As much as we love the convenience of the best true wireless earbuds, many of them suffer from the same sonic shortcoming. Often, their Bluetooth isn’t capable of delivering full quality lossless audio because it just can’t chuck data around quickly enough. Cabled headphones and earbuds don’t have that problem, and as a result they can deliver much higher quality music than a set of third generation AirPods can.
The new Questyle NHB12 could be one of the most interesting cabled earbuds on the market. Designed specifically for iOS and iPadOS devices and currently pre-ordering via Kickstarter, they’re priced at $229 – roughly £235 / AU$465 – and promise true lossless as well as hi-res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz. That’s the early bird price too, the new earbuds are set to go up slightly to $299 when they’re launched.
Questyle NHB12: key features and specs
Although the Questyle NHB12 can connect via a standard 3.5mm cable, the USP here is its ‘lossless Lightning’ cable, which includes an inline DAC and amplifier. It has a little light to indicate whether it’s sampling at 48kHz or lower, or if it’s processing hi-res audio.
You might have spotted a potential problem here: from next month, the iPhone 15 will signal the end of Lightning cables in iPhones as Apple moves to USB-C. While of course that won’t affect existing iPhones, it does mean the Questyle NHB12 will be launching with a connector that won’t connect to the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max. So if the next iPhone is in your foreseeable future, you won’t want to pre-order these buds until there’s a USB-C version.
As ever with Kickstarter campaigns and other crowdfunded product, there’s always a risk that the product doesn’t deliver what it promises. But the Questyle NHB12 has smashed through its funding target so you can be pretty confident this is going to be a real, shipping product.
That said, given the price tag and the fact that there are some brilliant earbuds around for the same kind of money, I think I’d hang on to my cash until the reviews are in and I can see how these buds compare to the current champions, Sony’s WF-1000XM5. They don’t quite have the sonic fidelity the Questyle promise to deliver, but they do have Sony’s LDAC – or at least they do on Android devices. Apple doesn’t currently support LDAC in iOS.
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