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In my monthly column here on SoundStage! Solo, I’ve often hounded headphone companies to do something more creative than crank out yet another set of cookie-cutter cans that work perfectly fine but don’t deliver a real advance in sound quality, functionality, or convenience. For those manufacturers who might demand, “OK, give me an example,” I can point to the ISOtunes Free true wireless earphones ($109.99 USD). They were created by a company whose mission is to make “hearing protectors that don’t look or feel like hearing protectors.”

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Reviewers' ChoiceBack in 2019, I found something I’d been awaiting for years: the EarFun Free earphones, the first set of cheap true wireless earphones I really enjoyed. I ended up liking these $49.99 USD in-ears better than many $200 or $300 models I’d tested, because they had a natural-sounding tonal balance and a comfortable design. Now EarFun has introduced a new and supposedly improved version, the EarFun Free 2 earphones, at the same list price—but this model appears to be a completely new product.

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Lots of companies make speakers and headphones, but with most, it’s hard to see the connection between the two. That’s certainly not the case with the KEF Mu3 true wireless earphones, which are styled by Ross Lovegrove, the same guy who did KEF’s iconic, polished-metal Muon loudspeaker. The Mu3s have nothing in common with the Muon technically, but the products share a sleek, silvery style.

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I’m glad that the 64 Audio Nio earphones ($1699 USD) incorporating a whopping nine drivers per ear isn’t the most interesting thing about them. Because if it were, then I’d have to get all whooped up about nine drivers when I know that earphones with just one driver can achieve extraordinary sound. But I think the other technologies packed into the Nios are more worthy of attention.

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One thing I love about earphones is that you can get state-of-the-art sound in lots of different ways. You can pack an earphone with multiple drivers and a crossover. You can explore exotic driver designs. Or you can tune a basic dynamic driver to near perfection. With the IE 300s ($299, all prices USD), Sennheiser takes the third—and, I think, riskiest—path.

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Sonically, true wireless earphones are in the same place that passive earphones were ten years ago: all over the map. One reason passive earphones improved is that manufacturers embraced multidriver, hybrid designs, which let them combine the powerful bass of dynamic drivers with the detailed, natural-sounding mids and treble associated with balanced armatures. We’re starting to see the same thing now in true wireless designs. The first hybrid true wireless earphones I reviewed were the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros, which combine an 11mm dynamic driver with a single balanced armature, although to rather mixed results. Now we have the Status Audio Between Pro earphones, which use a 10mm dynamic driver with two balanced armatures. The Between Pros are available through an Indiegogo offering at an “early bird price” of $99 and a list price of $169, with a projected ship date in April.

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