Realme is further pushing the envelope when it comes to making active noise cancelling more affordable. The company’s latest neckband – the Buds Wireless 2 – offers ANC at just Rs 2,299. That’s not it, though. It comes with support for the best Bluetooth codec – LDAC – a feature that was present on the Buds Wireless Pro.
Now, here’s the thing, if you don’t care about ANC, there’s already one of my favourite budget neckbands of all time – the OPPO Enco M31 – available for cheaper. Fun fact: it also comes with support for the LDAC codec. Which definitely makes things interesting.
Design and Fit
The moment I took the Buds Wireless 2 out of the box, I was slightly taken aback by the size. The earpiece housings are huge. The Enco M31 dwarfs in comparison. In fact, even the neckband and the plastic housings for the battery and other tech is bigger on the Buds Wireless 2. I am presuming this is because it has a bigger battery than the 88mAh one inside the Enco M31. Moreover, the R2 chip for ANC processing must take up extra space too. For context, the Enco M31 doesn’t offer ANC.
You get two colour options – Grey and Yellow. I have the Yellow one here but it is not entirely Yellow like the Grey one. The neckband is black and the wires connecting the earpieces are yellow. I like this colour a lot. And, the entire silicon and plastic structure has a matte finish. In comparison, the Enco M31 has a matte finish mostly but it has a glossy finish control panel and a glossy housing as well. And, in the Black and Green colourways that it is available in, the Enco M31 actually looks more premium and elegant compared to the fun approach of the Buds Wireless 2.
As for the fit, the Buds Wireless 2’s neckband does extend longer when worn around your neck. But, honestly, the 29gm weight of the Buds Wireless 2 is pretty light and it doesn’t really weigh down on your neck even if you wear it for a long duration. That’s also because the neckband’s silicone material is pretty soft. It doesn’t feel scratchy on the neck either. That said, the Enco M31 is lighter at 22gm and even more comfortable to wear.
As for the earpiece housings, I have no doubt in my mind that the Enco M31 has a better fit. The Buds Wireless 2 is comfortable too but the housings are so big that they will protrude out of your ear. So, if you sleep on one side with earphones on, or for some reason, wear it inside a bike helmet, then the protrusion will irritate you.
What I do like about both the earphones is they come with a few basic controls that are sometimes missing otherwise.
- Firstly, they have magnets on the earpieces to not only hold them together but also function as an on/off toggle. I find that really convenient.
- Both the buds can also switch between two devices with a simple button press. For example, you can switch between your phone and laptop by simply double clicking the ANC button.
However, there are a couple of things that the Realme Buds Wireless 2 does better.
- It offers Google Fast Pair support with Android phones.
- The Realme Link app is way better compared to the Hey Melody app for the Enco M31. In fact, the Hey Melody app only lets you update the firmware and nothing else. We all know by now how malleable and fantastic the Realme Link app actually is. It is Realme’s best work among all its hardware and services. There is clearly a very strong ecosystem approach in Realme’s efforts behind the Link app.
As for the physical controls on the neckband, the Realme Buds Wireless 2 has a very clean layout. You get an ANC button and a rocker which includes the multifunction button flanked on either side by the volume up/down keys. On the Enco M31, the ANC button is obviously missing. The tactile feedback of the buttons on both these earphones are equally good. No complaints.
Sound Quality and ANC
Before we talk about the sound quality on these earphones, let me tell you that the active noise cancellation on the Buds Wireless 2 is actually pretty effective. It is almost good, if not better than most TWS buds with ANC under Rs 10,000. The Buds Wireless 2 managed to cut out the noise of the overhead fan easily and even certain din of the traffic.
But, while the ANC is good, the sound signature is below average. It has a very boomy low end coupled with terrible timing and attack, which is evident in a song like Uh Uh by Thundercat. The bass definitely bleeds into the lower mids and butchers certain tracks that rely on vocals and a sublime bass line running in the background. And mind you, all this is happening in the basic Dynamic mode equaliser. I switched on the Bass Boost+ mode by mistake once and I regretted it immediately.
You must be wondering – Ershad you are being too harsh here. Well, not really. If the brand is promoting a “deeper and richer” bass tuning, it should at least come close. The quality of the low end punch is far more effective in the Bass Boost mode on the Enco M31. You get better timing too. I am surprised because even the Realme Buds Q2 does a better job than the Buds Wireless 2.
As for the rest of the sound signature, the treble roll off happens too early and the mids are recessed due to the distinctly V-shaped tuning. The Enco M31 is just leagues better in the detail, tonality, soundstaging, imaging, mids, and treble performance. See, the Enco M31 is not perfect or anything, but it has no right to sound so good for so cheap, honestly.
And, this is where it becomes amply clear that specs really don’t matter. Adding LDAC codec doesn’t immediately mean you will get a better sound quality.
Mic Quality and Latency
Here’s a fun fact: microphones on TWS earbuds mostly suck. The same is not true for neckbands or wired earphones. Which is why, both the Buds Wireless 2 and the Enco M31 are good for Zoom and regular calls. But, the Enco M31 has a more natural sounding voice compared to my doctored voice on the Buds Wireless 2. That’s because Realme’s environmental noise cancellation in calls is more effective. Anyway, take a listen to it for yourself.
Here is another fun fact: if you want a pair of earphones for gaming don’t buy a Bluetooth product. Latency is inevitable. Why else do you think Sony and Microsoft do not support Bluetooth headphones on their PlayStation and XBox consoles? But, if you still insist, the Buds Wireless 2 has far less latency compared to the Enco M31. Realme rates it at 88ms. In my testing, I could tell the difference while playing Call of Duty.
The Buds Wireless 2 offers 10 hours of battery backup on LDAC codec with ANC on. The Enco M31 offers only 8 hours and that too without ANC. So, you do get better battery life on the Buds Wireless 2. With AAC codec, the number goes up to a whopping 18 hours on the Buds Wireless 2 with ANC on and 22 hours with ANC off. In comparison, the Enco M31 can only do 12 hours.
While I didn’t achieve such high numbers in my testing, it was very evident that the Buds Wireless 2 offers better battery life.
Should You Buy the Realme Buds Wireless 2?
To sum it up, LDAC or not I am definitely disappointed with the sound signature of the Buds Wireless 2. If you care a lot about the quality of sound in your audio product, like I do, skip the Buds Wireless 2 and pick up the Oppo Enco M31. You will thank me later for it. In fact, I have advocated the Enco M31 a lot already and surprisingly there’s no worthy competitor yet.
But, if you care about all the extras such as – good battery life, ANC, a great app, Fast Pair Support, and the works – the Buds Wireless 2 is the way to go. That’s definitely a lot of extra features, I know.
What do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section below.
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