Realme has been making audio products for a while now. In fact, the company claims that it is India’s number 1 brand in the truly wireless earphones category. Their latest is a pair of Pro earphones. And once again, the inspiration is clearly Apple here. Realme’s new Buds Air Pro comes with ANC and I have thoughts. Plenty of them.
[P_REVIEW post_id=189904 visual=’full’]
Case – design and fit
The Realme Buds Air Pro comes in a White or Black cobble-shaped case, which is very similar to the OnePlus Buds and vivo’s TWS offering. But, it’s flatter; think of an idli that didn’t become fluffy. If the OnePlus Buds’ case is idli then the Buds Air Pro’s case is thatte idli. The Kannadigas reading this will know what I am talking about.
Okay, bad design similarities with completely unrelated food items apart, it’s smooth and curved from all the sides and holding it feels nice (for the lack of a better word) in the hand. Opening and shutting the lid with one hand is pretty easy. Plus, you get a very satisfying shutting sound when you open and shut it. I also like the fact that the hinge is made of metal. This should increase the longevity of the case, if nothing else.
There’s a small LED indicator up front to indicate the charge levels. But the light percolates through the thin plastic case and it is clearly visible. You get a Type-C port at the bottom. And, the pairing/resetting button is on the right edge now. Pretty convenient, considering our collective muscle memories are now tuned to holding phones and thus you don’t have to relearn anything.
Earbuds – design and fit
While the opening mechanism of the case is good, taking the earbuds out is not. The two buds are placed way too close to each other. My fat fingers had to struggle a little with the glossy exterior of the buds to pull them out of the case. Thankfully, the magnets are strong enough to hold the buds inside the case.
As for the buds themselves, these are chunky. But, that’s because it is packing a lot of tech inside. However, the downside is that I just couldn’t get a tight seal despite all my efforts. These earbuds don’t go entirely into your ears and are merely an extension of the half in-ear design. Anyway, I am not particularly happy with the fit and had a constant fear that it’d fall off.
How to connect?
The Buds Air Pro uses Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to a smart device. Plus, there is support for Google’s Fast Pair feature as well. The moment I opened the lid my Note 20 Ultra’s screen lit up with a pop up for a Fast Pair connection with the Buds Air Pro. As far as the connection stability goes, the Buds Air Pro was rock solid and I didn’t face any connection drops at all.
Now, you can link your Buds Air Pro to the excellent Realme Link app. Once connected you can change the switch between the three modes – Normal, Noise Cancelling, and Transparency. You can also toggle the Game mode, Volume enhancer, and Bass Boost+ modes on from this very app. But the best use case of the Realme Link app has to be the fact that you can change the key mapping for when you double tap or triple tap any pair of earbuds. It is an extremely convenient feature.
The double tap and long press commands worked extremely well for me. I had no false touches either. It has the right level of sensitivity; not too light, not too intense. Realme has also added Wear Detection for good measure and it works flawlessly as well. Pausing music when you take a bud out of your ear or playing it when you put it back again.
Additionally, unlike the W51, you don’t need to tie your Buds Air Pro to a Realme phone to update the software. You can use the Realme Link app on any phone to do it with ease. As far as controls are concerned, you can’t get any better than this.
Sound quality and noise cancellation
The calling card for the Realme Buds Air Pro is obviously the noise cancelling feature. If you had huge expectations from the ANC feature, I’d ask you to temper it. Yes, Realme uses both Feedforward and Feedback microphones for ANC, but it is not as effective as more expensive options. In my testing, I noticed that it did manage to cancel some low hums but not the constant whir of a fan, which the OPPO W51 managed to do with aplomb. So yeah, the ANC on the Buds Air Pro is anything but a “Pro-worthy” feature.
Coming to the most important part of the review – the sound quality. You get maximum support for AAC audio codec. There is no support for aptX here, unfortunately. Now, the Buds Air Pro has the weirdest sound signature I have heard from a pair of affordable TWS earbuds. For the first couple of days with it, I couldn’t put my finger on what was right or wrong with the signature. After some extensive listening, I realised a few things.
Firstly, Realme has done a phenomenal job with soundstaging. When listening to the wonderfully mastered Roundabout by Yes, the placement of the bass line on the right and the other string guitar on the left is so distinctive that you can immediately identify it. And, the backing vocals are also placed on two different ends of the spectrum. It sounds absolutely ethereal. To be able to pull off such finesse in soundstaging with a pair of tiny 10mm drivers and in the in-ear form factor is an engineering feat worth lauding. The same song also showcases that the imaging and the instrument separation are phenomenal too.
That said, what Realme gets absolutely wrong is the tonality and the dynamics. None of the instruments sound as they should in Jacob Collier’s Hideaway. Also, across the frequency range, the sound is very unrefined. The treble is always pushed to the background by the over-enthusiastic mids and bass. Especially, during testing I also heard some unpleasant spikes in the mids. Plus the bass has a lot of decay and doesn’t offer the same kind of tight attack that gets your foot tapping in a song like Mirza by Nucleya. The mids sound flat and lifeless, which is not a good experience.
Essentially, while Realme manages to create a sense of concert-level spatial separation with the Buds Air Pro, it lacks refinement. The sense of space would’ve vastly benefited from a pair of more resolving drivers.In fact, in Pray for Me by The Weekend, the glitch in the background sounded extremely irritating because it was heightened by the unresolved drivers. As for the volume enhancer setting, that was absolutely not required because the Buds Air Pro can get really loud. Plus Bass Boost+ only made the already loose bass worse. So, not a fan again.
I am definitely disappointed, and feel that Realme could’ve spent more time on tuning the ANC and the sound better.
Call quality and latency
The call quality on the Buds Air Pro is great and I really have no complaints. It is better than the OPPO W51 for sure. Now, Realme also states that you get a very low latency of 94ms with Game mode on. And, in my testing the latency was super low. In fact, I couldn’t notice any audio-video lag whatsoever.
As for the battery life, Realme promises 5 hours of playback on 50% volume with AAC codec and ANC on. Most people will play music at at least 70% volume. So, I tested it at that volume level and got around 4hrs and 32mins of continuous playback, which is not too shabby. Additionally, you can expect a total of 3 charges from the case and you get fast charging as well. It took me 2 hours to fully charge the case, in case anyone was wondering.
Should you buy the Realme Buds Air Pro?
As usual, Realme has played the pricing card really well. At Rs 4,499 the Buds Air Pro are the most affordable pair of truly wireless earbuds with ANC in India. However, I’d suggest that you pay a little more and get the OPPO W51 instead purely for the reason that you get better sound quality and ANC, two parameters that are probably the topmost priority for me. But, if you want a pair with a great support app, better gaming experience, and better call quality, then the Buds Air Pro would be the choice for you.
And, if you can spend a couple of thousands more, I can’t recommend the Lypertek Tevi enough. What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below.
Realme Buds Air ProRs 4,499
Design and build quality8.1/10
Value for money9.5/10
What Is Good?
- Great price
- Good call quality
- Low latency for gaming
- Easy to open and close
What Is Bad?
- Average sound quality
- ANC is not very effective
- Not a good fit in my ears