Q: I like the Apple AirPods true wireless earbuds, but the price, which starts around $160, is a bit steep for me. Is there anything you recommend for $75 or so?
A: A lot of people are interested in earphones, so let me use this opportunity to offer a roundup of some great ones. I will start a bit above your $75 price point and work my way down to bargain-basement territory.
For $129.99, you won't find better sound quality than the Helm Audio True Wireless 5.0. It uses high-tech design and advanced materials to deliver audiophile-quality sound. A bit closer to your price point is the $99.99 Helm Audio True Wireless 4. See them both at helmaudio.com.
Soundcore products (soundcore.com) have been knocking it out of the park lately, and their Liberty Air can be found for $49.99 and the newer Liberty Air 2 for $89.99. They look almost exactly like Apple AirPods and deliver satisfying sound for a fraction of the price.
Bargain hunters will rejoice over my final wireless recommendation. The highly rated $23.99 Sbode Sport Bluetooth earphones are not a true wireless design, but they have found lots of admirers given their comfort, quite good sound quality and low price. They are now clearance-priced on Amazon.com for only $16.99 with a $2 checkbox coupon that takes the price down to $14.99. If you're looking for an extra pair of earphones for the gym bag or your briefcase, this is a great place to start.
But we can go even lower than that. How about something fun for under $10? The TCL SOCL100 wired earphones were the talk of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. Reviewers were shocked by the sound quality they delivered for $9.99. I recently checked the price on Amazon, and the SOCL100 was discounted to $6.99. See them at amazon.com and tclusa.com.
TV tuning trick
When I reviewed the TCL 5-Series and 6-Series televisions in July, I included the picture settings I used to get the best image quality. These settings are accessed on the TV itself, using the supplied remote control. I recently came across a TCL picture quality tweak that made a noticeable difference on my own TCL 6-Series, and I suggest other TCL owners try it, as well.
There is a noise reduction setting that can be changed only by using the Roku app that also can control the television. Download the Roku app, look for the noise reduction setting and turn it off. I immediately noticed a difference. It made the 6-Series picture even cleaner and more realistic. I especially noticed the difference on Blu-ray movies and high quality streaming content. I saw less of a difference with broadcast television. Still, with the right source material, it is like getting a television upgrade for free.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.