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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: TaoTronics True Wireless Ear Buds

My beloved LG Tone headset died recently after 3 years of hard use. It appears that the follow on units aren't of similar high quality, so I went looking for new headsets. The TaoTronics won the race because of a feature that I couldn't find anywhere else: the charging case for these ear buds also double as a battery bank for your other electronics!

The case with earbuds comes to 97g. The Anker 3350 mAh battery (same capacity as the earbuds charging case) comes in at 80g. So for 17g more you get a pair of wireless earbuds as well, which is a bargain any way you look at it, especially if you use the coupon code I found (which seems to have expired) to get them for $30 instead of the regular $46. Wireless earbuds are easy to lose, and also easy to damage (e.g., by getting them wet or dropping them), and these are IPX 67 certified, meaning that they're waterproof enough for rain.

The earbuds come with 8 different sized tips for customization, and are just a bit uncomfortable (not as nice as the Moto Hint+ I used to own). The charging case has two seats for the earbuds which are magnetized, so you can't screw up the positioning of the left and right, and even if you did, the charging indicators wouldn't flash, which would tell you that something is messed up. I was concerned that these would be a massive pain to take out and use while cycling, but in practice they weren't bad at all. Certainly the case means much less fumbling than say, the single-ear hook pieces seen in Premium Rush.

The sound quality is just good enough for gym use. The music is listenable, and audio books are just about this side of comprehensible while cycling with only one earbud in your ear. (Don't ride with both ears blocked!) For phone calls, the  response time between pulling it out and answering the call is so long that I've missed a few phone calls because of this, so now I just answer the phone with the handset and then if it's going to be a long call I pull the ear pieces out and plug them into my ears (the transition is fairly easy). For phone calls, it definitely is not as good as the Moto Hint was.

When touring, the most common use case for these is that you're riding around in circles trying to find where your AirBnB is and need to call the owner. These are good enough for that so you can listen to spoken directions over the phone while your host is directing you to their house. The second most common use case is as an emergency charger for your flashing front light, your radar tail light, or your phone. At 3350 mAh these won't charge anything quickly, but is great for topping up your battery lights during a playground stop, or keeping your phone from going dead while you frantically search for a hotel for the night.

There might be other true wireless ear buds with better sound quality, better microphones, etc., but the combination of price and features on this set means I won't bother with others. How long the batteries in the earpieces last is a different story --- I was forced to retire my Moto Hint+ not because the charging case went dead, but because the earpiece batteries could no longer survive a phone call longer than 15 minutes.

In any case, if you're a touring cyclist, get these. Recommended.

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