Launched alongside the India-first realme XT smartphone, realme Buds Wireless start at just $25.34 via the realme India site — using current exchange rates. That's a price point that may not, at least for some, inspire confidence. Affordable wireless earbuds have, at this point, all but permeated that market to the point of absurdity. However, a quick review of realme Buds Wireless proves that quality doesn't have to cost a paycheck or more.
Realme Buds Wireless is, on the surface, just another neck-worn set product that connects to a smartphone or other source device. The design is familiar enough and there's nothing too spectacular about it. The earbuds appear a lot like any other earbuds that can be had for the same price.
Just under the surface, realme's decision to use 11.2mm bass drivers alongside a 110mAh battery doesn't sound too different or promising either. The use of micro USB for charging that up is one of this device's biggest caveats. The fact that it's an uncovered port means there's more chance that will become dirty or damaged. Those aren't trade-offs that are going to be easily dismissed at a glance.
But anybody who cares about either audio or build-quality is going to want to take a closer look. What realme has accomplished here is a well-balanced listening experience in a considerably low-cost package. It engineered the gadget to ensure that its diminutive size doesn't have to mean a short battery life. These earbuds are a step forward for the industry where it really needs to happen — at the budget end.
realme Buds Wireless don't take too many chances on hardware
The company hasn't gone too far out on a limb with the design here. Buds Wireless consists of reinforced a rubbery matte black neckband attached to two glossy black control arms. Only the right-side arm contains controls and that's also where the charging port is. Realme tips each arm with an indentation and a headphone wire extends from either.
The same matte black and glossy black design applies to the earbuds, which have adjustable arms to hold them in place in the ear. Those are super flexible and don't cause any discomfort.
Realme Buds Wireless ships in yellow, green, or orange. Realme applies the color to the primary cable housing, the portion where that connects to the neckband, and the accent on the buttons. The company also applied the color to the interior of the charging cable, at both ends.
Our realme Buds Wireless review unit came in yellow.
The build quality of this device is great. Realme Buds Wireless flex in any direction to the extreme without breaking. So they will survive being placed in a bag or coiled up for pocket carrying. The earbuds themselves ship with a total of three nubs, which are easy to swap out for a more comfortable — and better sounding — fit.
Buds Wireless tips the scales at 30g so it's easy to forget they're on.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this design.
Charging can be a pain because of the cylindrical shape of the device. The control arm needs to be spun to just the right angle and the port itself isn't perfectly centered to make finding that easy. The open charging port also means that the IPx4 rating applies only to the buds. These are sweatproof but not waterproof.
Finally, these headphones collect dust and while cleaning them is easy, they almost immediately get dusty again.
Sound from realme's Buds Wireless is comparatively brilliant
With bass-boosted 11.2mm drivers and Bluetooth 5.0, it should come as no surprise that realme Buds Wireless is not lacking in the audio quality department. In fact, the sound here is actually more well balanced than it is with many devices I've had the opportunity to try out.
Throughout my review of realme Buds Wireless, I was repeatedly taken aback by the fact that realme didn't pay too much attention to delivering heavy-hitting bass. That's not to say that there's no bass or that it couldn't have been just a touch more powerful. But the company has tacitly avoided the pitfall of focusing on bass tones to the point that they're overwhelming.
It was, in a word, refreshing. No pitches or frequencies appear to overpower others and music, aside from a slight hint of a clarity issue, sounded exactly as it should. Thanks to how loud these headphones are, that remained the case even at low volumes. Bass tones thump well without making mids or highs sound muted.
Realme Buds Wireless is also exceptionally loud. I did all of my media-consumption during this review at around a third of the maximum volume on every device paired with realme Buds Wireless earbuds and they did a good job — despite the lack of noise-canceling tech — to drown out my surrounding environment.
The issue with clarity, meanwhile, came mostly at high volume. The sound starts to become muddled just a click or three below maximum volume across all media types. That points almost directly to a problem with the optimization of the drivers and software. Since these are so loud, that's more of a non-issue than a problem. But it is worth being aware of.
Audio quality using the mics built into each bud was great on both sides of a call in my tests.
The battery life isn't as advertised, it's even better
Charging realme Buds Wireless headphones isn't necessarily quick despite only featuring a 110mAh battery. I used a chip-managed adapter and the included micro USB cable to accomplish the task. But the process still took just over an hour and a half. The LED charging indicator shifts from a dim red to a bright blue when they're charged.
The small battery doesn't limit listening time though since the battery life here is actually much better than advertised. As noted above, I listened at between a third of full volume and slightly over that. That turned out to be all I needed to drown out environmental noise once the proper earpiece nub size was selected.
It's worth pointing out that I never went more than around 20-percent of these headphones full range away from the source device — except to test that range — and I only listened to music. Using these for talking will likely impact the battery life to varying degrees, as will other uses.
Realme rates its headphones at 12-hours of life before the earbuds need to be plugged in. That's at half-volume. I managed to squeeze out exactly 15-hours, give or take a few seconds. After that, the headphones began indicating they were at or below 10-percent charged. I didn't time beyond that but they lasted more than another 30 minutes.
When dying, these headphones don't hit users' eardrums with an annoying voice to cue them in. Instead, the same sci-fi-sounding downward tone plays as is heard when the device disconnects. That repeats every 8-10 minutes or so, which is also much less annoying than the apparent every other minute with other listening devices. The reduced frequency enables a better listening experience all the way up until the battery is drained if needs be.
Connections are almost as strong as the audio and other features
The word "connections" is most often ascribed to a device's ability to connect to others to serve any number of purposes. It does here too and we'll discuss that momentarily but there is at least one connected feature that sets these apart from the competition. That's because realme equipped these earbuds with magnets.
Now, magnets in the earbud are nothing new. It helps prevent neckband-based wireless headphones from falling off and becoming lost. In this case, they serve a dual purpose. That mechanism actually acts as the on/off button for this device. It simply doesn't have any such button anywhere else.
After initially turning the device on, users activate or deactivate it by bringing the magnets together — or by an automatic shutoff feature that turns on when no Bluetooth connection is made for 5 minutes. That extends battery life by quite a bit and gets rid of an extra action that users might otherwise need to perform.
When it comes to how these earbuds pair, that takes place via Bluetooth 5.0. Not only does that allow for better audio as outlined above. It also enables a more solid connection. But connectivity is also a caveat for this sub-$30 listening device.
Throughout my review of the realme Buds Wireless, I noted that interference from other Bluetooth devices placed between the source phone and headset was relatively heavy. That seems to indicate that these are susceptible to interference from wayward signals. As a result, users may or may not experience problems when using them in congested areas.
Aside from that, connections stayed strong, even at the 10-meter maximum distance — further strengthening my suspicion that the issue is caused by signal interference rather than the range.
Should you buy realme Buds Wireless?
Realme Buds Wireless, as this review shows, could easily be placed among the very best headphones in their price bracket. Ordinarily, I check the price of headphones before starting a review to get a sense of how they should sound if they're any good. With realme Buds Wireless, I didn't do that due for a number of reasons but it's fair to say I was duped into thinking they are much more expensive than they are.
I had initially expected the price to fall into the range just below $100. At under $30, these earbuds are a steal based on sound quality alone. When factoring in the battery life at over 12-hours without having to turn them all the way down, they edge closer to impossibly good.
The small caveat that they're easily interfered with by other devices, for most users, isn't going to be a factor for most users. As noted above, that seemed to happen only when those other devices were placed between my phone and the earbuds. And that's just not likely to be a common occurrence under most scenarios.
Audio quality is a highly-subjective matter for most users. It's safe to say that there are better-sounding earbuds on the market. Those are typically going to run the gamut of cost-ranges from around $100 to over $400. In the price range that realme Buds Wireless happens to be aimed at, finding something better is going to be a real chore.
Some aspects of audio are less subjective though. For balance without a loss of drive and power that lasts all day, in the under $100 price bracket, realme Buds Wireless is absolutely a solid choice.