I’ve been grading on a curve when it comes to truly wireless earbuds. Or at least, I was. It’s such a technological challenge — fitting respectable battery life, sound quality, and wireless radios into such a small form factor — that I felt it worthy to catalog what companies got right in the face of the things they got wrong.
That’s why, despite the low score and headline, I was still a bit forgiving with the Motorola VerveOnes+ last year. (To be clear, they’re made by a company called Binatone, Motorola just licenses its name.) These earbuds were uncomfortable, didn’t offer incredible sound, and weren’t cheap. They also buried some of the most useful features in the accompanying app, instead of offering quick access via the earbuds’ built-in buttons. But they got the phone-to-earbud connection mostly right, which was sadly still an accomplishment at the time.
But now there are AirPods and the Bragi Headphone earbuds. (God, that name.) We finally have a baseline for wireless earbuds that work, and, from some perspectives, work well. I wouldn’t have bought the VerveOnes before these other earbuds came out, and I wouldn’t buy them now.
All that said, there’s a new set of Motorola-branded wireless earbuds out. They’re called the “VerveOnes ME,” with “ME” standing for “Music Edition.” The connection’s supposed to be better, they’re cheaper, and with that name, you’d think they would sound better, too.
Unfortunately, the only one of those claims that seems to be true is that the earbuds are cheaper. You can buy the VerveOnes ME for $149, which seems like it will be the sweet spot for wireless earbud pricing for the next year or so. Even with that price cut, though, I still wouldn’t buy these. Here are a few reasons why:
– The sound is not noticeably better. It’s flat, even muddy at times. The earbuds are also basically only good for music — there’s too much of a delay to use them to watch videos or games, and I had trouble getting them to work with the latter at all.
-The earbuds are uncomfortable to wear for longer than an hour.
-There’s a really annoying beep any time you pair the earbuds or even press one of the buttons, which are also frustratingly stiff.
-Binatone removed some of the useful (but buried) features like EQ and audio passthrough.
-There’s a hiss of white noise any time the earbuds start streaming music. I can’t tell what’s more annoying — the white noise itself, or the fact that you can hear it start and stop before and after you play a song.
-The Bluetooth connection, if anything, has gotten a bit worse. The syncing issue between earbuds has been fixed, but I experienced more overall connection hiccups than with the VerveOnes+ last year.
None of these problems are worth suffering through for the perceived convenience of wireless earbuds. (And that’s if you believe there’s a convenience — I do, though I understand there are risks, like losing one.) There might have been more palatable problems when the VerveOnes were one of the few pairs of wireless earbuds that kind of worked, but there’s no more room for excuses now that the market has moved out of that beta phase.
The problem with Motorola’s secondhand approach here is reflected in the overall quality of the VerveOnes and the lack of meaningful improvement from last year’s product. If Motorola wants to sell wireless earbuds that actually impress, perhaps the people there should make a pair themselves.