Fairphone True Wireless review: suitable and ethical earphones

Fairphone True Wireless review: suitable and ethical earphones

Manufacturing & accessories

The design of True Wireless is not original, but it has the merit of having proven itself. Sobriety is key, with a design entirely in matte plastic, soft to the touch and pleasant to handle. The manufacturing quality is there: the traces of assembly are quite discreet and the headphones seem robust to us. They are also IPX4 certified to resist raindrops and perspiration. Of course, it will be necessary to ensure that they are properly maintained after each sports session.

The case is quite imposing, but remains compact enough to slip into a trouser pocket – which must still be large enough. It is also very easy to use with one hand thanks to its hinge system similar to that found on the cases of Apple AirPods. The case of the True Wireless is covered with the same matte and soft-touch coating as the headphones, but it tends to catch dust here. On the front, 4 LEDs indicate the remaining charge level.

If the Fairphone headphones come with 3 pairs of silicone tips of different sizes, the absence of a charging cable is noticeable. Ecological argument to limit electronic waste or simply stinginess, we let you make your own opinion.

Editor's Rating: 3 out of 5

User experience

The True Wireless are controlled using a touch surface located at the top of each earphone. This area is easy to access, reactive, but sometimes a little too sensitive. The touch controls allow you to perform all the actions essential to the proper functioning of the headphones: navigate between tracks, manage playback, control the volume, activate the voice assistant of the telephone or even juggle between the 3 available listening modes (reduction noise reduction on, ambient listening mode, off). Some actions are also accompanied by voice prompts which are however of poor quality.

Pairing is done when you first leave the box or using the button placed under the box. The Fairphone headphones then communicate in Bluetooth 5.3 and are compatible with the SBC and AAC codecs. However, no multipoint function is implemented in these headphones. A proximity sensor allows music to be paused automatically when one of the earphones is removed from the ears, but no switch to mono is performed when wearing only one earphone, which loses half of the stereo signal.

Unfortunately, that’s all there is to get your teeth into since the Fairphone True Wireless do not benefit from any companion mobile app to access a possible equalizer, different customization options or even the precise level of remaining battery. . Without an app, it is also impossible to update the headphones, which could prove problematic in the event of a software problem.

Editor's Rating: 3 out of 5

Audio

Fairphone’s True Wireless opt for a bassy and fairly blunt sound signature, not the most musical. It is however possible to obtain a much more pleasant rendering, but this requires placing the headphones in a rather absurd way and not really comfortable in the ears. Indeed, the design of the headphones means that, when placed in their “logical” position (see photo below), the speaker does not really align in the extension of the ear canal, fatally affecting the rendering. perceived sound.

On the left, the placement

On the left, the “logical” placement which corresponds to the black frequency response curve (see below). On the right, the position to obtain an optimal listening experience corresponding to the green frequency response curve (see below).

In the “logical” position, the Fairphone True Wireless particularly highlight the low end of the spectrum, causing an excess of bass, especially when the noise reduction is engaged. Removing the high mids tilts the balance all the more in favor of the bass and gives the overall rendering a very soft, too soft, which can even be described as blunt sound. The voices struggle to stand out properly, the sources rich in harmonics (cymbals, overdriven guitars, certain brass…) are strongly attenuated; harmful behavior, despite precise reproduction over the entire reproduced spectrum.

Frequency response measurement (normalized to 94 dB SPL at 1 kHz).  With active noise reduction (purple), without active noise reduction (black), in position

Frequency response measurement (normalized to 94 dB SPL at 1 kHz). With active noise reduction (purple), without active noise reduction (black), in the “ideal” listening position (green).

In these circumstances, the reproduction of the soundstage clearly lacks depth (the elements in the foreground are pushed back) despite its very correct width. The reproduction of the dynamics is ensured properly, nothing more.

As said above, it is possible to obtain a much more satisfactory rendering by adapting the position of the headphones in the ears. By raising the headphones and pushing them a little further into the ear canal, the rendering regains a more than welcome sharpness and liveliness, but, once again, at the cost of much less comfort.

Measurement of harmonic distortion (normalized to 94 dB SPL at 1 kHz).

Measurement of harmonic distortion (normalized to 94 dB SPL at 1 kHz).

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Active noise reduction

True Wireless are extremely efficient when it comes to attenuating low frequencies. The prowess is such that they reach, or even exceed, the performance of the best students in the field, which are the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Devialet Gemini. They are thus capable of almost completely eliminating car, bus or train engine noises, to the delight of the ears. The lowest components of the human voice are also admirably well attenuated.

Isolation measurement: reference signal (black), passive isolation (grey), active noise reduction (purple), listening mode for surrounding sounds (orange).

Isolation measurement: reference signal (black), passive isolation (grey), active noise reduction (purple), listening mode for surrounding sounds (orange).

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the midrange attenuation. The noise reduction algorithm loses markedly in effectiveness when confronted with higher-pitched sounds, such as the screeching of tires, the sliding of a train on the rails or certain sound alerts. The voices are also minimally attenuated, which will allow you to perfectly hear the voice announcements made by the metro or train driver. Fairphone headphones are also faced with a problem that is quite rare on this type of headphones: they very poorly manage sudden changes in pressure (passing through a tunnel in a train or metro, for example) which causes a parasitic noise very disagreeable.

Finally, the mode of listening to surrounding sounds is correct. It transcribes the different sounds well in space, but the rendering clearly lacks naturalness and aeration.

Strong points

  • Good general sound precision.

  • Fearsome active noise reduction on low frequencies.

  • Very good feelings of comfort.

  • Easy to handle.

Weak points

  • “Boomy” sound rendering, which lacks clarity and sharpness.

  • Voice a little too withdrawn.

  • No companion app, no customization possible.

  • No switching to mono when using a single earphone (truncated stereo).

Conclusion

Global mark

Editor's Rating: 3 out of 5

How does grading work?

For its first true wireless headphones, Fairphone makes a correct copy that will satisfy the greatest number. The True Wireless stand out from competing models not only by their ethical and ecological promise, but also by excellent comfort and quite astonishing noise reduction for headphones in this price range. On the other hand, Fairphone’s headphones show some weaknesses in terms of sound and also suffer from the lack of customization options.

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