SOUL X-SHOCK’s long-lasting battery and ruggedization are music to the ears.
Nearly every company seems to have its own truly wireless headphones these days, making it difficult to decide which brand and model are the best or the best value. Now, the sound magicians at SOUL Electronics have poured their extensive experience with audio solutions into their own pair, dubbed the SOUL X-SHOCK true wireless earbuds. Given the well-earned popularity of the brand, these battery-powered, Bluetooth-enabled listening devices may make that decision a lot easier. They aren't the most affordable buds in their category and they probably don't have the longest battery life, either. X-SHOCK earbuds also aren't prohibitively expensive. It's the build quality, ruggedization, and fidelity of sound that make these well worth the look.
In terms of specifications, there are two sets to consider since these come with a charging case and box, as well as the earbuds themselves. The charging box is not an overly bulky piece of hardware, measuring just 90mm x 65mm x 28mm and weighing less than most smartphones at just 135g. That’s effectively for a battery bank rated at 3,000mAh, which can charge the earpieces up to 16 times before needing to be charged. Maximum input for charging via the included cable is listed by the company as being set at 5mW. Meanwhile, the earphones measure 26mm x 19mm x 24mm and weigh around 6g per earbud. According to the site, those are connected via Bluetooth 5.0, though the included booklet only lists Bluetooth 4.2. They also are only listed as having a playback time of just 3.4 hours. However, a quick glance at the underlying specs quickly reveals why that is. Each headphone houses a 5.8mm speaker with a sensitivity and impedance of 96dB and 32 Ohms. That’s driving a response range of 20Hz to 20KHz. The charging case has no ruggedization, while the earbuds are rated at iPX5.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of functionality built-in as well. A button on either bud can be used for basic controls of music or phone calls. The right or left button can be used with a single press to pause or continue playback of media, double tapped to forward a call, or held for more than 2 seconds to turn the headphones off. Conversely, the left earbud can end calls with a single tap, be double tapped to refuse an incoming call, and a triple tap will redial the last phone number contacted. Answering calls is a single tap affair, too, while, holding the button for a full second will provide quick access to either Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri. Voice control takes place over a mic embedded in the left earbud.
In the Box
Opening up the box gives an immediate sense of how much effort SOUL has put into these headphones. Consumers are initially met with imagery meant to tout the ruggedization of the devices, as that is one of the key selling points here. The earbuds themselves and the charging box, which doubles as a hardshell carrying case and battery bank, are also clearly visible under a clear cover. However, removing those items reveals quite a bit more. For starters, there is an extra set of small rubber nubs for the tips of the headphones for users who have smaller ears. That’s to be expected, as are the users manual and customer support booklet. A charging cable at around 2-feet in length rounds out the usual accessories. Beyond that SOUL has included a quick connect guide for getting up and running more easily without digging through the manual. A carabiner is there, as well, so that the charging box can be latched onto other items, such as a gym bag or backpack, for easy transportation. There’s also is a soft cloth sleeve that will easily fit every item in the box without any risk of scratching.
Hardware and Build
With regard to the build quality, there’s nothing to hate about these headphones. They are nearly seamless and, because charging is conducted via pins on the box and connectors on the earbuds, they are about as smooth a fit as can be expected. However, even though these have a nearly universal fit, they simply aren't going to suit everybody. Ear shapes and sizes can vary quite a bit from person to person and the shape of the hardware is what keeps it snuggly in the ear. That means that there's a chance they won't fit perfectly or that they won't fit at all, possibly falling out or not being placeable, to begin with. Our experience with them showed that they weren’t quite comfortable enough that a wearer would forget they’re wearing them. The inclusion of extra rubber tips is helpful with that but isn’t going to solve what could be an issue for some users. That’s because they are designed to be held in place in the hollow of the ear rather than the ear canal. We didn’t have any problems wearing them, but that doesn’t mean that nobody else will.
Having said that, these are also ruggedized with an iPX5 rating. That means that although they can’t be dunked in the sink or worn in the pool, they can be cleaned off with a damp cloth - no chemicals - and sweat is not going to be a problem at all. Wearing them in light rain or other harsh conditions shouldn’t cause any damage to them, either. It is recommended in the manual that they are placed somewhere dry for a full 24 hours, with the speaker facing down onto a cloth or paper towel, after getting wet before charging. Along those same lines, the charging box has no ruggedization rating at all and cannot get wet. However, the box is exceptionally well built, with a clean aesthetic and a magnetized lip on the lid to keep things closed. The LED lights on the box are very easy to read and slipping the earbuds in only works one way. The fit is tight, with no jostling, but still allows for easy access when getting them out, making using the charging box a more pleasant experience than expected.
Sound quality should be good enough to sate most users, with the obvious exception of audiophiles. In fact, with a dynamic driver in each bud and response of 20Hz to 20KHz, leaving alone the impedance of 32 Ohms, audiophiles may be the only ones who don’t fully appreciate the high-fidelity. Each earpiece is equipped with a 5.8mm speaker with a sensitivity of 92dB and the Bluetooth protocol means almost completely lossless audio transmission. So these are just very good with consideration for battery life. We did notice that proper ear placement is a key factor in quality and that is a bit more difficult to obtain with these as compared to standard wired earbuds. Moreover, the range between the headphones and source device will always play a role in the quality of Bluetooth speakers or headsets. However, once proper placement is found, it’s difficult to lose again and at a reasonable distance, the sound is impeccable. Bass tones hit low and can be felt, while highs and mids are not at all muddied or washed out. Noise isolation is another key factor here that makes these just that much better.
Battery Live and Connectivity
Battery life actually falls just short of what the average wireless headphones accomplish but isn’t nearly as bad as the company advertises. According to the official site, these should get around 3.4-hours per charge per earbud. That’s obviously going to vary quite a bit based on the volume, streaming quality of the media, and the distance it’s being played at relative to the source. But we noted that with the device in our pocket or on a nearby table that we could easily attain around 5 - 6 hours at a reasonable volume. Standby time is rated at around 200 hours. Moreover, although the manual claims that the master earpiece is the left bud and that should be the only one that can be listened with individually, both can be used by themselves. That will effectively double the battery life as a quick swap keeps the listening going when one dies. Meanwhile, the battery charging case juices the buds up in just under 2 hours, as many as 16 times before the case needs to be charged. Based on our own experience, which is by no means typical, the advertised total battery life of up to 60 hours seems conservative at best.
While charging these headphones up, a white LED on the earbuds will indicate that a proper connection has been made and will disappear when charging is complete. A blue LED on the buds will flash every 7 seconds when battery life is running low and a voice-over will announce that fact every minute until juice runs out. The box itself has four LED indicators which are all lit up when the charging case is fully powered, with the lights clicking off as charge runs out. That makes for an easy to read system that can be checked quickly at a glance. Connecting to a source device is easy as well. Pulling the left earbud from the box will send it into pairing mode and pulling both out will automatically re-sync both buds together. Navigating to the Bluetooth settings of any device will display “X-SHOCK” in available devices and clicking that will get everything paired. That connection is stable up to around 33-feet depending on environmental factors. It's worth noting, though, that only the left earbud can be used for phone calls. That's because it is technically the master earbud in the pairing and it is the bud with the mic.
The ease of use found in SOUL Electronics' X-SHOCK True Wireless Earbuds is very nearly as exceptional as the quality of sound pumped out of its minuscule speakers. In fact, the battery life and inclusion of ruggedization may be the only features that top that. At well over 60 hours of battery, factoring in quick charges in between uses, they'll last for days. The same case used for charging makes transporting them a much less of a hassle than is often experienced with zippered cases for wired headsets. At the same time, the ease with which the buds are inserted or removed from that case, coupled with ease of connecting means that there's almost no effort involved in the process at all. Finally, that these buds can be used to control music, phone calls, and Google Assistant (or Siri) is an added bonus that makes it hard to find any fault here. The price is not spectacularly low but these wireless earbuds are certainly worth every penny.