Ameya DalviMar 10, 2021 11:22:57 IST
Realme seems to have a winner on its hands with the Buds Air 2 that may raise the bar in the sub-Rs 4,000 price bracket. So much so that it may put a question mark on the very existence of the more expensive Buds Air Pro from the same company, by offering similar features and performance at a significantly lower price point. All the key features such as active noise cancellation (ANC), Transparency mode, Google fast pair support, programmable touch controls, wear detection and more are all available here.
The design of these buds is a little different, and if anything, they look better. We got the black variant for review, and it has a nice mix of a matte black finish on the buds and glossy-bluish black on the stems. One issue I had with the Realme Buds Air Pro’s design was the earbud shells were quite large, and as a result, the in-ear fit was not all that great. That issue has been addressed hereby reducing the shell size while still retaining the 10 mm drivers. They are extremely comfortable to wear, fit snugly in the ear and stay put during jogs and workouts. Since they are IPX5-rated splash-resistant, I don’t see sweat inflicting any damage.
The buds weigh just 4.1 grams each, and the company bundles three pairs of silicone tips, of which the medium-sized tips worked best for me and offered good passive noise isolation. You also get ANC here, and though not the best in the business, it’s good enough for this price class and works as advertised. It primarily reduces low frequency sounds like the hum of a fan or a car engine and the general buzz around you but lets mid and high frequency sounds through. You can use the Realme Link app to assign a touch gesture to toggle through Normal, ANC and Transparency mode (that lets ambient sounds through when you need to be more aware of your surroundings).
The app also lets you assign tasks to double tap, triple tap, long touch and simultaneous touch gestures on both buds. The touch controls are perfectly responsive. Other than ANC, you can choose between play/pause, previous/next tracks, game mode on/off and voice assistant. Strangely, you aren’t allowed to assign the volume up or down functions, something I would have preferred. Another unusual thing was that wear detection was off by default, and I had to enable it from within the app. The app also gives you access to three equaliser pre-sets – Bass Boost+, Dynamic and Bright; I preferred Dynamic. The buds are Bluetooth 5.2-compliant and support AAC and SBC codecs. No support for aptX codecs, but I will let that slide given the pricing.
The sound quality of the Realme Buds Air 2 is enjoyable and quite impressive for the segment. The popular duo from the international band Chainsmokers have assisted with the tuning of these buds. Though the lows are boosted a bit, there is a good balance between the three major frequency ranges. The bass produced by the 10 mm drivers is punchy and tight. Interestingly, the mids aren’t impacted much, except in certain bass-heavy tracks where there is a bit of masking. There is good clarity in vocals and instrument separation is more than decent. The highs seem a tad mellow especially if you listen at low to mid volume. But once you take the volume beyond 60 percent, they seem to regain their sparkle and the sound seems a lot more balanced. The soundstage is surprisingly broad for a pair of budget TWS buds.
Call quality is a mixed bag. When indoors, it is particularly good with both parties audible to each other clearly. When you step outside, you can hear the person on the line clearly, but you tend to sound a tad muffled. More than ambient noise seeping through, it seemed like an issue with the ENC circuitry trying to suppress those sounds and impacting your voice clarity. A firmware update may be able to fix this. There was no issue with wireless range, though, with the buds retaining a strong connection at up to nearly 7 metres even with a concrete wall in between, and over 10 metres with a clear line of sight. The company claims the latency on the Realme Buds Air 2 can go as low as 88 ms. While I had no means to measure it, there was no noticeable delay in audio and video when watching content on OTT platforms.
The battery backup is quite good, with the buds clocking close to four hours with ANC on, and a little over 4.5 hours with ANC off at 60 percent loudness. The cobble-shaped charging case (similar to the one you get with the Buds Air Pro) can charge it four more times, taking the overall battery backup to upwards of 20 hours with ANC switched on half the time, and a couple more hours with ANC off. The case supports fast charging via USB type-C port, and 10 minutes of charge gives you close to two hours of play time, with the case connected to a power source. The battery level of each of the buds as well as the charging case can be seen in its Bluetooth profile, but the number seems inaccurate. It is often stuck at 100 percent even when the buds are almost out of power. Another issue for the next firmware update to tackle.
The Realme Buds Air 2 are priced at Rs 3,299 with a one-year warranty. That’s an excellent price, given the sound quality and impressive feature set. Not only does it wipe out the current competition up to the Rs 4,000 mark, but also creates an existential crisis for its more expensive sibling, the Realme Buds Air Pro. Courtesy of its better design and fit, comparable performance, a handful of newer features and lower price, the Buds Air 2 gets an easy recommendation from us.
- Good sound quality, great feature set
- Functional ANC
- Comfortable and snug fit
- Wear detection support
- Programmable and responsive touch controls
- Good battery life; over 20 hours with charging case
- IPX5 splash resistance
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Average call quality outdoors
- Battery level information is erratic
- No volume control option
- Charging case is a smudge magnet
Price: Rs 3,299
All said and done, the obvious question that may come to mind is – what are the Realme Buds Air 2 alternatives that one can consider? That is exactly what we are about to discuss in a bit more detail. These new Realme buds have a lot of bases covered in this segment, and if you are looking for something that sounds better, you will have to bump your budget up to Rs 5,000 at least. Two options you may consider in that budget are the Oppo Enco W51 and Lypertek Levi. The Oppo buds have most of the features that the Buds Air 2 flaunt along with a bit more refined sound quality, thanks to sharper highs and better detail in audio.
Lypertek Levi sounds even better and has excellent battery life but lacks some of the fancy features such as ANC, touch controls and wear detection. If you do not want to bump your budget beyond Rs 3,000, here are a couple more options that you should look at closely. Though they cannot beat the all-round abilities of the Realme Buds Air 2, they do a thing or two better, and may be a good alternative if that feature is high on your priority list.
Best TWS earbuds under Rs 3,000 in India
OnePlus Buds Z (Price: Rs 2,999)
OnePlus Buds Z (Review) are arguably the best sounding TWS earbuds available for under Rs 3,000 in India currently. Just like with the Realme Buds Air 2, the sound output is quite enjoyable, and bound to appeal to a broad audience looking for a good pair of TWS buds in this budget. The sound signature is warm with low-end frequencies getting a boost. However, the bass is tight and punchy, and provides the right amount of warmth to the sound. The mids do get muddled a bit in bass-heavy tracks, but otherwise the vocals are crisp, most instruments are clearly heard and there is ample detail in sound. The highs have just the right amount of sparkle to lend a nice balance to the overall sound output.
In terms of features, you do not get ANC, but you do have wear detection and touch controls, though they’re not as programmable as in case of the Buds Air 2. The OnePlus Buds Z are IP55-rated dust- and splash-resistant and offer support for SBC and AAC codecs over Bluetooth 5.0. The battery life for the buds is close to 4.5 hours and about 18 hours with the charging case. They support fast charging, too, and putting the buds back in the case for 10 minutes gives you close to 90 minutes of play time. But if you charge the case at the same time using a fast charger, the buds last close to three hours on a 10-minute charge, which is quite impressive.
Soundcore Life Note (Price: Rs 2,999)
Soundcore Life Note from Anker is one of the rare TWS buds under Rs 3,000 that support Qualcomm’s aptX codecs. Their sound profile is also different from what you generally get in this segment. If you do not like extra bass, this is a good option for you. The bass, though not boosted, is just adequate, and the highs are sharp without being sibilant. The vocals are crisp, too, and there is a good amount of detail in the sound output. Like in case of most Soundcore products, call quality is quite impressive, thanks to the additional microphones.
The Soundcore Life Note buds aren’t loaded with features such as ANC, touch controls or wear detection, but focus more on getting the basics right. Speaking of basics, another big plus here is the battery life. The buds can go on for a little over 6 hours, and the charging case can recharge them at least four times over, taking the total battery backup upwards of 32 hours. When the buds run out of juice, putting them back in the case for 10 minutes gives you over an hour of play time, which is handy. You also get an 18-month warranty with this product as opposed to the 12-month warranty that one gets with m