When it comes to true wireless audio, buyers are spoiled for choice but that doesn’t mean all experiences are equal. So when a lesser-known brand, Tronsmart, offered to send out its Tronsmart Apollo Air for review, I was keen to take a look. Especially with a price tag set at a penny under $70.
Now, a low price all on its own is nothing to talk about. Wireless earbuds are a dime a dozen. But affordable earbuds with aptX support, Bluetooth 5.2, six mics with cVc 8.0 technology, and 35dB of full frequency hybrid active noise canceling is something else entirely. Or at least that’s the thought I went into this review with.
Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold. These earbuds also make some important missteps that buyers should be aware of. So let’s dive in and see just where these earbuds shine and wear that facade wears thin.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about the design but it will survive your workout
The hardware and aesthetic chosen by Tronsmart for Apollo Air is, in a word, unassuming. Starting with the earbuds, those are a fairly standard barrel-style design, ending in a roughly 90-degree hook with a soft earbud tip at the end. The tips themselves are much more rounded than most earbuds I’ve tested in this price bracket. And that ensures a snug fit with minimal contact between the ear canal and the earbud tip.
Summarily, they’re comfortable to wear.
The carry case, conversely, has an easy-to-open magnetically held lid. And both pieces of hardware are incredibly lightweight. Making them both more portable still and more comfortable to use. The earbuds themselves slip in sideways instead of with the barrel arm pointed down.
From a hardware perspective, aside from the fact that the charging cable — like so many competing devices — feels entirely too short to be truly useful, it’s a solid, if familiar, design. The charging port and rear-facing button are clicky and well-built. And the earbuds themselves are held firmly in place when in the case.
Aesthetically, Tronsmart Apollo Air could use some work, however. The company opted for an incredibly shiny black casing for the earbuds themselves. And it matched that with a dull matte black coloration for the case. The company printed its logo on the touchpads of the earbuds themselves. As well as the company brand emblazoned on the top of the carry case.
That, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But a combination of the plastics used and the coloration, as well as how easy it appears to be to scuff the carry case — there are even some scuffs in the gallery above, just from pulling the case from its packaging — do not lend to a good look.
The shiny plastics also give off, in equal measure and at intervals, a somewhat cheap aesthetic. That doesn’t appear to extend to the build quality, fortunately. And the IP45 dust and water resistance means they can be used in a light rainstorm or during a workout. So that, at the very least, won’t be an issue.
Tronsmart Apollo Air battery life doesn’t wow or disappoint
Now, battery life is subjective. So, during tests, as with my review of Tronsmart Apollo Air, I subject headphones to scenarios that will result in the most extreme drain feasible for real-world use. In this case, that meant playing audio at around 90-percent volume at an average distance of 30-feet. Often with obstacles between myself and the headphones. And with playback via a HiFi app.
With that said, I was not thoroughly impressed with the battery life of Tronsmart Apollo Air. But it also wasn’t disappointing since that falls under the same range as is seen with the competitions’ Hybrid ANC true-wireless earbuds. Namely, right around 4-hours of playback per earbud charge. Tronsmart claims 5-hours of playback. And, of course, that will be attainable under less strenuous conditions for the earbuds. But that was the time for my listening conditions.
In terms of charging, I was able to see just over three additional charges from the carry case. And charging them up was just about perfectly in line with as advertised. Around 2.5-hours for the buds. The case fell in the same category, at around 2.5-hours for that to charge. There’s no wireless charging to be found here. But all of the figures are fairly standard for the device category, though not brilliant or groundbreaking.
Audio is the most important factor so how did these fair?
Tronsmart Apollo Air was undoubtedly comfortable during my review. But the audio was unfortunately definitely not the best I’ve heard in the price bracket.
Now, that’s a statement that likely requires quite a bit of unpacking. Especially since they offer ready access to all of the latest, greatest audio codecs, 10mm drivers with a 32Ohms impedance rating, and Bluetooth 5.2. As we’ll discuss some of that in the next segment. But that should all equate to a brilliant listening experience. Not one that’s iffy at times.
And it should be clarified. At the middle volumes — between 50-percent and 80-percent — these headphones perform well for their price. They were still bass-heavy, compared to most other earbuds I’ve tested. So buyers should bear that in mind. Although they definitely don’t drown out mids or highs either. Both of which still shine through in clarity, with plenty of detail, good audio placement, and balance.
At higher volumes though, things get somewhat less impressive. Listening to one album on YouTube Music, the bass became far too heavy. Effectively drowning out other tones and resulting in a muddy mess.
Worse, when listening across multiple genres and in a more random app — with regard to the audio quality and codec under multiple connectivity settings — such as Pandora, volume was inconsistent from song to song. And exploring that further showed inconsistencies between different apps for different mediums too. Such as from music to movies.
The experience was, to say the least, jarring. Although it’s worth pointing out that the inconsistency disappeared when listening to a single album in that app.
At lower-than-ideal volumes, details and punchiness diminished to a noticeable extent.
All of which is to say that the experience from these headphones will differ significantly, based on how you listen to music or movies and your preferred volume. At the right volume, in the right app, they perform beautifully. Otherwise, it isn’t a groundbreaking experience, even for the price bracket Tronsmart Apollo Air resides in.
Connectivity and features from Tronsmart Apollo Air are ahead of the game
In terms of connectivity, Tronsmart Apollo air utilizes Bluetooth 5.2 and has support for the latest codec and protocol. One of the big ones is, of course, aptX support. That helps keep the audio experience from source to earbud and from earbud-to-earbud stable. And that performed splendidly during this review. There was never any cut-out and even using these just beyond their described maximum range, was a pleasant experience.
That’s as long as I maintained a clear line-of-sight
Another aspect of technology under review that makes Apollo Air from Tronsmart well worth the cash is the mics. Six mics are already well beyond what most similarly-priced earbuds are offering. And Qualcomm cVc 8.0 clear voice technology helps drive those mics further still.
Using these earbuds for a work meeting resulted in precisely no complaints about the clarity of my voice. And I had no complaints on my end either. Although I did notice a slight speakerphone effect when I tested them further. That means that these are easily going to be some of the best buds for the money when it comes to voice chatting or meetings. Which is a stark difference from the listening experience as described above.
In terms of features beyond the active noise cancelation, there are plenty of those to discuss too. Not least of all, the intuitive touch controls are centered around multi-tap gestures while left and right individual taps control volume. That’s also how skipping or track selection is controlled.
Two of those tap control features are ANC and Ambient Mode. There’s only a single level for the first of those features and it does a great job drowning out background noise, even in a loud environment. And even with no music actively playing — although it obviously works much better with media playback ongoing.
Ambient Mode, conversely, is brilliant. As the branding implies, that brings forward environmental audio and amplifies it. So I could not only hear my music while cycling. I could also hear traffic around me. With the mode working well enough that I could easily hear a neighbor requesting help locating a pet while cycling past. Summarily, the pass-through mode allowed me to have full environmental awareness, without losing my place in the media I was consuming.
All of that is setting aside the Tronsmart app, downloadable from the Google Play Store. That, summarily, allows some custom touch controls, better EQ control, better battery accuracy, and more.
Are these earbuds really worth the asking price?
Standing all on their own, at a price of $69.99, my review of Tronsmart Apollo Air showed that they aren’t “bad” earbuds. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Tronsmart Apollo Air stands on its own as a great earbud to buy. Especially if you need good top-tier features without paying several hundred dollars. The audio, while not always consistent, as noted above, is great where it is. And the battery life is more than acceptable.
Conversely, comfort and build quality are just about on-point for the asking price too.
Unfortunately, Tronsmart Apollo Air is not standing all on its own. Instead, it competes directly with several other upstart brands. And several of those are at the top of their game, offering a superior experience on battery and audio consistency. Complete with several of the same top-tier features and the same connectivity standards. All without sacrificing on build quality, aesthetics, or comfort.
Because of that, these are not going to be as easy a recommendation to buy as they might otherwise be. Although this wearable will still get the job done and whether or not they’ll be great is going to vary from user to user in many regards.