Wireless earphones under Rs 2,500: Realme Buds Q2, Realme Buds Wireless 2 long-term review

Not too long ago, Realme launched two budget wireless earphones in different form factors under Rs 2,500. What’s special about them is the presence of active noise cancellation (ANC) at that price point. Over the past year or so, Realme has been on a mission to democratise ANC and make it available at lower cost. They brought it to wireless earbuds under Rs 3,500 via their Buds Air 2 that we are quite fond of.

The next target was to breach the Rs 2,500 barrier, and that’s what the Realme Buds Q2 TWS earbuds and Realme Buds Wireless 2 neckband make happen. I had the opportunity to test these two products for over a month and also to experience the effect of a couple of firmware updates. Time to tell you all you need to know about them.

Realme is aiming to democratise active noise cancellation with its latest budget earphones. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

Before we move on to the individual products, let me address a few features that are common to both. For starters, both the earphones have an IPX5 rating for splash resistance. So wearing them during workouts or for a walk in a light drizzle should cause them no harm. The wireless range is also similar with both products maintaining a strong connection at 10 metres with clear line of sight, and a little over half of that with a concrete wall in between. Both earphones support 88 ms (claimed) low latency gaming mode.

As I touched upon earlier, they flaunt ANC as well as Transparency mode (to let background noise through when you need to be aware of your surroundings). Their sound profiles and button configuration can be modified in the Realme Link app. As is typical on Realme, you get three sound pre-sets -- “Bass Boost+”, “Dynamic” and “Bright”. It’s best to choose “Dynamic” for better balance. The “Bright” option makes it sound sibilant, while “Bass Boost+” profile makes the sound bass-heavy despite being tuned by The Chainsmokers.

I believe it’s time for Realme to add two more sound profiles, one between Dynamic and Bass Boost+ and the other between Dynamic and Bright. That’s where the sweet spot lies for most of their audio products. The last of the similarities was incidental; I got grey coloured variants of both products for review. The company prefers to call it Calm Grey for the Buds Q2 and Bass Grey for the Buds Wireless 2. It is more or less the same shade -- not very striking but a little different from the competition. What is striking is a glossy area at the back of the buds that reflects different colours from different angles.

Realme Buds Q2 TWS Earbuds Review

The Realme Buds Q2 look a lot like the Dizo GoPods D and also have the same egg-shaped charging case. The buds sit nicely in the ears and do not stick out much, however, the fit isn’t as snug as that of the GoPods D. While they don’t cause any discomfort in the ears even after using them for a couple of hours at a stretch, I had to readjust them at times during jogs. They offer decent passive noise isolation with the preinstalled medium-sized silicone tips in my case. There are two more pairs in the bundle. Spend some time choosing the right one for you as it will help improve the quality of ANC.

Realme's Buds Q2 look quite similar to the Dizo GoPods D. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

The aforementioned reflective areas at the back of the buds are zones for touch input and they are fairly responsive. Once you sync the Buds Q2 with the Realme Link app, you can configure the touch controls and assign functions like play/pause, previous/next tracks, ANC toggle, voice assistant etc. to double-tap, triple-tap or touch+hold gestures. An option to assign volume control is still missing. The Bluetooth 5.2 compliant Realme Buds Q2 support AAC and SBC codecs.

Each earbud is fitted with a 10 mm dynamic driver and they are perfectly audible at 50 percent volume, and I don’t remember going beyond 70 percent even outdoors. The default sound out of the Realme Buds Q2 is a little warm. While the lows are boosted, the bass isn’t overbearing and the mids have a good presence. The vocal clarity is good, but lower mids do sound a little subdued. There is ample sparkle in the highs, and they are generally well-tempered. However, at high volume beyond 80 percent, they tend to sound a bit too bright for my liking.

Egg-shaped charging case can replenish the buds thrice more, thus taking the battery figures to 18 hours with ANC on and 24 hours with ANC off for buds and case combined. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

There is surprisingly good detail in audio for the segment, and the instrument separation is decent too. The soundstage isn’t one of its strengths and it feels a little narrow. But let’s not forget that this is a pair of TWS earbuds priced under Rs 2,500, and their overall sound quality is quite impressive. And of course, they support ANC too. Realme claims that the Buds Q2 can reduce ambient noise by up to 25 decibels. While I couldn’t measure that, there was a significant reduction in background buzz when I switched on ANC on a busy road. Of course, some noise seeps through but the reduction is mighty impressive for a budget pair.

The battery backup is pretty good. The company claims 28 hours of playback time with ANC off and 20 hours with ANC on for buds and case combined. Though not exact, the real-world figures weren’t way off either. The buds lasted a little over four and a half hours with ANC on and about six hours with ANC off at 60 percent loudness. The charging case can replenish them thrice more, thus taking the battery figures to 18 hours with ANC on and 24 hours with ANC off for buds and case combined.

With intermittent use of ANC, the Realme Buds Q2 should easily last you for more than 20 hours, which is good. The charging case has a USB-C port, which is good to see. That’s not all, you also get fast charging support, with 10 minutes of charge providing a little under 3 hours of play time with ANC off. It takes about 90 minutes to charge the case and buds fully. The call quality is average at best. It is fine indoors, but the microphones pick up a lot of ambient noise when outdoors.

The Buds Q2 is priced at Rs 2,499. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

The Realme Buds Q2 is priced at Rs. 2,499 with a one-year warranty, and are currently selling for as low as Rs. 1,999 on Amazon India in the ongoing sale. For that price, you get a pair of TWS earbuds with fairly balanced and enjoyable sound, functional ANC and good battery backup. If call quality is your top priority, avoid this pair. For everything else, it’s hard to find anything better at its current selling price.

As for alternatives, you have the more affordable Oppo Enco W11 for a few hundred less, but it misses out on ANC and customizable controls. For a few hundred more, you get the OnePlus Buds Z with a little better sound quality sans ANC and barely customisable controls. The biggest competition for the Buds Q2 is probably in-house in the form of Realme Buds Air 2. For Rs 800 more you get slightly more detailed sound, nicer design, snug in-ear fit, wear detection sensors and better call quality, along with all the features available on the Q2.

- Impressive sound quality for the segment
- Functional ANC in this budget
- Comfortable to wear
- Programmable touch controls
- Good battery life, fast charging, USB-C port
- IPX5 splash resistant
- Well priced

- Average call quality
- No volume control option
- Sounds bright at very high volume

Rating: 4.2/5

Price: Rs 2,499

Realme Buds Wireless 2 Wireless Neckband Review

In many ways, the Buds Wireless 2 are nothing but the Realme Buds Wireless Pro with most of the bugs fixed, better ingress protection and more affordable. Though grey is not my favourite colour, the build quality of the product is pretty good and so is the finish. Weighing under 30 grams, it sits comfortably around your neck, and you barely feel its presence. The buttons are tactile, and each earbud hosts a large 13.6 mm driver. The in-ear fit is very good with the default silicone ear tips, causes absolutely no discomfort and offers good passive noise isolation.

The build quality of the neckband is pretty good and so is the finish. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

The back of the buds have magnetic tips that double up as a power switch – off when stuck together and on when separated. Barring the volume rocker, the other two buttons are programmable using the Realme Link app. You can configure single, double and triple click gestures along with press-and-hold to perform tasks like play/pause, previous/next tracks, ANC toggle, switch between paired devices etc. Unlike the Buds Wireless Pro, the sound profile doesn’t change when you turn on ANC, which is a big relief.

The app also gives you options to increase the loudness and battery life by switching on 'Volume enhancer' and 'Power saving' modes respectively. However, the latter simply switches off LDAC codec support, so I wouldn’t recommend it as the earphones sound better on LDAC as compared to AAC. Since we are on the topic of battery, let me go into more details. The battery backup here is dictated by a combination of two things – use of ANC and the codec.

The back of the buds have magnetic tips that double up as a power switch – off when stuck together and on when separated. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

Realme claims a battery life of 18 hours and 22 hours with AAC codecs with ANC on and off respectively, and similarly 10 and 11 hours with LDAC codec, both at 50 percent loudness. In real world tests at around 70 percent volume, the earphones managed to last for about 9 hours on LDAC and 18 hours on AAC with ANC switched on 25 percent of the time. While the number is acceptable for AAC, it needs to be much better for LDAC, maybe closer to 14 hours.

Despite the lower battery backup, I would advise you to use the LDAC codec (if your phone supports it) as these Bluetooth 5.0 earphones sound noticeably better on that codec as compared to AAC. I am not one to trade sound quality for battery life. On the bright side, the Realme Buds Wireless 2 takes a little over 45 minutes to charge fully through their USB type-C port. Even better, they support fast charging, and just 10 minutes of charging can give you anything between 7 to 10 hours of playback with ANC off, which is great.

Realme claims a battery life of 18 hours and 22 hours with AAC codecs with ANC on and off respectively. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

The overall sound signature of the Realme Buds Wireless 2 is warm and generally enjoyable across various genres of music, barring instrument-heavy tracks. The lows are boosted, and the larger drivers produce more bass than the Buds Q2. It is fairly tight as long as you use the LDAC codec, but feels a little excessive when using AAC. The highs are sharp enough without sounding harsh. The mids are a notch below those of the Buds Q2. The vocal clarity is fine, but the instrument separation is average. The soundstage is slightly broader here than its TWS sibling. There was a slight stutter in connectivity when outdoors in crowded areas. It may be specific to my unit, but it did happen on more than a few occasions.

ANC works well here and reduces the background chatter noticeably without impacting the audio quality. Not perfect, but more than acceptable for the segment. The “Transparency mode” here has a bit of constant hiss when outdoors, with the microphones not able to suppress the wind noise, I suppose. Thankfully, no such issue during calls, and those microphones do a good job. People on either end of the call were perfectly audible to each other with very little background noise seeping through even when outdoors.

The Realme Buds Wireless 2 are priced at Rs 2,299 with a one-year warranty and can be found for Rs 400 less in online sales. At that price, this is quite a feature-rich product that offers good sound for the segment. It is hard to find a better-sounding wireless neckband with ANC around Rs 2,000. Not to forget, customisable controls and sound profiles, along with clean call quality. If ANC is not needed, and sound quality is the only thing that matters, you should consider the Oppo Enco M31 that’s available for a similar price. And lastly, you have the Realme Buds Q2 that offers slightly better sound and the convenience of true wireless earbuds in this budget.

- Good sound quality for the segment
- Sturdy build quality and comfortable to wear
- Functional ANC, Sony LDAC codec support
- Programmable controls and sound profiles, magnetic On/Off switch
- Good call quality, dual pairing support
- IPX5 splash resistance
- USB Type-C charging port, quick charge support

- Below par battery life on LDAC codecs
- Excessive bass when using AAC codes
- Constant wind noise in Transparency mode
- Occasional stutter in connection when outdoors

Rating: 3.8/5

Price: Rs 2,299

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