When Apple introduced its AirPods last year, they promised a magical experience, but they aren’t the only company working on new technology that changes how we hear music, calls, voice assistants, and the general world around us. They say seeing is believing, but hearing is deceiving, so any new device that helps us to hear sounds more clearly can’t be a bad thing.
Jabra: Best Call Quality
The Jabra Elite 65t ($169.99) is an obvious Apple AirPod competitor as another set of true wireless in-ear headphones—and some tech sites rate them more favorably than their Apple counterpart. One area in which they are rated better: Wireless call quality thanks to four-microphone noise reduction technology and advanced 6mm microphones. The in-ear headphones also connect to voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant, and last up to five hours on a single charge—and then another 10 hours with the included pocket-friendly charging case.
Sony: Hear Your Surroundings
Attempting to combine the best of both worlds, Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo ($279.99) allows you to enjoy music, make calls, listen to your schedule—all while still being able to hear the world around you. The headphones’ ergonomic design leaves the ear canal open which allows the noise from your environment to still seep in, such as announcements of train stops on your commute. The Xperia Ear Duo also has an Intelligent “Daily Assist” feature that recognizes time, location, and activities in order to offer relevant information throughout the day.
Nuheara: More Intelligent Hearing
For those who need a little boost to help them hear better, Nuheara develops hearing buds that are approximately 10% the cost of traditional hearing aids. IQbuds BOOST ($499) is the company’s latest iteration of their award-winning IQbuds. The main difference: Ear ID, which learns how you hear and calibrates to your unique hearing profile. In addition to boosting hearing, the IQbuds BOOST can also play music, audio books, phone calls, and even audio from the TV for those using Bluetooth-enable streamers.
QuietOn: Silence is Golden
Sometimes you simply want silence. In that case, QuietOn ($199) has you covered. These earplugs with active noise cancellation and acoustic noise attenuation can more accurately produce anti-noise and even reduce noise that is conducted by the skull into the ear. QuietOn are designed to block out low frequencies, such as engine noise on an airplane or typical office noises such as printers or typing, while still letting you hear your colleagues talk to you. The company is also developing a model for sleep to block out a partner’s snoring.
Bose: Hear What You See
Bose is famous for their speakers, yet at this year’s SXSW they introduced a pair of sunglasses. The prototype is called Bose AR, and it is the world’s first audio augmented reality platform. Rather than superimposing visual objects on the real world, the sunglasses project sound into the ear offering audio information and experiences. For instance, look at a restaurant and you can hear information about the chef and opening and closing times. Or visit a historical landmark and be transported back to those times via sound.