By now, you have most likely read some review or opinion about the Realme Buds Air on the internet. The true wireless earphones, which were almost instantly branded as an AirPods clone because, well, they are an AirPods clone, have been on sale for about two months now. What, then, makes it interesting enough to warrant a second reading? Priced at Rs 3,999, the Realme Buds Air is actually a rather interesting product because of what it achieves beyond its looks. More importantly, it is also possible that you haven’t read about it, and you’re browsing for the best bang for your buck that you can get in the true wireless earphones category. In either case, here’s what you need to know.
Beginning with the main aspect, the Realme Buds Air looks almost entirely like Apple’s popular AirPods. Actually, it looks exactly like the AirPods. However, that is not a bad thing. The segment that Realme has targeted is completely different from Apple, going after the budget segment of a steadily growing industry of true wireless earphones. Clipping off the wires gives a surprising freedom, and understandably, everyone (including us) wants in. It is this that actually works in the Realme Buds Air’s favour, and makes it even more relevant than the average pair of true wireless earbuds.
Not only does looking like the AirPods make the Realme Buds Air more relevant, but also adds familiarity to how it would look in the hand, or how it might fit in the ears. There are no unpleasant surprises in the overall package — the quality of plastic, albeit a bit tacky, is still decent for its price. The flap opens and shuts with a good click, and hasn’t come off loose in the one month that I’ve been using it. The earpieces themselves look and feel almost exactly like the AirPods, and fit like them too. The only qualm that I have is that they are a bit too rigid in coming off the case, which can get annoying if you wish to plug them in, in haste.
Apart from that, Realme has literally aped the AirPods’ design, and a proven one at that. If you like how the AirPods look, you’ll like this too. If you don’t, check out other affordable true wireless earbuds, such as the Crossbeats Pebble that I reviewed recently.
Fit and comfort
Here, too, there isn’t much to add beyond the AirPods. For those who haven’t used the latter, the Realme Buds Air sticks surprisingly well in position, and does not fall off that easily. However, it does feel a bit awkward, and you’d need to move somewhat slowly to ensure they remain in place. This means that you really cannot wear this during exercises.
The fit is also a bit bleak, since there is a discernible air gap between the earpieces and your ear, no matter how much you try to keep them in place. This leads to ambient noise leaking in, which is something that will almost certainly annoy your music experience. The Buds Air is comfortable, and is actually very light, which means using them for long hours is not stress inducing, either.
Sound and calling
This is where the Buds Air earns its money. At Rs 3,999, Realme is offering an overall aural experience that would be deemed acceptable enough. The overall sound signature is reasonably balanced, with a noticeable and expected shortcoming in the mids. This essentially means that in instrument-rich tracks, the vocals would sound a bit dim, or muted. However, the overall audio is slightly on the warmer side, which means that the overall sound favours the lows. This works well in genres such as Bollywood.
Turn up the volume, and the Buds Air actually offers decent clarity and acceptable details for its price. It doesn’t really have great range, which means that some details such as intricate guitar riffs and drum rolls may go amiss. However, genres such as hip hop and rock still sound decent, as the bass line is not weak. It is a bit on the muddled end, which I really hoped would not be the case. The highs, while being decent, is not very bright. That, though, is nitpicking, and the earbuds work quite well when you stream music from your everyday streaming apps through your smartphone. The Realme Buds Air holds its own, and the only real thing that I didn’t like is the soundstaging, which definitely sounds limited.
However, what's interesting to note is that many reviews of my industry colleagues have stated that the Buds Air produces bass heavy sound, while some others have noted that the vocals are very prominent. This somewhat suggests inconsistency in performance, which is important to look out for.
In terms of making calls, the Realme Buds Air is slightly inconsistent. While I did manage to make a couple of calls when in noisy environments, the other times it failed to attenuate surrounding noise, and my voice could not be heard. This may be a device-specific issue, but the Buds Air appears to be adept at calls only when you’re indoors. As long as you make most of your calls inside your cab, your office or your home, this should work just fine.
The AirPods factor
In order to lend more credibility to the earphones, the Realme Buds Air includes features such as take off to pause, as well as gesture based enabling of the Google Assistant, or a ‘Game Mode’. This is where I found the Buds Air lacking — it did not recognise the gesture inputs almost 90 percent of the time, and while the take off to pause action worked well initially, the Buds Air would randomly resume playing if I moved my hand slightly, or one of the earpieces accidentally moved a bit on the desk.
It is this inconsistency that made the Buds Air irksome as a regular travel partner. Eventually, I ended up having to pull out my smartphone to pause the music, which ruins the point of having such gesture based controls. I wish there was some way to disable the feature manually, but from what I have gathered so far, there are no such features, yet. Thankfully, though, the Realme Buds Air pairs as seamlessly as advertised, which is a boon.
Price and verdict
At Rs 3,999, however, the Realme Buds Air makes a compelling case for itself. It is affordable, looks more expensive than it is, actually sounds quite decent, fares acceptable at calling, and even delivers decent battery life. The overall playback time I got was close to 15 hours, which is near the claimed time of 17 hours. The only thing that did not work for me are the gesture and touch controls, which somewhat ruined the experience. At this price, the Realme Buds Air is a recommendable product. But, be sure to buy it with caution, since no touch controls coupled with no buttons may not be the ideal recipe for the seamless experience that you are looking for.