Has any product moved from being premium to the mainstream in as short a time as truly wireless earphones, or TWS as many call them? When they were launched slightly more than three years ago, they were considered gadgets for the elite. And of course, everyone made fun of them. Today, they are rapidly becoming options for anyone wanting a pair of earphones. Yes, even those with a relatively small budget can not only go truly wireless but get options from reasonably well-known brands as well.
So if you are in the market for a pair of headphones, have a budget of about Rs 3,000 and totally hate wires, we would recommend trying out the following five options:
1. Redmi Earbuds S: The basic ones
You are on a tight budget and want to go totally wireless in the earphones department? Grab these. The Redmi EarBuds S follow the Redmi formula in affordable smartphones – do nothing spectacular (ignore the flashy promos) but do everything well. And that’s exactly what they bring to the TWS table – steady sound which while being a bit heavy on the bass does not mess up mids and treble. Call quality is decent enough and although the “click on buds” interface takes some getting used to, it is more consistent than some of the iffy touch ones in this group. You get IPX4 water and sweat resistance and a decent enough design and snug enough fit. Battery life is not the greatest – three to four hours on the buds and 12 hours with the case – but then for the price, these are quite a deal.
2. Realme Buds Q: The basic bass-ic ones, with more battery too!
Given their rivalry, it seems almost obvious that the biggest challenger to the Redmi Earbuds S should come from Realme. And well, the Realme Buds Q are worthy rivals, adding a bit of bass to the audio mix. In terms of sound, they might sound a little better than the Earbuds S, especially to bass lovers, and come with much better battery life as well – four hours on the buds, and twenty hours with the case. It is not all roses, though – the touch interface on the buds is not the greatest and there are no battery indicators on the buds or the case, making you depend totally on your phone for this. That said, Realme does have an app for the buds, which allows you to tweak settings. The buds are IPX4 water-resistant too.
3. PlayGo T44: For the sound of music
These are the odd ones in. The Play brand is a new one but is delivering some decent audio experience. And with the PlayGo T44, it has rather bravely gone against the bass-heavy tide that dominates this segment. Indeed, in terms of audio quality, these are perhaps our favorites in this group as they provide a decent balance of treble and bass, although sometimes the vocals get a little lost. Battery life is decent (3-4 hours) and with the case, it goes up to twenty. Call quality is good enough and you get IPX4 splash resistance. Yes, they are on-ear rather than in-ear, so you will not get as snug a fit as some of the others in this selection. The gesture-based interface also takes some getting used to, but if it is good quality sound that you seek, these are among the best in the segment.
4. Oppo Enco W11: As complete a package as you can get
If we had one pair of TWS to recommend in this segment, it would be these. Oppo’s Enco W11 do tend to have a slightly bass-heavy sound, but it is not as dominant as in its Realme and Redmi counterparts. You get a very good level of clarity, but that is not the only thing that’s good about them. They are the sleekest designed of the group, and their interface is remarkably smooth and easy to use (you just have to touch and tap the rather responsive buds). Battery life is about four to fives and you get twenty hours with the case. You get an iP55 rating and good call quality. We would not call them great for gaming as there is some latency, but by and large, you end up not missing too much, which is a rarity in this price range, where cut corners are the rule rather than the exception. A very well rounded product, we would say.
5. Realme Buds Air Neo: Buds Air without the frills, AirPod clone alert
These are their less feature-rich cousins of the Realme Buds Air. You do not get the wireless charging case with this, but what you do get are an almost carbon copy of the AirPods and their case design (with an option to get them in green!). You also get the largest drivers in the group – 13 mm. And a sound that is much better defined than what we heard on the original Buds Air, which for all the talk of bass, had sounded a little lifeless. The Neo has a clearer sound signature and not surprisingly, it stresses on the bass. Many might like that but some might not appreciate the way it gets in the way of the vocals. Potentially, however, you can get decent sound using an equalizer. Call quality is not the greatest, but latency is the lowest in this group (making these perhaps the best for gamers) and pairing is smooth and fast. The weak points of these are the three-hour battery life (about fifteen with the case) and a slightly hit and miss touch interface.