Review: Dear Ear Buoyant in-ear wireless earphones

Designed in New Zealand by Dear Lab, the Dear Ear Buoyant in-ear wireless earphones feature a bold design that demands attention. Most of the time or bluetooth audio peripherals...

Designed in New Zealand by Dear Lab, the Dear Ear Buoyant in-ear wireless earphones feature a bold design that demands attention. Most of the time or bluetooth audio peripherals you try and hide them, but when they look good, you’ll want to show them off to the world. There’s 3 colours to choose from which lets you choose an all black finish if you’re like more subtlety in your earphones.

With their externally facing colour options, its hard to not draw comparison’s to the i.am+ Buttons we reviewed back in June, To be honest, these look better, sound better and are cheaper.

Design

The Buoyant wireless earphones come in 3 colours – White/Rose gold, Black/Black and Black/Gold. We reviewed the Black/Gold combination and I personally think they look good. Not like pretentious jewelry, but classy functionality.

The two earbuds are connected via a flat, flexible plastic cable. The flat cable is great to avoid tangling, but it is prone to crimping and bending. Finding the right length of a earphone cable is difficult. The engineers have to choose between making it short enough, but not too long. It needs to be short, to not get caught down the neck your shirt or jacket, then pull on your earbud as you turn your head. I would have preferred these to be slightly longer so they could be hidden more like traditional headphones. That said, they’re miles ahead of the Backbeat Fit that weirdly hovered at the back of your head.

Audio

Looks are important, but its audio quality that really determines if you’ll buy this or not. The 8mm Neodymium Drivers provide are good for delivering a frequency range of 20-20kHz and actually sounds amazing. Speech, like vocals in songs, or podcasts sound crisp and clear, while even the strongest bass in class Deadmau5 tracks are faithfully recreated. The caveat here is that you find the right tips to suit your ears, this will take some trial and error.

In terms of volume, you definitely should pay attention to that warning on your smartphone about sustained listening at high volumes causing damage. These are essentially embedded in your head, providing a direct route for the sound to be delivered through to your eardrums. Maximum volume is far louder than anyone should listen to music at and with the right fit, you won’t need it at max as the ambient noise from the world around you is blocked out. When I’m mowing the lawns, I found these won’t completely eliminate the sound of the mower engine, but they provide enough reduction that audio can be heard clearly at lower volume than other earphones that come across my desk.

Included in the box is a range of audio tips (think of these as small, medium, large) so you don’t have to stress about them fitting your ears. My favourite was easily the Comply Premium Earphone Tips. These fit my ear canals the best, resulting in increased bass resonance and physical comfort, making extended listening periods a breeze.

Usage

Voice controls
After connecting to your phone via Bluetooth, you can launch your phone’s native voice assistant by using the in-line control on on earphones. Press and hold the + or – buttons for around 5 seconds and you’ll hear the standard tone before you can issue a command. Given the proximity to your mouth, this works well, although I wish it was a 2 second hold instead, 5 seems too long when using it regularly and 2 is enough to display a clear intent, not an accidental tap.

Audio controls
Basic music, podcast or audiobook playback works as you’d expect with the play/pause button in the center providing a quick method of halting playback when the people around you try to speak to you. With world around you blocked out provided by the passive noise cancelling earphones you will often see people’s mouths moving and need to pause playback and even remove an earbud to hear them. The increase/decrease volume buttons perform double duty as the next and previous buttons. These allow you to press and hold to skip to the next or last track in a playlist, or in the case of an app like Pocketcasts, will issue your personally configured skip duration (I’m 60s forward, 10s back).

Call controls

Like most modern headsets, the controls let you take a call with a simple tap of the center button. Once the call ends, playback resumes, that’s a feature that never gets old. To reject a call, you can press and hold the center button, this avoids having to wait the 10-20 seconds of ringing before the caller gives up. If you’re on a call, you can press and hold + or – buttons to mute yourself (usually to discuss the conversation with a 3rd party), this is a nice touch as it also lets you mute your microphone should you find yourself in a loud environment.

Battery life
The product manual lists the battery life as 8 hours and I’d say that’s fairly accurate. In the couple of weeks I’ve been using these, I’ve probably charged them twice. The nice thing is they’ll turn themselves off after 5 minutes of inactivity. This means if you forget to power them down (I always do), there’s a solid chance you still have plenty of battery next time you want to use them. This is ultimately the biggest challenge (apart from quality) that wireless headphones face, so its important to implement every trick in the book to save power.

In standby, they’ll last around 120 hours, but if you’re like me and regularly use them to listen to music or podcasts each day, you’ll never really test this. There’s no wireless charging like other earbuds, which means you’re on the hook for connecting the micro-USB cable (included) for at least 90 minutes to recharge. It is disappointing that we don’t see the more modern USB-C connector.

Price and Availability

The Dear Ear website currently lists NZ and the US pricing, but the company does ship internationally out of Hong Kong.

You can order them online direct from the website for NZ$114.27, which translates to around A$101.93 but you may need to add GST and delivery to that. Even if we rounded that up to A$150 at your door, what you get for your money represents amazing value for money.

Overall

When I invest in a pair of headphones, I want to use them everywhere. That’s sitting at my desk, in the car, on the plane, while going for a walk, working out, mowing the lawn or doing the dishes. The Dear Ear Buoyants are comfortable enough and have good enough sound quality for that to be a reality and look good while doing it. The battery life is more adequate, enough for a single day use and often you’ll get multiple days or even a week for light usage.

I understand not everyone wants to block the world out with noise cancelling and it’d the ability to turn it on and off, like with active noise-cancelling is certainly a feature I’d like to see. While the product supports the IPX4 seat resistance, this isn’t water proofing, so be careful with them if you’re planing on serious workouts, running in the rain, or in the shower.

If I’m at my desk, still prefer my over-the-ear phones, but for almost everything else, these headphones are great and that makes it easy to recommend you add them to your short list.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.