Hasn't 2023 been a bumper year thus far for wireless earbuds and the tech that makes them sing? You betcha it has.
Thanks to notable advancements in Bluetooth wireless technology and the companies able to harness it, Auracast audio sharing, LE Audio and Qualcomm's new dongle (and that's just for starters) means earbuds boasting Bluetooth 5.2 or later are starting to reap the benefits of better connectivity and unmuting their worlds.
And we've even seen the first ever fireworks display with wireless audio for your headphones! Exciting times for the best true wireless earbuds as we head into the second half of 2023.
But before we gaze ahead at what's coming up later this year, here's a quick roundup of all of our favorite new wireless earbud arrivals during the last six months.
Wireless earbuds in 2023: what have been the biggest launches so far this year?
It's not just about seamless connectivity to two devices any more – Technics' EAH-AZ80 and the slightly cheaper EAH-AZ60M2 launched in May, offering Bluetooth multipoint to three devices simultaneously. Hurrah!
Nothing's new earbuds, the Nothing Ear (2) landed in March, featuring personalized hearing tests which wowed us and then some. And these kinds of otoacoustic tests and tailoring are surely the future, as seen in Denon's incoming PerL and PerL Pro offering, which will harness know-how from Nura and the splendid older NuraTrue Pro sound personalization.
What of heavy hitters Sony? It's good news again. Sony's made real strides this year is in its affordable earbuds offering. The product is the Sony WF-C700N, they launched in April, and this inexpensive proposition quickly shot right to the top of my 3 best sets of earbuds to pack in hand-luggage this year roundup.
What didn't quite make it into that list? The Beats Studio Buds Plus. Yes, the May-release earbuds are an upgrade on Beats' middling-to-fair ouevre to date (and they certainly look the part), but the new Beats Studio Buds Plus' average noise cancellation, below average sound and a higher price-point means they'll likely struggle to make serious impact in the market.
That's what we loved or didn't – now here's what's coming in the rest of 2023
Continuing with Sony for a minute, we're still waiting on the hotly anticipated Sony WF-1000XM5, an update on the excellent June 2021-issue Sony WF-1000XM4, but the steady stream of leaks means we can't be too far from an official announcement and (hopefully) some shiny new earpieces. These really are the earbuds to look out for in 2023; Sony has considerable form in this area and we'll be utterly aghast if its flagship new offering isn't a winner.
What of Apple? Well, Tim Cook's Beats-branded earbuds output is detailed above – and in the over-ear sphere you should keep an eye out for the Beats Studio Pro very soon (possibly not long after this roundup goes live, in fact). In terms of the Cupertino giant's AirPods, though, WWDC 2023 came and went without so much as a sniff of an AirPods Max 2 proposition – and we don't think any second-gen. AirPods over-ears will come in 2023.
Why might this be? My personal theory is that Apple Music remains a thorn in Apple's side. What I mean is, this streaming service is so good (thanks to that free Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless rollout two years ago, at no extra cost to subscribers) that if Apple can't unveil wireless headphones to support it without resorting to wires and a one of the best portable DACs, it may as well hold off entirely.
And because Apple Music is getting six excellent new features when iOS 17 lands (probably in September 2023) even Apple's most loyal AirPods devotees will start to talk if the listening gear Apple sells still can't support its own streaming platform to the fullest.
Ah, but that bandwidth support just doesn't exist yet, right? Can't do it if the tech hasn't been invented. Well, take a quick look at HED Unity, launched in April and to very little fanfare – far less coverage than befits this noteworthy innovation.
So you see, the world’s first wireless lossless audio wi-fi enabled headphones are here. They just weren't made by Sonos (whose secret headphones were long rumored to come bearing wi-fi, but never arrived) or Apple…
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.