Clear audio, comfort, and outstanding battery life in a solidly-built package for the thrifty consumer
Wireless headphones come in all shapes and sizes from over-the-ear studio quality monitors to ‘true wireless’ earbuds that effectively consist of just the bud. Somewhere in between that are earbuds that aren’t wired to a source but are to one another, with the wire typically worn behind the head. That's the category the Xcentz Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sport Earbuds for Running fall into.
Priced at just under $30 and sold under model designation xBuds S1, these earbuds also fit neatly into the budget end of the spectrum and, in fact, are near the bottom of the budget range for wireless listening accessories.
That doesn’t mean there’s no market for them though or that they fall short of where they should at cost. In many ways, Xcentz’s xBuds S1 surpass competitors priced at well over $300. In areas where they fall short, they don't fall short of what expectations will reasonably be for a thrifty consumer.
For those in the market for a new pair of headphones and not looking to spend an arm and a leg for decent audio and good features, there’s a lot that makes the new Xcentz earbuds well worth a deeper dive.
Lightweight, stylish, and a real beast to put on at first
Unsurprisingly, when you spend less money, you tend to get less. That shows through on the xBuds S1 in the heavy use of plastics throughout the build but that doesn't mean users aren't getting any style whatsoever.
The main body attached to the earbud takes a classic pill shape and the earbud itself uses a time-worn semi-round design. An appropriately shaped rubbery arm is attached to that and the cable connecting the individual pieces goes between. A turquoise accent with the brand in silver sits atop the pill while the right earbud houses three almost invisibly small buttons. That's a multifunction button as well as a button for both plus and minus.
The plastics also allow for a lightweight design (13 grams) that doesn't fall off easily and give the entire thing a utilitarian but not necessarily dismissable aesthetic. Coupled with how tiny they are and aside from the sounds emanating from them, the weight also makes it almost easy to forget these headphones are there while they're being used.
Whether or not that means they're comfortable to wear is going to vary from person to person. Xcentz includes a total of three ear tip nubs in three different sizes and, once the right size is selected, those ensure that the average wearer shouldn't feel any discomfort. That won't, as is always the case, apply to everybody but I didn't have any problems with the fit.
Where I did run into issues was getting the earbuds into my ears in the first place. I struggled to get them on properly mostly because the portion of the flexible arm that's closest to the pill-shaped housing didn't feel flexible enough to bend around my ears. Instead, I learned over time that I needed to put the bud into my ear and then effectively "roll" the earpiece over, bending the flex arm only as needed.
Initially, getting the earbuds into place was not an easy process to figure out and there is still some challenge to it if they don't go on correctly the first time. They did stay in place extremely well once they were in my ear and the arm was where it was supposed to be. Comfort is about where it should be for a pair of headphones at this price, with standard materials used throughout.
Battery life is phenomenal with a single drawback
The battery life possible from the 90mAh unit powering this pair of headphones is, in a word, uncanny. Likely helped along by the fact that Bluetooth 5.0 is in use here, music listening is rated at a minimum of around 8-hours and standby time -- which I didn't test for obvious reasons -- is rated at 128-hours.
My own experience is that the eight to nine-hour battery life is spot-on for the Xcentz xBuds S1 headphones. The overwhelming majority of my time with these earbuds was spent listening to music since they're made for running and that's how runners are bound to be using them. A music playlist with a playtime of 5-hours, 57-minutes, and 27-seconds only dropped the battery to 60-percent.
After noting that, I started using the earbuds to watch movies and listen to music in general by more than a full half-hour past nine hours, I still had not received a warning about the battery being low. The battery remaining at that point, according to my smartphone, was 40-percent.
For clarity, the volume setting on the headphones was only set to around half and the source volume at just over three-quarters throughout the test. The phone was also generally well within the 50-foot line-of-sight connection range advertised on Amazon.
12-hours, 29-minutes, and a little over 13-seconds later and I finally received my first low battery warning. That is, given the size of the battery at just 90mAh absolutely impressive. It's even more so with consideration for the fact that the standard wireless headphones on the market right now tend to average right around half of that at six hours on a single charge.
It's worth noting that Xcentz advertises these headphones as lasting between 8 and 13 hours depending on the media and other factors like volume and distance from the source. Regardless, the battery life is simply exceptional with its latest headphones.
With what little bit of capacity remained -- approximately 10-percent judging by my smartphone's readout - if not for the standard "battery low" warning that nobody wants to listen to on repeat but every company uses, it's not unlikely these headphones could have gone for around an hour longer at least.
The charging time is somewhat less impressive, considering how small the capacity of the battery is and the cable used for charging is summarily just puny.
Not including the plugs at the end of the cable itself, which add another inch or so, that cable measures in at just under 5-inches long.
That does mean that everything fits easily in the included carry case, but I'm not sure it was worth the trade-off from a design perspective. The shortness of the cable means it can be a hassle unless done via a laptop, a similarly-portable device, or a desktop charging station such as the one I used. Nobody is going to want to plug this gadget into a wall-based charger if there is any other option available.
With regard to the amount of time it takes to charge up the Xcentz Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sport Earbuds, that's marketed at two hours and that's not inaccurate. These headphones will need to be plugged in for the better part of that period depending on how low the battery level has gotten during use. A full charge from under 10-percent took approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes for me.
The rate of charging will likely help extend the overall life of the internal battery here but also seems excessive since comparable devices generally charge in around a half-hour to an hour.
With that said, the company's advertised 15 minutes of charging for 1.5 hours of playback is accurate so those caveats may not be too big a deal, depending on the circumstances.
Breaking it down on sound quality
The above-mentioned longevity of playback is not, unfortunately, met by a comparably surprising level of audio quality. That's not to say what the 10mm drivers are pumping out via Bluetooth 5.0 isn't good. The sound quality here keeps up easily with advances that have been pushed across the entire audio accessory industry.
In fact, they may actually be surprisingly good to anybody who hasn't bought new headphones in some time.
Xcentz's focus on balance is very good, meaning that levels are consistent and there aren't any obnoxious sudden blaring or faded audio finding their way to the ear. Across a variety of genres, bass tones are kept crisp and slightly thumpy while mid-range frequencies and high notes cut through just as they should.
The same holds true in movie playback and other types of media. There isn't any of the muddiness, buzzing, tinniness, or other problems that one might expect from headphones under $60. There's also precisely zero audio-bleed to worry about unless both source and headphones are turned up to maximum volume.
In other words, at $30 the Xcentz xBuds S1 earbuds aren't weak. They are on par with some of the very best available devices in the price category, and that's not a bad thing. But users shouldn't expect the best without spending quite a bit more. There's just nothing remarkable to hear here and the Xcentz Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sport Earbuds shouldn't be compared to more expensive accessories in the $100+ price bracket.
Are extra features even available at this price?
With regard to extra features on this headset, the inclusion of a multifunction button means there are plenty of controls in place for stopping or starting any given media and raising or lowering the volume with a click.
There are also click patterns that allow the user to redial the last number and another press pattern allows threeway calling without the need to pull out the smartphone. A long-hold on the main button will activate the user's on-device voice assistant. In my case that activated Google Assistant or Bixby, depending on which I'd set to my default.
Along those same lines, I discovered that multi-device operation and syncing is available out of the box and that switching between sources is a really straightforward affair -- via the same buttons. The latter part of that seems to be tied into another feature not often seen on wireless headphones, namely the ability to switch audio outputs in a call between a smartphone and the earbuds with a click of the multi-function button on the headset itself.
Do not get these wet ...and other minor caveats
The biggest caveat with the Xcentz xBuds S1 earbuds may actually be in one of its advertised features. These headphones are rated at IPx5 for water resistance, according to all advertising material but in the user manual, it clearly reads to keep these out of the rain and out of contact will all liquids.
Now, these should survive sweat and are advertised for workouts but based on the rating they should also be able to withstand some rain and maybe a bit more than a light sprinkle on that front. It isn't immediately clear where the disconnect is or if the purpose of the warning is to ensure wearers don't hop in the shower or go out in a downpour with these headphones on.
That seems to be the most likely scenario since sweating relatively profusely with these on didn't cause any damage and there is a rubber flap over the charging port to keep the internal components safe.
The charging port represents the second small issue I discovered with Xcentz's newest earbuds during use. The small size, while beneficial elsewhere does mean that there's a learning curve to the charging process. Namely, holding the rubber cover out of the way and then plugging the headphones in without one's own fingers getting in the way can be a challenge.
Headphones at below $30 are typically hit-and-miss in terms of quality, sound, and features. Often, they have one aspect and lack others in any number of combinations. That is actually exactly why the Xcentz Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sport Earbuds for Running shine.
The Xcentz xBuds S1 earbuds aren't extraordinary when compared to devices in a higher price bracket and that's to be expected. They stand apart in that they're as good as anything else in their range in every regard without also being downright terrible in one or two ways.
On that basis and coupled with the exceptionally good battery life, it would be fairly easy to recommend this accessory to anybody looking for new wireless earbuds on a budget. Taken with the fact that I didn't notice any issues in connectivity or audio across a multitude of genres and formats, even as the battery started to die, it would almost be irresponsible not to recommend them.