While I work I like to have one earbud in for listening to background music or podcasts, and for a few years I’ve been buying various Plantronics bluetooth headsets such as the M50 and M70. They provided a cheap solution for long battery life (7+ hours) of audio in one ear. After I accidentally put my M70 through the wash one too many times (yes it survived more than once) I decided to start looking at stereo solutions.
I first tried a $30 no name brand and even though I wasn’t expecting them to sound amazing, they were completely un-listenable and uncomfortable, so I started browsing.
After reading a bit I was becoming interested in an active noise canceling headset, so to start out I picked up the JLAB Audio Epic Executive from the shelf at the local Best Buy.
When I opened the box I wasn’t really getting a high-quality vibe. The wire had big kinks where it was tightly bent in the box, which made putting the flimsy neck band challenging, They sounded great, claimed 11 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation off, 7 on. I though this should easily get me through a work day, but before the work day– less than 12 hours after purchasing– the left channel started crackling and cutting out. So back to Best Buy I went.
This time I decided to spend a bit more money and picked up the Jabra Elite 65e. Jabra has been around a long time so I thought build quality had to be well above the JLAB. Besides active noise cancelation, they also feature passthrough mode, an app to customize settings and EQ, a solid neck portion, and 13 hour battery life.
Since I was paying twice as much this time I made a decision I rarely make, to purchase the protection plan. Any other time that I’ve made this decision, the product has far outlasted the plan, thankfully this didn’t go to waste this time.
Opening the Jabra confirmed my suspicion of higher build quality. The packaging was premium and matched the contents. Once I picked the right combination of tip and wing they fit comfortably and had excellent sound quality.
The buds on the Elite 65e are magnetized and would stick together when not in use, which would also pause the audio. This was good, because the pause button wasn’t easy to find. The right side of the neck section had 3 buttons that were the same size, but the textures weren’t different enough for my callused fingers to identify without counting.
The noise cancellation was by no means perfect, but when in a loud server room or next to an air conditioner, they worked great. It was easy to activate with a dedicated button on the neck section, and holding the same button turned on the pass-through mode, which I found myself using more than the noise cancellation.
I thought I finally found the one, and it was bliss. For about 2 months I carried them everywhere I went. The charge always lasted the day. I kept them paired with my phone all day and was able to connect my laptop and watch videos for the rest of the evening.
Now for the bad, I noticed one day that one channel started making loud static when I turned on pass-through mode. Moving the wire would exacerbate the problem. It seems that one of the wires leading to the mics used for noise cancellation and pass through had broken. I was past the normal return period, but thankfully I purchased the protection plan, so back to Best Buy I went again.
I debated with myself if I should choose another this time, but when they worked I loved them so much, so I opted to pick up another Elite 65e. I was pretty shocked when I was asked if I wanted another purchase plan. I assumed that the year I purchased would cover the product for a year, but I was wrong. As much as I wanted to say no, I said yes, spent another 40 bucks and walked out the door again.
The new set worked great for a little over a month, and the same issue occurred. I was saddened, but I just lived with it for a while. Since I had a year to go back, I figured I would wait until something better came out.
After another month, I decided to go back to Best Buy and get store credit and pick out another product. I was amazed that I was actually refunded the purchase price of the protection plan well after the normal return period. I’m not sure if this was a mistake or a kind employee, but I didn’t question it.
I decided to go a different route this time. I picked up the Apple AirPods, for some reason. They don’t do active noise cancellation, they don’t even seal off the ear or offer changeable tips, just one size hope it fits all. I don’t use an iPhone or a Mac, and I don’t like the design.
But they are comfortable, and very well engineered. They seem to be the only fully wireless earbuds to seamlessly let you choose the left or right bud and have everything work normally. Since a lot of the time at work I only want one in, I could easily listen to one while the other charges.
I wore them to work for one day, and almost he entire day I felt self-conscious wearing them. I’m not necessarily anti-apple, but I’m very much not an Apple person. When I got home I had a gift for my iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch loving girlfriend.
So, again, I was back at the drawing board. Now that I had a taste with the AirPods, I’m pretty hooked on the idea of the truly wireless buds.
I started looking around. I found the somewhat recently released Rowkin Charge+ which looked very interesting to me. The charge case has Qi charging and USB-C, and it even doubles as a battery pack I can charge my phone with. I went and picked them up with very little research.
So far they’re working and sounding great for me. When they’re pulled out together they pair up quickly. Each can be used individually once you pair them. Overall I’m happy with the purchase. If anything changes I’ll be back to update the post.