Budget true wireless earphones are no longer basic, feature-barren devices they used to be a couple of years ago. Instead, manufacturers have been gradually improving their true wireless offerings by including some appealing features while still keeping it accessible for the masses. Realme has been one of the companies that have played a role in bringing premium features to the budget section. Its latest product, the Realme Buds Q2, is an entry-level pair of true wireless earphones that is equipped with Active Noise Cancellation. Priced at Rs 2,499, the earphones also come with Realme Link app support that allows users to customise the buds. So, let’s find out if the Realme Buds Q2 is one of the better value for money ANC TWS on the Indian market.
Build and comfort
The Realme Buds Q2 are stemless true wireless earphones that have an oblong shape. Each bud weighs 4.5g, so they’re pretty lightweight, which is a boon when you wear your earphones for long hours. The Realme Buds Q2 is definitely an improvement over its predecessor, the Realme Buds Q, when it comes to design. The earbuds are available in two colours – Black and Grey, and we received the latter for review.
The earbuds’ outer panel is reflective and has an eye-catching iridescent effect. Realme calls this the ‘gleaming lamination technology’ and the look is certainly unique at this price range. This iridescent zone also doubles as a touch-sensor for onboard controls. The surface accumulates dust and fingerprints easily though, so keep that in mind. The earpieces are primarily made of plastic and feel a bit plasticky and cheap to the touch, but that’s to be expected at this price.
The earbuds have an in-canal fit and the company has provided three different sizes of silicone ear tips to accommodate different sized ears. We found the fit to be pretty snug and comfortable for the most part, however, at times the buds did slip out and we’d have to readjust them. This especially happened when we were brisk walking or running with the buds on. Your experience will vary depending on the quality of the fit you get from the buds since all ears are shaped differently.
Moving on to the charging case, the Realme Buds Q2 has a compact and discreet case that is easily pocketable. While the smooth surfaces feel fine to the touch, the material, again, feels a bit low quality. The case is also almost impossible to open one-handed. In fact, we even had problems opening it with two hands at times, and we had to examine the groove and then strategically place our fingernail in between to open it up. We wish the mechanism was a bit better implemented but you will get used to it as you use it. The case also doesn’t sit flat on surfaces due to its rounded bottom. You have the USB C port for charging at the back of the case, an indicator light on the front, and a pairing button inside the case.
We’ve reviewed numerous affordable TWS over the years, and one advantage we’ve found Realme to have over most others is excellent app support. The Realme Link app is available for both Android and iOS devices and provides a fantastic, user-friendly experience. The app allows you to switch between noise-cancelling modes, activate game mode, select EQ presets, update the firmware, and our favourite, customise touch controls.
Often the default controls on earbuds aren’t something that would be universally liked. So, the ability to customise the controls as per the user’s preference is often a game-changer, especially at lower price points. Users can customise the controls for various actions such as double-tap, triple-tap and long press on both earbuds. You can choose between controls such as play/pause, next track, previous track, voice assistant, switch noise control modes, game mode, and off. The only gripe we have here is the lack of volume controls. It is a true pain point to have to remove your smartphone from your pocket or handbag every time you want to adjust the volume.
The app also has a volume enhancer mode, however, we’d stray away from this mode since it causes some distortion in the sound. The volume of the buds is plenty loud even without this mode turned on, so there’s no need to use it. We usually listened to music on the buds at about 60 percent volume, without volume enhancer. The passive isolation is pretty great if you find a good fit. This combined with ANC provides for an immersive sonic experience without having to drive up the volume a lot.
For connectivity, the Realme Buds Q2 comes with Bluetooth v5.2. It supports the SBC and AAC audio codecs. The earphones also come with Google Fast Pair, which is extremely convenient if you use an Android phone, allowing the buds to connect to your device in an instant. The buds are also rated IPX5, so they should be able to shrug off sweat and light splashes. There’s voice assistant support and mono mode support, where you can listen to a single earpiece independently. It’s missing wear detection (auto pause/play) and multipoint connection, but we don’t really expect those features at this price, especially since the earbuds have ANC and some sacrifices would have to be made. Overall, the earbuds are feature-rich for the price and seriously undercut competitors such as the OnePlus Buds Z when it comes to features.
The Realme Buds Q2 is a surprisingly decent performer when it comes to sound quality, especially at under 3K. It is one of the better sounding true wireless earbuds in this price range and performs better than some competitors such as the boAt Airdopes 441, and Oppo Enco W11. We found the sound quality to be pretty much on par with the OnePlus Z.
The sound is pretty clean and sufficiently detailed, with boosted lows that don’t veil the mids and highs too much. We’ve experienced some Realme earbuds with much more aggressive bass response that throws off the balance of the sound, so the Realme Buds Q2 are a refreshing take by the company that will appeal to bass lovers, but will also not throw off a large portion of the details in the mids and highs.
Listening to Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran, we were pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the vocals and the instruments despite a pretty strong bass beat that runs throughout the song. The bass beats were pretty clean and punchy without being over-aggressive. In Ballad of Mona Lisa by Panic! At The Disco, the vocals are sufficiently clean but when Brendon Urie hits the high notes, there’s a slight amount of sibilance in the sound. In Highway Tune by Greta Van Fleet, the vocals and lead guitar have a solid presence and are clearly audible in the mix, however, the cymbals and hi-hats are a bit drowned out. The soundstage is a bit narrow, but that’s common with earphones, especially at this price. Nevertheless, for most popular genres of music, the Realme Buds Q2 is a good performer that should work well for non-audiophiles.
Uncompensated frequency response of Realme Buds Q2 (yellow) vs reference IEM (orange)
Studying the frequency graph of the Realme Buds Q2, you can see that the lower bass and high bass are amplified, meaning bass notes will be prominent in the mix. The mids are nice and consistent and there aren’t too many dips or climbs in this frequency range, providing for clear and consistent sound. There’s a slight peak in the 2K-4K frequency range, that could be causing the sibilance in the vocals. Overall, the Realme Buds Q2 has a warm, pleasing sound signature that should work well for people who listen to genres such as pop, rap, EDM, Bollywood, ballads, etc.
Let’s move on to the Active Noise Cancellation performance. As seen with most budget earphones with ANC, the Realme Buds Q2 don’t provide an impressive level of ambient noise reduction. Still, they do manage to drown out constant, low-frequency sounds such as the hum of an AC, the drone of an airplane, and others. Human voices aren’t suppressed to a great degree, and other sounds such as typing on a mechanical keyboard or a high-speed fan will also come through. But the ANC is decent for the price of Rs 2,499 and Realme has, once again, democratised ANC even further. The earbuds also come with a Transparency Mode that is nothing special but works just about fine for its intended purpose. Ambient sounds are amplified to a good degree but they can sound slightly unnatural, at times.
As for the connectivity, you get Bluetooth 5.2 and the connection is extremely stable between the source device and the buds. The earbuds can maintain the connection for a respectable distance as well. Low latency mode for gaming improves the response of the sound a tad bit, but it’s not something that will be abundantly evident. Call quality, however, was subpar with our voice sounding hollow and distant to the receiver. If you’re someone who takes calls often using their headphones, you should take note of this.
The Realme Buds Q2 promise a total battery life of 28 hours with ANC turned off, and 20 hours with ANC turned on. The buds also support fast charging where a quick 10-minute charge will give you 3 hours worth of playback. This is convenient when you need to charge your earbuds in a pinch.
In our tests, with ANC turned on at all times, the Realme Buds Q2’s earbuds lasted about 4 hours and 40 minutes on a single charge. The volume was set around the 60-70 percent mark and we were using an Android phone as the source device. The charging case topped the buds 3 times over, with some juice still left. If you listen to music with ANC turned off and at a lower volume level, you could easily get more playtime out of the Realme Buds Q2 although we are unsure if it will hit the company’s claim of 28 hours.
Brands have been pushing out budget true wireless earbuds regularly owing to the massive demand in the Indian market. Realme is one of the brands that have multiple products released in a year to satiate the demand. The Realme Buds Q2 is another step Realme has taken towards its objective of democratising ANC, and it’s a commendable one. The Realme Buds Q2 are one of the most value for money purchases one could make in the sub 3K price point with features such as ANC, excellent app support, good battery life, and satisfactory sound quality. Priced at Rs 2,499, the Realme Buds Q2 seriously undercuts its competitors, making it our choice for the best value for money TWS in 2021 so far