By Don Lindich
Week 51, 2019
Q. I like the Apple AirPods true wireless earbuds but am looking for something much less expensive. Is there anything you recommend for $75 or so?
-T.L., Ridgeland, SC
A. Given that earphones are an extremely popular gift item, I am going to answer your question with a round-up of some great earphones. I will start a bit above your $75 price point and work my way down to bargain basement territory with a recommendation under $15 and a recommendation under $10.
For $129.99 you won’t find better sound quality than the Helm Audio True Wireless 5.0. The True Wireless 5.0 uses high-tech design and advanced materials to deliver audiophile-quality sound and is a bargain for under $150. A bit closer to your price point is the $99.99 Helm Audio True Wireless 4. At the time I submitted this column it was on sale for $79.99, so if you act quickly you may be able to get a pair for that price.
Soundcore products have been knocking it out of the park lately, and their Liberty Air can be found for $49.99 and the newer Liberty Air 2 for $89.99. They look almost exactly like Apple AirPods and deliver satisfying sound for a fraction of the price.
Bargain hunters will rejoice over my final wireless recommendation. The highly rated $23.99 Sbode Wireless Sport Bluetooth earphones are not a true wireless design, but they have found lots of friends among Sound Advice readers given their comfort, quite good sound quality and low price. They are now clearance priced on Amazon for only $16.99 with a $2 checkbox coupon that takes the price all the way down to $14.99. They are likely to sell out quickly so if you want an extra pair of earphones for the gym or your briefcase, or a great $15 stocking stuffer, best act quickly.
Want something fun for under $10? The TCL SOCL100 wired earphones were the talk of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show as reviewers were shocked by the sound quality TCL delivered for $9.99. I was so impressed I wrote about them myself while I was still at the show. I recently checked the price on Amazon and the SOCL100 was discounted to an impossibly low $6.99. See them at amazon.com and tclusa.com.
A great tip for TCL television owners: When I reviewed the TCL 5-Series and 6-Series televisions I also published the picture settings I used to get the best image quality. These picture settings are accessed on the TV itself, using the supplied remote control. I recently came across a TCL picture quality tweak that made a noticeable difference on my own TCL 6-Series, and I suggest other TCL owners try it as well.
There is a noise reduction setting that can only be changed using the Roku app that can also control the television. Download the Roku app to your Smartphone and connect it to your television, then look for the noise reduction setting and turn it off. I immediately noticed the difference as it made the 6-Series picture even cleaner and more realistic. I especially noticed the difference on Blu-ray movies and high quality streaming content, for example Vintage Disney and The Mandalorian from Disney+. I saw less of a difference with broadcast television like the news. Still, with the right source material it is like getting a television upgrade for free, so if you have a TCL and a Smartphone, try it!