Nowadays it seems that the market is saturated with so many choices of wireless earbuds that it can honestly be a bit overwhelming.

I myself own at least three pairs of wireless buds including 1st Gen Apple AirPods (for use w/ my iPad), Jlab Epic Air Sports (for working out), and Beben buds (ones I just toss in my bag to have a pair at the ready).

Today, UK-based Sonobo hopes you’ll be willing to lend them an ear (or two) to check out their brand new line-up of “the most advanced True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earphones available”.

Developed by an international team of recording engineers, designers, musicians, and music professionals, Sonobo hopes to impress consumers with “breathtaking audiophile sound and next-generation full-range precision speakers carefully tuned by recording engineers.”

The Kickstarter campaign (which just launched today) offers some bargains for early backers (first 24-hours ONLY) and covers three different Sonobo models: the One, Pro, and Elite available at varying price points.

The more expensive Pro model has six balanced armature drivers, while the (priciest) Elite has 18, which Sonobo says establishes them among the most advanced earphones available on the market.

One of the really neat-looking pieces of tech is their innovative Sonobo Smartcase. Available as an optional purchase with the least expensive Sonobo One earphones (and standard with Pro and Elite models), the Sonobo SmartCase contains four built-in HD microphones which allow “targeted sound enhancement and noise cancellation, enabling users to control what they want to hear. In addition, with Remote Noise Cancelling, users can place their SmartCase near any source of noise and make it disappear (i.e. fan, engine, noise coming from a window or door, etc.).”

The SmartCase also contains a battery 3650mAh battery, allowing for over 500 hours of on-the-go charge and the lid can act as a wireless Qi charging mat for compatible devices.

Key Features of All Sonobo models include:

  • Full range dynamic speakers carefully tuned to preserve the integrity of the original sound, be it a vocalist, guitar or drum, providing an unmatched level of sound quality
    HD Voice Making speech easier to hear by using optimized/super-sensitive microphones with extended range, lower total harmonic distortion
    Active Noise Cancellation uses a feedforward microphone dedicated to listening to all sounds around the user and noise cancels them using the traditional method.
    – Sonobo’s Selective Noise Cancelling, allows listeners to eliminate, reduce or boost any sound in their environment
    – Remote Noise Cancelling place SmartCase near the entry point of unwanted noise and all sounds picked up by its four HD microphones are noise cancelled while sounds picked up by Sonobo Earphones are enhanced.
    VoiceBoost to make the sounds around you crystal clear, no matter what the setting. For example, imagine you are in a noisy restaurant, struggling to hear your friends around a table, you can place the SmartCase on the table near them and any sounds picked up by SmartCase are enhanced while any sounds picked up by Sonobo earphones are noise cancelled, allowing you to hear and participate in conversations even in noisy environments.
    SafeSonics delivers a “world’s first” technology that calibrates to each users’ ears with a simple 60 second test and determines which frequencies their ears are sensitive to and calculates a running total of Safe Listening Time. The time is based upon the frequency content, levels and duration of the music being listened to, which is then sent as a push notification, providing users with a visual indication to help develop healthier, non-destructive listening habits,
  • Voice UI control with an always-on “Wake word” (on the Pro and Elite Models) activated digital assistants to support all voice assistants, for true ‘no hands’ performance.

So How Do These Sound?

I’ve had a chance to take the base model, the Sonobo One’s for a spin over the past few days and I’ve been pretty impressed with the sound quality and battery-life is phenomenal, especially compared to my aging first-gen AirPods (which now struggle to hold a charge longer than a few hours).

First, a little disclaimer, there was a note with the sample pair I was sent, stating that what I received was not the final version, so bear in mind that things could change by the time these are delivered to backers later this year and that we didn’t have access to some of the more advanced features.

According to the folks at Sonobo, the main differences between our Sonobo One Preview model and the final production models will be “the addition of the groundbreaking features which include: ANC, Selective Noise Cancelling, Remote Noise Cancelling, VoiceBoost, Awareness V2, GunSonics, and last but not least SafeSonics – sends you tailor-made Safe Listening Time alerts, the first ‘tangible’ indication showing you how hard you are working your ears and remaining listening time as recommended by NIOSH and The WHO”.

Comparing the sound of the Sonobo One’s to my existing wireless earphone collection, they excelled in some areas, but fell a little short in others.

While overall, the sound is nice and clear for a variety of content (including music, podcasts, audiobooks, youtube videos, tv shows, and movies). However, the bass was definitely lacking any real punch, especially compared to my Jlab Epic Air Sports. It is unclear if this could be chalked up to pre-release hardware or if the bass will be better on the more expensive Pro and Elite models.

Sonobo reached out to us regarding our comments on the perceived lack of bass we experienced and had some good news:

The default setting for Sonobo is sonic accuracy, to be as true to the original sound as is physically possible, this is the sound signature you experienced with your Sonobo One preview model and if you for example compare the same song on decent hifi speakers, it will sound similar when you listen with Sonobo.

We appreciate that each individual user will have their own preference and taste in sound which is why we provide a user-friendly ‘British EQ’ within the Sonobo App allowing users to add as much bass as they prefer.

The Sonobo App (iOS and Droid) will accompany the final production earphone models.

As is becoming standard, you can perform handy shortcuts for skipping tracks, changing volume, etc by tapping on the Ones while in your ears, but there didn’t seem to be any way to customize these, I was stuck using the pre-determined shortcuts. Finally, the Sonobo One’s appeared to be missing (my now MUST-HAVE) auto-pause when removed from ears feature.

All-in-all my initial impression of the Sonobo Ones (having spent just about a week with this pre-release pair) has been quite good. They are super comfortable to wear all day and come with a wide variety of ear tips to fit most ear shapes. Plus Sonobo get bonus points for using a USB-C port on the charging case.

If you want to get even more information and compare the different models, check out the Kickstarter page or the official website: Sonobo Premium Audio Earphones.

UPDATE 08/11/2021

We’ve received some info from the team at Sonobo that we wanted to share, so this post has been updated from its original form with this additional information, answering some of the questions we had.