The true test of a pair of headphones arguably isn't a perfectly-arranged, closed room assessment of their sound quality, judging exactly how accurately they reproduce the sound and music you're listening to.
It's living with them — actually going about your daily life with them as your default choice whenever you want to listen to some beats or pop a podcast on. That's what we've been doing for a little over a month with the fabulous Libratone TRACK Air+, one of our very favourite sets of fully wireless earbuds.
We enjoy using the TRACK Air+ so much that we've kept wearing them, even after our testing was finished, and wanted to run through some of the reasons why we like them so much.
1. Active noise cancelling
When it comes to day-to-day use, one of the important facets of a pair of earbuds is how well they isolate sound. Whether you're commuting on busy trains or buses, or just using them out and about, noise leakage can be annoying, and break you out of your little bubble of sound.
I'm a regular on the District line in London — one of the quieter tube tracks, but still entirely capable of ruining podcasts when I was wearing AirPods. I've found the TRACK Air+ solve this issue with active noise cancellation (ANC). They filter out background noise and disruption and let me concentrate on the playlist, audiobook or whatever I'm listening to.
It's a lifesaver if you don't feel like hearing the loud and busy world around you, and the fact that you can control it in Libratone's app is a happy bonus. You can choose between different strengths of isolation, in case you want to hear absolutely nothing around you. It can also be set to automatically adjust, if you don't fancy fiddling with. Plus, when I need to hear why my train hasn't moved for 10 minutes, there's a transparency mode that lets me listen to ambient noise.
2. They're perfect for the gym
For our money the gym is one of the hardest place for headphones to perform. You're constantly moving around, there's often a pounding soundtrack in the background and the noise of treadmills and machines, all competing to drown out your own music.
It's been no trouble for the TRACK Air+, though. The earbuds are now our default choice for the gym, with ANC helping to keep us in our own little world, while water and sweat resistance means that we don't have to worry about the earbuds malfunctioning or breaking as a result of a little exercise. You can extend this, too, to cover jogging and outdoor activities, as well.
On one recent visit, the TRACK Air+ passed one of my most secretive tests, too. My mum called me, mid-workout; I took the call, and chatted for ten minutes without her ever realising I was in the gym. The dual-mic system the earbuds use made sure she didn't realise I wasn't holding my phone to my ear, and touch controls on the side of each earbud meant I could accept the call without ever needing to pick up the handset. Plus, it's always good to be forced into a little break while flogging myself on the treadmill.
3. A great battery case
There's a sort of peril attached to the new horizon of wireless headphones that we're all living through, though. The threat of running out of battery life is always there, in the background — solved only by cases that are often way bigger than the headphones they contain. Thankfully, the TRACK Air+ pack exemplary battery life into a case that can actually fit into a pocket, not just a bag, to make sure that you don't have to worry.
You get six hours of battery life from the earbuds, which is great in the first place, enough to see me through a whole recent journey from London up to chilly Edinburgh. On top of that, though, you get three more charges from the storage case, taking you up to 24 hours of use before you have to plug the case in. That's the definition of freedom of mind.
4. The sound is superb
It's all well and good the TRACK Air+ isolate your sound, and filter out the noise, but it's also key that once that's achieved, the sound they produce themselves is really great. You get good, solid bass, and crisp highs, despite a small form-factor and lightweight construction.
Plus, that ANC means that you don't even have to crank the volume aggressively to hear what you want to — you'll get clear playback whether there's background noise or not. Say what you like about Kanye's pivot into gospel for Jesus is King, I was pleased to be able to listen to it with full, powerful reproduction of its choral multitudes on the only occasion I actually did so. When I wanted it to fade back to background music, the earbuds' touch points let me do that without reaching for my phone.
If you want a bit more control, too, you can choose different sound profiles in the Libratone app to make sure that the earbuds are fine-tuned to your needs. With all that in play, you'll get sound quality that will have you questioning whether bulky over-ear cans are really worth the hassle.
5. They're AirPods Pro beaters at a lower price
Obviously, once you've got a pair of headphones the price you paid might not be the most pressing concern anymore. But the fact remains that the TRACK Air+ do a heck of a lot of impressive things, matching pretty much all of the features of, say, the AirPods Pro, without costing nearly so much. Plus, you can get them in black as well, in case white isn't your thing.
That's the sort of detail that keeps you appreciating the earbuds well after you've bought them — when you've nabbed a bargain, you don't tend to forget about it too quickly. All in all, then, the Libratone TRACK Air+ are a package so compelling that we know we'll still be using them well into the future.