TWS, or True Wireless Stereo earbuds have exploded over the last few years helped no doubt by the notoriety of Apple AirPods. But for the first 2 years or so, they were exorbitantly expensive and usually pretty crap, the fact we are at a place now where you can get decent sounding TWS earbuds with no showstopping issues for just £30 is pretty amazing.
- They're £30
- Strong Bass
- Surprisingly good mids and highs
- Strong Battery
- Solid connection
- Can use either bud in mono mode
- MicroUSB charger.
- Case almost too light and slippery
- 10mm Dynamic driver
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 3.6g per earbud
- 40mAh per bud
- 400mAh battery in the case
- 20Hz-20Khz frequency response
- MicroUSB Charging case
The Realme Buds Q are what I expected us to have by this point, they very small, very light just disappear into your ears. They don’t have a stem like others, they just sit there, flush, out of the way. I’ve actually worn these to sleep a few times as they’re that comfortable.
They’re entirely plastic with a soft-touch matte finish with a small protrusion for the silicone ear tips to be placed on to. Multiple sizes are included in the box, a small and a large to go with the medium ones applied by default, but these are just normal-sized ear tips, and if you feel really fancy you could even buy some Comply foam ear tips.
On the outside of the bud is a small glossy part with the Realme logo etched into it, this is a touch-sensitive portion for controlling the earbuds with different combinations of double, triple and long presses, all customisable in the Realme Link app.
On the inside is the two pogo pin contacts for charging the earbuds in the case. Above and below these are the two microphones. There is no active noise cancelling on these, not that you would expect there to be at £30, but the two microphones are likely for better audio quality when on the phone or using voice assistants.
On the Realme site, they repeatedly bring up that these were designed by José Lévy, and that the Buds Q are designed to feel like cobblestones washed up on a beach, soft and smooth and the case definitely feels like that, the earbuds are a bit more of a stretch.
The issue I have with the case is that it is so lightweight and so slippery that the magnet clasp is actually hard to open sometimes, maybe I just have slipperier hands than most, but I found it was 100% a two-handed operation, one hand holds the base precariously and the other shoves a nail into the tiny slot to pry it open. Oh, and to top it off? The case charges via MicroUSB, eurgh.
This was impressive to me, I’ve been testing a fair few TWS earbuds lately, and I don’t know if inexpensive drivers are now actually really good or wireless chips are at the point where they can fake it but this was an enjoyable listening experience whether I was listening to Tim Minchin, Daft Punk or a podcast like We Have Concerns (seriously, go check it out).
If I had to describe the audio profile of the Buds Q succinctly it would be “very bass-forward” if the type of music you enjoy listening to benefits from heavy bass, or that is just how you prefer to listen to music, have fun, you’ll enjoy this. Vocals were surprisingly decent actually. Usually, when companies amp up the bass it’s at the deficit of vocals and mids, and that just isn’t the case here.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I can’t tell the difference between my more expensive earbuds and these, because I can, those are tighter, the response is better, the sound profile is flatter and their apps give more control, but those are all over £100, these are just £30! If the pandemic wasn’t a thing and I was still comfortable going to the gym and the pool, these would be in my gym bag, great battery life, decent sound with loud enough maximum volume without overdoing it and cheap enough that if I damaged them replacing them isn’t an issue.
Audio quality when using the microphones isn’t as positive though. Whilst I can hear the person fine they said I sounded distant and hollow, and given that the Google assistant often time had a hard time hearing me I’d say that tracks, but again, £30, I have to put these things into perspective, would better microphones have made these bigger, or more expensive? I don’t know, but I’m fine with how these are now, personally.
This is a short section, the App you use to customise the Realme Buds Q is the same app for the other Realme products, the Realme Link app, available on the Google Play store. It doesn’t appear to be on the Apple app store, I don’t know why, but you don’t need the app, it is just a nice to have. You can live with the standard touch controls, and you don’t update the firmware on these buds anyway.
When In the app you can see the battery percentage of each earbud, can toggle on and off game mode, which I assume just lowers latency for gaming, though I feel like a lower latency connection should always be on?. Below this, you can change the controls for the left earbud and below that for the right.
In these sections, you can change what a double-tap does, what a triple tap does, and what a long press does. Right at the bottom, you have an option for pressing both earbuds for 2 seconds, this activates or deactivates the game mode and plays a strange car engine revving noise interrupting what you are doing for a second or two.
This was something I was dreading, and then I started using them. Realme say they’re using their own R1 chip for the Buds Q and I can’t find any information on the R1 chip, unlike the information Huawei put out about the Kirin A1 chip. But even with no information other than a name I can say I’m a fan of the Buds Q and the R1. these have some of the strongest Bluetooth connection to multiple phones that I have tried, even passing the “phone in a back pocket of denim and wearing a hoodie” test with ease, I can leave my phone on my desk in my home office and go to the kitchen without so much as a hiccup.
Same with intra-earbud connection, aside from one time wherein one of my buds would just not wake up (that was remedied by a magical elf I think) every time I took the buds Q out of the case they were awake, connected to each other, and by the time they were in my ear connected to the phone, simple and convenient. Sadly they do not use Gooogle Fast Pair like the more expensive Buds Air Neo from Realme. But I can’t complain too much, again, these are £30.
This is a pretty easy section to write as well. Realme tout 4.5 hours per session, and I think that’s bang on! I tend not to listen for that long, but there are times wherein long sessions are doable, and the Buds Q gets through them no issue, I think I’d run out of podcasts in my Queue before these died from one session. Pop them back in the case and they charge up pretty quickly, I’d say about 45 minutes for a full charge in the case. And with the huge battery in the case, you’ll get about 20 hours of use until that is depleted, which is very impressive.
I really do not like that the case uses MicroUSB to charge, I was hoping we are over this but on cheap products like this, I guess It’ll be around for a bit longer, much to my dismay.
The Buds Q from Realme, honestly I wasn’t as excited for these as I was for their slightly more expensive £40 Realme Buds Air Neo. I was wrong. These are the better buy. They’re smaller, lighter, more comfortable, with better battery and standby time and they’re cheaper.
They don’t sound audiophile-grade, but audiophiles are buying £30 per ear tips, not a set of buds for £30, if you just listen to normal top 50 pop music, these will do you great, now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go listen to “guilty pleasures of the 90’s” on Google Play Music.