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Realme Buds Air 3 Review: Incremental Improvements, Plenty of Value

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Affordable true wireless earphones were quite rare till around a year ago, but we’ve seen many brands launch such models of late, with key features such as active noise cancellation and app support. While some of the early products in this segment such as the Realme Buds Air 2, were a bit rudimentary when it came to performance and capabilities, recent products from brands such as Oppo and OnePlus have come a long way, setting new benchmarks for what you can expect from a TWS headset under Rs. 5,000.

Not one to be left behind, Realme has now launched its latest true wireless headset, the Buds Air 3. It’s very similar to its predecessor, but promises incremental improvements to overcome some of the Buds Air 2’s shortcomings. That said, there’s now strong competition in this segment, including the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro and OnePlus Buds Z2. Is this the best true wireless headset you can buy for less than Rs. 5,000? Find out in this review.

realme buds air 3 review earpieces Realme

The Realme Buds Air 3 works with the Realme Link app on iOS and Android

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Compact, efficient design on the Realme Buds Air 3

The Realme Buds Air 3 is priced at Rs. 3,999 in India, and has been available in Starry Blue and Galaxy White since it launched. Realme has also recently added a new Nitro Blue colour with white racing stripes vertically down the case, and this particular option costs Rs. 4,999.

A new product version typically means you’re getting some improvements, and the Realme Buds Air 3 does introduce some useful changes when it comes to design. The earpieces and charging case are smaller compared to those of the Realme Buds Air 2, although they look and feel similar. You get a proper in-canal fit with these earphones, which helps with noise isolation for the active noise cancellation.

Just like the Buds Air 2, the Realme Buds Air 3 have stems that are moulded differently from the main chamber of the earpieces, and are a different colour. On my review unit, the stems were silver and the earpieces were white. As was the case with its predecessor, there are no logos on the earpieces, save for the ‘L’ and ‘R’ markings. The earpieces are IPX5 rated for water resistance and weigh 4.2g each.

I quite like how the Realme Buds Air 3 looks. The compactness and comfortable fit worked very well for me. The sales package includes a short charging cable and a total of three pairs of silicone ear tips of different sizes, for a customisable fit. The outer sides of the stems of the earpieces are touch-sensitive for controls, which are customisable through the Realme Link app (available on Android and iOS).

The performance of the touch controls on the Realme Buds Air 3 was acceptable, although there were a handful of occasions on which a triple-tap gesture was registered as a double-tap, or didn’t register at all. The touch-sensitive area on each earpiece is small and unmarked, which is what caused the occasional misinterpretations. It’s possible to control playback, cycle between ANC and hear-through modes, invoke the default voice assistant on the paired device, and activate the game mode directly from the earphones using just these touch controls.

The charging case of the Realme Buds Air 3 has a similar colour and finish as the earpieces. There’s an indicator light on the front, a USB Type-C port at the bottom, and a Bluetooth pairing button on the right. The top has a Realme logo. The review unit sent to me had my name printed on the back of the case, but Realme has confirmed that this is not an option available to customers in India as of now.

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Similar to most of the company’s other wireless audio products, the Realme Link app is used to support the functionality of the Realme Buds Air 3. The app lets users cycle through ANC and hear-through modes, activate game mode, and control other features such as dual-device connectivity, in-ear detection, and more. As mentioned earlier, you can also customise the touch controls on the earpieces using the app.

The app lets you choose between three equaliser presets, or you can go through a customised audio tuning process to set the earphones up to your liking. I preferred the ‘balanced’ sound preset. However, the custom audio signature might suit some people, since you have to go through a hearing test that sets up the tuning specifically for you.

realme buds air 3 review case Realme

The charging case of the Realme Buds Air 3 is smaller than that of the Buds Air 2

 

The Realme Buds Air 3 has 10mm dynamic drivers and uses Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity, with support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. Active noise cancellation is claimed to offer a reduction of up to 42dB of sound, and the low-latency game mode has a claimed latency of 88ms. Multi-point connectivity for connecting to up to two devices simultaneously is supported.

Battery life on the Realme Buds Air 3 is decent for the price, with the earpieces running for around 4 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge. The charging case adds three full additional charges, for a total runtime of around 18 hours per charge cycle. The charging case is smaller than that of the Realme Buds Air 2 and adds fewer additional charges, but the better battery life of the earpieces itself makes up for this.

Improved sound, decent ANC on the Realme Buds Air 3

Although feature-rich, the Realme Buds Air 2 was fairly ordinary when it came to sound quality. Active noise cancellation was just about functional, but far from what I expected from a recent headset at this price. The Realme Buds Air 3 offers a decent step up from its predecessor in terms of performance, offering a bit more in terms of detail and ANC quality, while maintaining the reliable connectivity and ease of use that stood out on the Buds Air 2.

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Support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs meant that I had the same listening experience on Android and iOS, and I primarily used an iPhone as the source device for this review. Starting with Intoxicated by Martin Solveig, the sound felt a lot more refined and better tuned than on any other true wireless headset from Realme that I’ve reviewed.

The sonic signature of the Buds Air 3 is expectedly tuned for strong bass, but the lows felt clean and tight, unlike the typically punchy and sometimes overbearing lows that I’ve experienced on other options in this price range. The highs felt comfortable and clean, although the mid-range was just a bit held back in comparison to the highs and lows, but not by much. This helped bring out the strengths of Intoxicated well, making the track sound engaging and very clean, particularly its strong, fast beat.

realme buds air 3 review open Realme

Sound quality and ANC performance have improved in small, but meaningful ways with the Realme Buds Air 3

 

I quite liked the level of detail on offer in Feels Like Summer by Childish Gambino, with this down-tempo, soothing track sounding particularly nice across volume levels. This is where the Realme Buds Air 3 has improved the most over the Buds Air 2, delivering a much more pleasant and comfortable sound that is largely on par with what can be expected at this price today. I enjoyed Donald Glover’s vocals just as much as I liked the way the earphones reproduced fainter details in the instruments of this track.

The Realme Buds Air 3’s improvements made the sound a lot easier and more comfortable on the ears, and I didn’t experience any unpleasant effects or listener fatigue at reasonable volumes. However, I found that this somewhat ‘safe’ approach did tend to hold the earphones back a bit when it came to attack and drive in the sound, as compared to the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro and the OnePlus Buds Z2.

Active noise cancellation on the Realme Buds Air 3 was a hint better than on its predecessor, and worked well indoors. Sounds such as the hum of an AC were pretty much muted, while office chatter and urban outdoor sounds on a busy street were somewhat softer. This made for easier and more focused listening, but spending a bit more on options such as the OnePlus Buds Z2 or Nothing Ear 1 would get you considerably better ANC performance.

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Transparency mode sounded a bit unnecessarily amplified, but definitely improved my ability to hear my surroundings. I found it easier to just take one earpiece out and rely on the automatic play and pause functionality when having short conversations. Connectivity on the Realme Buds Air 3 was very good, with the earpieces working reliably at distances of up to 4m. Multi-point connectivity worked seamlessly, and I was able to use the earphones for calls without any issues.

Verdict

Realme has an impressive track record when it comes to value-for-money products, and the Realme Buds Air 3 keeps the brand relevant in the affordable true wireless headset segment. With improved sound quality and active noise cancellation, a more compact size and shape, and useful features such as multi-point connectivity, the Buds Air 3 is a very good pair of true wireless earphones to consider if you’re looking for something under Rs. 5,000.

That said, sound quality and ANC performance on the Realme Buds Air 3 are decent for the price. The quality doesn’t quite match up to what you’d get from some other recent launches such as the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro and the OnePlus Buds Z2, but the overall experience still makes this headset worth thinking about in this price range, and it doesn’t disappoint.


How is Alexa faring in India? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Zebronics Zeb-Yoga 3 Wireless Neckband Earphones With 17 Hours Playback Time Launched in India

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Zeb-Yoga 3 wireless neckband earphones have been launched by Zebronics in India. Zebronics says that these wireless neckband earphones offer an ergonomic and flexible design. The Zeb-Yoga 3 come with metallic magnetic earpieces and is designed for durability with superior build quality, according to the company. Moreover, Zebronics claims that these wireless neckband earphones also offer up to 17 hours of playback time and come with controls for media, and volume, and voice assistant support for Android and iOS devices.

Zebronics Zeb-Yoga 3 price, availability details

The Zebronics Zeb-Yoga 3 wireless neckband earphones will be available to purchase at an introductory price of Rs. 699 on the Reliance Digital online store. The earphones are listed on the Zebronics website with a price tag of Rs.1,899.

Buyers will get an option to choose the earphones in Black, Blue, Green and Orange colour options.

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Zebronics Zeb-Yoga 3 specifications, features

The Zeb-Yoga 3 wireless neckband earphones feature 14mm drivers. As mentioned, the neckband earphones come with an ergonomic, flexible, and lightweight design. The earphones weigh just 27g and feature in-ear style earbuds.

Moreover, Zebronics says that the Zeb-Yoga 3 neckband earphones offer up to 17 hours of playback time with a rapid charging feature. A quick 10-minute charge will enable up to 8 hours of usage. For connectivity, they come with Bluetooth 5.0 for connecting your phone or other devices. In terms of dimensions, the Zeb-Yoga 3 measure 111.2×28.2×182.7mm.

Speaking on the launch, Pradeep Doshi, Director, Zebronics India, said, “We’re always working on upgrading our product portfolio and working in line with our mission of bringing premium to the masses. Zeb-Yoga 3 is the new introduction with peppy colours, so it’s not only about the performance, but it’s also about the style, an identity that you believe in.”


Looking to buy headphones? Listen to the experts on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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The new Sony LinkBuds S is not what we expected

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Sony LinkBuds S official Source: Sony

Sony finally unveiled the successor of the XM4 wireless headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5. Before the announcement, a few leaks suggested that Sony would unveil the XM5 headphones alongside the new Sony LinkBuds S, but it looks like the company needed a week to take the spotlight off of its new flagship headphones. The new LinkBuds S is finally here.

The Sony LinkBuds S has ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) and Ambient mode to help you hear your surroundings and cancel out noise in noisy and loud environments. The new wireless earbuds cost $200, and each earbud weighs only 4.8 g. The earbuds support Sony’s high-quality LDAC Bluetooth codec for a better sounding experience, but the earbuds themselves are more of a traditional earbud, as opposed to the previously announced Sony LinkBuds open ear earbuds.

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Sony says that the “Link” part in the name stands for can link your outside and digital life with impressive features that make the transition seamless (via TheVerge). While it features the ambient mode that can be found on the original LinkBuds earbuds, it’s a completely different set of earbuds.

Sony LinkBuds S colors
Sony LinkBuds S in Black, Desert Sand and White colors
Source: Pocketnow

The earbuds feature a 5mm audio driver, and the sound quality is said to be improved a lot compared to other high-end and premium Sony wireless earbuds. When it comes to battery life, Sony says that it can last for up to six hours with ANC on, and nine hours with ANC turned off. The case can provide an additional 20 hours of playback. The charging case takes up to three hours to be fully charged via a USB-C port on the back. There’s no wireless charging.

The new LinkBuds S is also IPX4 rated, which means that it can survive some splashes of water, rain, and sweat, making it ideal for gym users who want to take advantage of ANC and the ambient mode features. The earbuds are available in three colors, Black, Desert Sand (Cream), and White. The earbuds start at $200, and are already available at Amazon and BestBuy. The Desert Sand color appears to be exclusively available at BestBuy.

Sony LinkBuds S

Sony LinkBuds S

The new Sony LinkBuds S comes with an up to 6 hours of battery life, and 20 hours with the charging case. It features ANC and Ambient Sound features, and it has a noticeable improvement in sound quality compared to other competitive wireless earbuds.

Premium price doesn’t mean premium features

It might seem silly, but at $200 the Sony LinkBuds S isn’t just a standard cheap pair of wireless earbuds. The higher price tag means that it packs more features, and while the sound quality is said to be improved, and the ANC, Ambient Mode and microphone are all praised by early reviews, we must highlight the fact that wireless earbuds must have wireless charging capabilities at this price tag.

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Sony LinkBuds S in White Source: Sony

Wireless charging is a deal-breaker for me, and I could look past that feature for the traditional LinkBuds that cost slightly less, but it’s hard to overlook it for the LinkBuds S. I only ever charge my wireless audio gear with a cable when I’m in a hurry and they’re out of juice. Cable is faster and more efficient, but wireless charging allows me to throw them on the charging pad during the day and forget about it until I use them, usually at night or late evenings.

If the original LinkBuds and the LinkBuds S were both about $30 cheaper, it could easily be said that it’s to save on costs, but at $200, it’s an entirely different story. Let’s hope that the next generation of these two earbuds will get wireless charging.

I was excited to try these out for their seemingly superior Ambient mode, and while I’m still going to try and take it for a spin, I highly doubt they’ll become my new go-to wireless earbuds, unless the sound quality and overall set of features amaze me to the point that I no longer care about the deal-breaking wireless charging feature.

Sony LinkBuds S alternatives

Depending on your needs, you might be disappointed about the lack of wireless charging, but you might also not understand what this person is complaining about, after all, it’s not something that you might be using and relying on a day-to-day basis, as I do. That’s a fair point, but here are a few alternatives that cost roughly about the same price and come with the feature, making the Linkbuds S a hard to recommend, unless the Sony audio quality, great microphone, and excellent ANC/Ambient features are what you’re after.

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Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds product box image

Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds have one of the best noise-canceling features on the market today, and it has excellent audio drivers that deliver crisp and clear sound.

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro

AirPods Pro offers Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode to hear the world around you, and Adaptive EQ to fine-tune audio to your ears. The earbuds are sweat and water-resistant and last up to 6-hours on a single charge.

Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 black

Sony LinkBuds

The new TWS Sony LinkBuds come with a unique ring-like open-ear design that lets you listen to your favorite music, and hear your surround sound. It doesn’t have wireless charging, unlike other earbuds on this list.

Nothing Ear 1

Nothing Ear (1)

Excellent pair of wireless earbuds in a unique transparent design and great battery life. Nothing Ear (1) is also compatible with both Android and iOS, and packs all of the features that you’re looking for in wireless earbuds at this price point.

Samsung Galaxy Buds2 SM-R177-21

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Galaxy Buds 2 are the latest TWS product from Samsung, which promises a great listening experience with ANC in a new lightweight design. At $149.99, it is hard to ignore them, especially if you already own a smartphone from Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Black

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has impressive ANC and Ambient Mode features, supports wireless charging, and comes with overall OK battery life. They pair well with Samsung smartphones, as well as other Android devices and even iPhones.

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Vivo TWS 2 ANC, TWS 2e Earphones With Up to 30 Hours of Battery Life Launched in India

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Vivo TWS 2 ANC and Vivo TWS 2e true wireless stereo (TWS) earphones were launched in India on Wednesday. The design of both the Vivo earphones is quite similar, both are equipped with 12.2mm drivers, and they are claimed to offer around 30 hours of battery life. The major difference between the two is the presence of active noise cancellation (ANC) on the Vivo TWS 2 ANC earphones. These earphones were launched alongside the Vivo X80 Pro and the Vivo X80 smartphones.

Vivo TWS 2 ANC and Vivo TWS 2e price, availability

The Vivo TWS 2 ANC price in India is set at Rs. 5,999, and the Vivo TWS 2e price in India is Rs. 3,299. Both the Vivo earphones are available for pre-booking in India, and will be available in Moonlight White as well as Starry Blue colour options from May 25.

It is to be noted that both Vivo TWS 2 ANC and Vivo TWS 2e were launched in China. The Vivo TWS 2 ANC made their debut under the Vivo TWS 2 moniker.

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Vivo TWS 2 ANC, and Vivo TWS 2e specifications

Both Vivo TWS 2 ANC and Vivo TWS 2e are equipped with 12.2mm drivers to deliver strong bass, and come with DeepX 2.0 stereo sound for clear voice. They both offer Bluetooth v5.2 connectivity and support Google Assistant.

The Vivo TWS 2 ANC earphones support aptX Adaptive/ AAC/ SBC codecs, and come with three microphones. They offer a low latency of 88ms facilitated by dual-channel transmission 2.0, and AI Dynamic Low Latency. They also come with a wear detection feature. In comparison, the Vivo TWS 2e earphones get dual microphones and support for AAC/SBC codecs. They offer a low latency of 117ms.

The earphones also come with active noise cancellation (up to 40dB) with three options: high, normal, and low. There is also support for an intelligent algorithm that is claimed to sense changes in ambient noise as well as how you wear your earbuds to automatically adjust the degree of noise cancellation. The Vivo TWS 2 ANC earbuds also come with a Transparency Mode that allows the wearer to listen to the ambient sound.

Both Vivo TWS 2 ANC and Vivo TWS 2e come with the same battery capacity in terms of the earbuds and case. However, there is a minute difference in terms of output. The Vivo TWS 2 ANC earphones are claimed to get 7.3 hours of runtime from buds only. This drops down to 4.3 hours in case of ANC on. The total time delivered by earphones is said to be up to 29 hours with the provided case.

Vivo TWS 2e are claimed to offer 7.6 hours of playtime, and up to 30 hours of total playtime on a single charge with the case. Both the earphones can be fully charged in 110 minutes via a USB Type-C port.


How is Alexa faring in India? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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