We’re several generations into the era of true wireless earbuds, and many of the early challenges of the form factor are now being addressed. I wasn’t a fan at first—terrible battery life, audio and bud synchronization issues, an uncomfortable fit, and poor audio were always issues—but the situation is improving considerably. A good case in point is the Helm True Wireless 5.0 Headphones. With an upgrade to Bluetooth 5.0 (longer range, greater throughput, higher quality audio support, and improved power efficiency), these latest true wireless earbuds from Helm are very good, despite their affordable price.
These are a bit on the large side when it comes to wireless earbuds. And despite having three different sizes of ear tips and integrated flexible silicone fins, I couldn’t find a combination that fit my ears well enough to feel secure during motion. Sitting relatively still or a casual walk was okay, but anything more strenuous than that and they could pop out. For me, that’s more the norm than the exception with earbuds, though—I often have trouble getting a good fit. Other people in my household that tried these on didn’t have the same issue.
The diamond facet shell design may not appeal to everyone, but it definitely achieves the goal of reduced fingerprints. No issues there.
The buttons work well, but—as with many true wireless earbuds—I found the force needed to activate them can push the bud into the ear, resulting in discomfort and risking dislodging the bud.
Many people wear earbuds for exercise, so on top of a secure fit, water resistance is important. The Helm earbuds are rated IPX4 water-resistant, which means they can take splashing water from any direction. Sweat and rain shouldn’t be a problem when wearing these.
Battery life with these earbuds was stellar. It wasn’t that long ago that you could reasonably expect three hours or so of use on a charge from true wireless earbuds. Apple’s AirPods got that up to five hours on a charge. Helm claims six to eight hours of listening on a single charge. I’ve been averaging seven hours—which, frankly, is pretty incredible for true wireless—with listening volume typically at about 30% of maximum.
Another big win for the Helm True Wireless 5.0 Headphones here. Audio performance is excellent. Despite the fact that I struggled to get a really good seal, bass performance was probably the best I’ve heard from a pair of true wireless earbuds. Helm talks up the TRUE sound, featuring proprietary high-powered polymer and alloy enhanced drivers that “deliver commanding bass”—and they really do deliver. Also helping is support for high-quality aptX and AAC codecs.
Beyond the bass, the midrange was solid and the highs were crisp. They sounded very good, especially for earbuds—and $130 true wireless earbuds at that.
In testing with streaming video (Netflix on an iPhone), speech remained perfectly in sync.
Bluetooth 5 implementation in these earbuds promises improved range of up to 60 feet. My office is in the upper floor of our house and with most Bluetooth 3 or 4 headphones (which have a range of about 30 feet), if I leave my iPhone in the office, the wireless connection will start to cut out as I move down a floor into the kitchen.
With the Helm True wireless 5.0 earbuds, I was able to travel all the way to the basement (two additional floors) with the connection still intact. If I attempted to go outside, though, the connection would immediately drop. Bluetooth still doesn’t travel through brick walls all that well…
When they were disconnected, they did not automatically reconnect. In fact, they would sometimes refuse to reconnect at all unless returned to the charge case first—an issue that Helm notes in its user manual. That being said, once initially paired, whenever taken out of the charge case they do automatically pair with your phone.
Speaking of the charge case, I am not a fan.
It’s huge (3.5-inches long), bulbous, and has a smokey clear plastic lid. That lid offers the advantage of being able to see the buds inside and visually check their charge lights, but it looks and feels a little cheap. It’s also the worst case I’ve had to deal with (and there have been some doozies) in terms of trying to open it. Again, Helm is aware of the issue and notes in the manual that the “charging case becomes easier to open over time.” The charge case holds an additional 30 hours of battery life, but it still uses Micro USB instead of USB-C.
On the plus side, it’s easy to get the buds properly placed for charging—something that not all cases pull off. And the battery level indicator for the charge case battery is a series of four blue LEDs that are bright and forward-facing.
A single long press on either earbud’s button invokes your choice of Siri or Google Assistant. The dual microphones are also used for voice calls.
At $129.99, the Helm True Wireless 5.0 Headphones are affordably priced and undercut the cheapest version of Apple’s best-selling AirPods by $30. They may not have always-on Siri, but your choice of digital assistant is just a button push away, music sounds a heck of a lot better and these will play music for a lot longer without needing recharging.
The audio performance is the reason to buy these earbuds, along with battery life. Both are standouts among true wireless earbuds. If you’ve been holding off in the hope that true wireless earbuds to get better, the Helm True Wireless 5.0 Headphones may just be what you’ve been waiting for.
Disclosure: Helm provided earbuds for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.
This post was last modified on December 6, 2019 9:44 am
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A bitter beginning: becoming a ronin.