The Best Value TWS Buds on a Budget
Bluetooth earphones have become essential gear for work from home. They let you answer phone calls while you multi-task; you are not tied to your computer with wires and even help you unwind with some music when your day is done.
Here, True Wireless Stereo (TWS) buds have an added advantage, they hold more charge than a standard wireless pair, and are also easy to manage on your cluttered work desk.
Hammer KO True Wirelss EarBuds | Rs 3,599
The KO buds come in a case that’s about the size of a small soap bar. You get a build that feels solid and carries an IPx4 rating which means the KO is splash-proof. Each earphone comes with a hook that goes around the ear so you don’t have to worry about them falling off when working out or jogging.
You get touch controls on both ears that allow you to navigate between tracks, play and pause music, accept or reject a call, and even access your phone’s voice assistant. But, there isn’t an option for volume control.
The Hammer KO, with its 13mm drivers, is capable of crisp mids and highs, but a limited bass sound that you can hear, but not feel.
You also get built-in mics that allow for clear hands-free phone calls, but sometimes suffer from an audio artefact or distortion.
A full charge of the KO gives you about four hours on the buds, with three recharges from the case to give you 15-16 hours overall.
At its asking price, the KO buds are ideal sweat-proof plugs for your workouts, complete with hooks that keep them secure in your ears.
Mi True Wireless 2 | Rs 3,999
The Mi True Wireless takes its design inspiration from Apple’s Airpods, but these are more than just low-priced rip-offs. Each bud packs an optical sensor that detects when you remove them from your ear to pause your music and restart playback when you wear them again. Here, you do not get an IPXX rating for water-resistance.
What you do get are touch controls that can be used to activate the voice assistant on your handset, answer and end calls, and to play and pause. Like it is with the KO, the volume will need to be controlled from your connected smartphone.
The Mi True Wireless 2 comes with dual mics on each bud; one picks your speech when you’re on calls and works in tandem with the other to suppress the sounds around you for clearer voice transmission. The result is loud and crisp voice calls without any disturbance.
When it comes to sound quality, the earbuds’ 14.2mm drivers give you a bass output that’s comparable to the Hammer KO, but with brighter mids and highs that packed with crisp master-class details.
On a full charge, you get about four hours from the buds and a total of 14-15 hours of music playback with the case recharge included.
The buds also boast of ‘quick charge’ that juices up the case and the earphones to 100% in less than an hour.
These ‘lifestyle’ earphones are the best performer when it comes to call quality. You are also promised crisp sound in the mid and higher registers that are detailed without being harsh.
Creative Outlier Air | Rs 6,999
The Outlier Air has the best build quality of the entire lot in this roundup. You get a well-crafted aluminium slider charging case with premium-looking earbuds nestled inside. Its IPX5 rating, which certifies it against sweat and rain, work well for your gym sessions. The buds fit snugly in your ears to create a seal against outside noise so they’re not ideal for places where you need to pay attention to the sounds of your environment.
You get a button on each bud to play and pause music, navigate between tracks, answer and reject a call, and even increase or decrease volume. That said, the buttons require you to exert quite a bit of force which, in turn, pushes the earbuds – a tad bit uncomfortably into your ears.
The Outlier Air is equipped with 5.6mm drivers that are configured for a warmer bass output than the Hammer and the Mi earphones. On the flip side, this reduces the brightness of the mids and highs, but it is not a deal-breaker; the buds sound pleasant and clear.
Calls sound crisp at both ends, though they appear softer to the other end when compared to the Mi’s sterling performance in this area.
You get about eight hours from each fully-charged buds with yet another 15-16 hours from the recharging case to give you around 25 hours overall.
The Outlier Air boasts of a sweat-proof construction that is durable and looks premium. You get well-balanced audio with a fair amount of bass along with fantastic battery life that makes them ideal for long trips.
Sony WF-XB700 | Rs 9,990
These Sony true wireless buds come with a case that has a very plasticky semi-transparent top cover, but the pair itself is well built with a physical button on each ear and the same IPX4 rating as the Hammer KO buds.
Its on-ear buttons can be used answer, end and reject calls, invoke the smart assistant on your phone, reduce and increase the volume, as well as play and pause music.
Like the Creative Outlier Air and the Samsung Galaxy Buds+, this pair fits snugly into your ears to create a noise-isolating seal. Inside each bud, you get a 12mm driver that is configured for deep thumping lows that you can ‘feel’, coupled with clear mids and crisp highs.
On the downside, phone calls on these buds are transmitted with slight audio artefacts, just like the Hammer KO. Here, you get about 7-8 hours of listening on fully-charged buds, with another full charge in reserve from the charging case to give you about 15-16 hours of use like the Hammer KO and the Mi True Wireless 2. That said, a 10-minute recharge can give you about an hour of listening.
This model ticks all the right boxes when it comes to easy controls and splash-proof durability. Besides, if you like your music served with some solid bass, these should be your first choice.
Samsung Galaxy Buds+ | Rs 10, 490
The Galaxy Buds+ come in a compact case and carry an IPX2 sweat-resistant rating. They fit snugly into your ears to create a seal against external disturbances when you’re listening to music or answering calls.
To “pair” the device to your phone, you will need to install the Galaxy Wearable app on Android and the Galaxy Buds+ app on iOS. From this app, you can install firmware upgrades to the Buds+; select between six equaliser settings; configure the Buds+ to read out smartphone notifications; refer to its tips and user manual—and most importantly—also set an Ambient Sound Filter to pick up external sounds and relay them to your ears while you listen to music. Here, the Buds+ lets you choose between four levels: low, medium, high and extra high. This means you could listen to your music at the airport, and also hear announcements for flight boarding without taking the Buds+ out of your ears.
The app even lets you customise the touch controls on the earbuds to play or pause a track, navigate between songs, answer, end and reject calls, activate the voice assistant on your phone, and even control audio volume via customisable tapping actions. You can also lock the touchpad from within the app to prevent accidental touches.
Calls on the Buds+ are clear and crisp, and are very close in quality to what you get from the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2. You get a nice warm bass from the Buds+ along with clear and crisp mids and highs. All-in-all, a very pleasing and balanced sound signature.
You can expect close to 10 hours of use from a fully charged Buds+, and perhaps another 9-10 hours after a recharge from the case that supports wireless charging. You even get a quick charge feature that gives you about an hour of listening from a three-minute recharge.
The Buds+ are comfortable to wear; pack in a whole bunch of features, and you get a nuanced sound across the aural range with the right mix of warmth and brightness. If you have the budget, you won’t go wrong with these.
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