Sennheiser entered the truly wireless earbud market today with the debut of its new Momentum earbuds. They’re Bluetooth-enabled, as you’d expect, and are touch sensitive so wearers can access Siri or Google Assistant directly with a tap. They ship with a charging case that’ll power them for at least 12 hours of listening, according to Sennheiser. The case appears to require a USB-C cable. On their own, they have a four-hour battery life. They’ll be released in mid-November for £299.99.
That’s all we know about these buds. They’re clearly at the top of the market in pricing. Even Bose’s SoundSport Free and B&O Play’s E8 cost less, both of which are priced between $250 and $300. Only the Bragi Dash Pro veer into the $300 territory, and those include additional features like activity tracking and live translation. Hopefully Sennheiser adjusts its US pricing to bring it down to its competitors’ price range. Otherwise, these earbuds better be great.
Audio Technica is joining the truly wireless fray. The company long respected for its excellent balancing of price and performance is introducing two models of true wireless earbuds at IFA 2018.
The ATH-CKR7TW — a name like that really just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it friends? — is designed for optimal sound performance. It features “specially tuned 11mm drivers” and a “diamond-like carbon coated diaphragm, pure iron yoke, and brass stabilizer that contribute to the accurate reproduction, ensuring more precise audio.” Headphone jargon aside, battery life is rated at 6 hours on a single charge, with 9 hours worth of extra battery waiting in the carrying case. That case reminds me of the one Sony uses for its WF-1000x earbuds, but more rounded.
The earbuds also support Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX, AAC, and SBC codecs. Available in black or gray, the ATH-CKR7TWs promise a snug fit and include “an interchangeable 3D loop” for added support. When seated in someone’s ears, it almost looks like they’re pointed straight up, which is a little unconventional.
Here’s more on the audio end of things:
To maximise driver performance the acoustic and electronic compartments are isolated to minimise the airflow that can adversely affect the audio. The result is a clear, accurate, high resolution fidelity. Elsewhere, the audio-grade digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) and amplifier components are carefully designed to ensure the signal stream can deliver high-quality audio reproduction.
This set of earbuds will retail for £229 / €249 when they ship sometime this fall.
And then there’s a second pair that’s more focused on users who want a pair of fitness earbuds. The ATH-SPORT7TW are IPX5 certified for sweat resistance, and they’ve also got a hear-through audio mode so you can remain aware of your surroundings when running outside.
To ensure they stay firmly in your ears, Audio Technic is using “ergonomically-designed Freebit earfins for maximum stability and comfort during intense sessions.” Battery life on these is just 3.5 hours, but the carrying case holds enough juice for 16 hours worth of refills. Despite their sporty branding, the ATH-SPORT7TW don’t come in any flashy colors. Just black or gray, like the other buds. They’ll retail for £179 / €199.
Audio Technica is also announcing the new, long-lasting ATH-SR30BT (£99 / €99) and noise-reducing ATH-SR50BT (£179 /€199) on-ear Bluetooth headphones at IFA. Both include Bluetooth 5.0. The company claims the ATH-SR30BT can last for up to 70 hours on a single charge, which is pretty wild. The ATH-SR50BT promise a more typical 28 hours, but with the added benefit of a noise reduction mode. Both wireless headphones will launch in the fall.
And last, Audio Technica is launching “the next generation ATH-MSR7b model of its landmark, high-resolution headphones,” which is 53 grams lighter than the previous model “with no compromise in quality.” You’ll want a high-end digital audio player to get the most from the 45mm drivers in these headphones. Like everything else revealed by the company at IFA 2018, the ATH-MSR7b will be available in fall, priced at £219 / €249.
If you’ve heard of planar magnetic headphones before, it’ll have been in the context of large over-ear models or Audeze’s entirely unique iSines, neither of which lend themselves to convenient portable use. Well, at IFA this year, Scottish earphones specialist RHA will launch the first wireless in-ear planar magnetic headphones, which it’s dubbing the CL2 Planar.
Externally, the CL2s keep RHA’s familiar look, exhibiting no outward signs of the new technology inside. With three cable options — one of them being a wireless neckbud setup with USB-C charging — these just look like a finely polished pair of flagship-class earphones along the same lines as AKG’s $1,000 N5005. RHA is certainly pricing its new top-tier product in that same category, asking for $899.95 / €799.95 / £799.95 for the CL2 Planar.
But the interior is where these new in-ears are set to differentiate themselves. The ultra-thin 16-micrometer diaphragm inside the CL2s is part of the most compact planar magnetic driver that’s ever been released, which took RHA four years to develop. The casing of each earbud is made out of scratch-proof zirconium dioxide, which sounds like the same ceramic material as used in RHA’s previous high-end pair, the CL1 Ceramic.
Using a standard MMCX cable connection, the CL2 Planar come with a pair of heavy-duty braided cables, one terminating in a 2.5mm balanced connector and the other having the classic 3.5mm plug. Their wireless neckbud option is intriguing, promising 12 hours of battery life and a recharge from flat to full in just 1.5 hours. The endurance claim is impressive when you consider that planar magnetic headphones typically require more power than conventional dynamic drivers. Unfortunately, in terms of wireless standards, there’s only AptX and AAC support — no AptX HD or LDAC. The highest audio quality you’ll get from these will definitely be by using an old-school tethered connection to the source of your music.
I’ll be trying the CL2s out for myself at IFA, but if you can’t wait until then, they’re available to preorder today, with their full release set for September 12th.