Truly wireless earbuds are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Apple, Samsung and countless smaller companies are selling them now (or soon, in Apple’s case), but there’s still plenty of room left to improve.
With that in mind here are two fresh takes on the technology currently making the rounds on Kickstarter. Phantom Air bills itself as the world’s first tunable wireless earbuds, while Ear-On boasts a compact water-resistant design that you can wear while swimming.
One of the biggest complaints most people have when it comes to wireless earbuds, and Bluetooth in general, is that audio quality takes a hit. Phantom Air hopes to solve that issue by using high-end materials and components, including 7mm titanium dynamic drivers and five swappable tuning filters to choose based on your music preferences. Just change them as needed if you’re in the mood for extra bass or want a more neutral sound.
The exterior is a piece of machined aluminum that’s treated with splash-proof coating and available in black, red, orange or gunmetal gray. There’s also a built-in microphone for making calls and a single physical button with multiple functions. Press it once to pause your music or answer a call. You can also use the button to skip between tracks and hold it down to turn the earbuds on.
Each Phantom Air earbud offers three hours of battery life. There’s also a battery case that promises 10 extra charges on the go. The case looks like it’s too bulky to fit comfortably in your pocket, but it probably won’t take up much space in a bag.
You can pre-order Phantom Air for $117 and it should arrive by January. The company, which has an established track record for high-end audio technology, says it’s finished with development and just needs money to start mass production. So hopefully there won’t be any delays.
Ear-On takes a very different approach to wireless earbud design. These earbuds look absolutely tiny, and the charging case that comes with them slides into your pocket like a pen. Despite their small size the company still packed lots of features inside, offering fitness tracking, a waterproof design and more.
I reached out to Ear-On’s creator directly to ask how swimming with the earbuds would work. He confirmed that they’re water-resistant, but noted that they still rely on Bluetooth to play music from your smartphone. So your connected device will need to be no more than 100 meters (328 feet) away.
On the health front, Ear-On’s creator claims it can measure how many calories you burned, track your heart rate and even check on the condition of your ears. The company offers a special app where all that data is visualized in graphs. The app also includes a battery life tracker and a built-in music player.
The company says you’ll get 10 hours of battery life, but doesn’t break down the specific capacity for each earbud. Ear-On also opts for gesture controls, allowing you to control the earbuds by swiping at the tip, which the company says is more natural than a physical button.
Ear-On isn’t cheap. The earbuds start at $194 on Kickstarter and won’t ship until at least April 2017. The company is promising a lot in an impressively tiny package, but backing this one may be a bit of a risk. We wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up getting delayed or slightly modified before shipping. So just keep that in mind.