Fairphone True Wireless Review: Appropriate and Ethical Headphones

Manufacture and accessories

The design of True Wireless is not original, but it has the advantage of having proven itself. Keywords are the key, with a design entirely in matte plastic, soft to the touch and comfortable 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 withstand raindrops and sweat. Of course, it will be necessary to ensure that they are properly maintained after each sports session.

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

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

Editor's rating: 3 out of 5

User experience

True Wireless is controlled using a touch pad located at the top of each earphone. This area is easily accessible, reactive, but sometimes a little too sensitive. The touch controls allow you to perform all the actions necessary for the headphones to work properly: navigate between tracks, control playback, control the volume, activate the phone’s voice assistant or even juggle between the 3 available listening modes (noise reduction on, ambient listening mode, from). Some actions are also accompanied by voicemails, which, however, are of poor quality.

Pairing is performed when you leave the box for the first time or by using the button located under the box. The Fairphone headphones then communicate in Bluetooth 5.3 and are compatible with SBC and AAC codecs. However, there is no multipoint feature implemented in these headphones. A proximity sensor allows you to pause music automatically when one of the headphones is taken out of the ears, but does not switch to mono when you have only one earphone on, which loses half of the stereo signal.

Unfortunately, that’s all there is to putting your teeth into, as the Fairphone True Wireless does not take advantage of any accompanying mobile app to access a possible equalizer, various customization options, or even the exact level of remaining battery. Without an app, it is also impossible to update the headphones, which can prove problematic in the event of a software problem.

Editor's rating: 3 out of 5

Sound

Fairphones True Wireless chooses a bassy and rather blunt sound signature, not the most musical. However, it is possible to achieve a much more comfortable reproduction, but it requires that the headphones are placed in a rather absurd way and not really comfortable in the ears. The design of the headphones actually means that the speaker, when placed in their “logical” position (see picture below), does not really align in the extension of the ear canal, which destroys the perceived sound.

To the left the location

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

In the “logical” position, Fairphone True Wireless especially highlights the low end of the spectrum, causing excess bass, especially when noise reduction is enabled. Removal of the high midrange tilts the balance all the more in favor of the bass and gives the overall reproduction a very soft, too soft sound that can even be described as blunt. The voices struggle to stand out properly, the sources rich in harmonics (cymbals, exaggerated guitars, certain brass winds …) are strongly subdued; harmful behavior despite accurate reproduction across 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).

Under these circumstances, the reproduction of the soundscape clearly lacks depth (the elements in the foreground have been pushed back) despite its very correct width. The reproduction of the dynamics is ensured correctly, nothing more.

As mentioned above, it is possible to achieve a much more satisfactory reproduction by adjusting the location of the headphones in the ears. By raising the headphones and pushing them a little further into the ear canal, the reproduction regains a more than welcome sharpness and liveliness, but again at the expense 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 is extremely efficient when it comes to attenuating low frequencies. The skill is such that they reach or even surpass the performance of the best students in the field, which are Sony WF-1000XM4 and Devialet Gemini. They are thus able to almost completely eliminate car, bus or train engine noise, 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 (gray), active noise reduction (purple), listening mode for ambient sounds (orange).

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

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the midrange attenuation. The noise reduction algorithm loses significantly in efficiency when confronted with louder sounds, such as screams from tires, a train slipping on the rails or certain sound warnings. The voices are also minimally muted, allowing you to perfectly hear the voice messages from the metro or train driver. Fairphone headphones also face a problem that is quite rare on this type of headphone: they handle very poorly sudden pressure changes (passing through a tunnel in a train or subway, for example), causing a parasitic noise that is very unpleasant.

Finally, listening to ambient sounds is correct. It transcribes the various sounds well in the room, but the reproduction clearly lacks naturalness and aeration.

Strengths

  • Good general sound precision.

  • Terribly active noise reduction at low frequencies.

  • Very good feeling of comfort.

  • Easy to handle.

Weak points

  • “Boomy” sound reproduction that lacks clarity and sharpness.

  • The voice a little too withdrawn.

  • No accompanying app, no customization possible.

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

Conclusion

Global brand

Editor's rating: 3 out of 5

How does grading work?

For their first true wireless headphones, Fairphone makes a proper copy that will satisfy the greatest number. True Wireless stands 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 headphones show some weaknesses in terms of sound and also suffer from the lack of customization options.

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