Realme has come a long way in a very short time with its audio products. The range, now six products strong, includes wired earphones, wireless neckband earphones, and true wireless earbuds. All of these have been launched in just about 18 months. Talking specifically about true wireless earphones, Realme has now launched its third such headset, the Realme Buds Q. At Rs. 1,999, this is the most affordable pair of true wireless earphones from Realme yet, and also the first from the company with an in-canal fit.
Positioned to take on the Redmi Earbuds S and even the neckband-style OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z, the Realme Buds Q is the smallest and lightest yet from the company. With modern specifications and design, and a promise of capable performance for the price, is the Realme Buds Q the most impressive product in Realme's true wireless range yet? Find out in our review.
I thought the 4.1g weight of each of the Redmi Earbuds S earpieces was impressive, but incredibly enough, Realme has managed to make the Buds Q even lighter. At just 3.6g each, the Realme Buds Q could barely be felt in my ears, and was very comfortable as a result. The in-canal fit and small size of the earphones helped as well, giving them acceptable passive noise isolation and a generally non-bothersome fit.
The earphones have been designed in collaboration with renowned designer Jose Levy. The earphones and charging case both resemble pebbles, and are available in three colour options - black, white, and yellow. I quite liked the understated elegance of the black variant that was sent for review, and I was also pleased with the hint of Realme's trademark shade of yellow that's visible on the inside of the included ear tips. The case has a magnetic lid and there's a Micro-USB port for charging at the back. It's quite compact, and fits in my pocket easily.
Unlike other budget options, the Realme Buds Q has touch-sensitive controls on each earphone. However, these didn't work well at all for me. The touch zones are too small, and weren't easy to locate when I was wearing the earphones. Even when I firmly tapped either zone, it didn't always respond. It often got to the point where I'd just pick up my smartphone to control playback or to receive calls, and this is a major shortcoming for the Realme Buds Q.
The controls are customisable through the Realme Link app, and you can also invoke the voice assistant on your smartphone or toggle the low-latency gaming mode using these gestures – when they work, of course. The app also lets you see rough battery levels for each of the earphones (in 10-percent increments).
While we usually see some form of status and battery level indicators on either the earphones or the charging case with most budget true wireless options, the Realme Buds Q has none. The only way to know the earbuds are turned on is through audio prompts, and you'll have to rely on your smartphone to tell you how much power you have left. You'll only know that the case is out of power when the earphones don't get fully charged. This isn't terribly inconvenient, but it is a drawback that comes with the price.
The Realme Buds Q supports the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, which is impressive for the price and form factor. The headset has 10mm dynamic drivers, and uses Bluetooth 5 for connectivity. The earphones are IPX4 rated for water resistance. There's also a low-latency gaming mode, which is said to reduce latency to around 119ms.
I was able to get around 3.5 hours of use from the earphones at higher volumes and with mixed usage. The case added another four charges for around 14 hours of total use per charge cycle. This isn't particularly good, but it's entirely acceptable given the Rs. 1,999 price tag of the Realme Buds Q.
The Realme Buds Air and Realme Buds Air Neo are feature-filled true wireless earphones that get a lot right for the price, but sound quality hasn't been a strong point for the company thus far. With the Realme Buds Q, things are different. Sound quality is a bit better in my opinion, and the earphones finally sound like they should for the price, helped along by AAC codec support and the in-canal design.
Starting with Mere Gully Mein from the Gully Boy soundtrack with the volume turned up, the sound was clean and much gentler on the senses than what we experienced with the Buds Air and Buds Air Neo. The sonic signature and tuning see some improvements, and the sound is a lot more balanced and uniform as a result. There's still a noticeable bass bump and a definite drop-off in the mid-range, but the sound came across as more calculated and tight than aggressive.
There's also a fair amount of detail to be heard, particularly in some of the more unique Indian folk instruments used at the start of this hip-hop track. When the bass hook kicked in, it did take over the track as expected, but there was always a decent level of detail to be heard in the softer elements of the track. The rap segments by Ranveer Singh definitely sounded a bit softer than we'd have liked given that they are important parts of the track, but the drop-off wasn't substantial enough to take anything away from the character of the track.
Although the earphones do sound good for the price, the Realme Buds Q isn't a stand-out performer in the category. Sound isn't quite as driven and to-the-point as on the similarly priced OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z, so buyers looking for sound quality should be considering neckband style earphones for their better sonic abilities.
The Realme Buds Q sound their best at around the 90 percent volume level. Going to full volume makes the sound a bit shrill, while reducing the volume takes away from everything except the lows. Listening to All Of The Lights by Brasstracks, the saxophone riffs sounded sharp and unpleasant at the maximum volume, and too dull at anything below the 80 percent level.
This rigidity in terms of selecting the right volume might be bothersome for many, particularly if you're used to listening at lower volumes or need to have some ability to hear your surroundings. That said, even at the 90 percent volume level, the Realme Buds Q wasn't as loud as would have been the case on most other affordable true wireless earphones.
The Realme Buds Q was pretty good as a hands-free headset, barring the issue with the touch sensor that meant that I usually had to answer the call using my smartphone. I could hear and be heard clearly, and was able to have long conversations using the Buds Q without many instances of trouble. The low-latency mode for gaming worked exactly as it did on the Realme Buds Air Neo; there was a slight reduction in sound quality, with an equivalent improvement in latency. However, that still left an audible delay. If you're a mobile gamer, don't go throwing away your wired earphones just yet.
Interestingly enough, Realme's most affordable true wireless headset also delivers the best sound, and I don't mean ‘for the price'. At Rs. 1,999, the Realme Buds Q is a better option than the Realme Buds Air and Buds Air Neo when it comes to sound quality. The low weight and no-nonsense design also work well for this pair of earphones. Decent performance on calls is an added bonus.
There are definitely some issues with the gesture controls, and sound quality isn't quite as impressive as on the similarly priced OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z. However, you do still have to pay a slight premium for true wireless earphones, and the Realme Buds Q offers as much as is possible considering that. It's a close call between the Realme Buds Q and the Redmi Earbuds S, but the Buds Q just about edges past in terms of sound quality. It's definitely worth considering if you're looking to buy a pair of true wireless earphones right now but want to spend as little as possible.
Price: Rs. 1,999
Ratings (out of 5)
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