Gadgets for humans

These $14 Redmi neckbuds give you wireless bang for your basic buck

Xiaomi’s spin-off brand Redmi made its mark on the entry-level audio segment earlier this year with its $23 Redmi Earbuds S truly wireless buds. Now, the company’s back with a new product — the Redmi SonicBass neckbuds.

I prefer the neckbuds form factor over truly wireless buds any day as I don’t have to get them out of the case every time I need to use them — I can keep the former hanging around my neck whenever I am not using them.

I’ve been using the Redmi SonicBass neckbuds for over a month now, and despite some missing features, they’re a good pair for just ₹999 ($13.50).

Design and features

The Redmi SonicBass features a largely generic design with plastic and rubberized materials. It’s lightweight at 21 grams and flexible enough to be kept in a pocket or your bag without worrying about damage.

The IPX4 rating helps keep sweat and water off and makes it bearable to wear it for a long duration. I used the pair during my workouts and they fit me well.

Redmi SonicBass Wireless Earphones controls

 

The Redmi SonicBass can connect to multiple devices using Bluetooth 5.0. However, the pair doesn’t support any high-quality codecs such as AptX.

While the world is moving to USB-C, this pair still charges with MicroUSB. While most people might still have a rouge MicroUSB cable around the house, it would’ve been nice if the company shipped one in the box.

Sound and performance

The earbuds feature a 9.2mm dynamic driver to produce the sound. The reproduction is good for that spec, but it doesn’t do justice to the ‘sonic bass’ moniker. For a pair that costs ₹999, it does its job and it’s fine for your background listening or calls. However, there are some areas that need improvement.

The bass is often flabby; you can notice this while listening to Bliie Elish’s hit Bad Guy. You’ll experience a rattling sound in your ears.

 

Kickdrums also sound flatter than they should: case in point, Invictus’s Drive. You should listen to Dua Lipa’s Don’t Start Now (LA Live Mix) to understand how the earbuds handle different bass (drum v bass guitar) sounds. While the bassline is clear, drums miss the kick through the effect they should ideally have.

The budget earbuds handle mids and vocals rather well, and that’s noticeable in any pop or singer-songwriter tracks. Treble clips off for guitar-heavy tracks, making it feel like there’s no reverb.

If your listening range is mostly pop or Indian movie songs, these pairs do just fine for casual listening. These will also do well for your podcast consumption or zoom calls on the go.

Xiaomi advertises 12 hours of music playback time through these buds. However, with some calls and other audio activities, you might have to charge the pair a couple of times a week.

Lack of controls is frustrating

If a pair of neck buds has a magnetic snap-on function, you expect an automatic play/pause function when you put two buds together. But no, to my surprise, the audio keeps on playing even after you snap the buds.

What’s more, the pair doesn’t go on stand by mode, so when you play something on your phone, it’ll still play through the Redmi buds. It’s annoying as hell.

To skip a track or go back you need to hold corresponding volume buttons. And sometimes I had to hold them for an extra second to skip a track. It would’ve been better if the company had given the classic option of double-tapping the play/pause button to skip.

These functions are easy to implement, and not having them makes the whole experience a dampener.

Who’s it for?

India’s a market where phones under $300 rule. Some of them might not have the headphone jack. So, if you’re making that switch or simply want a wireless option, the Redmi SonicBass at ₹999 ($13.50) acts as a good choice.

If you’re willing to spend some more money, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z and the Realme Buds Wireless act as more than capable options. Plus, there are cheaper options from Indian brands such as pTron and Boat available on Amazon.

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Published November 3, 2020 — 11:07 UTC