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Redmi Earbuds S review: Democratizing true wireless audio
Xiaomi Redmi Earbuds S
What we like
What we don't like
The true wireless earphone space has fast become one of the hottest segments for audio products. Options are available at all price points, but the budget segment is often fraught with products that overpromise and under-deliver. With Xiaomi’s Redmi brand joining the fray, do customers finally have an affordable option that does the job? The Redmi Earbuds S promise to do just that.
We find out if Xiaomi’s latest can deliver high-quality wireless audio freedom at a budget price in the Android Authority Xiaomi Redmi Earbuds S review.
Redmi Earbuds S review: How’s the design?
Unlike the myriad Airpods clones, the Redmi Earbuds S take a different and, dare I say, better approach. The in-ear style ensures a much better seal than the semi-open hard plastic design of the AirPods.
Each earbud is finished in matte black plastic, which makes them easier to keep clean than some glossy options on the market. Additionally, the rectangular design is discrete enough to fit within the concha of your ear with minimal overhang. The entire design is comfortable, and at just over 4g each they are light enough to comfortably wear for hours on end. Indicator lights on each bud signals the current status: red for charging and white for pairing.
The design of the Redmi Earbuds S is discrete and light enough to wear for hours on end without fatigue.
Xiaomi supplies a range of silicon tips to suit individual needs; I found the default medium size to be comfortable enough. That said, the seal wasn’t quite the best and I could certainly hear ambient noise even with the music bumped up. Prospective buyers would be well advised to invest in a pair of Comply foam tips if they want total isolation. It would be nice to see foam tips included in the package.
The Redmi Earbuds S rely on physical buttons for controlling the earbuds. A long press will either put the Earbuds S in pairing mode or turn them off. I had no issues with connectivity at all. In fact, I was able to walk right across my apartment without dropping the connection, a feat I haven’t managed with any other true wireless headset — even those that cost 10 times as much. This is particularly impressive, as my two thousand square-foot apartment has numerous brick walls.
Connectivity is rock solid and I could listen to music across my apartment without any dropouts.
Additionally, the Redmi Earbuds S ship with a low-latency mode for avid gamers that can be activated by pressing the button on the earphone thrice. I’m not much of a mobile gamer, and latency wasn’t really an issue for me even in regular mode, but the option is available for those who care.
Finally, the earphones are IPX4 rated, which means they are sweat resistant. I would, however, advise against taking them for a run in the rain.
The pill-shaped charging case is compact enough to easily slip into your pocket without any unsightly bulges (unless you prefer skinny jeans). Magnets hold the earphones in place, and while the top-lid is a bit flimsy, it too is held down by magnets.
The buds and case are finished in black matte, all of which feel reasonably well built and could almost be mistaken as premium buds from a distance. The only real compromise here is the microUSB connector for charging. It really makes no sense, considering most of Xiaomi’s budget line-up uses USB-C connectors at this point.
How do the Redmi Earbuds S sound?
If you were expecting audiophile quality, these are not the earphones to consider. The Redmi Earbuds S claim to be tuned for India, which invariably means heavily amplifed bass. That turned out to be exactly the case in my time with the earphones.
The Redmi Earbuds S are far from the best sounding earphones I’ve tried, but they do the job for the low price they command. Bass is over-emphasized to the point where loudness overrides clarity. This can be heard in the song RTJ4 by Run The Jewels; the percussive elements of the song make it hard to hear vocals at times.
The high, treble frequencies are rolled off and aren’t emphasized enough. You can certainly hear them, but there is a certain lack of clarity. The vocal range is a bit more emphasized, however, you still don’t hear them cutting through as well as you’d expect. Hip-hop and pop music fans might enjoy these, but rock music definitely doesn’t shine here.
Coupled with the decidedly lo-fi SBC codec, the audio reproduction is good enough to listen to while on-the-go or on background, but these won’t cut it if you are looking for intricate vocals and a lot of detail in your music.
How’s battery life?
The Redmi Earbuds S certainly don’t match the exemplary battery life offered by the likes of the Galaxy Buds Plus, but they’re not too bad either. The company claims four hours of use on a single charge and the Redmi Earbuds S lived up to it. With the volume set to about 50%, I could easily get four hours of playback. Crank up the volume, and you can expect a bit less.
The Redmi Earbuds S deliver on the promised 4 hours of playback, with another 12 in the case.
The case packs two more charges, giving you a total of 12 hours of playback time. It takes a little over 90 minutes to completely top-off the earphones, while the case takes two hours to charge from scratch.
Are the Redmi Earbuds S good for calls?
The microphone worked just fine for calls made indoors. The audio was clear on either end, though I was unable to test audio calls outdoors. In my experience, the cellular calls I made on my Mi 10 sounded better than those made over the internet on my MacBook. The microphone, in particular, sounded distorted, likely due to a low-frequency de-emphasis, at the other end of a Zoom call.
The Redmi Earbuds S might not be the best option if you are planning to use them for video calls.
Should you buy the Redmi Earbuds S?
Make no mistake, the Redmi Earbuds S are far from the last word in audio quality. However, they really do stand out as one of the most reliable options in the category and it certainly helps that the price comes across as a pleasant surprise. Priced at just Rs. 1,799, there really is no reason not to buy the Redmi Earbuds S.
In fact, these could easily go up against true wireless options at double the price point on the merits of the reliable connectivity, build quality, and solid battery life. The crowd-pleasing, bass-heavy sound won’t appeal to audiophiles, but the product simply isn’t meant for the discerning listener.
With the Redmi Earbuds S, Xiaomi is doing exactly what it did with smartphones. The Redmi Earbuds S commoditize true wireless earphones and make them accessible to all.