There’s a lot to be said for owning an inexpensive pair of earphones. If they get damaged or lost, it won’t hurt as much as it would if they’d cost more. They might not sound as good as a set of high-end cans do: but hey, they were inexpensive. The trick to finding a set of low-cost earphones that’ll make you happy is knowing how to draw the line between inexpensive and cheap.

Inexpensive allows you to shrug away all of the things that your earphones can’t do. It’s cool because they sound good enough, work reasonably well, and don’t make you want to throw them across the room in frustration. Cheap means that, even if they didn’t cost you much, they’re still not good enough. When using a cheap product, you find yourself wishing that you’d spent more. Cheap makes you want to buy something else. Cheap ends up with you leaving your earphones in a drawer.

Wicked Audio’s $79 Arq truly wireless earbuds are inarguably inexpensive—they’re half the price of Apple’s AirPods. However, due to a number of shortcomings, they feel cheap enough that you’ll wish that you’d spent more.

Note: This review is part of our roundup of true wireless earbuds. Go there for details on competing products and our testing methods.


Wicked Audio is bang on the money in the achieving a good weight. The combined heft of the earbuds and their charging case comes to a total of five ounces. That’s a win for anyone planning on stashing the Arq in their backpack or purse.

However, with the charging case’s 5.5 x 1.25 x 1.25 inch size, fitting it into your hip pocket is less than ideal. The key reason for the case’s rotund dimensions is that it comes packing a 2,600 mAh battery. You can use this huge amount of capacity to charge their smartphone in a pinch (using the USB-A port built into the case) or recharge the earbuds up to 60 times before having to juice the case back up.

Unfortunately, you’re going to need those extra charges: according to Wicked Audio, the Arq will only hold a charge for a maximum of three hours of listening time. During the week I spent using the earphones, I found that their runtime was closer to 2.5 hours. This is well below what I consider to be an acceptable amount of time between charges. Depending on your listening habits, however, 2.5 hours could be right up your alley. Once the earbuds are completely discharged it’ll take you around 30 minutes to juice them back up again.

Arq budWicked Audio

The earbuds themselves are made out of lightweight plastic. While they don’t feel as sturdily-made as most of the more expensive earphones that I’ve tested, their build quality is such that I don’t feel it to be a knock against them. I’m not able to say the same thing about their fit, however: No matter which of the three sets of silicon ear cups that I attached, I wasn’t able to create a decent seal.