Best of Audio 2022: Our Top Earbuds Picks For ANC, Sound Quality & More
We’re back with our top picks for earbuds for 2022! So, let’s get started.
Before that though, a quick disclaimer. The products we’ve chosen here are products that were released in 2022 or very late 2021 and only came to Singapore in 2022. So if you’re wondering why your favourite earbud isn’t here, it’s most likely because it was released earlier than that so it didn’t make it into the list for consideration. Also, audio is subjective, please always head down to a shop and try products out in person for fit and how it sounds to you. Okay, that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.
Let’s start off with ANC. I have to caveat this category, because I know there’s this incredible pair of ANC earbuds from Bose, the QuietComfort II Earbuds, and they’re supposed to be the best ANC earbuds this year, but unfortunately, I haven’t tried them. They only just started selling in Singapore, like a week and a half ago as of the time of filming this. So I haven’t heard them, and I’m unable to comment on how they perform. But I’ve heard the ANC is supposed to be awesome, so yeah.
So anyway, with that in mind, our pick for the earbuds with the best ANC would be the AirPods Pro 2. I know, contentious, with all the accusations that Apple was downgrading the ANC in the OG AirPods Pro and all, but hey, I’m basing this based off, you know, the actual performance of the review unit I got, and the ANC on those were really good. The best out of the bunch of earbuds released this year, which, is why I’m giving them the award. Lows are very effectively cancelled out and Apple has improved on cancelling the higher-pitched noises as well, so that’s a win all around. And this isn’t completely related to ANC, but the Adaptive Transparency mode that helps to dampen loud environmental noises, is excellent.
Aside from that, our honourable mention for this category goes to the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. The ANC on those are also very good, although the passive noise isolation you get from the passive seal with the ear tips can be a bit finicky, and there’s a bit more environmental noise slipping in when no music is playing, so that’s why it’s our second choice. It’s still an excellent pair of earbuds for ANC though, and if you’re using a Samsung phone, it’s certainly the best choice.
Okay, so let’s move on to sports earbuds.
Our pick for the best earbuds for sports this year is the Sennheiser Sport True Wireless. It solves the problem that has plagued sports earbuds for a while now, and that’s the sound quality issue. Now not only is it durable with wings to stay snug in the ear, but these US$129 earbuds also sound really good too. Additionally, there are nine hours of battery life in the earbuds so you never have to worry about these dying in the middle of a workout. The Sport True Wireless earbuds are also pretty stylish, so you’ll certainly be happy to be seen with these in your ears at the gym.
Our honourable mention for this segment is the Sony LinkBuds S. I know, these technically aren’t sports earbuds, but hear me out. One thing that people value in sports earbuds is the lightweightness of it, and the LinkBuds S is incredibly light. More than that, the earbuds are small and they sit very comfortably and snugly in the ear. There’s also ANC here, so that’s fantastic for blocking out the chatter and noise in the gym. There’s also IPX4 water resistance, which might not be the best, but it’s definitely enough to hold up to sweat and the like.
One thing you might be asking is, where’s Jabra’s Elite 4 Active? I tried those, yes, but a dealbreaker for me is that the pair I got seemed to have connectivity issues, with stuttering and dropouts when I was in crowded areas. This means that when you’re in the gym, you might experience that too, and if you’re leaving your phone in the locker, it’ll probably be even worse. That’s a no-go for me, and that’s why they didn’t make it to the list.
On to design.
Our winner for the best earbuds’ design is the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. In a year when earbuds are refreshed with almost the same design, the change from the Momentum True Wireless 2 to 3 is a welcome one. Not only does the new design ensure consistency across the lineup of new earbuds from Sennheiser, it looks more subtle in the ear and there’s the inclusion of a small stabilising fin to ensure it sits securely. The design of the companion app is also excellent, with a new look and extensive touch control customisation, so I’m very happy to give the title to the MTW 3.
The honourable mention for design would be the Sony LinkBuds. These were a surprise when they first came out, and while the design probably won’t work for people with smaller ears, it’s a very interesting take on open fit earbuds, and very different from the existing ones on the market. That donut ring that allows for environment noise to enter unprocessed by software is a clever idea, while not detracting too much from the sound quality. Companion app wise, it’s pretty decent too. Sony offers a good amount of touch control customisation, although it’s limited to changing the controls by groups. All in all, this is more innovative design than actual nice, premium design, which is why they’re the honourable mention.
And now we come to the most important part, sound quality.
Our pick for the best earbuds in terms of sound quality is the Noble Fokus Pro. If you’ve never heard of Noble Audio, I can’t blame you. They started out making custom in-ear monitors, which is a pretty niche product, and I own a pair from them, and the Fokus Pro are the company’s second (or third) attempt at true wireless earbuds. There is room for improvement, of course, ANC is missing and all, but my god, is the sound quality absolutely incredible. You get powerful sub-bass, forward mids and engaging vocals and the treble is natural and smooth and it’s just chef’s kiss. Think of the best-sounding true wireless earbuds you’ve listened to, and I can guarantee, 99% chance, these sound better. I cannot recommend enough finding a store nearby that stocks these and giving them a listen. They are that good, and so, they are the winner for the best-sounding earbuds this year. They did launch in late-ish 2021, but we only got these in Singapore in early 2022 so yeah. If you guys wanna try them out and you’re in Singapore, hit up Jaben, they’re the official distributor for Noble Audio right now.
Our honourable mention for the sound quality segment would be the Astell & Kern AK UW100. I know, many people have mixed feelings about Astell & Kern. What I will say, though, is that the AK UW100 shouldn’t be written off. The case might be mega chonky, but sound is where it’s at. These run on a balanced armature driver rather than dynamic drivers, and they sound fantastic. Clean, tight, controlled bass, detailed, lush mids and absolutely beautiful vocals. The soundstage is fantastic as well and the overall presentation is coherent and well put together. These are slightly cheaper than the Fokus Pro at US$299, so if you’re looking for something under $300, these are an excellent choice.
Last but not least, value.
Our pick for the best earbuds when it comes to value is the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro. At around US$85 or S$119, these are one of the more affordable big-name earbuds launched this year with a safe design, a USB-C charging port, decent ANC performance, Bluetooth 5.2 and powerful audio. If you’re looking for a decent but affordable pair of earbuds to gift to someone this year, this would fit the bill quite well.
Our honourable mention is a pair of earbuds that I believe launched late in 2021, although I could be wrong. It’s the Redmi Buds 3 Lite, or Redmi Buds 3 Youth Edition in some markets. These are even more affordable at just US$20, but they still come with a USB-C charging port, Bluetooth 5.2, IP54 dust and water resistance, as well as pretty decent sound quality. You get a V-shaped signature that’s on the warmer side and for the price point, it’s hard to fault it. All in all, very good value.