Apple's AirPods Pro 2 are the ultimate noise-canceling earbuds for iPhone users and some of the best wireless earbuds around. But when it comes to unleashing the full quality of lossless audio, Bluetooth wireless connectivity isn't giving you the full audio picture.
With this in mind, news of the Questyle NHB12 wired earbuds grabbed my attention owing to their 'True Lossless Earphones for Apple iOS' billing, and the 'Made for iPhone' (MFi) certification.
As a plug 'n' play solution, they're designed to deliver true lossless and hi-res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz without compromise thanks to their wired design with an integrated DAC that bypasses the iPhone's own internal DAC for top-flight sound quality from the likes of Apple Music or any other lossless/hi-res music service.
Although there's no mention from the Chinese maker about an on sale date just yet, the Questyle NHB12 wired earbuds are available to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign where early-bird backers can grab them for $229. That's a $70 saving on the full $299 asking price, which converts to £235 / AU$465 based on exchange rates at the time of writing.
Questyle NHB12 design and features
The NHB12 wired earbuds use a single dynamic speaker driver in each earpiece powered by the inline DAC and amplifier module. A single red light indicates that it's running and processing audio data at a sampling rate of 48kHz or below, while a double red light shows that it's processing high-resolution lossless data beyond 48kHz.
Although Questyle may be a new name to Tom's Guide readers and a new name in the world of earbuds, I've encountered the Chinese-based audio specialist's upmarket digital audio players in a previous role where I've been impressed by the company's audiophile credentials.
They NHB12 are specifically designed for iOS devices and connect via Apple's Lightning port. These are not compatible with Android devices, although the accessories provided run to a 3.5mm jack cable without an inline DAC, along with five sets of silicone ear tips and a leather storage case.
In terms of iOS connectivity, though, this does raise the question of what happens when the iPhone 15 arrives next month fitted with a USB-C connector to comply with EU regulations, making Questyle's MFi-certified earbuds incompatible with the newest iPhone models.
Why are wired earbuds better?
The reason to choose wired over wireless headphones is entirely to do with maintaining full audio signal integrity and sound quality. Whether it's Sony's WF-1000XM5 with LDAC support, or Apple's own AirPods Pro 2 wireless earbuds, audio signals over Bluetooth are compromised and don’t have the bandwidth to fully handle true lossless or hi-res audio files. Significant advances could soon be made though as support for Qualcomm's aptX Lossless audio codec is increased, but so far only a select few makers offer this kind of wireless audio support.
With wired headphones there are no audio bandwidth compromises, thus enabling listeners to get the full lossless and hi-res audio experience from streaming services such as Apple Music and Tidal in resolutions ranging from 16-bit/44.1kHz (CD-quality) to 24-bit/192kHz (hi-res audio quality). Now what music lover doesn't want to hear that?
Crowdfunded campaign advice
Although we've seen headphone launches before using similar campaigns, mainly as a tool to manage pre-orders, the usual risk warnings about crowdfunded products should be taken into consideration.
As the Questyle NHB12 crowdfunding campaign has already reached its goal, I look forward to hearing these Made for iPhone wired earbuds with DAC when a full production sample arrives. Watch this space for our full review coming soon to see whether they make the grade to join our best audiophile headphones guide.