Wireless audio is hard to pull off, which is why it’s expensive. But times are surely changing. Over the last year or so, more and more brands have started experimenting with wireless audio, because well, some say it’s the future. It’s a future that nobody really asked for, but let’s not go there now, shall […]
Wireless audio is hard to pull off, which is why it’s expensive. But times are surely changing. Over the last year or so, more and more brands have started experimenting with wireless audio, because well, some say it’s the future. It’s a future that nobody really asked for, but let’s not go there now, shall we. Wireless audio of course has its upsides too, the biggest being the convenience that comes along, once you decide to cut the cord. Or go, no strings attached, as Xiaomi likes to say it.
Days after launching its first pair of truly wireless earbuds, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, Xiaomi has launched yet another TWS product in India, this time under its Redmi banner. Xiaomi calls it the Redmi Earbuds S and with it, the company is looking to prove a point that it’s possible to make a pair of “good” truly wireless earbuds and price it, well, honestly. Which in simple terms means, good wireless audio can also be affordable. But hey, didn’t Xiaomi do that already with the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2? It did somewhat, but it seems, there was still room for some more affordability. The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 cost Rs 4,499. The Redmi Earbuds S are priced at Rs 1,799. Wow!
The Redmi Earbuds S India price is stunning no doubt, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’re also (going to be) good. What’s the catch, I am sure you’re probably wondering, and let me tell you that there are quite a few, but does that mean, you should write them off just because they seem too good to be true? Not at all.
Design and build quality
The first thing to notice about the Redmi Earbuds S is that they look nothing like the Apple AirPods, because a lot of TWS products in the market including Xiaomi’s own Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 do. Unlike the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, the Redmi Earbuds S are “completely” in-ear and there’s no stem jutting out at one end. That’s both a good thing and bad, depending on your use case.
The Redmi Earbuds S are small and very light. Their pill-shaped form locks nicely inside your ears, and chances are, after a few minutes, you may not even remember having them on. Xiaomi also bundles extra ear-tips of different sizes in the box which is a nice touch considering the Redmi Earbuds S’s low pricing. Once you have the right size on, you can be rest assured, they’re not going to fall off easily. This should come handy while jogging or when you’re hitting the gym. Speaking of which, the Redmi Earbuds S are also IPX4-certified which makes them sweat and splash-proof. The more expensive Mi True Wireless Earphones are only slip-proof.
The Redmi Earbuds S’s barely-there footprint could be a deal breaker for those who prefer form over function though. And by form I mean something that you can flaunt.
Xiaomi will be selling the Redmi Earbuds S in only one colour, which is black. The case is also black, matte black, to be precise. You’ll have to be mindful about where you keep it, because the quality of plastic used here leaves a lot to be desired. It’s flimsy at best, and I am concerned, it may not hold well under pressure, say for instance inside a bag, or in your back pocket. The lock and unlock mechanism on the case seems confident enough, but again, it isn’t designed for rough handling or stress testing, you’ve been warned.
Setup and connectivity
Pairing the Redmi Earbuds S to your smartphone is a pretty straightforward process. Simply remove the earbuds from the case and wait for 2-3 seconds for your phone to detect them. Alternatively, you can also pair the Redmi Earbuds S with a PC/laptop, both Windows and Mac. You can also pair them with devices like the Mi Box 4K. Bluetooth 5.0 ensures seamless pairing and range is also quite good (Xiaomi claims up to 10m) considering how small and inexpensive the Redmi Earbuds S are. But what’s really striking about the Redmi Earbuds S is how solid their connectivity is. There have been no “noticeable” instances of signal drops or failures during my review, even when I was on the move, or even when I was in a different room (away from my smartphone). Well done, Xiaomi!
Corners have been cut in other areas though, to keep the cost low. For starters, you can only pair the Redmi Earbuds S with a single device at a time. Ideally, it should be your primary smartphone. Secondly, the Redmi Earbuds S do not support instant or fast pairing, not even with Redmi or Mi phones. The Redmi Earbuds S also do not have any sensors to automatically detect when you have them on, or when you have taken them off, to start or pause playback. You can choose to use the Redmi Earbuds S in mono or stereo though, which does have its use cases, especially while sleeping.
The biggest shortcoming from a pure specs point of view, however, is the lack of touch controls. Instead, each Redmi Earbud S has a physical button that lets you answer/end a call or play/pause music on single click, turn on default voice assistant on double click, and enable/disable game mode on three clicks. One can argue, that’s still fine for the price, and it is, but physical buttons also mean there’s only so much that you can do here. Take for instance, there’s no option to play/forward/skip a song or change the volume, so you’ll have to use voice assistance or get back to your smartphone for that. So much for convenience!
Sound quality and battery life
The Redmi Earbuds S pack 7.2mm drivers (which is fine considering their tiny profile) and support the most basic SBC codec for wireless transmission (which is again fine considering their budget credentials) to deliver “punchier sound and better bass experience,” according to Xiaomi. Xiaomi also says that it has customised that experience for the Indian user, which is expected, even though the Redmi Earbuds S are simply a rehashed version of the Redmi AirDots S sold in China.
So, what about the sound quality? That’s tricky for two reasons. Not many popular brands make TWS earbuds at this price, because as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard. Therefore in isolation, any score that’s above average would mean Xiaomi has done its job, well, with the Redmi Earbuds S. But let me also tell you, they’re no match for more conventional wired earphones, and there are some really good options, in and around its price that you can consider. You’ll have to give up on the wireless dream but at least you’ll get better audio.
Regardless, here’s what you need to know about the Redmi Earbuds S’ sound quality. As is usually the case with most audio products “customised” for the Indian user, the Redmi Earbuds S’ sound signature also defaults largely towards punchy bass. Not chest-thumping, but the bass is definitely there and you’ll definitely feel it. If you’re someone into hip-hop, EDM or even some of the new-age Bollywood stuff, you’d like it. Everybody else should look elsewhere. For instance, the Redmi Earbuds S are definitely not suited for orchestrated music, with a range of instruments from guitars to flutes, as everything becomes a muddy mess. Mid frequencies are just about okay. On a positive note, the Redmi Earbuds S have good stereo separation for their price.
I really like how loud the Redmi Earbuds S can get, but there’s a catch. At peak volume, there is “visible” distortion that you simply can’t ignore. The Redmi Earbuds S work well enough in the 75-80% volume range although I am still trying to figure out the sweet spot.
The Redmi Earbuds S also have microphones which means you can do voice calls with them. Their in-ear styling helps in passive noise cancellation, to an extent that I would advise you to be mindful of your surroundings when you’re out and about using them. Voice calls made and received by the Redmi Earbuds S are average at best when it comes to quality, though you and the person on the other side won’t have much trouble hearing each other.
Xiaomi is really touting the Redmi Earbuds S’ game or low latency mode. Xiaomi is going so far as to claim their latency (122 ms) is comparable to the much more expensive Apple AirPods Pro. I won’t exactly compare them with the AirPods, but I can definitely tell you that their game mode does work more or less as advertised. Barring some hiccups here and there, I have had mostly negligible lag while playing games like PUBG and Call of Duty. All this of course consumes more battery life.
As for battery life, Xiaomi claims up to 4-hours of battery life (12-hours with case) and real world figures have been close. I have been getting anywhere from 3.30-3.45 hours of battery life out of the Redmi Earbuds S which isn’t bad at all. The case can top up the earbuds up to 3 times. There’s no fast charging which means it takes nearly 2 hours to charge the case (through micro-USB) and nearly one and a half hours to charge the earbuds. Xiaomi does not bundle a micro-USB cable in the box.
Should you buy the Xiaomi Redmi Earbuds S?
Ideally, the Redmi Earbuds S have no competition and are a no-brainer for Redmi users, or anybody for that matter, looking to make a switch to wireless audio without breaking the bank. They’re small and lightweight, offer some high-end features like IPX4 rating and a low latency game mode, and have good battery life. Yes, some corners have been cut to achieve their killer pricing, and their sound signature is also not fine tuned to everyone’s liking, but here’s the thing, wireless audio is hard (I know I keep saying that a lot, but it’s true) and if it’s indeed the future, it was about time more and more brands started investing in it. To make it better and also more accessible.
I can go on and tell you, wired earphones would make a lot of sense than these, but let me also tell you, if you’re someone who’s been waiting patiently for TWS earbuds to become any useful and affordable, you should definitely consider the Redmi Earbuds S. Because that’s the whole point of their existence after all.
- Small and light profile
- IPX4 rating
- Game mode
- Good battery life
- Build quality could have been better
- No touch controls
- Sound quality just about average with distortion at peak volume