Realme has been on the upswing for a while now and the company has managed to successfully make a name for itself in the Indian smartphone space. Naturally, the brand is now looking to further its domain by expanding into other avenues, the likes of which include launching custom merchandise for ardent Realme fans, lifestyle accessories, and most importantly, audio gear. To that note, the company recently unveiled the Buds Air 2 TWS earphones which come as the successor to the original Buds Air launched over a year ago. Priced at Rs 3,299, the Buds Air 2 comes laden with a slew of features including support for ANC or Active Noise Cancellation. But, should you consider these over say, the OnePlus Buds Z or the OPPO Enco W31? Let’s find out in this review.
Design and Comfort
The Realme Buds Air 2 have been styled using the same blueprint as the Buds Air Pro and from the cobble-shaped case to the earbuds angular ear tips, the two pair of earbuds draw a lot of parallels in the design department. However, unlike the Pro model, the Buds Air 2 doesn’t offer as many colour options and can be picked up in either a Glossy Black, or a two-toned White colourway. I was sent the latter for review and truth be told, I am on the fence about the unit’s aesthetics. On one hand, the white paint job ensures that the earbuds stay smudge-free, but I am not the biggest fan of the chrome finish on the stems. So, if you don’t want your earbuds to attract eyeballs and want something inconspicuous, I’ll suggest you opt for the black colourway.
That being said, the Buds Air 2 are among the most comfortable TWS earbuds I’ve auditioned this year. The individual earbuds weigh a smidge over 4g and consequently, will not burden your ears down when you’re out for a run or working out in a gym. The earbuds also offer a secure, snug in-ear fit, which can be accredited to the pair’s angular nozzles that fit like a glove in my ear canal as well as the unit’s plush silicone tips. Suffice it to say, the Realme Buds Air 2 offers a pleasant, ‘wear it and forget it’ fit.
Realme has also furnished the earbuds with a handful of functional niceties, including customisable tap-based gestures on the stem of either earbud, as well as wear detection. The gestures can be used to control your music playback, as well as toggle the ANC mode or answer / reject phone calls. I was quite happy with the responsiveness of the aforementioned controls too, though I would’ve much preferred a gentler tap to invoke the same. As things stand, I had to press a tad too hard on the stem for the Buds to register my command, which needless to say, is quite uncomfortable in the case of in-ear type headphones. Other than that, the Buds Air 2 also ship with IPX5 certification, so you can sweat it out whilst using the earbuds without worrying about damaging the pair.
As for the charging case, well, it has been constructed in entirety using plastic and features the company’s branding on the front, below the LED indicator. The unit also comes with a physical toggle towards the right, which can be used to put the Buds Air 2 in pairing mode. The case also features a Type-C port for charging, and the company has bundled a bright yellow Type-C cable in the box too, so no complaints here.
ANC and App features
The Realme Buds Air 2’s USP is that the earphones come with support for ANC, which is unheard of (pun intended) in its price segment. The ANC onboard the buds is of the feed-forward variety and from my testing, is strong enough to cancel out a good chunk of environmental noise. Obviously, you will have to keep your expectations in check here as the earphones won’t offer pin drop silence, though for the price, it doesn’t get any better.
Now, much like most other TWS in the market, you can finetune certain aspects of the Buds Air 2 via the company’s Realme Link app. On that note, buyers opting for the pair can customise the tap-based gestures from within the app, toggle the Bass Boost+ mode and even switch between various ANC modes (Transparency, General and Noise Cancelation). From where I stand, Realme Link is a fantastic application as it offers a no-nonsense UI and has everything labeled neatly too, ensuring users don’t have to sift through menus to find a particular setting. The app also lets users upgrade the Buds Air 2’s firmware and as of writing this review, I’ve already received one OTA update on my unit. Lest I forget, the Buds Air 2 also ship with a gaming mode which limits the audio latency to as low as 88 milliseconds. Consequently, while you can play cinematic titles like Genshin Impact without any issues, I’d still suggest you stick to a wired headset for fast-paced action shooters like Call of Duty Mobile.
Sound Quality and Battery life
So, how does the Realme Buds Air 2 sound? Well, the unit ships with 10mm dynamic drivers inside each earbud which outputs a bass-forward sound. That said, while the low-end is quite voluminous, it’s not as tight or precise as I would’ve liked it to be. Correspondingly, you’ll notice that the Buds Air 2 offers a boomy bass which at times, bleeds into the rest of the frequency spectrum. Case in point, the beat drop in Goosebumps by HVME. Around the 50-second mark, you’ll notice that the roaring beats cause a lot of reverb and as a result, cast a shadow on the rest of the frequencies. In a similar fashion, in Billie Eilish’s’ Therefore I am, you’ll notice that at relatively higher volume levels, the beats from the kick drums as well as the tune from the bass guitar subdue the notes of the synthesiser in the song’s first verse.
Don’t get me wrong. For the price, you’ll find very little to complain about the TWS’ sound quality. While I would’ve liked the Buds to offer a slightly tamer low-end output, most users would fancy rumbling, roaring bass. Consequently, if your playlist comprises a lot of EDM/Hip-hop tracks, you’ll feel right at home with the Buds Air 2. What’s more, much like the Buds Air Pro and the Buds Wireless Pro, the Buds Air 2 also offer a roomy soundstage. It’s certainly not audiophile-grade and while I couldn’t pinpoint where a sound was coming from, I could clearly tell that the audio was not being fed to my ears in a single file. Unfortunately, that’s more than I can say for the pair’s imaging and you might find it difficult to tell one instrument from the other in chaotic songs like The Avalanches’ Frontier Psychiatrist.
Thankfully, the Buds Air 2 offers a stellar mid-range which is highlighted in acoustic songs from artists like Lewis Capaldi. The tonality of the vocals was to my liking too, though I wish the company would have finetuned the treble as instruments like guitar sound, for the lack of a better word, dull.
As for the battery life, the Buds Air 2 lasted me a little over four hours off a single charge. My usage comprised using the pair in parts in ANC and in parts in general mode. The case adds an additional three charge cycles to the Buds Air 2 and all said and done, you should be able to go a few days without plugging the Buds Air 2 to a wall outlet.
So, for their asking price of Rs 3,299, should you get the Realme Buds Air 2? Well, the company’s latest pair of TWS surely comes across as a compelling buy, thanks to its excellent battery life and ANC chops. Quite frankly, while I’m not too impressed with the pair’s sound quality, I will admit, it’s tough to match the Buds Air 2’s feature set in its segment. Therefore, if you’re in the market for a pair of budget TWS, you should definitely consider Realme’s latest offering. That said, those looking for a more refined sound signature can look towards the OnePlus Buds Z too, which to my ears, offered more nuanced bass output, albeit lack ANC.
Photos by Raj Rout