Co.Design

Tiny Wireless Earbuds Could Be Damn Near Invisible When In Use

Two tiny, cylindrical earbuds that could be great—if you don't lose them.

Earin, currently attracting tons of money on Kickstarter, is a tiny wireless earbud product that's a bit different from anything currently on the market—and by doing things so differently, it might be the first pair of wireless earbuds that really attracts us.

Wireless earbuds have a few things going against them in the design department, the most obvious of which is that most "wireless" earbuds are still connected to each other by a wire. For earbuds to succeed, they need to be as small and unobtrusive as possible, for the simple sake of comfort. Earbuds that are too heavy fall out or hurt the delicate folds of the ear. But to make any piece of technology wireless, you have to add components. Heavy components. You have to add a chip that can communicate wirelessly via Bluetooth to your phone or tablet or laptop, as well as to each other. But worst of all, you have to add a battery—a bulky, heavy battery.

Earin solves some of those problems by eliminating features seen as non-essential: no microphone, no lights, no orientation sensors or accelerometers. It also uses balanced armature drivers, which are typically reserved for nicer earbuds—aka the ones you pay more than $30 for. I won't get too technical here—there's more info here if you're interested—but the Earin uses a system called a balanced armature rather than the typical, more cost-effective earbud speaker design, which is called a dynamic driver. Both systems use a vibrating metal coil to move the diaphragm (a thin paper or cloth) which moves air which creates sound to our ears. But the dynamic driver requires an external air source—a vent, basically. An armature system doesn't need extra air, and the lack of external air means that its detail is theoretically superior, with clear highs and mids. Plus, it's much smaller and more energy-efficient than dynamic driver systems. The only problem is, dynamic drivers offer much, much better bass response—armatures usually lack that heavy bass that most music listeners are used to. There are ways to get around that, though, like including multiple (tiny) armature drivers in each earbud.

The other problem, which was solved in a design-y way that we're really taken with, is battery life. Bluetooth drains batteries like crazy. There's not much anyone can do about that, but the Earin crew made it easier to, at least, charge them. The case in which you hold the earbuds, which are not attached and would seem to be easy to lose, is actually a portable charger, like a Mophie. Pop the 'buds into the carrying case when you're not using them and they'll charge right up.

The Earin is currently on Kickstarter—you can snag the earbuds for a little bit less than their asking price of about $270 USD. Steep! But they offer some features you won't find elsewhere.

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