Global smartphone brands entering the true wireless earphones segment isn't new; Apple, Samsung, Sony, and Realme are notable names that have done so already. While true wireless earphones use Bluetooth and work with practically any Bluetooth device, brands usually market additional features and ease of use to drive brand loyalty. The latest smartphone maker to jump onto the true wireless bandwagon is Oppo, with the Enco Free earphones.
Launched alongside the Oppo Reno 3 Pro and the more affordable Enco W31 true wireless earphones, the Enco Free is priced at Rs. 7,999. How do these earphones compare with numerous others in this crowded product segment? Find out in our review.
Most true wireless earphones go with the more popular in-canal fit, while some manufacturers opt for the outer-ear fit - similar to that of the Apple AirPods and Realme Buds Air. The Oppo Enco Free claims to offer an in-canal fit as well, thanks to its rubber eartips, but is really primarily designed to offer an outer-ear fit.
We quite liked how comfortable the earphones were to wear because of this outer-ear fit. However, they weren't very secure for us, and it always felt as though the earphones would fall out of our ears (even though this never actually happened during our time with the Oppo Enco Free). There isn't much passive noise isolation on offer even with the largest ear tips, although this didn't affect the quality of the sound itself for us. There are two microphones on each earbud - one near the top and one at the bottom of the stalk.
Controls on the Oppo Enco Free are carried out using gestures on the stalks of the earphones. Sliding a finger up or down the left earbud adjusts the volume; a double-tap on either side plays or pauses music and answers or ends calls; and sliding a finger up or down the right earphone skips to the next or previous track. Taking either earbud off pauses music, and putting it back in your ear will resume playback.
While these controls are appealing, it was quite easy to accidentally adjust the volume or switch tracks with even the gentlest of touches. This usually happened when we were trying to adjust the fit, which we often had to do because of how lightly the earphones stayed in our ears.
Pairing the earphones with most devices is easy enough, although the earbuds need to be in the case with the lid open the first time. Subsequently, the earphones will automatically connect to the last used device once removed from the case. If you're using one of the newer Oppo smartphones, pairing the Enco Free earphones is said to be simpler than on any other smartphone; You'll see a pop-up screen on the phone, similar to the way AirPods can be paired with an iPhone.
The Oppo Enco Free is available in three colours: white, black, and pink. We quite liked our black review unit, which had a dull matte texture on the inside and glossy finish on the outside. The compact, squarish charging case has a similar finish, and a USB Type-C port at the bottom. The earphones latch into place in the case magnetically, and the lid also snaps and stays shut with the help of magnets.
The case is plastic, but has a small metal strip at the front which has an Oppo logo and an indicator light. There is also a small button on the side, which is used to put the earphones in pairing mode. We quite liked how small and easy to carry the case was. The earphones ran for a little over four hours per charge, with the case topping up the earphones four times over. This gave us a total battery life of around 21 hours per cycle.
For connectivity, the Oppo Enco Free uses Bluetooth 5, with support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. The earphones have 13.4mm dynamic drivers, with a frequency response range of 16-20,000Hz. The sales package includes three pairs of ear tips in different sizes, a USB Type-C cable for charging, and information booklets.
Some competing options in the affordable and mid-range true wireless space have stand-out features such as wireless charging or support for the aptX Bluetooth codec, but the Oppo Enco Free doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary. What you get with this pair of true wireless earphones is design, comfort, ease of use, and decent sound quality for the price. The connections to our test devices were quick and stable, and the earphones worked well across use cases including listening to music, watching videos, and making phone calls.
We used the Oppo Enco Free earphones with a OnePlus 7T Pro (Review) and an iPad mini (2019) for our review, listening to music across various streaming services, as well as our own high-resolution music collection. The AAC Bluetooth codec was in use on both of our devices.
Starting with Shur-I-Kan's Conundrum, the Oppo Enco Free earphones were loud and engaging with this bass-heavy house track. The earphones are tuned to bring out a fair amount of punch in the low-end without overpowering the mids and highs too much. That said, the bass never felt aggressive to us, with an understated and laidback character that we liked. This won't appeal to some listeners, though.
Indeed, we liked the excitement this sonic signature brought to the track, and the ability of the Enco Free to get loud without any real distortion also meant that the outer-ear fit didn't affect sound quality. A lot of outside sound could be heard over the music, which was a bit distracting for us in some situations. On the other hand, it did allow for just enough awareness of our surroundings, which can be a good thing when using these earphones outdoors.
The outer-ear fit did also result in a lot of sound leakage, with people sitting a few feet away from us able to recognise what tracks we were listening to. Turning the volume up amplified this significantly, but also made for a lot more detail and depth in the sound. Listening to Raise Your Weapon by Deadmau5, we liked the impression of distance and direction that the earphones added to the track.
Overall, the sound was just about enjoyable without going much further than that. The lack of aggression and attack, along with the fact that the aptX codec isn't supported, meant that the Oppo Enco Free never quite felt like the best option in its price segment; that honour remains with the 1more Stylish True Wireless earphones for now.
The Oppo Enco Free is claimed to support simultaneous Bluetooth transmission to both earbuds, which was useful as we were able to use either or both earbuds with ease as needed. This also helped with connection stability and voice calls. Performance with calls was good in both quiet and loud environments, and we had no complaints with voices on either end of the calls we made. Environmental noise cancellation on calls also worked well for us.
With the number of options now available in India in the true wireless audio space, it takes a fair bit for something to stand out. The Oppo Enco Free is a capable pair of true wireless earphones that delivers good sound quality, and look and feel, great as well. At Rs. 7,999, you get what you pay for. There's just nothing exceptional about these earphones; they're good, and that's just about it.
That said, if you want a safe, functional and incredibly stable pair of earphones that does a good job for phone calls, the Oppo Enco Free is a worthwhile option. If you're looking at something more musical, or you want a proper in-canal fit, the 1More Stylish True Wireless earphones might be the better option.
Price: Rs. 7,999
Ratings (out of 5)