Realme Buds Air Pro Review: Pro features; middling performance
Is the ANC just a gimmick?
With the announcement of close to a dozen products at its “Leap To Next Gen” event in India last week, Realme has expanded its product portfolio even further. Adhering to audio for the purpose of this article, the special event marked the introduction of two new offerings in the company’s audio lineup. Dubbed the Buds Air Pro and the Buds Wireless Pro, both earphones offer a wireless portal to audio and feature active noise cancelation (ANC) — first for Realme — which seemingly also appears to be their USP.
Of the two products, the one we are reviewing today is the Buds Air Pro, which is the company’s latest TWS offering that builds upon the success of the Buds Air and packs in new features and improvements. So, after using the earphones for close to a week, here’s our take on the all-new Realme Buds Air Pro.
Design, Build, and Fit
Starting with the box content, the Buds Air Pro comes in a compact rectangular yellow box. On the inside, you are greeted with a message notecard from José Lévy. Below the card, rest the earphones — within the charging case — themselves, along with a small box that holds the charging cable (USB Type-C) and three pairs of soft silicone ear tips.
In terms of design, the charging case nearly resembles that of the OnePlus Buds with its cobblestone-inspired shape, which has a smooth and glossy feel to touch. The glossy approach, while looks clean and minimal, is prone to a lot of scratches. Realme Buds Air Pro comes in two colors: White and Black.
On the back of the case, the top lid is held together with a metal hinge, which adds to the durability and exudes confidence in the design. However, albeit nitpicking, there is some noticeable creaking sound when the lid of the case is pressed down or moved laterally. But, honestly speaking, this is not something entirely new since you can notice something similar across a lot of TWS earbuds in the market, including the Apple AirPods. Moving to the front of the case, you get the Realme branding upfront, with an LED above it to indicate the battery and charging level. And towards the bottom, there is a USB Type-C port for charging.
On the inside, the earbuds rest in their own cavity, and the case has a pretty solid magnetic hold to prevent the earbuds from falling off. Talking about the earbuds, the design is very reminiscent of the AirPods Pro. You get an in-ear style design on the Buds Air Pro, which is what you want on a pair of earphones that feature ANC. The shape of the earbuds appears slightly on the thicker side, which is reasonable since the internals pack in a lot of essential tech, especially with regards to the ANC functionality. Generally speaking, this clunky design may not offer the best fit for some. But, in our case, we did not come across any such issues — the fit was also very comfortable, and we did not experience any discomfort while wearing it for long hours. However, in case you are not content with the fit, you do get a bunch of different ear tips that you can try out to find the ideal fit that sits comfortably in your ear canal.
Besides, the Buds Air Pro comes with IPX4 certification, which means they can survive water splashes. As a result, you can use them during workouts without having to worry about damaging the components on the inside. As for the fit during workouts, the earbuds sit comfortably inside the canal, granted you chose an ear tip that fits you well. However, that said, during our testing, there were times — very rare occasions — when we did notice the earbuds to fall off amidst some exercises.
Performance and Features
The Realme Buds Air Pro utilizes Bluetooth v5.0 for connection. There is support for Google’s Fast Pair service on board, which offers a connection pop-up the first time you try to pair them with a smartphone. As per the company’s claims, the earphones have an effective range of 10m. During our testing period, we used the earphones — connected to a smartphone in another room — while working out. And, to our surprise, the range and connection strength that they offered was pretty impressive. Similarly, the auto-connection functionality is also reliable, and the earphones connect instantaneously to your smartphone — be it an Android or an iPhone. In terms of the audio-video sync, there is no noticeable latency on the Buds Air Pro. Be it using them with an Android or an iPhone, we did not come across any audio-video delays while watching content, nor did we feel the audio lag during gaming on Call of Duty Mobile.
One of the key aspects that, sadly, not a lot of people pay attention to, is the connect/disconnect and status alert sound on the earphones. When you connect or disconnect your earphones, the alert sound and voice can sometimes be too loud and unpleasant — to a point where it gets eerily annoying every time you connect/disconnect them. However, with the Buds Air Pro, we found the alert sound and volume levels to be on the softer side of the spectrum.
Moving to the touch controls, which is another crucial factor when it comes to choosing TWS earbuds, the latest Realme offering manages to implement it quite well. You get controls on both earbuds that allow you to perform a bunch of different actions like play/pause music, skip tracks, accept/decline calls, summon voice assistant, et al. What’s more, you can even customize them to your liking via the Realme Link app. While using the earphones during the testing period, we used the touch controls extensively for performing different operations, and at no point did we come across any accidental (or even ghost) touches while taking/putting the earbuds in and out of the ear. Long story short, the touch sensitivity is one of the best (if not the best) among some of the other TWS earbuds in a similar price range.
Another useful — and most probably, a must-have feature these days — is automatic wear detection. The feature, pretty self-explanatory, automatically pauses playback when you take an earbud out of your ear and resumes when you put it back. With the Buds Air Pro, it works fine most of the time, although we would appreciate it if the earbuds were slightly more instantaneous with pausing the playback.
Finally, you have the Realme Link app, which allows you to control a few different aspects of your Realme Buds Air Pro and gives you the ability to customize certain functionalities to your preference. The app is available on Android, as of now. And simply put, you can use it to change noise control settings (noise cancelation, general, transparency), configure touch controls for left and right earbud, and enable/disable game mode, volume enhancer, or bass boost+ mode.
Now, on to something that some folks care about the most in audio equipment: sound quality. The Realme Buds Air Pro has, well, a sort of confusing sound signature. You see, in a large number of titles we tested these earbuds with, the bass came out dominating on top, with mids slightly on the lower end and the highs not very well pronounced. On the other hand, on a few titles, the overpowering bass was subjugated by mids, which is a good thing when you are listening to songs with more vocals. But, in oneness, that adds to the confusion.
However, after testing the Buds Air Pro extensively for the next few days, we were able to conclude that the sound signature on these is certainly heavy on the low frequencies, with some frequencies between the mid-to-low spectrum cropping out and dominating in some titles. The gushing bass and mids subdue the treble, and despite the earphones favoring the lows, the punch (or attack, if you will) is not very pronounced. That said, even though the high frequencies are not that clearly articulate and defined, we would like to clear it out that in no way do the earbuds sound mushy. And, with a little bit of tweaking of the highs and mids using the Wavelet app, we were able to get a profile to our liking.
Moving to the soundstage and imaging, Realme has done a pretty good job here. The earphones have a wide soundstage — to a point where it feels roomy, but not entirely airy where it takes away from the listening experience. Similarly, another strong suite that the earphones have is with regards to instrument separation, which is very clear and distinct, to say the least.
Realme also has a couple of sound augmentation features: volume enhancer and bass boost+. Of these, with the volume enhancer feature, you can increase the volume level even further. However, in our opinion, the earbuds are pretty loud themselves, and in no way do we feel one would really need to use the feature. On the other hand, bass boost+ is what might interest some people. It suggests boosting the bass-level frequencies to get a “dynamic, powerful bass”, not to mention, you get 10mm “bass boost” drivers on each earbud, which as per the company, uses DBB composite algorithms to make the bass deeper and richer. In our testing, when we used the earbuds with the bass boost+ enabled, the sound experience was nowhere close to what we expected, simply because the feature tames the mids noticeably, and that could indeed spoil the experience when listening to vocal-rich songs.
Lastly, talking about the highlights of the Buds Air Pro — ANC — the earphones claim noise cancelation up to 35dB. To suppress the noise, the earbuds leverage the hybrid approach, which incorporates both feedforward and feedback microphones that work in tandem to generate anti-noise waves to cancel the outside noise. In addition to that, they also use Realme’s custom S1 chip, which not only works in the background to ensure stable connectivity but also helps with ANC.
In our experience, the noise cancelation on these earphones is decent. The earbuds manage to cut down on the regular home-environment hum caused by the household appliances pretty decently. You can clearly feel the difference in noise suppression when you switch between the normal and ANC mode. Needless to say, the listening experience is also slightly altered — in a good way — when you have the ANC enabled since now there is very little noise inflow. That said, the ANC performance is not a clear triumph here. For, you can still hear people whispering around or even the sound of typing (on a butterfly mechanism keyboard, obviously) with volume levels between 10-20%. In a nutshell, ANC works on the Buds Air Pro, but it is not comparable to some of the other ANC-enabled earphones in the market.
Call quality is, again, one of the essential factors that matter to a lot of users, especially those who prefer taking calls on earphones. And, the Buds Air Pro proves to be a solid contender in this regard. For, you get dual microphones on the earbuds, along with the environment noise cancelation (ENC) technology, which does live up to the company’s promises to a certain degree and manages to reduce the surrounding noise considerably to give you a good calling experience.
To test the same and give you an idea of the effectiveness of ENC on the Buds Air Pro, I called two different people using the Buds Air Pro from a location that had active construction noises — tile-cutter, in particular — and the person on the other end, on both occasions, was able to clearly hear my voice and did not complain about the noise in the background. Upon asking about whether there was any noticeable background noise, the response I got on both occasions was negative, with no disturbance reported during calls. However, that said, one of the problems that I came across with calling on the Buds Air Pro is that when connected to an iPhone, the earbuds fail to route incoming calls through them, and instead require you to do it manually every single time. We even tried to look for a firmware update, in case that was the culprit, but we did not find a newer version.
Battery Life is, undeniably, one of the most significant factors that one needs to take into consideration when buying TWS-style earbuds. As for their form factor, there is not much to hold — literally, which, as a result, sometimes fails to deliver and falls short of the expectations of consumers. In the case of the Buds Air Pro, Realme claims a battery life of up to 20 hours on a single charge (with ANC turned on) and 25 hours of playback time with ANC turned off.
In our testing, which included listening to songs at anywhere between 50-60% volume levels and sporadic calling, we found the earbuds delivered close to 5 hours of playback with ANC enabled. However, the same was reduced down to around 4.5 hours when the music was streamed on a laptop over AAC codec. Overall, the combined battery life (earbuds plus charging case) came out close to 14½ hours with ANC on, which is decent enough, in our opinion.
When out of battery, the charging case, which comprises a 443mAh battery, can come to the rescue and top-up the earbuds at least thrice. And, when the entire charge (earbuds + charging case) is over, the USB Type-C port at the bottom of the case, with support for fast charging, helps refuel the battery fully in about 2 hours.
The Realme Buds Air Pro is the company’s first-ever ANC offering. And for a price of Rs 4,999, they manage to check some of the essential checkboxes that one usually looks out for when buying a pair of TWS earphones. In a nutshell, the earphones offer a solid design and a good overall performance. You get some of the best touch controls on a TWS offering in the market, along with good call quality. When it comes to audio, the earbuds sound fairly decent as well and should do the job for a lot of people. So unless you are someone who has audio quality on top of their priority list, the Buds Air Pro should serve you well.
However, if audio is your major deterrent factor in earphones, you can look for some other alternatives in a similar price range. On top of our head, we can think of the Oppo Enco W51 — another pair of TWS earphones with ANC that fall in the same price bracket, as well as the OnePlus Buds — one of the better sounding TWS earphones around the same price point.
- Practical case design
- Impressive connectivity and range
- Excellent touch controls
- Good call quality
- App support
- Chunky earbud design
- Average ANC performance
- Unrefined sound
|Build & design||
The Realme Buds Air Pro is the company's first pair of TWS earphones with active noise cancelation (ANC). Is it worth your money? Find out in our detailed review.