We’ve come to a stage when hunting for a good pair of true wireless earphones ends up with us juggling through way too many options. That is good in a way. While the premium segment is mostly covered by Apple, Samsung, Sennheiser, and the lot, the budget segment has a much wider range to choose from. Which also means you can end up sifting through a lot of dodgy products from unknown brands, all claiming the world. But the good news is, you also have well known companies, including the ones making your smartphone, aggressively making their presence felt in this space. Competing for the entry-level we saw Xiaomi quite recently bringing the Redmi Earbuds S priced at Rs 1,799 to India. In our testing, these proved to be optimised for a wider audience in terms of sound signature, with hardly any compromises.Now we have an option from Realme, the Buds Q. These were announced in India a couple of weeks back, priced Rs 200 more than what you pay for the Redmi Earbuds S. For that little extra cost, Realme is offering touch controls, a dedicated app and better battery backup. But does that makeup for the cost?
DESIGN AND FIT
Now at this budget, you can’t really expect a really high-quality design but the company has still made an effort, at least what it says so. The Buds Q have been designed by José Lévy, a popular French artist who also runs his own label by the name of 'Jose Levy Paris.' I have no qualms about how these buds look and feel purely because of the asking price. They are very lightweight, one of the lightest I’ve used in a while. But for some reason I just have to say, there is nothing that really stands out. Again, not a negative aspect, just putting it out there. The Buds Q are offered in black, yellow and white colour options, although only the black variant is currently available for purchase.
The case, which is said to be inspired by cobbles and pebbles, comes with a nice soft matte plastic finish. This one too is lightweight and can easily slide into your pocket or anywhere in your backpack or handbag. The case features the Realme logo on top, a micro-USB port (which is questionable) at the back and an LED indicator on the front. The LED blinks red when you plug the charger and once it is fully charged, it turns green. Realme also claims that the Buds Q feature IPX4 certification, which means you don't have to worry about damage from sweat or light water splashes and these can be used while working out. Each bud also comes with contact pins for charging.
The buds, as I said above, are not heavy at all and I could hardly feel any weight while using them. They also continue the design language seen on the case and look like tiny pebbles when you wear them. They fit well and don’t fall out that easily, but they do tend to move around in certain situations like when you yawn where the jaw movement pushes them out a bit.
Now let me be clear, I am not a fan of in-ear style earphones with silicon tips. Sure they are good for passive noise cancellation, and while the Buds Q did feel very comfortable, in-ear style earphones tend to stress your ears after a point of time. I was forced to take them out after every hour or so, to let my ears breathe. Having said that, this is a personal preference, so in all fairness, I don't think you will have any concerns with the overall fit and comfort.
Let’s get to the real deal. The Realme Buds Q comes with 10mm drivers which are comparatively larger than its main competition. According to the company these help in producing ‘dynamic bass boost’ meaning these are tuned more towards the lower frequencies. The Buds Q also offers support for SBC and AAC codecs, which is a great addition at this price point.
I primarily listen to a lot of heavy stuff and sadly the Buds Q are not meant for metal genres and subgenres. There is an emphasis on peak lows and highs which can overpower or just muffle the vocals in certain tracks. If you enjoy a similar taste in music as mine, then these are not going to impress you. You can try to fine-tune the sound but you would have to rely on the audio settings on your smartphone or music app as there are no equaliser setting available through the dedicated Realme Link app.
Things are different when we move to more commercial music. These sound much better for genres like pop, hip-hop, RnB, and Bollywood. In fact, these are pretty decent for soft tracks with minimal instruments, although the vocals somehow didn’t feel very crisp to me.
To be honest, initially, I was a bit put off when the company used the words ‘dynamic bass boost’, but after using these for a week I had a change in opinion. You see this is a mass-market product and a majority of consumers in India prefer bass-oriented earphones. Keeping that in mind, I think the sound quality is pretty good especially for something that is priced at just Rs 2,000.
I haven’t really tried the Redmi Earbuds S, so I can’t really give a verdict on which sounds better. But from the feedback I had got from my colleague who did review them, the Redmi Earbuds S don’t distort sound at peak volumes, whereas the Realme Buds Q do tend to do that on certain songs. Also, the offering from Redmi offers a slightly cleaner sound signature with a good separation of instruments.
As for call quality, the earphones work just fine although the microphones being far away can lead to issues where the other person cannot hear you that well. Probably a dual microphone setup would have helped, but then it would’ve increased the overall cost of the earphone.
FEATURES AND CONNECTIVITY
Realme offers touch controls on the Buds Q, something that is not available on most true wireless earphones in this budget. You can double-tap on either of the earbuds to play/pause music or pick up phone calls and triple-tap for the skip tracks. You can also long-press either of the buds to bring up Google Assistant. Long pressing on both the earbuds also lets you enable the gaming mode which reduces the audio latency to 119ms. I found this particularly good while playing PUBG Mobile. All of the gestures can be customised as per your liking using the Realme Link app. While these gestures are good to have, the issue is that the touch-sensitive area is too small and the gestures are not entirely consistent. It takes a while to get used to them.
The earbuds also come with Bluetooth 5.0 backed up by a dedicated ‘R1Q’ chip. Pairing is fairly fast and easy and I didn’t face any connection drops while listening to music from my phone. I found the range to be somewhat limited to just one room though, as the audio would start dropping as soon as I moved out of the room where my phone was placed.
Realme claims about 4.5 hours of battery life on the Buds Q and a total of 20-hours with the case. In my testing, I used these at a stretch for 4 hours with a 20-percent charge indicating on the phone. While gaming, this drops to about 3-3.5 hours with the low-latency mode on. The case provides about 2-3 full charges and I had to charge the case once in 4 days, which can differ depending on your usage. Overall, the battery life is pretty good, especially considering the lightweight design of both the buds and the charging case.
The Realme Buds Q are probably one of the best TWS to buy today if price is your highest priority. For Rs 1,999 the company is giving a pretty sweet deal in terms of features. Personally I think what goes for the Buds Q is the battery life, lightweight design, and the low latency mode for gaming. As for sound quality, it is respectable, but not made for audiophiles. Instead, Realme has taken the right approach by tuning the earphones for a wider audience that prefers a more bass-oriented sound signature. Highly recommended for someone who wants to buy his/her first pair of TWS earphones on a budget.