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Affordable ANC-enabled TWS earbuds? Yes please

Qualcomm has quietly announced a pair of new Bluetooth audio systems-on-a-chip (SoC) that will bring a number of the company’s new wireless audio technologies to a bunch of upcoming wireless earbuds. The flagship QCC514X and the mid-range QCC304x chipsets both feature much of the same tech, although the more premium chip features voice assistant integration for most major voice assistance.

As smartphone manufacturers continue to find newer ways to design slimmer form-factors, many flagship devices no longer have 3.5mm ports, which has resulted in the boom of the True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds market. While this has also resulted in the development of more affordable TWS earbuds, a feature that is usually reserved for the upper-mid-range end of the market is Active Noise Cancellation technology.

Qualcomm‘s new chips, however, offer “hybrid ANC”, which means that noise cancellation tech is integrated, along with a “leak-through” function for outside noise—which is basically the transparency modes that many ANC headphones already have. This integration could mean that we will be seeing more affordable earbuds with integrated earbuds in the future, although major brands have yet to comment at the time of writing.

The company also shared that the new chips will also allow users to switch between using one earbud in mono mode and both earbuds in stereo mode more seamlessly. TrueWireless Mirroring means that the Bluetooth connection to an accompanying smartphone is funnelled through one earbud; this signal is then mirrored to the other earbud, which will theoretically improve connection reliability.

As mentioned, only the QCC514X supports an always-listening mode—something like what the Airpods from Apple has, where you’ll be able to activate your assistant by simply saying “Hey Siri”. That’s not to say that the QC304x does not support voice assistants, however. Instead, you’ll need to push a button before the earbuds/headphones pick up your voice commands.

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The Sony WF-1000XM3 retails for RM949, although that price has been heavily discounted since.

Essentially, both SoCs from Qualcomm integrate voice assistant support and ANC, which means that any TWS earbuds or headphones that are powered by the QCC514x or the QCC304x chips in the future will have built-in ANC support. And that’s certainly refreshing, with most users having to shell out upwards of RM500 for many TWS earbuds from the big brands.