Fairbuds XL: An Honest Review

Fairbuds XL: An Honest Review

Written by Kenneth Sawyer, In Headset, Published On
November 20, 2023

Fairphone makes ethical and eco-friendly smartphones. Modular gadgets like the Fairphone 4 break the trend of irreparable handsets that dominate the tech landscape (or landfill?) by allowing almost everything to be replaced. It sells extra parts directly, so you don’t have to search eBay or AliExpress for cheap knockoffs that may not fit. Now, the brand is targeting the over-the-ear headphone market with its Fairbuds XL, a play on “excel” rather than an extra-large size. Do they sound as good as they mean? Have a listen.

Fairbuds XL Specs

Type Circumaural (over-ear)
Wireless Yes
True Wireless No
Connection Type Bluetooth
Water/Sweat-Resistant Yes
Price $316.89, or €249 officially
Active Noise Cancellation Yes
Battery 800mAh removable battery
Design Clever modular construction


  1. Great sound
  2. A good ANC
  3. Ultra-repairability
  4. Good battery life


  1. ANC doesn’t lead the class.
  2. Some stitching issues

Build and Design

Two Fairphone Fairbuds XL liveries are available. Most headphones are black; however, if you want something more colorful, try something green like mine. The two-tone look is complemented by black, red, and white dapples on the earcups, which provide a Jackson Pollock touch and indicate eco-friendly manufacturing. If you want something other than flat black, it’s cool. The cups, headband, and padding are vegan leather. Although the exterior stitching is sloppy where the headband meets the metal bands that house the extendable arms, it’s soft and comfortable.

This could be because these are pre-production examples; therefore, check this area before buying these headphones. The arms and ear-cup chassis are plastic, yet they feel solid and don’t bend. The right cup has a button for switching between ANC and pairing modes. This is a gold mini-joystick control that will be familiar to Marshall Monitor II ANC users. Pushing this up or down controls volume; left and right skip tracks; and pressing and holding turns it on or off. This is a terrific method for fitting several alternatives into a small space. On the underside of the cup is a USB-C charging port and indicator LEDs for low battery or pairing mode. Unfortunately, there’s no 3.5mm jack, so you’ll need separate cans to hook up.

Sound Quality and Features

No ethical practice is worth much if the product is bad. The Fairbuds XL, thankfully, doesn’t. The headphones they clamp on securely can be difficult for glasses-wearers who plan to listen for lengthy periods. The plus is that you have an enclosed room to hear your audio content without outside noises. The 40-mm drivers in each speaker produce good sound with a nice frequency balance. If I’m picky, the upper mids feel slightly less prominent than others, but it could be because I listen to guitar-heavy music, which demands those frequencies to stand out. I still liked the music and the Fairbuds XL’s rich tones despite the small difference. My ears have spent years just feet from eager drummers, so it could be me, not the headphones. Fairsound, the accompanying software, offers four EQ options, but I didn’t detect much difference. You can’t manually modify the parameters, so you’re stuck with Fairphone’s presets.

Tapping the right cup button activates the technology and notifies you of your mode. In busy places, the ANC is decent, but don’t anticipate stillness. It will reduce the noise and provide some respite, which is typical at this price point. If you’re waiting for an announcement or just want to be aware of your surroundings, ambient mode uses the headphones’ microphones to add a low level of sound. It works well but struggles in windy conditions owing to microphone positioning. Naturally, you can turn off the ANC and turn it on when the weather improves.

Charging and Battery Life

Fairbuds XL

Fairphone’s XLs have an 800mAh battery that can be replaced if it breaks or dies. The manufacturer promises up to 30 hours of playback without ANC, although that figure drops by 5 hours with ANC. I couldn’t test that in one sitting, but I only had to recharge the headphones once in two weeks, which seems reasonable because I used them for two or three hours a day. Getting back to 100% took around an hour, so you won’t have to wait long to use them.

Pricing and Availability

Fairphone released the Fairbuds XL headphones on May 11 in continental Europe and the UK; therefore, US users must import them from participating retailers. At £219/€249 (about $277), these over-the-ear headphones with ANC are comparable to others. They are comparable to the Razer Opus ($269/£200) and the Sennheiser HD 450BT headphones ($200/£150), which have ANC but not Fairphone’s ethical benefits.


The Fairbuds XL may not compete with other premium headsets in sound quality, but they nevertheless produce nice audio for most users. The battery life and ANC are excellent. It’s a wonderful package that meets expectations. You must factor in the ability to fix almost anything when quoting. Fairphone, which are thin and ethical, may be the finest headphones for someone who wishes to use the same gear for years.


Fairbuds XL sound quality?

Fairbuds XL sound good. One of several EQ settings, the bassy Tokyo option, produces a warm, crisp sound that I enjoy. However, many tunes seem muffled, especially in the midrange.

How do I link Fairphone earbuds?

  • To pair

  • Put the earphones in your ears without the casing.

  • Earbuds turn on automatically.

  • Bluetooth is under Settings > Connected devices on Fairphone 4.

  • Fairphone Earbuds should appear instantly.

  • Tap Fairphone Earbuds to connect.

The best sound quality?

WAV, FLAC, and M4A are the greatest audio formats for sound quality. These formats preserve sound quality, but the files are enormous.

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