The last couple years, and especially since the release of the iPhone 7 and the end of the headphone port it seems everybody and their brother has entered the wireless earbud market. Apple and Many others are now all competing for our money. To clarify, I am referring to those who are making “truly wireless earbuds”—those earbuds with nothing connecting the left and right buds, and are 100% wire free. I would love to include Bose, Beats and some others here but each of those are connected and hence not truly wireless in my opinion.
When I read about the new Here Ones from Doppler Labs and their ability to not only serve as great earbuds, but that they also included noise cancellation, and sound augmentation features with the ability to control sound around you while using them, I was intrigued to say the least.
I already own a pair of Apple AirPods, and I have been very happy with them (see my AirPods review here) but I really wanted a pair of earbuds with noise cancellation. I love the noise cancellation feature from my Bose over ear headphones and I wanted this feature in earbuds. Like I said unfortunately Bose "wireless earbuds" don’t qualify since they are not truly wireless. I actually really dislike the new Bose, but that's another post I guess. UPDATE: As I was writing this Bose release their new Soundsport Free Wireless earbuds that are similar to the Here Ones in design, but alas they do not include noise cancellation.
What attracted me to the Here One earbuds is the sound augmentation features. I have hearing loss from serving in the Marine Corps (I was in artillery), so I was hopeful the Here Ones would effectively be $300 on demand hearing aids. I was envisioning using them in meetings and within high ambient noise environments to help me hear better. However, in my experience the Here Ones are actually much more effective at quieting the environment around me than enabling me to hear better, at least for my hearing issues. Tuning out the environment around you was actually one of their best qualities I think.
What I like about the Here One Earbuds.
- Noice Cancellation: The noise cancellation works as advertised. Tuning the world out is (in my opinion) the best feature of the Here Ones.
- Noise Filters: I've used the built-in noise filters in coffee shops, restaurants, the office, and at high school football games cheering my cheerleader daughter’s team on. They were great at tuning out the noise around me without keeping me from hearing the score and relevant parts of the game. My favorite so far are the crowd, city and restaurant filters.
- Build Quality: Build quality and design are great in my opinion. They feel like they will hold up to many years of use, assuming the battery last and they look great. I do wish they were a little bit smaller, but there are limits with the current battery technology I’m sure. Also, they smaller they get the more challenging they could become to use without dropping them.
- Sound Quality: Sound quality: is very good, at least for my ears and preference. In-ear earbuds sound a little different than earbuds like AirPods that just rest in the outer part of your ear. Because of the seal with the Here Ones they have a different quality of sound to me. Not say they are better, just different, but definitely good quality. Personally, I still prefer the sound quality of the AirPods however.
What I don’t like about Here One Earbuds.
1. Battery life: I’m sure this is something that Doppler Labs will continue to tweak and make better—they released a firmware upgrade while I was testing them that added additional use time, and enabled quick-charging like features where 15 minutes of charge would give 50% power, but for now the 1-2 hours of usage time is just too short. I sat in Starbucks working on a blog post and used the Here Ones to listen to music while also using the noise filter feature to drown out the ambient noise. I started getting low battery warnings after 45 minutes! This was before the firmware upgrade so I’m not sure how much difference it would have made, so time will tell if this gets significantly better. For comparison, I have only once run out of battery with my AirPods that routinely get several hours of constant use. Note: When using the noise cancellation only and not listening to music I got several hours.
2. No Magnetic Contacts: The case for charging the earbuds is nice except for missing magnetic contacts for charging the earbuds, so every time you place them in the case to charge you’re not sure if they have seated properly. They just kind of wiggle around. This is particularly annoying if you are trying to fiddle with them in low light. Upon opening the case the four white charging lights blind you and then it’s hard to place the earbuds without feeling like they are going to fall out. Add to this how easy they are to drop and you can imagine how frustrating this can be. So far this has not been an issue as the earbuds have charged each time.
3. Switching Devices: Switching devices with the Here Ones proved to be a frustrating experience as I frequently had to re-pair them with the new device. Not sure if this is something that will get better in time with firmware updates, but it was a real pain.
Bottom line, would I recommend the Here One Earbuds? If you’re looking for quality earbuds with noise cancellation, and this is a high priority, then yes. The Here One Earbuds are an excellent choice and include the great noise filters to boot. If, however, you’re looking for great all-around earbuds with an easy user experience, then no. I would recommend the Apple AirPods if you’re and Apple user at least.
UPDATE: As I was writing this review Doppler Labs announced they were shutting down sales and development of the Here One Earbuds. Also, a few days ago the right earbuds simply stopped working. It won’t charge or play audio. Maybe I’ll stick with the name brands like Apple and Bose for now. :)
8-19-2018 UPDATE: On a whim, I plugged in my Here One earbuds and charged them. Then, I reset them. After a few resets, they started working. Maybe I got lucky, or maybe it was user error, but they work for now.
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