True wireless earbuds are no longer the novelty they once were. Trends in the listening space are leaning toward more advanced connections, efficiency, charging, and quality — now that wires have been removed from the equation for a significant percentage of OEMs for a substantial number of products. That’s also given rise to at least a few newer companies and, among those, EarFun is one of the newest.
Established in 2018, the company’s newest product is sold as the EarFun Free Truly Wireless Earbuds and was initially launched via crowdfunding. It was originally pushed to Amazon with a retail suggested cost just short of $100. So it’s current cost on Amazon of just $49.99 is intriguing, all but begging for deeper consideration.
My time spent with these earbuds provided an insight into a company and listening accessory that are fresh and living at the forefront of incoming innovations. It doesn’t necessarily stand apart with a lot of unique features. But it does offer comparable features to some big name, comparatively expensive gadgets at a fraction of the cost and it does that quite well for the price, with only a few mostly subjective caveats.
The sound here is what really matters and it doesn’t do that half badly
Typically with headphones in a certain price range, bass tones are one of the strongest audio frequencies to push through. That mostly comes down to the fact that the drivers are placed so close to the ears and tuning.
The bass in EarFun’s Free true wireless earbuds would be better described as ‘reasonable’. That’s not to say it’s lacking but it isn’t going to thump your ears off, either.
I found that frequencies from right around 20KHz to 40Hz ring through clearly without distortion or any dips in power. Those tones that could rightly be called ‘mids’ hit more powerfully than either lows or highs. EarFun Free didn’t drown out everything else with those but it was the lead here, as opposed to the highs or bass in other headsets I’ve tested.
The entire experience, as a result, was decidedly not the audiophile experience I was hoping for. The notes were all clean across every genre and in other types of media, nothing seemed to be out of sync or overpowering, and in music the tones shine through as intended. There wasn’t any distortion where there wasn’t supposed to be but there just wasn’t quite enough balance.
Make no mistake, these earbuds reproduce sounds well. They’re also definitely above the standard set by many of the most common brands of headphones in their price range — even at the standard $100 price. So they are exceptional in that regard, highlighting the drive forward across the board for audio over the past decade or so.
I actually prefer quite a bit more bass than this pumps out. Then I tend to equalize the audio electronically. The real annoyance for me is that they put out just under the level of low tones I typically enjoy. Volume, to the contrary, is on point. I never needed to turn the sound up more than just over halfway to drown out any background noise and get into the music.
As an accessory that started life in crowdfunding, these aren’t going to be a bad purchase at all, just so long as nobody expects Sennheiser quality.
Inconsistencies in the battery could mar an otherwise great product …maybe
Battery life is arguably as important with true wireless earbuds as sound quality and that is an area where these could have excelled but really ended up falling short of my expectations. In large part, that’s because they don’t seem to live up to the claims of the company for charging or discharging.
Ironically, on the charging side, these do just fine and up to a point they actually do better than expected with one big caveat. Using the LED indicators to determine the level to which this device is actually charge felt like a pointless endeavor.
Now, it bears pointing out that this may have just been an issue with my test unit since this was initially a crowd-funded product. It’s not out of the question that I could have received a faulty unit or that mine wasn’t production-ready. Regardless, there were four of those on the charging case and they are intended to represent 25-percent increments for the battery. They didn’t do that consistently at all, or at least not as expected.
Instead, the charging case for EarFun Free earbuds seemed to die very quickly after falling to the final LED — at around 25-percent. That means the charging case doesn’t technically fill the earbuds themselves four times either, as claimed. Instead, it fills them just over three-and-a-half times.
Making matters somewhat worse, the device seems to die ever so slightly even when it isn’t in use — enough that the first LED disappears within a few hours even with both case and buds already charged. That was made all the more inconvenient by the fact that the LED indicators on the buds themselves can’t be seen unless the box is open. The lid is opaque.
Where they did great on the charging side is that they actually charge up much more quickly than advertised too — and that’s including wireless charging. Placing these on a standard wireless charging pad, the entire setup took around 2-hours to charge. The first 75-percent of that fills up in between 30 to 45 minutes depending on the starting charge.
So these can quickly be dropped on a wireless charger to offset the slow-drip draining that seemed to occur and they fill up quickly for a full days use without much effort. Charging up the earbuds via the case took around just an hour-and-a-half.
Wired charging, when there were a USB-C cable and a plug available to plug in the case, came in at right around one-and-a-half hours.
One the longevity side of this equation, things were mostly great aside from the aforementioned fact that they seem to drain the case ever-so-slightly while not on a charger regardless of whether they’re in use. There was, however, an inconsistency there too.
The right earbud, the ‘master’ bud, seemed to last right around 10-minutes longer than the left earbud regardless of how long I left them to charge. More me, that meant around 5-hours of battery life in the right bud at 70-percent volume and just under that for the left bud. I tried resetting the device and didn’t notice a change.
That all could be a deal-breaker for some but the discrepancies are common in the wireless earbud segment of the market. It bears mention that this isn’t going to be the same for every user, either. There are a lot of factors that go into how long a device like this lasts and this one seemed to be about average, with the added benefit of wireless charging.
I performed my test with a variety of different media types and at varying distances from the source. More importantly, these don’t exactly warn the user they’re about to die. They just do.
Ironically, that’s beyond just a bit annoying since it meant I would at times be getting into a song or show and suddenly have my media paused and no more sound. While that does mean a longer listening time — without the obnoxious and overzealous “battery low” or “beep beep beep” sounds that are usually included at around 15-percent remaining with wireless headphones — it’s still just annoying to not know when they’re about to die.
Designed to fit expectations with comfort and accuracy to spare
The first thing I noticed about these earbuds when removing them from the box, both the buds themselves and the case, is that they’re significantly larger than others I’ve owned or tested. Starting with the case itself, that’s about the same shape as the case for Samsung’s Galaxy Buds but taller, with a wide flat section around the middle.
It’s also longer and wider than those earbuds’ case.
That meant that they caused quite a bit more difficulty in carrying in smaller pockets, even though that wasn’t an impossible feat. It also meant they were slightly more awkward to hold in-hand.
The earbuds are larger too but there’s a trick to putting them in that made it easier on my ear. I wouldn’t recommend these at all to those who have already experienced problems buying true-wireless earbuds. They aren’t going to work with every ear, even with the included various-sized rubber nubs. Those really just help find the proper fit to maintain high-quality audio.
By putting them straight in and then twisting to a small degree — as shown in the instructions — they fit comfortably enough to wear all day long with no issues.
It’s worth pointing out that the case here isn’t protected against incursion by water or dust either. The earbuds themselves are, and that means they’re safe to use while working out or in rain. They shouldn’t go falling out during intense workouts for the overwhelming majority of users, thanks to their shape.
On the quality front, the EarFun Free earbuds and their case feel exceptionally well made. There’s no creaking in the plastics and only the smallest amount of wiggle in the lid when first opening the case just a small amount. After it’s been opened further, there’s no wiggle at all. The magnets that keep the lid closed could stand to be stronger but that didn’t present a problem and the case didn’t open up unless I intended it to.
The LEDs are bright enough to see in broad daylight and the charging port at the back fit snugly without any unwanted movement. Putting the earbuds in the case, the magnets are very strong but not so strong as to create difficulty in pulling them out, which is a big change from most earbuds I’ve tested that rely on this type of case.
The plastics used are relatively easy to scuff because it’s plastic but don’t collect oils or fingerprints.
As to the earbuds themselves, each has its own button, which we’ll discuss momentarily since those do different things are worth covering in their own right. The button feels somewhat squishy but that seems to be deliberate since it meant that I never felt the discomfort of pressing the earbud to firmly into my ear while using the hardware keys. That’s an issue I’ve noticed with nearly every headset I’ve tested.
The buttons are topped with rubber so they’re more comfortable to press, to begin with.
Special features worthy of consideration
Looking beyond the waterproofing, there are plenty of other ways these earbuds set themselves apart too. The biggest of those is its inclusion of two microphones — one on each bud — and the way those are used with the on-device button.
Namely, these earbuds are completely compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, Bixby, or alternative on-device AI helpers. With the initial double press of the right-hand earbud button, users will be able to choose which assistant they’re accessing on the connected device. Once selected, a double press will call that AI forward as long as the device is in range.
The mics seem to make an enormous difference in how well that works, even with some serious distance between the handset and accessory allowed by Bluetooth 5.0.
A single tap on the right bud will answer or close a call while holding it works to turn the device on (and initiate pairing if held beyond that through the power on audio indicator) or off.
Interestingly, functionality is completely split and that seems to make these earbuds easier to use. The right bud is used entirely for communications while the left earbud controls media — using holds or single, double, or triple taps.
By including fewer variations on standard press-button controls and separating communication from control onto two individual buds, EarFun has created a user experience that’s simply easier to adapt to than what I’ve seen on other devices.
Worth the cost?
As a sub-$100 pair of “true wireless” earbuds, EarFun’s Free is not necessarily exceptional in terms of comfort or battery life. They simply aren’t going to be well suited for any ear size since they’re so much larger than others on the market. In terms of sound quality, they are at least on par with the rest of the market.
For those who don’t want overpowering bass and who do want an easy-to-use set of controls, they could easily be the one to buy, hands down.
Thanks to the intuitive separation of the controls between the earbuds, I never found myself struggling to remember how many taps I needed to ignore or hang up a call instead of just pausing my music. Similarly, I didn’t need to worry about complex holds or taps to control the music instead of kicking off a call or using Google Assistant. I just needed to remember which side controlled audio and which controlled communications.
Conversely, on the durability and sound input side of things, EarFun has done a great job of finding a balance for the price bracket. Not only will these not be damaged when they inevitably get wet — with the exception of the case. The dual-mic setup means that phone call audio for the person that’s been contacted won’t be terrible and that AI helpers will be able to understand speech much better than on most other true wireless sets.
At half off via Amazon, the EarFun Free Truly Wireless Earbuds they should be on the list for just about anybody who doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg.