Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sick of losing earbuds? These new AirPods alternatives walk all over Apple’s Find My

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(Image credit: Trek 2000)

It’s a familiar story: somewhere en route to the party, you lost an earbud. Meanwhile in another location, a similar tale of woe: your friend just left their phone in the taxi and now, they can’t tell you that. 

Trek 2000 (yes, the company best remembered for inventing the ThumbDrive) wants to save your evening with its first ever foray into true wireless earbuds, Re-YTHM.

No, we don’t know how you’re supposed to say that name (Reethum? Re-Whythum?),  but we do know that Trek’s Re-YTHM earbuds boast new ‘Drop and Alert’ and ‘Proximity Alert’ enhanced recovery systems which, when used together, should help us all to minimize the loss of our earbuds and the source devices they’re paired to. 

What do the features do? Well, it’s something not even the best true wireless earbuds on the market have offered to date. Currently pending completion of patent registrations, Drop Alert uses a voice-activation notification through the earbuds when a user drops one of their earbuds and deploys bright, flickering LED lights from the missing earbud to help your locate it (on a darker street, say, or if it’s simply fallen down the side of the sofa). 

Proximity Alert, meanwhile, will issue an ‘out of range’ voice notification through the headphones if the buds’ connected mobile devices are separated for a short distance – ie. if your phone is still in the Uber you just got out of. With a range of up to 30 meters, the visual and audio aid from this enhanced recovery feature (which uses Bluetooth Low Energy, or Bluetooth LE protocol) should significantly help users prevent the loss of their devices as well as their earbuds. 

Opinion: these recovery features are music to my easily-distracted ears – and I hope Apple is listeningApple’s Find My asset tracking app, which will locate and play a sound on a missing iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch, AirPods, or supported Beats headphones is well-documented and admittedly, it is quite good – but if you don’t turn Find My on before it’s lost, forget it. 

Also, if you want to see how far away your devices are from you, you must make sure you turn on Precise Location for the Find My app, which you might not always be comfortable sharing. 

What Trek is offering here is something more urgent and more helpful in the short-term. I cannot recount all of the awkward life moments I’d be able to get back if my missing earbud simply flashed bright lights for me to quickly locate it. But here’s one: during the Mercury Prize gala 2021, I emerged from under our prominent press table brandishing my wandering earbud and yelling ‘Woohoo!’ just as Mogwai passed by. I had missed their song. I can never change that. 

You might argue that you know when your earbuds have gone too far from your phone, because the music simply stops playing. But how often have you experienced Bluetooth dropouts completely unrelated to geographical distance from your device – flat batteries, pairing to a last-known device and the like? If a helpful voice actually told me the issue was the location of my iPhone, well, that could be a game-changer.

Anyway, elsewhere, the Re-YTHM earbuds support Bluetooth 5.2 dual mode (for near-instant pairing of devices and a rock-solid connection) and three distinctive listening modes, including an Active Noise Cancellation mode and Transparency profile.

Each bud is relatively light too, at 6g (although see Sony’s LinkBuds S if you need small units) and the IPX5 water resistance rating means they should be good for even the sweatiest of spin classes.

Re-YTHM also boasts 8 hours of continuous music play time and 9 hours of talk time with a single charge, and the wireless charging case can charge from flat to full in just 1.5 hours to add another 28 hours of music playback and 31.5 hours of talk time.

All this, and they’re priced just $59.90 (around £49 or AU$86). Interesting, especially when even Apple’s cheapest AirPods (2019) cost more than twice that and as such, are doubly painful to lose… 

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.  

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