Tronsmart has been in the audio game for quite some time and recently shipped out its sub-$50 Onyx Apex for review to showcase the prowess that experience brings.
Now, at that price, Onyx Apex isn’t going to be the most groundbreaking headphone on the market. It’s also not going to offer all of the latest features such as wireless charging or deep app controls. But the company’s latest offering does bring active noise cancelling (ANC) to the table. And that comes alongside great driver tuning and support for aptX.
Additionally, the company managed to pack in touch controls that go a bit further than the competition. All in a design that looks every bit like it should cost a lot more.
So let’s dig in and take a closer look at the latest earbuds from Tronsmart.
The hardware here is both familiar and surprisingly good for the money
In terms of design aesthetics and functionality, at least on the hardware front, Tronsmart Onyx Apex looked surprisingly familiar under review. That ultimately boils down to just how similar the gadget is on those fronts to other Tronsmart offerings. Particularly, as compared to Tronsmart Apollo Air and Apollo Air+.
But, of course, that’s not at all a bad thing. Especially with consideration for the price tag. Which, by the way, is around $20 less for Onyx Apex.
The design is fairly standard. Users get a rounded, rectangular-ish carry case emblazoned with Tronsmart branding on top. That’s set with a rear hinge that’s sturdy and shows no signs of wearing out even after our test period ended. Around the front, users get four LEDs to show the current charge. And, the earbuds themselves slot in horizontally.
Tronsmart built its Onyx Apex entirely from a material that’s easily identifiable as plastic. But that doesn’t mean they feel cheap. With high-gloss black hues used on the earbuds themselves, as compared to the case. The USB-C port at the back feels sturdy and doesn’t wiggle much when jostled. And the earbuds snap in and out easily enough, thanks in part to the moulding around the buds offering room to get extra grip.
That’s without the earbuds falling out of the case by accident. Thanks in part to the strong magnets holding them in place. However, one-handed operation can be a bit tricky, due to the shape of the case.
Conversely, the earbuds also have their own LED light to show whether they’re charged enough to use comfortably for the long-haul or not. And that LED also flashes appropriately while a connection is being established to make that process more user-friendly.
With that said, and setting the somewhat standard, if premium, aesthetics aside, the construction here is solid. And the whole package is small and light enough to show that portability was an obvious focus for the team behind these earbuds.
Overall, the hardware here is not disappointing, especially with consideration for the price point. In fact, it feels and looks quite good, all things considered. And the attention to detail also carries over to comfort and usability.
Tronsmart clearly put a good deal of effort into ensuring ease-of-use from the on-wearable touchpoints. Those are intuitive and comfortable, with a low-occcurance rate for accidental or unintentional touch inputs.
That’s assisted by the fact that the touch area is recessed into a concave segment of the bud near the top. Tronsmart ensures comfort by utilizing what appears to be an extended bud tip that keeps the stick segment off of the ear, for the most part. And by a squishy but firm earbud tip that comes in three packed-in sizes to help users get a good seal.
Battery life is acceptable but nowhere near groundbreaking
Battery life is as important as audio quality when it comes to true wireless earbuds. And Tronsmart has a lot of competition on this front, with OEMs steadily increasing well beyond the six or seven hour mark for a single charge.
Now, the company was definitely more focused on audio than on extending battery life with these buds. And that shows in the fact that the company only claims up to 5-hours of battery on a single charge. Or over 24-hours total, including the charging case. That’s not necessarily a problem, given the price point for these earbuds. But it’s worth noting that is an hour or two below the competition on the single charge front. And it’s several hours behind on the case front too.
Of course, 24-hours from the charging case is typically more than acceptable. That is, after all, a full day’s use. And even with ANC turned on and volume approaching the maximum, I found both figures to be fairly accurate under review for Tronsmart Onyx Apex. Which is, in and of itself, unusual and impressive. Typically, headphones fall well short of their marketed times and over 4.5-hours isn’t necessarily bad. It will, in fact, be more than enough for the majority of users.
The issue with battery life arises from the fact that Tronsmart’s battery charging claims are equally accurate. So it takes right around two hours to charge the buds up. Although an extra hour is easy enough to attain with about 10-minutes of charging. Just as advertised.
Audio quality from Tronsmart Onyx Apex is great but not in every way
Now, Tronsmart Onyx Apex were incredibly comfortable throughout my review of them. In fact, listening for a full day wasn’t even an issue. With no signs of ear fatigue or soreness. But comfort only gets you so far in the highly-competitive world of in-ear wireless buds. Equally important is the quality of the audio output and input.
On those fronts, these Tronsmart earbuds didn’t disappoint. Or, at the very least, they didn’t disappoint in the way I’d have expected at under $50. Balance across the audio frequencies was great, albeit somewhat geared toward bass. But that bass also doesn’t drown out the mids, which come through more pronounced than some other Tronsmart buds I’ve tested. And both are met with crisp, clean highs.
On the bass front, the tones did lack some of the warmth found in more expensive gadgets. With Onyx Apex instead leaning toward more crisp thrums and bumps. But depth was beyond expectations at any rate and in-head spatial placement was near perfect. Tronsmart Onyx Apex cleanly separated frequencies to their assigned channels without losing power, even in deeper, more complex tracks.
And that same attention to detail and quality carries over to movies and everything else too. Better still, it does that without losing power when ANC is turned on. And that mode did a great job of keeping most of the audio out, even in noisier environments. Although, the noise cancellation here isn’t nearly as strong as more expensive buds. At just 28dB of noise reduction, it won’t be suited to the noisiest environments. While the passthrough mode did its job equally well. Effectively letting environmental noise shine through as needed.
Conversely, the six on-board mics went a long way to ensuring easy access to on-demand Google Assistant but worked just as well in phone calls. With no complaints in any phone calls or video chats initiated while wearing these buds whatsoever.
All of which leads to my two big caveats for these otherwise fantastic sounding buds — at the very least for the money. First, they are much quieter than I’d expect at $50. In fact, they’re quieter than I’d expect just about any earbuds to sound. I spent the entirety of my listening period at full volume since turning them down below 50-percent was not pleasant.
Secondary to that, Tronsmart doesn’t provide support for Onyx Apex in its app. So there was no access to EQ settings or other customizations. Which I’d have expected for buds with audio of this quality, even at their price.
Connectivity is strong and on-bud features are well worth the cost
Now, as noted above, there’s unfortunately no app connectivity with these earbuds. And that’s unfortunate primarily because the feature added so much to the gadgets I previously reviewed from Tronsmart. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t pleny of features to discover during my review of Tronsmart Onyx Apex.
And it certainly doesn’t mean that the connections weren’t strong. These earbuds have a claimed effective range of up to 32.8 feet. I found that, with line-of-sight, Tronsmart appears to have played it safe on that claim. These earbuds were still going strong at over 50-feet. Even when I moved to another level and across my house. All without losing quality, thanks to Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX support via Qualcomm’s QCC3040 audio chip.
What’s more, there were quite a few features to explore beyond ANC, transparency mode, or the clear voice technology. Especially as that pertains to on-bud touch controls. Those allow for everything from call answering and Assistant access directly on-bud from either bud. With forward and backward playback control on the right and left bud, respectively. But the biggest touch control feature here is one that most headphones don’t support.
Tronsmart also included the ability to control volume up and down via the right and left bud-respectively. That made adjusting just about every aspect of the listening experience better since most OEMs don’t include volume on the gadget itself. Typically, you’d have to pull out your phone. Tied in with the fact that the shape of the bud prevents accidental taps, that’s a powerful feature for earbuds that cost less than $50.
Tronsmart Onyx Apex earbuds are a great bargain for the cost
Despite the range of caveats described above, Tronsmart Onyx Apex performed well under review. In fact, they arguably performed better than more expensive Tronsmart buds I’ve tested. Especially once the sub-$50 price tag is factored in.
What sets these buds apart, of course, isn’t battery life or charging. And it isn’t the intuitive touch controls, although volume controls on-bud definitely do set them apart. Those aspects of this device are fairly standard. And there isn’t much to talk about if you want something that pushes the highest volumes either.
Instead, what sets these apart is the design, ANC, and quality that you’re getting for the money. Tronsmart did an excellent job on all fronts and it would be a mistake not to include Onyx Apex on your shortlist. Especially if you’re looking for true wireless headphones with a price at under $100.