The world of true wireless earbuds is ever expanding and it’s no wonder. Once you’ve discovered the freedom of going completely wire-free, it’s hard to go back. Today, we’re looking at an exciting new pair from a brand new company: HELM Audio. HELM was founded in 2017 and wasted no time in developing their first product with the HELM Audio True Wireless earbuds. They’re clearly some of the most stylish you can buy but do they sound as good as they look? This is our review of the HELM True Wireless Headphones.
The first thing to know about HELM is that this is a crew who clearly has a ton of experience in the audio world. As a new company, it would have been easy to play it safe and go with an OEM for their first product, maybe adding a few tweaks to make it their own. Instead, they’ve designed something of their very own. It’s confident, brazen even, as they stake out their claim on this section of the headphone market. If a first product can be a statement, the HELM True Wireless say as clear as any: “HELM is a company you need to be paying attention to.”
Design and Features
Let’s start with the design. I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that these are the most attractive true wireless earbuds on the market today and well-designed for comfort and to say in place in your ear. I love the angular pattern they’ve textured the outside with; it looks slightly futuristic without being overstated. Or, perhaps a more fitting comparison for a company dedicated to serving audiophiles and consumers alike, it’s reminiscent of the acoustic panels you’ll find trimming recording studios.
Though they’re about the same size as other other true wireless earbuds, I find that they stay in my ears far better. The nozzles are angled in a way that matches my ear canals and offer a snug fit There are also built-in wings that hook into the groove of your ear. You simply insert them, give them a gentle clockwise twist and they’re secure even for vigorous exercise.
Like all earbuds, you will want to take the time to choose the proper tips for your ear. Four silicon tips are included – small, medium, large – when you include the medium pair that comes pre-installed. They’ve also thrown in a set of Comply memory foam tips, which typically run about $20 for three pairs by themselves, so it’s a premium add that definitely provides some extra value to the kit. Also included is the charging case and cable, as well as some documentation. It’s a generous package for the price.
Using the silicone tips, the HELM True Wireless headphones offer excellent noise isolation. I work in a school during the day and wearing these through a hallway packed with kids and volume at 70% and I couldn’t hear anything other than my music. That’s impressive. The Comply tips also offer great noise isolation, acting like foam earplugs in a way that silicone tips can’t.
HELM has also taken the time to develop quality on-bud controls. Since there’s only one button on each earpiece, this takes the form of single or multi-press commands or holding a button down. Each earpiece offers a different set of commands allowing you to control your media, answer calls, and call on your AI assistant, as well as control your volume. I’m currently reviewing another pair of true wireless earbuds that limit you to media and call controls, no volume, and the HELMs are downright refreshing in comparison.
One thing you’ll notice here is that the ear hooks are not removable. This wasn’t a problem for me since they fit very well into my ears, though it is possible some users may take issue with their fit. Since they’re built into the design, there’s no opportunity to simply use a bigger or smaller hook. That said, in reviewing more than a dozen headphones in the last 18 months, one of most common annoyances with true wireless headphones is when these hooks shift of come loose. This completely avoids that problem and has saved me from some pretty major ear irritation.
If there’s one area where the HELM True Wireless falls short, it’s the case. It offers about five recharges from being completely dead to 100-percent (15 hours of additional playtime), which is on the lower end of mid-range, but the bigger issue is that they don’t automatically begin charging. They will turn the earbud off and cause it to disconnect from your phone but if you’ve used them for any length of time before, it’s possible to come back to dead headphones because you forgot to push the button. It’s also “child-safe,” which is fair, but does make the case fairly hard to open. I do like that it uses strong magnets to hold the headphones in place, however.
When it comes to battery life, the HELM True Audios are only decent. HELM quotes three hours of playtime at 50% volume. I usually listen at about 80%, so I only averaged about two hours before needing a charge. They do offer fast charging, which will restore the battery over about two hours. It’s fairly rare that I’ll listen for two solid hours, however, and placing the headphones back in the case even for short bursts did a good job of making sure they were always ready to use.
How do they sound?
Finally we come to it: how do they sound? These headphones pack a punch. Without question, the HELM True Wireless headphones offer better, more detailed bass than any other true wireless headphone I’ve heard. Listening to Bruno Mars’ Treasure for the first time, I was blown away at how rich the bass guitar sounded, really providing a bed for the music while still clearly articulating the way the bass player struck each string.
Suffice it to say, this is quite the fun headphone. The bass is definitely pumped but HELM has also tweaked the mids to make vocals stand out in the mix without being cutting. This leads to some great dynamics in the vocals. In Locked Out of Heaven, the “ooh!”s jump out while Bruno’s own vocals feel mellow and blend nicely. Highs on the other hand are recessed; there’s nothing sharp or fatiguing in these headphones, allowing you to easily wear them across genres. The battery will tire before your ears do.
I was also surprised that the HELMs deliver a wider soundstage than most other TWS headphones I’ve used. They’re earbuds, so you can only expect so much, but they don’t feel claustrophobic like some do. The stereo separate is also excellent. Even using them on a PC, they’d work just fine for gaming if you didn’t have a dedicated headset.
The signal strength is also on par with some of the best bluetooth headphones (true wireless or otherwise) I’ve used. I was able to move throughout the first floor of my home without dropping signal even more than 50 feet away, through walls. The only time things got shaky was when I went into our downstairs bathroom where the plumbing caused the signal to come in and out, though this happens with all of my wireless devices in that room. Impressive!
As a first product, the HELM True Wireless headphones are impressive. With the exception of its quirky case, HELM has delivered a bass heavy-hitter of a headphone. At $99, they’re a great value that stands out from the rest of the marketplace. Simply put, there are no other truly wireless headphones that will look as good or offer as much bass response as these without sacrificing sound quality elsewhere. If this is a first product, I am on the edge of my seat to see what HELM delivers in the years to come.