Only a few true wireless earphones also feature active noise canceling currently.and are two examples, but the reality is that when I put together a round-up of a few weeks ago, I only managed to dig up six worthy candidates. If the CES floor is any indication, however, that should change in 2020 as more AirPods Pro-like models enter the market.
I tried two Airpods Pros alternatives here at 1More True Wireless ANC ($200) and Ausounds AU-Stream Hybrid ANC ($189). Both feature USB-C and wireless charging and promise excellent sound. They also both have "hybrid" ANC, which means they have one "feedforward" ANC microphone on the outside of the bud to "catch" environmental noise and one "feedback" ANC microphone on the inside to detect in-ear noises. The AirPods Pro have the same two-ANC microphone scheme, but Apple isn't calling its noise cancellation "hybrid."that will be available in the next few weeks: the
1More True Wireless ANC
1More made a name for itself with its wired earbuds, the Triple Drivers, which sound great and were a good value when wired headphones were still a thing. I gave 1More's , which list for $100 but were selling for $20-$30 less during the holidays, high marks for their sound at their price. This new model is $200, but I suspect it will come down in price in the coming months. The 1More True Wireless ANC fit pretty comfortably and securely in my ears -- I was able to get a tight seal, which is crucial for sound quality and noise canceling with these types of earbud-style headphones.
It has a physical control button as well as touch controls. What's interesting is that using the touch controls you can toggle between four modes: no noise canceling; a pass-through "transparency" mode that lets ambient noise in; and two levels of active noise canceling. Each mode changes the sound of the headphones.
The earphones have a little treble boost -- sometimes called presence boost -- when you have the ANC off, so they sound clearer and brighter. But when you engage the ANC the earphones become a little fuller and warmer sounding. I ended up preferring the ANC modes -- the strongest did a decent job muffling noise in a loud Las Vegas casino. Battery life is rated at five hours with noise canceling on and six with it off. There's a quick charge feature that gives you two hours of use from a 15-minute charge.
Ausounds Hybrid ANC
The Ausounds Hybrid ANC has a more straightforward design that's similar to that of many other true wireless buds on the market. They're a little slicker looking than budget models, with a nice finish and some snazzy color options, including red and gold.
They also fit my ears well and sounded quite good, with smooth, well-balanced sound and decently defined bass. Ausounds is a startup but its earlier($150) hit the market before the AirPods Pro did and were fairly impressive considering their more affordable price.
The AU-Stream Hybrid ANC is better. Not only does it sound a little better, but its telephony performance has been improved. Neither the 1More or the Ausounds does as good a job as the AirPods Pro for reducing background noise during calls, but they work decently.
And the winner is...
I came away liking the new Ausounds a little more than the 1More, mainly due to their design. The buds look a little better in your ears and the case is a little smaller and lighter than the 1More True Wireless ANC's case. That said, the 1More's case does have a metal exterior and feels solid. The Ausounds is, meaning it can handle a sustained spray of water. I'm still waiting to hear what the water-resistance rating is on the 1More. "We don't have the final IPX rating for it today but should know its status by Jan. 23 when it ships," a 1More rep told me.
I don't expect either model will put much of a dent in AirPods Pro sales. But they're certainly competitive on the noise-canceling front and both arguably sound better than the AirPods Pro. And if nothing else, they're a sign of things to come in the true wireless market, in which Apple still holds a dominant position (remember, it also owns Beats).
Later this year, we'll hopefully see a new Bose true wireless noise-canceling model, the Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700, and perhaps Sony will put out the next generation of the WF-1000XM3. You'll still have to pay more for noise canceling, but it will increasingly be a more common feature.
Originally published Jan. 8.