put out. Of course, this is probably to be expected from a $300 pair of headphones – because unlike upcoming competition from the likes of Bragi’s Dash – Earins are concerned with one thing and one thing only: the absolute peak of sound quality, whether it be for a phone call, music, or otherwise.
And oh, what an experience of quality it was. Although my overall history with the product category is limited, I can still say with confidence that these are going to rocket to the top of the heap as the best sounding pair of Bluetooth headphones on the market. With a wire or otherwise, I’ve never heard the same kind of quality I’ve gotten out of Earins in over in over a decade of shuffling from headphone to headphone in search of the perfect set of buds. If the buds are a bit underwhelming at first, you can also download the Earin companion app for iOS or Android, which gives you the option to turn on a Bass Boost, as well as see how much battery is left in each corresponding bud.
That said, the experience is still mired by the lack of clarity the company provides on how to get them to actually work in the first place.
There’s no escaping the fact that the Earin technology is solid, but the explanation of how it works has gotten lost in the muck of forced simplicity. The company wants their product to be a plug-and-play experience so badly they seem to have missed the forest for the trees, allowing their attractive packaging (seriously, this box is Apple quality to the power of 10) to distract from the fact that getting these damn things to pair is one painful test of patience after another.
Pairing Takes Patience
In that same packaging are a very simple set of instructions, a list which tries to convince you that getting the Earins to work is a only matter of popping them out of the package, pairing, and you’re on your way; but it’s never that easy, is it?
Reviews thus far have (rightfully) dinged the Earins for spotty connection issues along with problems with getting paired for more than a few minutes at a time, both of which are valid complaints. Upon trying to get my buds paired for the first time, I struggled to get an iPhone 6s to even see the buds, let alone pair to them with any kind of consistency. When I initially pulled them out of the pod after their first charge, I spent upwards of an hour attempting to get them to stay patched in, trying different distances, different charge levels, and separate audio sources before I finally got the two to communicate on a regular basis.
After realizing that both buds needed to be in my ears before trying to pair (something that skimpy manual doesn’t say anything about), I was able to achieve hours of consistent listening without any losses in sound quality or experiencing the dreaded “dropout” phenomenon that so many owners have complained about on the company’s Kickstarter page. Of course, in my rigorous testing methods I would actively try to get the Earins to fail in circumstances where other Bluetooth devices might falter – and the Earins were no different. While I could leave my phone on my desk to go downstairs, eventually you would hear the sound of one bud dropping, followed quickly by the other.
But is that really so unreasonable? Yes, if you walk out of the room behind multiple closed doors (to the bathroom for example) or are actively trying to shield the buds from the sound source with your hands or other solid objects then yes – Bluetooth 4.1 is going to have a hard time penetrating all that noise to get the sound from one end to the next.
All in all, if you’re understanding of the inherent limitations of the technology that exist in 2015, you know as well as the rest of us do that what Earin has achieved here is nothing short of spectacular.
When they work, Earin earbuds work beautifully. Gorgeously. Beyond anything I’d hope for any earbud, with a sound that penetrates the skull with sultry lows and piercing highs in a way that no earbud has before – wireless or otherwise.
I’ve been an earbud aficionado for a long, long time. “Too long” if you ask any of the various ENTs I’ve visited over the past few years who have insisted that I start turning down the volume and invest in a solid set of external speakers, but despite all that…the Earins are an accomplishment for something that’s intangible, and all throughout incredible. I can have a song, podcast, or history lecture playing from my phone, laptop, or desktop, without worrying about hitting pause to make sure that my wires were tucked in properly or stuffed away in their place as I get up to go check something across the room.
I can leave my iPhone on a desk as I stroll leisurely wherever I please with no interruption, no thought of “I hope I don’t catch a wire on that doorknob again”. There’s some kind of feeling that becomes natural as you incorporate your own patterns to what the Earins allow, realizing you’re no longer tethered to the technology of yesteryear, a platitude left in the past. The sense that you’re “tied down” to your music evaporates, molding into the sensation that it’s now just another extension of your own body.
But even with all their benefits, it’s obvious that what we have here is version 0.5 of a product that’s going to change the way we think about headphones by the time it’s on to version 2.0. Getting it to connect out of the box is frustrating, the battery could last a bit longer, and I definitely found myself missing an in-line microphone to make calls on more than one occasion. But then you get up with them still in your ears and realize you’ve forgotten your phone on the other side of the room without even thinking about it, and smile.
These earbuds put the “freedom” in “wire-free”, and for that alone, they should be praised and supported for the achievement they represent.