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Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: excellent noise cancellation, shame about the lacklustre sound
2:37 pm | May 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3: Two-minute review

The FreeBuds Pro 3 are the newest addition to Huawei’s top-tier line of true wireless earbuds, vying for entry to our best noise-cancelling earbuds roundup by replacing last year’s FreeBuds Pro 2 and acting as a more premium alternative to the jelly-bean-looking FreeBuds 5. 

I can’t get over how good the noise cancellation in these headphones is At the press of a button I could tune out the noisy clacking of keyboards in an office, the angry rumbling of a busy road near my house, even my own annoying habit of drumming on my desk as I listen to music. 

You’d be hard-pressed to find better noise cancellation in an audio product that isn’t an over-ear alternative, especially at the price – it’s really something.

This doesn't surprise me, because when you pick up a Huawei gadget, you can almost guarantee that it’s going to have one absolutely fantastic feature – something that’s best-in-class, truly game-changing, absolutely phenomenal to use. However, you can also put good money on the fact that most of the rest of said device won’t come anywhere close to that standard.

For the best Huawei phones, their incredible cameras are undone by the sticky app situation; for the smartwatches, you can rely on a great list of health features but funky designs. 

And the same remains true for the new Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3: the noise cancellation is stellar, but unfortunately, it feels like the rest of the package is held together with duct tape and paper clips – not literally, as the build quality is another premium element, but many other elements of the device threaten to ruin the positive experience that the ANC offers.

Take, for example, the tie-in AI Life app that you use to control the buds: on Android this isn’t on the app store, and you have to side-load it or download it through Huawei’s AppGallery, which is itself a side-loaded app. 

The battery life is another disappointing area as, with the ANC on, you won’t even get five hours of listening without needing to power up the buds. That’s about half a day of work, and then you have to remove the buds to let them charge, making you face all those noisy clacking keyboards you’re trying to avoid.

I also found the music quality surprisingly poor for the price, with frequent peaking in songs, no soundstage to speak of and an overall lack of energy in music. I love listening to music, but I didn’t feel I was doing my favorite songs justice by listening to them on the FreeBuds.

Credit where credit’s due, Huawei has nailed a few other areas that other earbuds-makers struggle with. The fit is comfortable, with four in-box tips and a fit-check function in the app to ensure that you’re wearing the right tips. Plus, the on-bud controls are easy to use, with a simple pinch gesture toggling different functions.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Price and release date

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Costs $245 / £179.99 / AU$277 
  • Released in late 2024
  • Uncommon Huawei tech in that it's available in the US

You can pick up the FreeBuds Pro 3 for $245 / £179.99 / AU$277, so they’re straddling the mid-range and top-end earbud market. That price roughly matches that for last year’s FreeBuds Pro 2.

One thing stands out right away – because unlike some other Huawei gadgets, these are available in the US. Good luck finding a Huawei phone to pair them with, though!

The buds were released in the latter months of 2023, and at the time of writing in mid-2024, you can find them on offer pretty easily. It’ll save you about 10%, or maybe more during sales times.

That price puts Huawei in a swimming pool full of hungry sharks – and by that I mean, many close rivals. Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 are only a little pricier (especially in the US, with only a $4 difference) while Sony’s WF-1000XM5 are cheaper during sales (and only cost a little more outside of them). Audio-Technica’s ATH-TWX7 are also circling, with a price that’s lower in the US and only a little more in the UK.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Specs

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Features

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tie-in app has to be side-loaded on Android
  • Noise cancellation is top-tier
  • Battery life is limited

If there’s something to be said about the FreeBuds Pro 3, it’s that their noise cancellation is great – possibly the best of any headphones I’ve tested at this price. As soon as you put in the buds, surrounding sound almost vanishes – a building site will sound like a Lego build site once you’ve set these things up. It’s surprising how empty a busy office floor can feel when you’re listening to these things!

The app offers loads of different modes. There’s Off (no prizes for guessing what this does), Awareness (which is an ambient option with a Voice Mode you can toggle on or off, which specifically doesn’t cancel voices) and then standard Noise Cancelling mode. This has a range of intensities ranging from ‘Cozy’ to ‘Ultra’ depending on how noisy your area is, but I generally tested in Dynamic, which changes depending on where you are.

I never stopped being impressed with just how great the FreeBuds were at removing background sound. Two thumbs up for this one feature.

Now on to the app: I’ve never spent so much time – and lost so much hair – as I did trying to get the FreeBuds’ tie-in app to work. It’s called AI Life and it should be pre-installed on Huawei phones; on Androids, like I have, you have to side-load it and install it from Chrome. No, you can’t just download it on the Play Store, which was the source of my consternation, and it was only through some online trawling that I found the answers (luckily for iPhone users, the App Store does list the app).

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)

You don’t need AI Life, but most of the features of the FreeBuds Pro 3 are either locked to the app, or really challenging to use without it.

As well as toggling noise cancellation there’s an equailizer, a battery indicator and the ability to change the buds’ gestures. The Buds Pro 3 also let you connect to multiple devices at once, and the AI Life app lets you easily switch between them.

On the topic of the battery indicator, don’t expect to see it at 100% much, because the buds don’t have a very good battery life. With ANC turned on, they’ll last 6.5 hours between charges, but if you utilize this key feature of the buds that’ll drop below 5 hours (depending on the ANC mode and your volume). Using the charging case will kick that lasting time up to 31 hours (with ANC off, 22 with it on), and none of those figures are that competitive.

Charging is done via the USB-C port, but there’s also slow wireless charging if you prefer that, though it’ll more than double charging times. You’ll need roughly an hour to get the case charged to full with a wire, or 2.5 hours with wireless powering.

  • Features score: 3.5/5

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Design

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Small well-fitted buds, fairly large case
  • Touch controls work well
  • IP54 certification for buds

The design of the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 barely differs from that of their predecessor. The main highlight is that there’s a new color option: Green joins Silver Frost, Silver Blue and Ceramic White.

The case is a pebble-shaped plastic disc measuring 4.7 x 6.6 x 2.5 cm, and weighing 46g – it’s lighter than you might think given its size. It’s pretty barebones, save for the LED light indicator and the USB-C charging port. 

The buds themselves are nice and light. They weigh 5.8g each, slightly down from their predecessors, and have a similar design in being a tip connected to a short stem. You might notice that the stem is shorter than those on rival devices, giving the buds a compact appearance.

To enable a good fit, the FreeBuds come with four different-sized tips in the box; I found the medium tips provided a comfortable and reliable fit, but it’s good to have the options. The AI Life app has a tips fit test that checks to see if you’re using the right tips for you, which is a pretty cool addition.

I can see the FreeBuds’ on-stem buttons being divisive, but I found them a lot easier to use than most. You see, the buds don’t have physical press buttons but rather haptic-like areas which are best pressed by pinching the stems. You don’t have to press a physical button on the bud – an action that always seems simply to jam the bud into your ear – but instead just pinch the stem, in a really easy motion.

The buds have an IP54 protection against small particles and sweat or small splashes of water; they’ll survive a light rain shower or some running-to-bus sweat, but you shouldn’t really be using these for exercise. The charging case has no IP protection.

  • Design score: 4/5

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Sound quality

  • Bass-heavy sound
  • Treble is lacking
  • Equalizer lets you tweak sound to an extent

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)

The best thing I can say about the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3’s sound quality is that it’s mostly balanced. You’re not getting an awkward skew that favors bass or treble too much; it’s right there in the middle.

That’s also the only good thing I can say about the Buds’ sound, because I was disappointed by the quality overall, bearing in mind the roll call of high-end features present within them.

I’m talking dual drivers led by a chunky 11mm dynamic driver joined by a planar diaphragm driver; LDAC codec support; Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification… the list goes on. But it’s all for nothing, as the sound quality just isn't good.

Music had a startling amount of peaking, with drum hi-hats, acoustic guitars and sibilance in vocals becoming noticeably tinny. This wasn’t so extreme as to suggest that the buds were defective, just enough that the FreeBuds performed more like cheap buds than triple-figure ones.

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)

There was also a real lack of soundstage, as though an entire orchestra was inhabiting the exact same chair right at the center of the stage. Instruments were blended together like a fruit smoothie, sapping the energy or pizazz from music.

The buds were fine for spoken word and the like, but I missed the energy that many other earbuds serve. I know that if Waterloo doesn’t spark joy, the earbuds are doing something wrong.

Another disappointing area is AI Life’s equalizer, which comes with six presets though you can create your own, too. I tried all six of these on multiple songs, plus some of my creations where the sliders were moved to the extreme, and I couldn’t hear any audible difference in music.

App issue? Hardware issue? My hearing issue? I can’t say, but it makes Huawei’s website’s talk of a “triple adaptive EQ” seem like meaningless noise. Maybe the buds should cancel that, too.

  • Sound quality: 3/5

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Value

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Great if you're buying for ANC...
  • ...fall behind rivals for audio chops

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 come with a fairly lofty price tag, but it’s hard to see how they justify that price beyond their wonderful noise cancellation.

The FreeBuds’ feature set is identical to that of almost every other wireless earbud from here to the moon, with little to justify its price over most of its rivals. That is, except for the noise cancellation. Those plentiful affordable rivals also have better sound quality, or at least play music with more personality. 

So if all you care about is noise cancellation – you literally don’t mind anything else – these will justify their price. Otherwise, it’s hard to recommend them for their full retail price.

  • Value: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3?

Buy them if…

Don’t buy them if…

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Also consider

How I tested the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 being held in a hand above a grassy field.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for 2 weeks
  • Tested at home, in the office and on walks in quiet and busy areas

I tested the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 for two weeks, which included using the buds in my office, at home, and on walks in different parts of a busy city. The buds were tested with my Xiaomi Mi Note 10 smartphone for testing, on to which I side-loaded the app.

Testing was mainly done on music streaming apps over a range of genres, though I also used the buds for playing video games, watching Netflix and listening to podcasts.

I have over five years of gadget-testing experience at TechRadar, which includes reviews of many Huawei products like watches, smartphones and tablets. I've also tested plenty of earbuds, including some of the competitors mentioned above.

  • First reviewed in May 2024
Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: pleasantly warm sound but a weak battery
11:00 am | May 20, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Tags: | Comments: Off

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7: Two-minute review

More so than for most tech products, your experience with the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 will depend on your taste. Want to listen to borderline warm-sounding higher-res files, after a lengthy time customizing the sound with an equalizer? Step right up. Don’t know what that sentence means? These earbuds aren’t for you.

These latest true wireless earbuds from Japanese audio brand Audio-Technica are called the ATH-TWX7 and they have dumped the gimmicky novelty of their predecessors (the TWX9 had a UV cleaner built into the case) to sell for a lower price as a result. 

Don’t expect these to show up on our list of the best budget earbuds though; Audio-Technica has had its fair share of excellent low-cost audio options (see the Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW as proof) but the TWX7 aren’t them. These sell for a mid-range price, which they justify in many ways.

Like many other A-T products, the TWX7 have a slightly mid-to-low-pitched warm sound (it makes sense when you consider that this is a firm famed for its turntable cartridges) that leans into the bass frequencies, and goes even further if you want it to. For hip-hop or grime fans, these earbuds will deliver all you want (or can expect for mid-rangers like these).

The buds are feature-rich too, with an app bursting at the seams with useful extra perks. These range from handy ways to make the most of your listening time (an equalizer, various noise cancellation modes, L/R balance adjustment) to some cool novel additions (soundscapes, call sound testing, an in-bud timer).

We’ve got to commend the build quality too, with attention to detail paid in (almost) every way. There are plenty of eartips included in the box so you’ll find a comfortable fit for you; the buds are lightweight and stick in your ear like they’ve dropped an anchor in them; the charging case has an unusual design that brings with it a functionality improvement too.

So why the ‘long face’ – or 3.5-star review? Well, that’s down to a few quality-of-life annoyances that hinder the experience of using the buds.

The first, and most important, is the battery life – I found that the ATH-TWX7 didn’t reliably scratch five hours of use before needing to be recharged in the carry case (when noise cancellation was turned on, as turning it off will give it some extra lasting power). Five hours isn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things, and many people take regular journeys that are longer than that.

I also found that the max volume didn’t cut it. I’m not asking for ‘head-banging’ levels of sonic force, just to be able to hear my music when I’m standing by a busy road.

And one feature that’ll be sure to divide fans is the touch controls on the bud, often a tricky area for earbuds. The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7s have two: one sensor and one physical button, allowing for a wide range of options. However, they’re fiddly to use and prone to accidental touches, and that’s if you can even remember all the combinations available to you in the first place.

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: Price and release date

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 on a bronze table.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Announced at the beginning of 2024
  • Priced at $199 / £190 / (around AU$299)

The RRP for the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 is $199 / £190 / (around AU$299), so these are roughly in the mid-range of the consumer wireless earbuds market.

At that price, these are some of the priciest wireless earbuds that Audio-Technica sells, with only the closely-related ATH-TWX9 costing more. Those mostly cost more because of a UV sterilization feature; in terms of specs they’re quite similar.

The ATH-TWX7 have a few similarly-priced competitors on our list of the best noise cancelling earbuds including the Bose QuietComfort 2 (which we call the ‘best overall’ and used to be pricier, but currently cost the same as the ATH-TWX7) and Apple’s AirPods Pro 2. Tough company to keep… 

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: Specs

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: Features

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 case being held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 6.5-hour battery life
  • Plenty of features via phone app
  • Unreliable touch controls

I nearly ripped the ATH-TWX7 out of my ears on numerous occasions because of one infuriating feature: the touch controls.

The buds have multiple controls: there’s a touch sensor masked as Audio-Technica’s logo, which you can press once, twice, or hold down for different functions, and a physical button on the stem too. You can use the app to map the former, and even control their sensitivity, though I couldn’t find a way to alter what the physical buttons did.

The issue is that the touch sensor is more sensitive than a sleep-deprived toddler – and less reliable than one too. I’d often end up triggering it when trying to press the physical button, and the only time it wouldn’t trigger was when I actually wanted it to. This was at all the different sensitivity options selected in the app, and I ended up turning the feature off to save myself from an enraged breakdown.

When it comes to battery life, Audio-Technica states that the buds will last 6.5 hours of use, which will be bumped up to 20 by using the charging case. Judging by my testing, I’m going to guess that this figure refers to listening with ANC turned off, because I generally kept it on and didn’t come close to this figure.

From testing, I’m going to estimate a rough battery life of 5 hours if you use ANC which, while still a decent amount of time, doesn’t come close to the majority of the competitors on the market. I came close to running out of juice a few times without intending to, which is something I’ve never encountered during review testing before! If you need some lasting power, I’d recommend jumping into the app to turn off ANC.

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 on a bronze table.

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve mentioned the app now, so let’s metaphorically boot it up; it’s actually pretty handy as smartphone apps go, well worth installing, even if its simple on-phone title of ‘Connect’ instead of anything with the Audio-Technica name had me constantly losing it in my Android’s menu.

There are a bunch of features brought about by the app: control of noise cancellation, an equalizer (which features a few presets as well as a custom mode), the ability to set yourself an alarm, toggles for low-latency mode, the ability to test your mic quality to see how you sound, a way to balance audio between the left and right buds, toggles for LDAC, the aforementioned ability to map touch control buttons, and even a library of ‘Soundscapes’. The latter is a list of… well, soundscapes, in case you want the calming sounds of nature (Ocean, Stream, Forest), ambient music (Journey, Tranqulity, Serenity) or a brief sojourn into hell (Quiet Office). Just note, you have to download these tracks in the app before you can listen.

A tip: from the main app menu, make sure to press the top-right menu button, as many more tools are hidden in this menu.

Not all earbud control apps justify their place on your smartphone but Connect definitely does, because of how much customization it gives over your listening experience and the way you use your buds. 

The earbuds connect using Bluetooth 5.1, which isn’t the top tier of Bluetooth standard available right now, but if I’m being honest, the functional difference between this and 5.2 or 5.3 is basically nil – although Auracast is one thing that'll be off-menu when it truly arrives (in our airport lounges and so on), since that requires Bluetooth 5.2 or later. You can connect to two devices at once, a feature offered in quite a few earbuds, but the Connect app makes managing them a bit easier than on other Bluetooth Multipoint devices, since you can see and edit the connections.

  • Features score: 3/5

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: Design

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 on a bronze table.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Clamshell charging case
  • Lightweight buds
  • Plenty of bud tips included in box

In a world of similar-looking earbud charging cases, Audio-Technica has managed to do something a bit different here; the ATH-TWX7’s case is a bit like an oyster, that opens to reveals the pearls inside.

The case is fairly light, weighing just shy of 50g, and small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. Its only feature of note is the USB-C port that you use to charge it. It took me a while to realize why I like this design so much; it’s because it reveals the entire earbud, not just the tip of it like on your standard charging case, making them much easier to remove from the case with little effort or slipping.

Just like the case, the buds themselves are nice and slight, not even tipping 5g on the scales individually. This is despite having not one but two different button types on each, which we’ll get into later.

You can pick up the buds in black, gray or ‘white’ – we put quote marks around the latter because it’s the version you can see in the pictures and ‘peach’ would be a much better name for it.

Audio-Technica includes eight different pairs of bud tips in the box with the ATH-TWX7; there are four different sizes in ‘soft’ and ‘standard’ materials, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend you opt for the soft ones over the standard ones first. That’s as long as you are able to change the tips, as the small size of the buds makes it a fiddly task – find someone with small, nimble fingers if you’re not up for the task.

The earbuds are IPX4 certified which signifies that they’re protected from splashes of liquid, but not streams or submersion; you can wear these in rain but not for a swim.

  • Design score: 4/5

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: Sound quality

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 in someone's ears.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Immersive lower-mids 
  • Decent noise cancellation for size
  • LDAC allows for high-res music streaming

A simple way to summarise the sound quality of the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 is to recount how I kept going into the app to turn off the Bass Boost EQ mode, only to discover that it wasn’t even on. That is to say, the buds have a sonic profile that’s spent the last week basking on a Caribbean beach: it's rather warm.

If you like your music to be two parts ‘bass’ to one part ‘everything else’, you’ll love the ATH. Whatever genre I tested, from pop to disco to country to classical, instruments that sat in the lower registers were more prominent than I’m used to. Turns out, ABBA's Waterloo has a great bass line!

While this warm sound did extend to the mids to a degree, I often found that treble ended up being lost a little. Vocals were fighting for attention with the bass line, lead guitars could fall behind rhythm guitars in the mix, and AT would have you thinking that backing vocals are largely unimportant.

To a certain extent, you can the Connect app’s EQ to fix these problems, and I enjoyed music a lot more in the V-Shaped mode. None of the modes really escape the ATH-TWX7’s warm trappings, just offset it, so these are definitely buds for people who prefer that to earbuds that lean towards brightness.

Something that isn’t as much a matter of taste is volume; it just isn’t high enough on the ATH-TWX7. Even when turning the app and my phone’s volume to max, and turning on noise cancellation, I still sometimes struggled to hear music when I was walking besides busy roads. And I’m not even a fan of super-loud, ear-damaging music; these earbuds just weren’t loud enough.

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 on a bronze table.

(Image credit: Future)

On the topic of noise cancellation: it works. It’s nothing to write home about, but it works. The standard mode manages to strip out annoying background humdrum and noises (take that, loud upstairs neighbours!) but didn’t work as well for louder, constant low-level problems like the aforementioned thrum of traffic. Given that truly great noise cancellation is still the preserve of over-ear headphones, I was pleasantly surprised how well the TWX7 stood up.

There’s another mode called Hear-Through which is supposed to cancel noise but allow people’s voices (including your own) through, so you can maintain conversations without having to turn off the buds. If I didn’t read that on Audio-Technica’s website, though, I’d have no idea what it was supposed to do – it sounded to my ears as though the ambient noises this processing decided to mute (or allow through) were picked totally at random. 

The only consistent unmuted sound was on my own voice, which in fairness was quite useful – if you’ve ever tried having a conversation while you’re wearing earbuds, only to remove them and realize you were talking way louder than you thought, you’ll understand why.

Let’s briefly touch on the tech that keeps the ATH-TWX7 sounding the way they do. They borrow the 5.8mm drivers from the pricier ATH-TWX9, so you’re getting some premium tech here, and support LDAC which lets you listen to 24-bit/96 kHz music (if your music is up to scratch). This isn’t really going to mean anything if you stick to Spotify streams, but if you use premium music streaming services or have a Sony Xperia phone, you’ll be able to hear the difference over rival earbuds.

  • Sound quality score: 3.5/5

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: Value

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 on a bronze table.

(Image credit: Future)
  • You're getting what you pay for
  • Keep an eye out for sales

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 offer good sound quality and a range of handy extra features… but at their default price, you’re not exactly getting them for a song. Basically, you’re paying for what you get – but the competition at this level is tough.

That’s not to say that the ATH-TWX7 are overpriced; they’re worth exactly what you pay for them. You’re just not getting as much value for money as on some select rivals (see: Apple or Bose). 

Saying that, if you find the earbuds on sale for a lower price (which is more likely here than with much of the competition), that’d sway the value proposition in a good direction.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 review: Also consider

How I tested the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7

The Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 on a bronze table.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for 8 days
  • Tested at home, in the office and on walks

I tested the ATH-TWX7 for over a week to write this review. Testing was done with the earbuds paired to a Xiaomi Mi Note 10 smartphone, though I also paired it to an Apple iPad Pro a few times.

Testing was done in the office, in my home and on several walks, which is what brought me face-to-face with the various noisy roads that interrupted my listening. I tested using a range of musical genres across several music streaming platforms, as well as spoken word and TV shows streamed from BBC iPlayer. 

I've been testing gadgets for TechRadar for over five years so bring lots of experience to this review. Plenty of that was testing audio products.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

  • First reviewed in May 2024
Mechen M3 review: A jack of all trades digital audio player but a master at none
11:00 am | May 19, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Portable Media Players | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Mechen M3: Three-minute review

The Mechen M3 appears to be feature-rich on the surface but when it comes down to it, it's not the most talented of music players. Because of this, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Mechen’s engineers were so preoccupied with whether they could do certain things, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Mechen is a Chinese tech company that sells a small range of MP3 players. If you’ve seen one of them, it’s probably because you’ve found it listed on Amazon alongside a small army of similar low-cost Chinese MP3 players.

Most of the best cheap MP3 players focus on nailing one area: maybe they’ve got great file support for music tracks, or they have a lightweight and easily-portable design, or they have loads of space for music. Mechen’s angle is to go for breadth instead of depth: it’s not just an MP3 player but a portable video player, a mini eReader, a little recording device and more.

However, to return to that Jurassic Park quote from the opening, Mechen has seemingly stuffed in lots of these features without making sure that they’re worth including in the first place.

File format support for both video and e-book functionality is incredibly limited, missing out on most of the standard files you’ll probably have in your library – and then, if you spend ages poring over a file converter to transform your library into a compatible one, you’ll still be viewing these videos or pages on an absolutely tiny display.

Similarly the touch-screen is a neat feature in an MP3 player this cheap, but the interface doesn’t seem to have been designed with a touch-screen in mind. Navigation beyond the main menu is annoying and hard, and in my testing I often just gave up and started listening to whatever music was already in front of me.

That’s not to say that the Mechen M3 is rubbish. It can record your voice and also audio from a device connected via the 3.5mm jack, which could be really handy in certain situations. It also has a design that’s surprisingly premium-feeling for its price.

And at the end of the day, this is an incredibly cheap MP3 player that… well, plays MP3s. So if that’s all you need, it’s fit for purpose – it’s just a shame about all the failed attempts at making it more than that to compete with the best MP3 players.

Mechen M3 review: Price and release date

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Costs $39.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99
  • Available since January 2024

The Mechen M3 is positioned at the low end of the MP3 player price scale: you can pick it up for $39.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99, and often for between 10%-25% less thanks to frequent sales on Amazon.

At that price, you’re probably finding this MP3 listed alongside countless similar affordable MP3 players, all with similar feature sets and specs.

It’s a relatively new MP3 player, having only been listed on Amazon from early January, so it’s a little more up-to-date than some rival devices which stay listed on the site for years.

Mechen M3 review: Features

The Mechen M3 being held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 64GB memory, expandable to 128GB
  • Offers video playback, eReader, FM radio, images and more...
  • ...but only select file formats, which hampers functionality

There are an absolutely massive number of features offered by the Mechen MP3, including some that’ll have very particular uses for savvy users.

For starters, this ‘MP3 player’ lets you view a range of other file types beyond MP3s, and beyond audio ones in general. From the homepage you can see options for music, video, radio, photos and more.

Let’s start with the radio: if you’re using wired headphones, you can tune into FM radio and even record live radio onto the Mechen. Why wired headphones? Well it’s because they act as an antennae, so you won’t be able to use Bluetooth connectivity for the radio.

The Mechen offers the ability for you to watch videos you’ve uploaded… with the massive caveat that they have to be AVI or AMV file types. That means the most common file formats like MP4, MOV, FLV and WMV are all out the window. I found an AVI file to test, but for some reason it still wouldn’t play on the device.

This same issue affects the eReader functionality. Almost all the standards are out: no PDF, no EPUB, no CBR, no MOBI, obviously none of the Kindle file formats. Instead, all you can read is TXT files, like what Notepad creates – my lengthy eReader library features exactly none of this type of file.

Mechen has also put in a voice recorder into its M3, so you can leave yourself voice notes or record meetings, but it’s expanded that in a neat way. If you connect a music-playing device to the Mechen via a 3.5mm - 3.5mm audio cable, you can record from that other device straight onto the Mechen.

In theory that’s great, though as always there are some kinks. If you’re recording set audio, you need to manually make sure it’s synced up. Plugging the Mechen to your device overrides the audio-out so, if you’re trying to record a call, you won’t actually be able to hear what the other person is saying. Plus, there are plenty of legal questions that’ll depend on your region and app; for example, Spotify bans the recording of songs in this manner.

What’s left on the homepage? There are stopwatch, calendar, alarm and theme-toggling options which all do what you’d expect.

The Mechen has Bluetooth functionality, so you can connect it to speakers, headphones or earbuds if you’d rather use them than wired audio. Curiously Mechen’s website lists the device as supporting Bluetooth 5.0 but Amazon bumps that to Bluetooth 5.3.

By default there’s 64GB on-board storage on the Mechen, which is a decent amount for the price. Using a microSD card you can bump that up by 128GB storage, which allows for loads of music, video or text files.

In terms of battery life, Mechen generally states 500mAh without giving a figure on how much entertainment this actually is; that’s because it’ll depend on what kind of format you’re using. I managed to get through many hours of music streaming without the battery dropping much, but battery use will increase a lot if you’re mainly looking at videos or reading with the display always on.

  • Features score: 2.5/5

Mechen M3 review: Sound quality

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Neutral sound though with some peaking
  • In-box headphones aren't great

The M3 plays a few different file formats including MP3, WAV, FMA and FLAC, all pretty standard options. There’s no on-board equalizer so you’re going to have to listen to what you get.

Your sound will mostly depend on which headphones you decide to use alongside the Mechen M3; as a word of advice I’d tell you to avoid using the in-box ones because they sound absolutely terrible. The M3 also has a built-in speaker but this sounds even worse – don’t use it!

Generally speaking, the Mechen M3’s sound is fairly neutral. It tends ever so slightly towards treble over bass, but not so much that it’ll annoy anyone with particular tastes.

I did notice some peaking across the board, and on headphones that really shouldn’t be exhibiting it, so I imagine audiophiles won’t be impressed by the audio capabilities of the M3.

  • Sound quality score: 3/5

Mechen M3 review: Design

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Small body but heavy
  • Premium design with glass body
  • Five different color options

The Mechen M3 is quite small as MP3 players go – this isn’t a massive smartphone-replacement that’ll burn a hole in your pocket. It’s just 1 cm thick, 5 cm in width and  7cm tall, which makes it roughly one third the size of my smartphone.

I’ve felt lighter MP3 players though. It tips the scales to the tune of 87g, in part thanks to its glass and metal build which feels pretty premium for a low-cost device like this. While glass tech gadgets can be a little fragile, a silicon case included in the box will let the device survive a drop or two.

The earlier comparison to a smartphone stands for lots of the device’s design: it has a small screen on the front with a fairly thick bezel and chin, a volume rocker and power button on the right edge above the USB-C port, a microSD card slot on the left edge and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom. Squint, and this is basically a smartphone.

That display is 2.4-inches across diagonally, with a resolution of 240 x 320, and unlike many same-price rivals it’s a touch screen. It’s not especially bright, but it’s fit for purpose if you’re not using it in direct sunlight.

Mechen offers five color options for the M3: black (as you can see in the review pictures), light blue, pink, purple and red. There’s no difference in these devices beyond the color.

While the premium-looking design sets the Mechen 64GB apart from some similar-priced rivals, the lack of portability consideration like a gap for a strap or lanyard, or a holding clip, does make the device a little awkward to carry around. It’s small enough to totally disappear in your pocket after all!

  • Design score: 4/5

Mechen M3 review: Usability and setup

The Mechen M3 being held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Plugs into PC with USB-C cable
  • Main menu is easy to navigate...
  • ...but further menus aren't

The Mechen is pretty easy to set up, but when uploading your files, you’ll need to make sure you have your library in order.

That’s because when you plug the device into your PC, you need to upload different types of file into different areas: eBooks needed to be added to one folder, music to another, pictures to a third and videos to a fourth. You can’t just drag and drop your entire library into one area and expect it to work. It’s not an overly complex task, you just need to make sure your library isn’t one massive list of all the various file formats.

Initially, navigating the M3 is a breeze. Basically everything you need is housed in one of two menu screens, which you can swipe between like the most barebones smartphone in the world. Everything is clearly labelled and easy to find.

It’s when you get into long menus of tracks that things can be a little complicated. Arrows at the bottom let you move one option forward or backward, but if you’ve got hundreds of artists to sift through, that could take a while. Swiping up and down sometimes jumps through pages, but sometimes just didn’t do anything.

If I have another one small gripe, it’s that sometimes the options can be a little small; I’ve got pretty average-sized hands and I often mis-clicked and selected a different option than I intended to.

  • Usability & setup score: 3/5

Mechen M3 review: Value

  • Best considered solely as MP3 player
  • Design feels very premium

Whether you’re just looking for an MP3 player, or an all-in-one mini entertainment device, the Menchen MP3 offers you great value for money.

Despite being very cheap, the Mechen doesn’t feel like a tacky Amazon-filler; it has an impressive number of features for a device so affordable.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Should I buy the Mechen M3?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Mechen M3 review: Also consider

How I tested the Mechen M3

  • Three-week testing period
  • Pop, rock, classical and spoken word music tested
  • Used at home, in office and on walks

I tested the Mechen M3 alongside several other MP3 players, and it was the last I reviewed, so it enjoyed a three-week testing period.

For the majority of the testing time, I used the Mechen M3's in-box headphones and also the Sony WH-1000XM3s (via Bluetooth and wired). Most of the testing was done listening to music, with a range of genres tested, but I also tried listening to the radio, recording audio from my phone, watching videos and reading eBooks. Not all of these features worked due to file format issues.

As stated I tested the Mechen alongside some of its rival and I have a five-year history of testing various gadgets for TechRadar.

HiFi Walker H2 review: An MP3 player with wide-ranging file support but rough edges
6:00 pm | May 18, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Portable Media Players | Comments: Off

HiFi Walker H2: Four-minute review

The HiFi Walker H2 has carved out a very unique spot itself in the portable media players market. When it comes to MP3 players or digital audio players, the space between the super-cheap Amazon-flooding options and the super-premium bank-account-draining high-end best MP3 players is a no-man’s land. Into that desolate area strides the HiFi Walker H2, which is lovely and premium in some aspects and startlingly rough in others.

HiFi Walker is a Hong Kong-based tech company that, according to its website, only seems to make four products: a bone conduction headphone, an MP3 player carry case, a touch-controlled MP3 player and this, the HiFi Walker H2. I’d put money on the fact that you heard about this device on Amazon, or another shopping website, when looking for a new MP3 player.

So, should you pick up the HiFi Walker H2? Well, that really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for an alternative to the kinds of feature-flush digital audio player that make up our list of the best MP3 player, then the HiFi Walker H2 might be your best option that doesn’t cost an eye-watering four-figure sum.

The device supports a wide range of audio file types including MP3, WAV, AAC, FLAC and WMA, with a Texas Instruments-made DAC that’s a favorite amongst audiophiles and an on-board equalizer so you can tweak your sounds depending on your tastes and ears.

With two 3.5mm headphone ports, you can plug in headphones or connect the player to your home sound system or vehicle stereo; there’s also Bluetooth compatibility so you can stream wirelessly to other devices or from your smartphone using Qualcomm aptX. The HiFi Walker really ticks as many connectivity options as it can.

If you just care about your listening experience to the exclusion of everything else, then, this is a great device that far undercuts similarly-featured rivals. But that’s at a big expense: in almost every other department, the HiFi Walker is a bit of a dud.

Take the battery life, for example: the device lasts for roughly 10 hours of listening before going flat (a figure which is even lower if you’re listening via Bluetooth). For some people, that’s not even a full working day of listening, and it’s much less than the vast majority of the device’s rivals.

The design is another area that needed a second draft: it’s basically a big bulky block. The glass rear picks up fingerprints quicker than a crime scene investigator and the device weighs down your pocket like a big rock.

Perhaps the most questionable area is the software though, which would be most aptly described as ‘harebrained’. Over the course of my testing the HiFi Walker, I never quite worked out how to get around in a manner beyond ‘pressing random buttons to see what happens’. Sometimes pressing ‘back’ from a song menu will take you onto the music player, other times it’ll take you one step back in the menu list. I could never work out if I should play songs from the ‘explorer’ menu or ‘category’. There are two different settings menus with options randomly scattered between the two.

All of the above is to say, the HiFi Walker H2 has plenty of rough edges, and so it’s really only worth considering if you need great audio and the only cost you care about is the financial one.

HiFi Walker H2 review: Price and release date

The HiFi Walker H2's scroll wheel.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Costs $149 / £129 (roughly AU$230)
  • Not the cheapest, but pretty cheap

The default price of the HiFi Walker is $149 / £129 (roughly AU$230) but you likely don’t need to reach that far into your wallet; at the time of writing, the device is on sale for $120 / £105 (roughly AU$200) and its price seems to fluctuate between these prices, sometimes going even lower.

At that price, this certainly isn’t the cheapest MP3 player we’ve ever tested, and there are options at the mid-two-figures mark that are certainly worth buying if you’re looking for a simple and portable music player.

However some DAPs (digital audio players) on the market go for eye-watering four-figure sums, and a brief perusal of our list of the best MP3 players shows plenty of much more expensive rivals. The HiFi Walker holds its head against some of those, making a decent case as to its place as a budget alternative.

If you see a pricier device on sale, that’s actually the HiFi Walker H2 Touch, a touch-screen version that’s about $20 / £20 more expensive and is different in a few ways. That’s not the device being tested for this review.

HiFi Walker H2 review: Features

The HiFi Walker H2 in a man's hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 10-hour battery life max
  • Onboard equalizer is handy
  • Two 3.5mm ports and Bluetooth connectivity options

According to HiFi Walker, the battery life of the H2 is 10 hours of use. Some of you may be wondering something to which the audio-tech-heads already know the answer: no, that’s not very long at all. It’ll be fine for listening at home or on short walks, but don’t expect to take it on long holidays (unless you’ll spend lots of time near a charging port).

I should also mention that users online have reporting a use time that’s somehow even shorter, closer to 8 hours. I tested using wired headphones and 10 felt like a more appropriate estimate, but if you rely on Bluetooth for your listening, this 8-hour figure is probably more apt.

So what features does the HiFi Walker H2 have on board? The first, and perhaps most important, is an onboard equalizer to let you tweak the sound of your music to your ears.

There are various presents including rock, jazz and ‘classic’ (presumably classical), but you can also jump into a custom mode if you dare. This requires an adept understanding of the various navigation hiccups of the H2 (more on that later), but it gives audiophiles a lot of leeway to control their musical experience.

Otherwise, the H2 is distinctly feature-bare. There’s no support for non-musical file formats, no in-device recorder, and relatively little way to customize the device.

The HiFi Walker’s saving grace is its range of connectivity options, which should impress people with lots of gadgets. There are not one but two 3.5mm aux ports, so you can plug in headphones or a jack to connect it to your existing hi-fi systems, and it connects using Bluetooth not just to headphones but to a smartphone as well.

This is done using Qualcomm’s aptX, and it’s meant to let you pull through your phone’s songs onto your HiFi Walker to control it in an extra way… in theory. In practice, the H2 failed to pair with my phone on every occasion, so I never got to test the feature.

  • Features score: 3.5/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Design

The HiFi Walker H2's ports

(Image credit: Future)
  • Giant black obelisk
  • Heavy, but not too heavy
  • Plenty of buttons across the body

The images that accompany this review aren’t screenshots from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. No, it’s the HiFi Walker H2, which is perhaps cosplaying as the famous monolith, in that it’s a big black rectangle. 

The device measures 5.6 x 1.5 x 8.9cm so it’s about average sized for a DAP: bigger than your cheap MP3 player but not as big as some of the chunky top-end models on the market. However with a weight of 150g it’s really showing its heft; this isn’t gadget you can idly chuck in your pocket or leave on your chest as you doze.

An interesting little design feature is the presence of a gap at the bottom-right of the face of the device, which seemingly looks like it’s for a lanyard or wrist grasp to attach to. One is not included in the box. 

It’s fair to say that the H2 has more buttons in more places than a Bop-It game. The top edge has the power button, the right edge has the volume rocker and an exposed microSD card slot, and the bottom edge has one USB-C and two 3.5mm audio ports.

On the front you’ve got a forward and backward button on the right edge, with a back button below them. To the left you’re looking at an iPad Classic-style scroll wheel with a pause/play button in the middle, and under that is the M button. If you press M during music playback, it brings up a list of options including the equalizer and the option to add the song to your favorites.

The screen measures 2 inches diagonally, with a resolution of 320 x 240. That’s almost fit for purpose – almost but not quite, and so album artwork is generally cropped off for its lower fifth when you’re listening to music. Unlike most rivals it’s not a touchscreen.

Instead, you’re using that scroll wheel to navigate menus. Thankfully it’s nice and responsive, with a little physical ‘click’ at every interval to indicate that you’ve scrolled onto the next option. This may be blasphemous to some, but I think I prefer it to the one on ye olde iPod!

No official IP rating has been provided for the HiFi Walker H2, so don’t take it in the bath with you.

  • Design score: 3/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Usability and setup

The HiFi Walker H2 memory card

(Image credit: Future)
  • Easy to add files via USB-C
  • Memory card is technically external
  • Confusing interface layout

Adding music the the H2 couldn’t be simpler: you plug it into your computer, drag audio files onto its window and disconnect the device. It couldn’t be simpler!

By default, the HiFi Walker H2 has 64GB memory for storage. I say “by default” instead of “on-board” as there is no on-board storage, and this 64GB is thanks to a microSD card lodged in the side of the device. Remove it and you can’t listen to music; you can swap it for a higher-storage option up to 256GB for more space though.

This could be really useful for people who really want to easily swap between, for example, their jazz cards, or their opera cards, or their pop-rock cards. However for the average user, this is just a potential tiny piece of tech to use — particularly because the card is literally poking out of the H2’s body, and you can eject it by pressing it.

If you find the thought of juggling microSD cards daunting, then maybe click off this review now, because the process of actually navigating the HiFi Walker’s menus is an absolute nightmare.

The user interface layout of this MP3 player is illogical and confusing. It’s easy to sum this up by pointing out one thing: there are four options on the main menu: ‘category’, ‘explorer’, ‘settings’ and ‘system settings’. To make that clear; the first duo are two different ways to scroll through your music library, the second duo are two different lists of settings.

So which of those options do you press in order to explore your library of songs? If you picked ‘explore’ you’re wrong, it’s category. What about to change the system-wide wallpaper? If you picked ‘system settings’, you’re once again wrong, it’s just ‘settings’.

The myriad buttons you have at your disposal are confusing too, not least because they seem to do different things. Sometimes when you’re in a menu, hovering over a song, the M button will add a song to your favorites. Other times it’ll prompt you to start a new playlist, and in some other circumstances it’ll just act like the ‘select’ button. Same as with the back button and foward/backward buttons too.

Honestly, navigation in general is a pain, and it took me a while to figure out how to get around the user interface — after two weeks of testing, I sometimes still get lost. If you own this product, here’s my helpful tip: pressing the power button once just turns off the screen, and you need to press and hold to turn the whole system off.

As a reviewer, I probably shouldn’t also gripe about spelling and grammar mistakes in the user interface… but as a writer, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring that up too!

  • Usability & setup score: 3/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Sound quality

The HiFi Walker H2 on a metal table.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Neutral sound
  • Plenty of file formats supported

I’m going to give it to the HiFi Walker: this review has been fairly middling, but it’s ticking all the boxes when it comes to sound quality.

The player’s default sound quality is slap-bang neutral: don’t expect any booming basses or shrill trebles here. It’s inoffensive but lovely and balanced.

I say ‘lovely’ because the equaliser is right there: you’ve got a nice blank slate so you can tweak the sound to your heart’s content.

The H2 plays loads of different file formats; whether your library is saved in MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, AIF, AAC or even DSD, you can play them on this device.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

HiFi Walker H2 review: Value

The HiFi Walker H2 in a man's hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Much cheaper than high-end audio players
  • Pricier than budget MP3 players

If all you care about is listening to a range of audio file types on a range of devices, then the HiFi Walker H2 absolutely offers value for money; its price is a fraction of what you’d pay for many rival devices offering similar feature sets.

However if you just want a simple digital audio player so you can listen to tunes when out and about, the H2’s price just won’t be worth it when you consider all the rough edges in the user interface and design.

  • Value score: 3/5

Should I buy the HiFi Walker H2?

The HiFi Walker H2 on a wooden bench.

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

HiFi Walker H2 review: Also consider

How I tested the HiFi Walker H2

The HiFi Walker H2 power button

(Image credit: Future)
  • Two-week testing period
  • Pop, rock, classical and spoken word music tested
  • Used at home, in the office and on walks

I tested the HiFi Walker H2 using a range of headphones including Bluetooth-connected over-ears, wired in-ears and my running headphones. The testing was done simultaneously to several other MP3 players to give some context to it.

The music I listened to was largely classical but I also tested using rock, pop and hip-hop to get a wide mix of genres. This was mainly done in the H2's default sound state but I fiddled with the equalizer a little too.

I have over five years of experience under the belt testing gadgets for TechRadar which includes, in the audio space, speakers, over-ear headphones, earbuds and radios.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: the best earbuds prompts in the business with excellent ANC too
11:00 am |

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100: Two-minute review

The Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 are what the fans were waiting for. Prior to their release, Cambridge Audio's excellent earbuds couldn't join the ranks of the best noise-cancelling earbuds for one simple reason: the UK audio specialist's true wireless buds sounded fantastic, but they didn't have the necessary antiphase noise-nixing tech onboard to offer active noise cancellation. And that is because Cambridge Audio prefers to focus on excellent audio quality (and long may that last by the way). 

But times have changed. While Melomania will never cease to mean 'crazy about music', the British company has conceded that the people are also crazy about active noise cancellation. And if Cambridge is going to offer ANC, it's going to do it right. Although you can't tweak its splendid noise cancelling profile any further than 'On', 'Off' or 'Transparency', when it's on, the ANC here is as effective at cancelling low-level noise as you could wish for, cocooning me in a bubble of near-silence and keeping the footsteps around my desk (plus my own tap-tap-tapping of the laptop keys upon which I bring you this review) barred from that bubble. 

The transparency profile is less useful, with a bit too much audible feedback and a near-constant quiet hiss, even in quiet environments, to be a wholly pleasant experience. But a less-than-perfect transparency mode is a minor shortfall I'm prepared to accept when the noise nixing is this good. 

Multi-point connectivity is baked in here, as is aptX Lossless and aptX Adaptive for higher-resolution audio (if you've got a decent, paid-for music streaming subscription and files up to 24bit/96kHz to serve them), and the battery life, at up to 10 hours from the buds and a total of 23 with ANC on, or 16 hours from the buds and 36 with ANC off, is exceptional. The build quality is also bang-on, with a far more ergonomic driver housing than the bullet-shaped Melomania 1 Plus

There's no device-agnostic spatial audio special side-sauce or fit tests and I'm not surprised. I can hear Cambridge Audio's engineers reaffirm the choice to offer "as few opportunities as possible to muck around with your music – we like a clean sound", as they did at the launch of the excellent CXN100 Network Player in January 2024. And you know what? I really don't mind, because the sound in these earbuds is expansive, detailed, nuanced, clean, neutral and immersive enough all by itself. That said, Cambridge will let you select one of six EQ presets, or create a custom one of your own – with a seven-point EQ parametric tab. 

Call handling is also very good, thanks to the Qualcomm's three mic cVc (or Clear Voice Capture) solution, designed to separate your voice from environmental noise, which works very well indeed. 

I should mention that the case is a little big – again, I'm OK with this more substantial box given the excellent stamina, sound quality and ANC. Also, they're perhaps $50 or £40 pricier than the direct competition. Are they worth it? It all comes down to whether you prioritise sound quality above all else in a true wireless design. For me, the Melomania M100 represent sound-per-pound value – but if you want fit tests, tailored otoacoustic hearing profiles and other whistles and bells, you won't want these. 

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Price and release date

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 one earbud, held in a hand

The ergonomic earpieces are a hit (Image credit: Future)
  • Released on March 27, 2024
  • Priced at $219 / £169 / AU$299

The Cambridge Audio M100 aren't as cheap as the Melomania 1 Plus earbuds they succeed, which had a launch price of $139.95 / £119.95 / about AU$185 – although their price has dropped significantly since that.

At £169 (about $219 / AU$326) they're still considerably more affordable than AirPods Pro 2, which typical sell for $249 / £249 / AU$399. While you could argue that Apple sets a pretty high bar and most brands undercut that pricing, that's not necessarily true in 2024. Consider Bose's $299 / £299 / AU$449 Bose QuietComfort Ultra, Sennheiser's March 2024 $299 / £259 / AU$479 Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 or Technics' EAH-AZ80, also at $299 / £259 / AU$499. See? For the level, Cambridge Audio has actually priced these earbuds competitively.

What you need to know is that while there's plenty of flagship talent here, they actually come in slightly under flagship money. The Melomania M100 are not as affordable as the excellent Nothing Ear (a), for example, but the Nothing buds are an entry-level proposition – a great proposition, but missing just one or two of the flagship features you'll find in their top-tier Nothing Ear counterparts. 

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Specs

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Features

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 case, held in a hand

The case is a little large, but it's perfectly pocketable and honestly, I don't mind its dimensions one bit (Image credit: Future)
  • Great active noise cancellation and app support
  • Excellent battery life
  • Use the 'Southwark' Audible Feedback profile

The fact that Cambridge Audio has included active noise-cancellation (ANC) plus a Transparency mode is big news, because it's a first for the UK audio outfit's Melomania lineup – but the even bigger news is, the noise nixing works really well. At my desk, I'm living in a bubble of near-silence akin to that afforded by the AirPods Pro 2, and that's not a statement I make lightly. 

You're also getting Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, aptX Lossless for CD-like audio quality, Auracast (for when broadcast audio-sharing comes to our airports and waiting rooms), plus the more efficient LC3 codec. 

Call handling is a breeze using the Melomania M100's three mics per earpiece (kitted out with cVc echo-cancelling and noise suppression tech from Qualcomm) and the battery life here is very impressive, with a possible 52 hours from the buds and charging case combined – because you get 16 hours from the buds alone if you keep ANC turned off. For clarity, the AirPods Pro 2 last 'just' nine hours with ANC off (I know this because I tested it myself). 

Melomania Connect is the M100's capable (and newly updated) companion app, which opens the door to additional features such as the ability to customise the on-ear controls to your liking, six EQ presets plus a seven-band graphic equaliser so you can create your own, wearer detect to pause audio when you remove one, mono audio (if you've given one bud to a friend), a sleep mode (which disables all touch controls and voice prompts until you put them back in their case) a gaming mode to reduce latency when watching videos and my favorite, the chance to select what Cambridge calls 'Audible feedback'. This, it turns out, means the person talking to you in your headphones about pairing status, noise cancellation and so on. Scroll down to 'Southwark' in this tab and you hear none other than the actual Matt Berry (What We do in the Shadows; Toast of London; The IT Crowd). And that, truly, is an ace up Cambridge Audio's sleeve. If you don't believe me, just spend a few moments setting up multipoint.

There’s no special spatial audio processing (which doesn't surprise me given Cambridge Audio's thoughts on keeping music authentic and as the artist intended), but some users may miss the fit tests and even tailored profiles based on your hearing offered by the Denon PerL Pro and Nothing's new Ear (a), to name just two products that offer it – because you won't find these in the M100. 

  • Features score: 4/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Sound quality

Cambridge Audio M100 in their case, held in a hand

It's all about black with more black here, unless you get a limited edition set…  (Image credit: Future)
  • Expansive, detailed presentation
  • Sublime clarity across the frequencies 
  • Just a shade off excellent for dynamic nuance

You can of course listen to lossy Spotify tracks using the Melomania M100, but Cambridge Audio's focus has long been sound quality and as such, you might want to treat these buds to some higher-resolution Apple Music, Qobuz or Tidal streams. Also when you do, there's so much to love. 

When streaming The Bangles' Eternal Flame, Susanna Hoffs' stunningly understated vocal is given a few inches more space to shine than I'm used to at this level, and backing vocals arrive in each ear with surprising texture and clarity through the lower mids. Travis Scott's FE!N is immersive as synths dart between each ear, proving that the M100 aren't afraid to drop low and get grimy either. 

Belle and Sebastian's She's Losing It is another sonic delight for neutrality and detail in each musical passage; you'll feel as if you learned a bit about this Glaswegian indie band's use of strings and additional voices after a session with the Melomania M100. 

Sam Smith's Unholy reveals a minor shortfall in terms of dynamic nuance though. The M100s still serve up a detailed and cohesive mix, but I'm missing an extra ounce of the spirited rise and fall that typifies the track. This is a song that grabs you from the get-go, with a full choral recital of the main theme followed by a moment of silence before the bass-riff drops. It's just not quite as ear-grabbing, zealous or petulant as I've heard prior to now. 

Again, it's a long way from an actual issue – and many listeners will prefer the expansive, integrated, detailed, thoughtful presentation of the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100. I adore listening to Melissa Etheridge's I Want to Come Over with these earbuds, since I can hear her particular method of approaching guitar strings in ballads and the beautiful, imperfect textures in her vocal at times, but if you tend to listen to  hip-hop and grime tracks on the commute, you may just yearn for a little extra oomph. 

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Design

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
  • Ergonomic, secure and comfortable earpieces
  • On-ear controls work well
  • Case is a little big

These are easily the most comfortable Melomania earbuds ever made. The buds slip easily into my shell-likes with none of the tiresome twist-and-lock screwing them in some earbuds require. At 6.65g per bud, they're not particularly light given the competition (Sony's LinkBuds S weigh just 4.8g, for example), but they're beautifully well-weighted and the design feels like it wants to hug your ear and stay put, which is always helpful.

OK, the case is on the large side, plastic, and other options look a little more premium for the price, but it is perfectly durable and pocketable. Unless you're lucky enough to bag a limited edition How High pair (which comes in a bright yellow and black color scheme – a nod to the music video for The Charlatans' hit How High, in which singer Tim Burgess wore a bright yellow jacket) the M100 is available in black with more black only, so if you wanted something in white or silver, you won't find it here. 

That's not to say I don't like the design; I do. The central touch-capacitive 'button' (you don't actually have to depress it) on the top plate of each driver housing is easy to find has a nice tactile edge to it and is a chic nod to Cambridge Audio's circle-within-a-circle logo. The controls also work very well indeed and each function can be toggled on or off if you won't use it. I like that I can have Matt Berry announcing the ANC profiles when I tap the left earbud, while play-and-pause is a single tap of the right, and the on-ear volume control is handled by a long press of either bud (left to decrease; right to increase) which is always the best solution I find – because perfecting three or four taps so that your earbuds actually understand and respond accordingly is a big ask. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Voice prompts

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100

'Southwark' is the only English audible feedback you want (apologies to the other, perfectly lovely English voice prompt artist, but Matt Berry is unsuprassed)  (Image credit: Future)
  • Select 'Southwark' and you get Matt Berry 
  • No really, it's actually Matt Berry 

In case it hasn't been mentioned enough (and I feel it can never be overstated, so sub editor, please leave this in), by heading to the 'Audible feedback' tab in the app, scrolling all the way to the bottom and selecting the unassuming 'Southwark' option, the dulcet tones of Matt Berry will greet your ear. He'll serve up delectable vocal morsels such as "Device one, connected" or "Waiting to pair" depending on how you're using them, in addition to the standard "Noise cancelling", "Normal" or "Transparency" and if you're a fan of Matt Berry's sizeable oeuvre, it's priceless. It's almost like having Steven Toast at your beck and call. ("Hello Steven, can you hear me? It's Clem Fandango…")

  • Voice prompts score: 6/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Value

  • As feature-packed as any earbuds has any business being for the money
  • A no-brainer for Tidal members
  • Unbeatable for comfort and sound-quality at the level

For features, noise cancellation and sound quality, these are a compelling set of earbuds – but them and you will not be disappointed with the levels of detail in your music and the near-silence they'll add as a backdrop if you want it.

The AirPods Pro 2 will give you a little more dynamic zeal, and Denon's PerL Pro will offer hearing tests and tailored sonic profiles. That said, both rivals will charge you a little more for it. 

Cambridge Audio's focus here has been on detail, clarity and effective ANC. If those requirements are top of your list, these may well be the buds for you. 

  • Value score: 4/5

Should I buy the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Cambridge Audio M100 review: Also consider

How I tested the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100

  • Tested for two weeks, listened against the Technics EAH-AZ80, AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
  • Used at work (in the office; walking through London; on a train) and at home
  • Listened to Tidal, Apple Music Lossless, Qobuz tracks and Spotify on an iPhone 12 Pro, a Samsung Galaxy S22 and a MacBook Pro

It will come as no surprise to learn that the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 became my musical companions for two weeks – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period. How else am I to test them? 

They accompanied me to work on weekdays walking (and on more than one occasion, running) to the station; boarding a train and on the London Underground; at the office. They also stayed in my ears during long walks on the UK's Jurassic Coast, in Dorset – a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls.

To better test the battery life and comfort levels of the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100, I wore them throughout the working day and into a yoga class in the evening – and they outlasted my working day by some distance. 

To test the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to our reference playlist but also my own music (spanning everything from country to classical) on Apple Music, Qobuz and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – and YouTube tutorials (mostly about silversmithing, if you're curious) from my MacBook Pro. 

I’ve been testing audio products for over five years now. As a dancer, aerialist and musical theater performer in another life, sound quality, fit and the user experience have always taken priority for me personally – but having heard how wonderful ANC can be when done well, I know what to look for. 

Read more on how we test earbuds at TechRadar

  • First reviewed: May 2024
Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: a Bluetooth speaker that’s heavy on bass, light on weight – and solid bang for your buck
7:32 pm | May 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Comments: Off

Anker Soundcore Boom 2: Two-minute review

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 offers enough quality to get the party started, especially given its relatively low price. The chunky Bluetooth speaker’s main draw is its ability to plate up impactful deep bass tones, with its BassUp feature able to pump this up further. 

In addition, the Soundcore Boom 2 keeps pace with a number of pricier options among the best Bluetooth speakers when it comes to battery life, offering a playtime of up to 24 hours.

As a lower-cost option, however, the Boom 2 sometimes compromises on quality, with the mid-range and high frequencies lacking crisp definition, especially at louder volumes. It’s not exactly the best-looking Bluetooth speaker either, though its built-in Light Show feature with customizable settings may add a splash of excitement for some. 

One slightly disappointing aspect is the Soundcore Boom 2’s lack of a dustproof rating, despite Soundcore pitching it as a beachside companion. It is, however, waterproof and floatable, making it a worthy candidate for a pool party, and an option for those looking at the best waterproof speakers. Being boyant also means it's quite light in weight for a chunky speaker, which means it's portable – a big plus.

With Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity and simple button controls, the Boom 2 is super-easy to set up and operate. If you want to get more out of it, the free-to-download Soundcore app enables users to flick through Light Show options and calibrate EQ settings to their liking (which can help improve the sonic balance a lot). 

Despite some shortcomings when it comes to how it sounds, the Boom 2 has a decent amount of power. If you’re not overly concerned with top-quality audio and want a powerful Bluetooth speaker that can cut through loud background noise while being more portable than most of its direct competitors, the Boom 2 makes for a solid pick. For those who like a more rounded sound, the JBL Charge 5 is about the same price, and will give you that – but it lacks the same level of bass thump and the useful carry handle.

Soundcore Boom 2 standing on granite surface

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Price and release date

  • Released on March 6, 2024
  • Price: $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99

The Soundcore Boom 2 is well-priced for a larger portable wireless speaker, carrying an asking price of $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99. That’s just $30 more than its predecessor, the Soundcore Motion Boom, despite the newer model offering double the output power (without BassUp enabled), new drivers, and more versatile multi-speaker pairing (via PartyCast 2.0).

By comparison, our highly recommended JBL Charge 5 can sometimes be found at around $10 more, so there are similarly affordable alternatives out there. For $70 / £42 (about AU$80) more, you could pick up the Tribit Stormbox Blast speaker, which is a bit bulkier, but offers awesome sound quality and still with buckets of bass.

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Specs

'Soundcore' is written on the handle of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Features

  • BassUp bass-boosting feature
  • 24 hours of playtime
  • Adjustable Light Show settings

The Soundcore Boom 2 houses a 50W subwoofer alongside two 15W tweeters, meaning that its output can hit 80W. However, this 80W output is only achievable when the Boom 2’s BassUp feature is activated, which serves up a “punchy bass” according to Soundcore. I’d agree here, to a degree; the Soundcore Boom 2 is clearly designed around delivering a solid deep bass listening experience – more on this later.

Utilizing the BassUp function doesn’t come without a downside, however, as it causes the Soundcore Boom 2’s playtime to deplete faster. For reference, the model has a playtime of up to 24 hours per charge, which is a good amount of time for a speaker of its size. I found that it took over five hours of playing music at 30% volume for it to drop 20% of its battery (as rated by the app, using its crude system of five battery bars – I would much prefer an actual percentage). It certainly appears to live up to its battery claims.

As is the case with BassUp, users should be warned that the Soundcore Boom 2’s Light Show option also drains battery faster – a feature which may not be to everyone’s tastes, although there is an option to switch it off entirely.

Light Show has seven settings: Energy, Fireworks, Flame, Flash, Lightning, Rainbow, and Wave. Each setting syncs with bass audio, which is more apparent with options such as Flame than with others, like Fireworks. The Soundcore app enables you to alter the colors used in each Light Show configuration, adjust brightness levels, or turn the LED lights off entirely. You can also switch between Light Show settings by holding the speaker’s BassUp button, which is a slightly hidden design choice, but works well regardless. 

Anker's Soundcore Boom 2 supports Bluetooth 5.3, which ensured that it was quick and easy to connect with both my Android phone and one of the best portable music players. Like many other similar Bluetooth speakers, the Soundcore Boom 2 also offers charging of a phone or other device through a USB-A port hidden beneath a rubber tab on its reverse side. Next to this is a USB-C port, which can be used to charge the speaker – note that you can’t charge another device from the USB-C port, which is a shame. The model comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable, which can fully recharge the Boom 2 in approximately 5.5 hours.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to connect more than 100 Soundcore speakers at the same time, you’re in luck. The Soundcore Boom 2 has a PartyCast 2.0 feature, enabling it to sync its audio and light output with various other Soundcore speakers.

  • Features score: 4/5

Rainbow-colored light panel on side of Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Sound quality

  • Impressive, booming bass
  • Various vocal and instrumental elements can lack definition
  • ‘Balanced’ EQ setting provides decent all-round experience 

The heavy kick of the Soundcore Boom 2’s deep bass means that it can hold its own at events with lots of background noise, such as outdoor parties or gatherings. When listening to Young Blood by The Naked and Famous, the Boom 2 delivered deep bass tones with substantial power, even without BassUp enabled.

Though it's still good value, the Boom 2’s low-end output isn’t perfect. When I listened to Black Eye by Allie X, the energetic bass bounce you’d anticipate from the opening is slightly lacking, especially when I compared it to the JBL Xtreme 4. The Boom 2 reaches deep, but it doesn’t connect the bass to the mid-range so well out of the box, leaving it feeling thin as it moves through the range of low-end frequencies.

Unfortunately, the Boom 2’s prominent bass can sometimes be overbearing, and at times the speaker’s deep bass output slightly drowned out vocal elements, for instance. This was apparent when listening to Moloko’s I Want You, when I was once again impressed by the bass output, but felt that it overshadowed the impact of several other instruments too heavily, preventing the complexity of the track from being fully realized. Unsurprisingly, this is exaggerated further with volume cranked up high, and even more with BassUp turned on, so I’d only recommend using this feature if you're really going for that pounding beat for a party, and aren't really worried about fidelity.

The Soundcore Boom 2’s clarity isn’t going to wow, with higher-pitched vocals and lower-toned guitars often lacking a touch of sharpness and definition. With a bit more sweetness to its sound, it could've been a really great speaker.

In fairness, some of these issues can be remedied somewhat via the Soundcore App, which enables users to switch from the default ‘Soundcore Signature’ EQ settings (where the midrange is given precious little limelight) to a ‘Balanced’ option, which delivers a decent all-round listening experience. The Soundcore app also has ‘Voice’ and ‘Treble Boost’ presets, as well as an option to adjust EQ levels manually. 

But while this all improves their balance in the mix, it doesn’t solve the deeper lack of detail. Voices and strings are simply less sweet, less real, than pricier large speakers.

  • Sound quality score: 3.5/5

Button controls of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Design

  • Plastic exterior looks on the cheaper side
  • Nice and lightweight
  • Lacks a dustproof rating, although it’s waterproof and floatable

When it comes to style points, the Soundcore Boom 2 doesn’t score too highly, with its plastic casing looking a little on the basic side. The speaker is available in Adventure Green (the version I tested, and it's a nice color), Explorer Blue, and Phantom Black, all of which look clean enough, though may not appeal to those seeking a touch of pizzazz. The Boom 2’s drivers are protected by a rather budget-looking plastic covering decorated with the Soundcore logo. 

For the price, however, the Soundcore Boom 2 still looks the part for any outdoor event or party, sporting a solid attached handle and minimalistic yet simple button controls, which enabled a quick and easy setup. It also has four rubber feet at the base to provide grip, protect the speaker’s base from scratching against rough surfaces, and stop the bass vibration from moving it around.

Something I really liked about the Boom 2 is that it’s relatively light for its size, weighing in at 3.66lbs / 1.67kg. That’s far less hefty than comparable models such as the Tribit Stormbox Blast, which comes in at a weighty 11.6lbs / 5.3kg.

There’s something about the Soundcore Boom 2 that I found almost perplexing, however. The speaker’s packaging specifically bigs up its use at a beach setting, with much of the model’s online marketing similarly highlighting this. However, the speaker is only IPX7 certified, meaning it does not have a dustproof rating, unlike an IP67-rated model such as the JBL Charge 5.

This means the Soundcore Boom 2 may not be a prime pick for the beach after all, although the IPX7 rating does promise that the speaker can withstand being under 1m of water for 30 minutes without suffering any damage. The Boom 2 is also floatable, making it easily accessible in a pool (or maybe even a large bath). 

Naturally, I gave it a dunking – it floated well (on its side), and after being submerged underwater for around a minute it was still able to play audio to the same standard as before.

USB-A and USB-C ports on reverse side of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 3.5/5

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Value

  • Low-priced for a larger Bluetooth speaker
  • Despite imperfect sound, it will do the job for parties
  • Large competitors often have higher list prices

The Soundcore Boom 2 may not be revolutionary, it may not deliver earth-shatteringly good audio, and it may not even woo the masses with elite design, but one thing’s for sure – it performs well in the value category. 

It’s not the cheapest Bluetooth speaker available, but given its larger size and solid bass output, it’s easily worth its $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99 price tag. The Boom 2 provides everything essential for the average listener, especially when accounting for the adjustments available via the Soundcore app. 

Indeed, many speakers of a similar size go for much closer to the $200 / £150 / AU$300 mark. For instance, the JBL Charge 5 has an official price of $179.95 / £169.99 / AU$199.95 and the Sonos Roam comes in at $179 / £179 / AU$299. If you want a speaker with powerful, pumping outdoor sound at a lower cost, the Boom 2 is worth considering.

  • Value score: 4/5

Should you buy the Anker Soundcore Boom 2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Also consider

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: How I tested

  • I used the speaker over the course of a week
  • Mostly used in our music testing room in the TechRadar office
  • I listened to a wide variety of music genres during each listening session

I spent hours testing the Soundcore Boom 2 with music, checking how easy the speaker was to set up and operate, tinkering with its various Light Show settings, and of course tuning into the quality of its audio output. 

While using the speaker, I listened to a range of tracks, including songs from TechRadar’s testing playlist. I had other speakers available to compare against, including the similarly sized JBL Xtreme 4. I connected both a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 using Spotify and a Fiio M11S hi-res music player using Tidal, to put the Boom 2’s audio abilities to work.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: May 2024
OnePlus Buds 3 review: more than just a gift to receive with a OnePlus phone
12:00 pm | May 15, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

OnePlus Buds 3: Two-minute review

Like many smartphone companies, OnePlus makes true wireless earbuds to go alongside its smartphones, that it will ship as a pre-order bonus or as a handy extra purchase for die-hard fans of the brand. The OnePlus Buds 3 arrive as another pair of fairly affordable buds in this spirit, but they’re among the better such options.

So are they some of the best budget earbuds around? They're not far off. You’re probably considering the OnePlus Buds 3 if you own one of the best OnePlus phones already, but you’ll be able to enjoy them if you own any other brand of mobile smartphone too; unlike Apple, OnePlus doesn’t lock its tech to pre-existing customers.

At a glance, the OnePlus Buds 3 bear more than a passing resemblance to their predecessors, the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro. And while it’s true, these aren’t exactly wild revisions on the 2023 models, they’re more affordable and have some improvements across the board. 

In some areas, OnePlus may have gone too far, and the sound quality is something of a sore spot. In our Buds 2 Pro review we said bass was “not especially heavy” and the Buds 3 have overcorrected, taking inspiration from the RWE Bagger 288 (which Google tells me is the heaviest vehicle in the world) because it’s heavy.

The bass on the Buds 3 is just too much, no matter how much playing around you do in the equalizer, blowing the treble into the distant corners of the sound mix. You shouldn’t buy these if you like a balanced or neutral sound.

Did I say equalizer? Yes I did, because that’s one of the many cool features packed into the smartphone tie-in app. Other features include spatial audio, ear canal scanning to get a tailor-made sound, the ability to change to different active noise cancellation (ANC) modes and more. For not-really-that-expensive earbuds, the feature range on display is really something.

You’ll have to enjoy these features in small bursts, though, because the OnePlus Buds 3 will only last for 6.5 hours of listening in one go when ANC is turned on. Turning it off boosts that to 10 hours, but that’s still nothing to write home about – thankfully the case is generous with extra charges.

That ANC is pretty good, too, and it’s got to be one of the best I’ve tested in the sub-$100 / £100 / AU$200 price range. There are a range of strength levels and a transparency mode, to let you fully customize how much sound comes through, but at any level the buds are a dab hand at getting rid of annoying unwanted noises.

While they’re not quite fantastic enough to make it into our ranking of the best wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Buds 3 do have a lot going for them. If you receive them as a gift alongside a OnePlus phone, you should count yourself lucky, and they’re well worth considering even if you have to buy them on their own. 

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Price and release date

The OnePlus Buds 3 earbuds in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Unveiled in January 2024
  • Costs you $99 / £89 / AU$179

The OnePlus Buds 3 were officially unveiled at the end of January 2024, in lieu of the new smartphone the company sometimes unveils at the beginning of the year.

You’ll pay $99 / £89  AU$179 to pick up the buds – in theory, though these are the kind of earbuds that you’re more likely to acquire through pre-order bonuses or as a free gift with a OnePlus phone, rather than as a chosen purchase.

That price shows these as being more affordable (read: lower-end) than 2023’s OnePlus Buds 2 Pro, despite being similar in terms of design and the feature set. Unless you find those dramatically marked down, the OnePlus Buds 3 will be a much more tempting purchase.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Specs

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Features

A OnePlus Buds 3 bud in the case

(Image credit: Future)
  • 10-hour buds battery, 44-hour with case
  • Absolutely loads of features thanks to app
  • Buds are slow to pair 

The OnePlus Buds 3 earbuds have a middling battery life: 10 hours with ANC turned off, which drops to 6.5 hours when it’s on. That’s not amazing, though some rivals last an even shorter amount of time. The charging case rockets that figure up to 44 hours (with ANC off, 28 with it on) which is a much bigger jump-up than cases often provide, so people on long journeys can rely on this case. 

When setting up the OnePlus Buds 3, I was perturbed to find no tie-in app available on the Google Play Store. Instead, I was prompted (both by the recommended suggestions, and OnePlus’ own website), to install a third-party app called HeyMelody which has a pretty low rating on the Play Store. It seems this is how people without a OnePlus phone control the buds – handsets from the company seemingly have a first-party control app.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the buds worked well without the app, and I only downloaded it to access extra features. You can enjoy music and noise cancellation without HeyMelody, you just can’t control your sound, or access certain extras you’re paying for.

The app lets you play with an equalizer (more on that later) and adjust noise cancellation, with an impressive range of options in terms of strength and efficacy (a Transparency mode cancels some sounds but maintains important ones). It’s actually mildly handy once you’ve set it up, though it’s definitely not required.

The OnePlus Buds 3 buds in the case

(Image credit: Future)

You can also use the app to set up the touch controls: the two buds can have individual commands mapped for one, two or three taps, as well as a long hold or a slide gesture. That’s a lot of potential, though I found that the almost-imperceptible button area meant I frequently missed the correct area when trying to use the touch controls.

The OnePlus Buds 3 are among the better earbuds at this price that I’ve tested when it comes to noise cancellation, using a deft hand to remove annoying background noises. I tested in Max mode, although there are degrees of intensity if you’d rather only strip out a middling amount of sound.

HeyMelody brings two extra features I’d like to flag: first off is Golden Sound, which lets the buds scan your ear canal in order to calibrate your music. The instructions on the test are poorly worded and it took me a few tries to figure out what it was actually asking, but it’s a cool additional feature, even if the results are barely audible.

Then there’s OnePlus 3D Audio, which had a much more palpable effect. This is basically spatial audio, and it really creates a sense of dynamic (though artificial) soundstage, really improving music. It’s only available on certain apps so I’m not going to take it into account for the music quality section later, but luckily the super-niche music app Spotify (you may have heard of it) is one of the compatible apps.

One thing I should note is that the OnePlus Buds 3 had a pretty slow average phone pairing time compared to most rivals I’ve tested. When I put the buds on, they’d take up to ten seconds to connect with my phone, and almost always over five, which is slower than basically every other alternative I’ve tried.

This was also the case when I first set up the earbuds, and my phone took a good while to detect them.

  • Features score: 4/5

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Design

The OnePlus Buds 3 bud in an ear.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Lightweight and barebones case
  • Small buds with touch controls
  • IP55 certification

I’ve got to say, I’m a big fan of the look of the OnePlus Buds 3.

The carry case is a tiny lightweight pebble, measuring just 5.9 x 5 x 2.6 cm and weighing 40.8g – that’s the kind of case you can easily lose in your bag or pocket, it’s more svelte than the majority of its competitors. It has naught but the essentials – space for the earbuds, and a USB-C charging port.

I did find that the smooth material of the buds made them a tad hard to remove from the case though – every removal required roughly three slips before a successful attempt.

The case is made from plastic, hence its lightness, though it does feel like it’d snap if you clenched it in your fist too hard. Our smartest gadget-reviewing minds have a suggestion: don’t do that.

Like their carry case, the buds themselves are incredibly lightweight, with their 4.8g barely registering on scales (or your ear). As wireless earbuds go, they’re pretty barebones: no OnePlus branding, no obvious sensor or buttons, just a tip and a stem.

There is, in fact, a sensor on each earbud, but it’s denoted just by a slightly matted area on the stem, so you’d be forgiven for missing it. It’s so subtle that it avoids detection not just by your eyes, but by your fingertips too – but I've already discussed that above.

The buds have IP55 certification, which means they’ll survive splashes or bursts of water, but shouldn’t be submerged in liquid.

  • Design score: 4/5

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Sound quality

  • Bass-heavy sound
  • Treble is lacking
  • Equalizer lets you tweak sound to an extent

The OnePlus Buds 3 bud on a log.

(Image credit: Future)

You can’t exactly expect precision-tuned sound on earbuds that cost this little, and you won’t get that on the OnePlus Buds 3. That said, they’re nothing to turn your nose up at either for this money.

These earbuds will appeal to people who like their bass-heavy sound, because that’s exactly what they provide. Whatever kind of music I tested, from pop and house to acoustic singer-songwriter tracks, the lower range of instruments and notes was always a lot more prevalent.

Some people might like that, but it was a little overbearing in plenty of songs – you don’t listen to rock to only hear the guitar’s lower E string, after all. Treble is all but blown out, meaning vocal lines lose their clean sparkle and harmonies and countermelodies were often harder to hear than I’d like.

The OnePlus Buds 3 earbud in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)

The mids within my reference music tracks often stood up to the brutal barrages from the bass, but treble was almost always less prominent than I’d like. Saying that, sometimes when it was palpable, peaking made me wish it was buried even further…

The in-app equalizer lets you tweak your sound to a certain extent, with a few presets, a customization option and also a bass boost option, but honestly I found all of my tweaking was for naught. The equalizer is very light touch, and you might not notice changes unless you’re really (really) listening for them.

  • Sound quality: 3/5

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Value

The OnePlus Buds 3 charging case on a log.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Great value if received as gift
  • Decent for the price, but a shade off fantastic

As mentioned before, it’s hard to envision someone buying the OnePlus Buds 3 full-price, given that they’re likely designed to be bundled with a new OnePlus phone.

If that’s how you’re acquiring these buds, they’re a great little gift; they’re solid all-around wearables that’ll save you from having to buy a separate pair to use with your brand new shiny smartphone.

If you’re paying full-price, the value proposition is different. The OnePlus Buds 3 are fine for their price (and you’re certainly getting some flagship fit and spatial audio features), but there are other sub-$100/£100/AU$100 rivals that’ll give you more sonic bang for your buck.

  • Value: 3.5/5

Should I buy the OnePlus Buds 3?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Also consider

How I tested the OnePlus Buds 3

The rear of the OnePlus Buds 3 case

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for 10 days
  • Tested at home, in the office and on walks

The OnePlus Buds 3 were tested over the course of the week, with the review writing period rounding the testing period out by a few extra days. The main device I paired with was a Xiaomi Mi Note 10 smartphone, but I also tested it alongside a Windows laptop and an iPad. I did not test it with a OnePlus phone.

I listened to a range of music genres in different places including my office, my home and on various walks around my neighborhood. I mostly tied with the strongest noise cancellation mode and the EQ set to the default setting.

I've been testing gadgets for TechRadar for over five years, and in that time I've reviewed many OnePlus phones and headphones like this.

  • First reviewed in May 2024
Sony ULT Field 7 review: a great wireless party speaker that can handle its big bass
8:59 pm | May 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Sony ULT Field 7: Two minute review

The Sony ULT Field 7 is the company’s latest addition to the world of weatherproof portable speakers – gone are the days when listening to music outside meant trailing an extension cord precariously through the house and watching the skies with trepidation. The ULT Field 7 is a seriously large, seriously powerful party speaker, ready for big spaces.

Priced at $499 / £399, the Sony ULT Field 7 is available for purchase in the US and the UK and will be available in Australia at some point, but Sony hasn’t shared the price or release date there just yet. However you look at it, this is a big outlay if you’re only looking for an occasional party speaker, but if you like to entertain a lot, or are generally just a fan of heavy bass and want one of the best Bluetooth speakers that can deliver this, the price may not be so off-putting to you.

In a bid to make the Sony ULT Field 7 the perfect party companion, it’s been designed to be waterproof and dustproof, with an IP67 rating backing this up, which is about as good as you get from the best waterproof speakers. This means that you’re all good to use this speaker whether you’re entertaining during a rainy BBQ, or having a beach party. While Sony has attempted to jazz things up with colorful lighting, it is a shared opinion in the TechRadar office that this speaker does, unfortunately, look a bit like a trash can when standing vertically. 

While you may be correct in thinking that a super-charged party speaker like the Sony ULT Field 7 isn’t going to provide the most delicate of listening experiences, it’s surprisingly well-rounded. Not only do bass-heavy tracks sound exciting and dynamic, but mids and trebles are handled well across all genres. Podcasts and talk shows are even pleasant to listen to, and speech is clear.

One aspect that let the ULT Field 7 down is the Sony Music Center app. Its design is reminiscent of a pre-2010 website, it’s laggy, and has some connection issues. At least with the ULT bass and lighting modes easily adjustable on the speaker, you should only need to use the app every now and then, unless you spend a lot of time fiddling with the finer details (which I did, but such is the life of a reviewer).

The size and weight of the ULT Field 7 is something worth considering carefully. The speaker is marketed as being easy to carry – which is somewhat true thanks to the solid integrated carry handles – but, at a size of about 20 x 9 x 9 inches / 512 x 224 x 222 mm, and weight of about 14lb / 6.3kg, you aren’t going to want to carry it long distances.

So, should you spend $499 / £399 on this speaker? If you don’t mind the aesthetics and the disappointing app, the quality of the sound is impressive, and could be exactly what your next party or gathering needs.

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker logo close-up

Covered in fabric, the Sony ULT Field 7 is a bit of a black hole. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Price and release date

  • Released April 2024
  • Priced at $499 / £399 (about AU$770)
  • 'Coming soon' to Australia

The Sony ULT Field 7 launched in April 2024 as part of the new ULT-series lineup. The lineup also included four other models, the ULT Wear headphones, the ULT Field 1, and the ULT Tower 10.

The ULT Field 7 costs $499 / £399. This translates to about AU$770, but it's listed as unavailable on Sony’s Australian website at the time of writing. It does state “available soon”, so hopefully the official pricing will be added shortly.

This is fairly high in the world of portable speakers, but is far from unusual – the JBL Xtreme 4 and UE Hyperboom come in at a similar kind of price, though both are a little cheaper.

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Specs

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker ports

The flap on the back opens to reveal buttons and connections galore. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Features

  • ULT presets for powerful and deep bass
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • 30 hours stated battery life

The Sony ULT Field 7 has a load of features that help to make it a good choice for parties or outdoor gatherings. Firstly, and most importantly for this speaker to be worth its salt, is the powerful ULT sound. There are two preset bass EQ settings, ULT1 and ULT2. The ULT1 setting is intended for tracks with especially low-frequency sounds, delivering impressively deep levels of bass. ULT2 is for delivering louder and punchier bass, better suited to house parties where the lack of detail won’t matter, as you’ll be focussing more on dance-offs. 

The ULT Field 7 also has a Sound Field Optimization feature, which is designed to detect the sounds in the surrounding environment before automatically adjusting the audio settings to improve how it sounds in reaction to them. 

The ULT Field 7 promises to provide 30 hours of playtime, and can build up three hours worth of playtime after charging for 10 minutes. This stated 30 hours battery life is based on having ULT 1 or 2 on, and the lighting (which is just in the ends of the speaker) off. 

I found that the battery dropped 20% over about five and a half house with the lighting and Sound Field Optimization on. This suggests that this speaker could run for about 27 hours with these features enabled, which is good going considering Sony says that’s basically the worst-case scenario.

The design of the ULT Field 7 is a feature in itself. It has integrated carry handles that make it easy to maneuver, plus it has an IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating and is salt water resistant, so you can feel confident in the speaker's durability whether you’re having a party at home, in the garden, or on the beach. 

To further add to the party vibe, hidden behind the rear panel is an input for a microphone or guitar so you can use the ULT Field 7 as a karaoke machine, or a guitar amp, which is a nice bit of versatility. 

Speaking of amping up the sound, the Party Connect feature means that you can link this speaker to a wide range of other compatible speakers in the Sony range, so you can sync up the sound and lighting.

In other wireless tricks, it has LDAC higher-quality Bluetooth support, plus multi-point pairing so you switch between devices it's connected to easily.

Features score: 4.5/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker bass reflex port with lights showing

There's plenty of power from these bass reflex ports. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Sound quality

  • Impressively deep bass
  • Satisfying vocal clarity
  • Don’t expect a lot of detail

Despite this speaker focusing its efforts on heavy bass levels, it still delivers a balanced and pleasant listening experience across the board, as you’d expect from Sony. Yes, some delicate details are overshadowed by the amplified basslines, but anything aimed at parties was never going to be the audiophile's ideal choice.

By default, the speaker is set to the ULT2 mode. There is a noticeable difference when switching to ULT1 because, as promised, this setting does indeed deliver more depth. I am impressed with the way it handles low frequencies, giving much-needed definition to the low-end of tracks like Angel by Massive Attack, which is lost amid the amped-up bass of ULT2 mode. 

A good level of softness and detail are still detectable in vocals in ULT1 mode – and even in the punchier ULT2 mode, voices still sound clear. It doesn’t sound like you’re listening from outside the venue, which can be the case with cheaper and smaller speakers when you crank up the bass power. 

ULT2 mode succeeds in still delivering dynamic sound that makes you want to bounce along to the beat while being more refined. The bass isn’t overpowering when listening to Von Dutch by Charli XCX; the balance is there between the clear vocals and the energetic bassline.

The important thing with outdoor speakers is that they are able to carry big bass and clear vocals across the open air, battling breezes and other interferences, across a potentially long distance. The ULT Field 7 has no trouble with this – and unlike some, it actually sounds good while doing it. 

Listening to podcasts is a surprisingly detailed experience too. When listening to The Unbelievable Truth there was a good balance between the speech, buzzer sounds, and audience laughter and applause. 

This speaker delivers a satisfying well-rounded listening experience with a light touch when needed, which is particularly impressive considering it’s a beast of a speaker (in a good way) when it comes to its thumping bass registers.

Sound quality score: 4/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker standing upright on a stone floor

You can have the speaker flat or standing up. We'll talk about the latter option a bunch in the next section… (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Design

  • Ashtray vibes
  • Collects dust and debris easily
  • Robust and durable

I’m sorry to say that I’m a little less positive when it comes to the looks of the Sony ULT Field 7. It has been designed to sit horizontally on a surface or to stand vertically on one end. I don’t have particularly strong feelings when it is sitting horizontally. The control panel is easy to access, and the ULT Field 7 looks like what it is: a big speaker. But when it’s standing on one end, I can’t lie, it’s giving me the feeling of a public ashtray outside a hotel or conference venue.

On a brighter note, the button controls feel substantial and are easy to press. Sony has a habit of using a satisfyingly soft silicone material, and this is what’s used here too. The control panel houses the power, Bluetooth, play/pause, volume, and ULT mode buttons printed in pale grey. When the illumination is on, the ULT button lights up in sync with the circular ring lights that sit on either end of the speaker. These lights are more subtle than seems ideal, because they’re set quite far into the sides of the speaker – I feel like if you’re going to do this in a big speaker, you should really go for it, otherwise why bother with the battery drain? – but they make a nice touch. There are nine different lighting effects available, as well as the option to turn the lights off.

There is a hatch on the back of the speaker that conceals a number of additional controls, including a light button, which cycles through the illumination effects, a battery care button to protect against over-charging, an echo button, and key control buttons. This is also where the inputs live for a microphone or guitar, USB-A, aux-in, and the plug for charging (a figure-eight cable – no USB-C here).

Sony markets the ULT Field 7 as easy to transport, designed with convenient carry handles built into either end. While these handles do make picking it up a lot easier, it doesn’t change the fact that this speaker is on the large side, measuring about 20 x 9 x 9 inches / 512 x 224 x 222 mm and weighing about 14 lbs / 6.3kg. I’m quite a petite person, and while I can carry the speaker between rooms, it would be a struggle for me to wander down to the beach with it.

While the speaker itself has a good dustproof rating, the outer fabric and silicone ends and feet pick up dust and debris easily. So it'll definitely work happily wherever you take it (within reason), but you will probably find that it starts to look less-than-pristine quite quickly, and fabrics like this aren’t super easy to clean.

Now, I know I bashed the appearance earlier, and I still stand by my opinion that it looks like somebody attempted to jazz up an office trash can with some RGB lights – but ultimately, this speaker is designed to be durable, so it makes sense that it looks somewhat utilitarian.

So while I’m not happy about how quickly it starts to look dirty, the intention is to have the ability to listen to music in wet, dusty, or sandy environments, without worrying about it taking its toll on the hardware. At least the rating means that it’s somewhat washable, so all is not lost even if it gets a little grubby.

Design score: 3.5/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker controls

There's a row of controls on top – including the ULT bass control, which changes color, to emphasize how extreme it is. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Usability and setup

  • Quick setup
  • Disappointing app

Setting up the Sony ULT Field 7 was simple. The speaker powered on easily, and I just had to press the Bluetooth button and my iPhone spotted it straight away.

The appearance of the Sony Music Center app feels low-budget, which is disappointing for an established brand like Sony. My less-than-positive opinions were further proven when switching between apps, as each time I left the app it appeared to disconnect from the speaker, so it takes a moment to reconnect each time I move away from the app. I found this particularly frustrating when fine-tuning the settings, as every time I hopped onto the Apple Music app to change tracks and get a feel for the changes I’d made, I had to start from the home menu again when I returned to the Sony app. 

In addition to the delay from switching between apps, it took over a minute – sometimes longer – for the app to connect with the speaker after powering it on, whereas other Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested will reconnect to an app in seconds. Perhaps this will be improved by software updates in the future, but just note that it might be frustrating if you try it soon.

When tapping on My Library, the app is able to access Apple Music and my media library, so I can get straight to my chosen media through the app, if I choose to. (Obviously, like 99% of people, I mostly choose to just use whatever app I usually use.)

Tapping on Music took me straight to the Apple Music section within the app. There is a tab for audio input, for those times that you might want to use it as an amp for playing guitar, or to blare out some karaoke. There’s also a tab for USB input, so you can play music from a storage device. There’s a dedicated tab to take you straight to Spotify, if that’s your service of choice. 

Alongside the ULT1 and ULT2 modes, you can also alter the EQ settings manually in the Settings tab. Frustratingly, you need to head back to the Sound Effect tab to select Custom mode before the app will let you alter the EQ. Generally, other apps will intuitively switch off other modes when you customize settings, but this is just another example of the Sony Music Center app being disappointingly clunky.

Usability and setup score: 3.5/5 

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker's handle held in a man's hand

The handles at each end make it easy to grab and move, though you wouldn't want to go too far. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Value

  • Good audio quality for the price
  • Great for parties (if not audiophile listening sessions)
  • Over-priced for an occasional speaker

This speaker may not equate to being good value for the money if you only throw a party every once in a blue moon, but if you enjoy blasting tunes outdoors on the regular, then you’ll be getting what you pay for here, thanks to the durability and sound quality. I think it’s a sound investment for the right person.

That feeling of value is partly helped by the good range of features offered here, from two bass-boosting modes, to the sound adaptation based on audio around it, to karaoke and guitar plugs, to multi-point pairing.

I think the overall versatility is harmed slightly by it being as large and heavy as it is, which may bring down the value for some – its value as a beach speaker is reduced if you don't want to carry it to the beach because it's large and heavy – but that's balanced by it being well-built and having a good IP waterproofing rating.

Value score: 4/5 

Should I buy the Sony ULT Field 7?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Also consider

How I tested the Sony ULT Field 7

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker power and ports close-up

(Image credit: Future)
  • I tested the speaker for one week
  • I played music continuously to determine battery usage
  • I listened to music and podcasts

I tested the Sony ULT Field 7 over the course of a week – after a thorough run-in. I listened to a range of different music genres, and podcasts, listening out for how the speaker handled bass, mid-tones, treble, and so on. 

I mostly used the speaker in TechRadar's music testing room, where I could really get a feel for what it's capable of – but obviously I used this portable speaker in other locations as well.

To determine how fast the battery would run down, I played music continuously at 25% volume, and continuously checked to see how quickly the battery indicator changed, tracking the time along the way.

I played music to it from an iPhone, a MacBook Air, and a Fiio M11S music player with LDAC support. My main music sources were Apple Music and Tidal, but I also used Spotify and podcasts.

Majority MP3 Player review: one of the best cheap music players to consider
3:00 pm | May 12, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Portable Media Players | Tags: | Comments: Off

Majority MP3 Player: Two-minute review

The Majority MP3 Player shines for its simplicity in a world where MP3 players are trying hard to be your replacement smartphone, radio and Kindle all wrapped into one. 

The Majority MP3 Player is not trying to be the best MP3 player ever invented; it’s trying to be a simple music device for people who don’t have degrees in sound engineering. Created by British audio company Majority, this is basically the cheapest MP3 player on the market that you should seriously consider buying, found on Amazon by searching 'MP3 player' and sorting 'price: low to high'. And it wears that budget badge with pride.

The Majority MP3 is absolutely tiny, and very lightweight too, so it’s not going to drag a hole in your pocket like many of its rivals. Its plastic shell may seem ‘cheap’ to some, but it'll take drops and knocks better than delicate premium options, and contributes to its lovely lightness.

My favorite feature is the sports clip on the back, which firmly clasps the MP3 player to your clothes, bag or anything else. This was so handy for keeping the player held still while keeping it within arms’ reach (ie, not in a pocket), and also means you can take the player for a run or workout and clip it to your clothes, to exercise hands-free.

Design aside, there’s more to like here too: the player is simple to use (well, once you’ve got your head around some user interface quirks) and has a battery life that outstrips lots of the competition.

As you can imagine from the price, the Majority MP3 doesn’t exactly have all the trappings of its pricier rivals. You’re not getting a touchscreen, so you’ll have to rely on a fairly rudimentary button system to get around, and don’t expect to fiddle with an on-device EQ, watch videos or read audiobooks, or download any more than 128GB of music (or 16GB, without an SD card).

However if you’re simply buying a nice lightweight little gadget that lets you outsource your music listening to a non-smartphone device, sometimes you don’t need bells and whistles; you just need simplicity. And simplicity is something the Majority MP3 delivers in spades.

The Majority MP3 Player in a man's hands.

(Image credit: Future)

Majority MP3 Player review: price and release date

  • Costs $35 / £30 (about AU$60)
  • Available since March 2023 (according to Amazon)

As stated in the introduction, the Majority MP3 is one of the cheapest MP3 players on the market at the time of writing. How cheap? Uh – that’s a good question.

At the time of writing, Majority has two separate listings for the device on Amazon UK: £29.95 and £34.95, and I can’t for the life of me tell what the difference between the two is. I’d hazard a guess that there isn’t one. The expert tech minds at TechRadar have come to the conclusion that you should buy the cheaper one.

What about outside the UK? It's available on Amazon US for $35, in mercifully just one entry. There's no Australian availability, but these prices would translate to around AU$60.

The Majority MP3 Player on a wooden bench.

(Image credit: Future)

Majority MP3 Player review: Features

  • 16GB memory, expandable to 128GB
  • Limited list of extra tools
  • 34-hour battery life, lower if using Bluetooth

You can fit up to 16GB of music onto the Majority MP3 player, which the company estimates will take 4,000 songs to fill. If you buy a compatible SD card you can expand that by 128GB which will fit countless hours of music in MP3 format. The only file format officially supported is MP3 – no AAC or WAV support is listed here.

Despite being a simple device, the Majority does have a few extra tools that may come in handy. You can record audio notes, change your background, use a stopwatch or check a calendar (though I couldn’t find a way to add anything to it) and create folders and playlists on the device.

Some features that many other MP3 players have are missing here. You can’t streaming over Wi-Fi, sync with audiobooks services, watch videos, or tune into the radio, so you'll have to rely on whatever MP3 files you manually download. There’s also no way to customize your listening experience, beyond picking your chosen headphones carefully.

There's a 3.5mm jack for wired listening, or you can ditch cables and set up a Bluetooth connection, which lets you stream the MP3 files through some of the best wireless earbuds or one of the best Bluetooth speakers – though it’ll harm your battery life of course.

That battery life is 34 hours by default if you’re using wired audio, which is a fair bit longer than some competitors (many of our favorite MP3 players last between 15 and 20 hours). Charging takes three hours, done with an in-box USB-C cable.

  • Features score: 2.5/5

The Majority MP3 Player on a wooden bench.

(Image credit: Future)

The Majority MP3 Player in a man's hands.

(Image credit: Future)

Majority MP3 Player review: Sound quality

  • Quality depends on audio files and headphones
  • No extra features to improve quality

The Majority MP3 Player isn't one to buy if you're looking for a device that ekes all the sound quality it can out of your tunes.

Unlike some pricier rivals, the device doesn't come with an on-board equalizer and doesn't support higher-quality music file types, so this isn't a portable music player for audiophiles – MP3 only here. You could probably tell that from the price.

Music played on the device will depend a lot more on the files you upload and the headphones you use than the pedigree of the Majority, then.

For what it's worth, I tested with a range of music files and they sounded effectively as good on the Majority MP3 as on pricier audio players, my computer and my smartphone. 

The bass and treble were bright and distinct, though the mid-range was a little lost compared to on some rival devices. The sound quality will best suit runners, but won't impress people who care about high-quality music.

  • Sound quality score: 2.5/5

Majority MP3 Player review: design

  • Tiny and light plastic body
  • Small touchscreen and buttons for controls
  • Plastic 'sports clip' holds 

The Majority MP3 Player is a small plastic rectangle, with a teensie screen and control panel on the front.

The player is absolutely tiny; it’s the smallest of its ilk that I’ve tested by a fair amount. It measures 4.4 x 6.8 x 1.9cm / 1.7 x 2.7 x 0.8 inches (ignore Majority’s website or Amazon, which both offer the dimensions of the shipping box as that of the device itself!). To give you a sense of that size, you’d need to put three and a half in a row to cover up a dollar bill.

It weighs only 33g too, so it’s slight enough that you can pop it in a pocket or on your clothes and forget it’s there. This lightweight form is partly thanks to the small size but likely mainly thanks to the fact it’s plastic, a material that’s often associated with ‘cheap’ tech but is also very hardy. I dropped the MP3 player a fair few times and there’s not a scratch or mark upon it.

A distinctive design feature is the use of a ‘sports clip’ on the back of the body, which you can use to clip it onto anything you want. As per the name, I used it a lot when going for a run so I could go hands-free, and it stayed attached despite all the associated jostling and bouncing. When not running, I also liked to attach the player to my clothes instead of drop it in a pocket, which made for easy access when I wanted to change the tune or turn it off.

Around the edges of the device you’ve got a USB-C port for charging and plugging into a computer, a 3.5mm audio jack (headphones are included in the box but you can use your own), an SD card slot that supports up to 128GB expandable memory, a volume rocker and a ‘hold’ button which deactivates any of the other controls so you don’t accidentally press them. On the front of the Majority is the screen and five buttons: the main selection one, ‘M’ (for ‘music’), previous track, next track and back. These are all you’ll have when navigating the menus.

That screen is 4.8cm across with a resolution of 240 x 240, and it’s bright enough that you can see it in direct sunlight. With those specs, it’s fit for purpose but won’t wow you with its fidelity, so I’m not exactly heartbroken that you can’t watch videos on the device. When you’re listening to music, a clock sometimes appears to tell you the time, but I could never figure out the rhyme or reason for it showing up or the Majority simply defaulting to a black screen; it felt pretty random.

  • Design score: 4/5

The Majority MP3 Player clipped to a blue hoodie.

(Image credit: Future)

Majority MP3 Player review: usability and set-up

  • Plugs into PC using USB-C cable
  • Navigate with physical buttons
  • User interface can be a little confusing

Downloading music onto the Majority MP3 Player is incredibly easy. You don’t need to fuss over different folders or settings; plug the player into your computer, select ‘Transfer’ on the player, and simply drag any of your music you want into the player’s folder. No, you don’t need to put it in a certain place on the folder or upload it in a certain way; throw it all in there and it’ll sort itself out. Easy!

Finding the music on the device itself may be a little trickier. You can use the forward and backward buttons to scroll forward and backward in the list, and the central one to select an option. 

Back, as you imagine, takes you back, but only one menu, so if you want to return to the player’s main menu then you’ll just have to smash the back button loads of times. And want to pause or switch tracks while you’re listening to music? You’ll have to navigate all the way back to the main menu, and then forward into the music options to find ‘Now Playing’, as there’s no simple way to jump to the music player.

I got used to the navigation after a while, but it did take a little learning. Another gripe I had is that the player takes a few seconds longer to turn on or off than I’d have liked (both are performed by pressing and holding the central button). That’s also true of turning on and off the controls hold option; you have to wait a few seconds for an animation to play out, so changing volume or skipping tracks isn’t as quick as you’d hope.

  • Usability & setup score: 3.5/5

The Majority MP3 Player on a wooden bench.

(Image credit: Future)

Majority MP3 Player review: value

  • MP3 player right at the lowest of the low end of the market
  • Does what it promises, and only a little more
  • Faults are easily forgiven at this price

If you’re looking for value for your money, you can’t find a better device than the Majority MP3 Player, and that’s simply because it’s so cheap.

You can spend literally thousands on an MP3 player if you want top-end features and audio, but Majority has gone for the opposite side of the spectrum, and you know what? You still get the same core function of playing MP3 files. 

Being unable to play hi-res music or watch videos really won't be an issue for anyone looking for something this cheap, and the storage is sufficient for its purpose. I really can't fault it for its value.

  • Value score: 5/5

The Majority MP3 Player on a wooden bench.

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Majority MP3 Player?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Majority MP3 Player review: Also consider

Majority MP3 Player review: how I tested

  • Two-week testing period
  • Pop, rock, classical and spoken word music tested
  • Used at home, in office, on walks and on runs

I tested the Majority MP3 Player using its provided headphones (though obviously you can upgrade to some of the best wired headphones for an improvement), and I paired it using Bluetooth to the Earfun Wave Pro and the OneOdio OpenRock S headphones to see how it measured up.

Musically, I loaded it up with a testing playlist of rock, pop and post-rock, and also used it to stream lots of running music and classical. As you can tell I used it on runs as well as when at home, in the office and on walks.

The testing period for the Majority MP3 Player was roughly two weeks, and I was able to compare it directly with two other similar devices: the Mechen 64GB and HIFI Walker.

Beats Solo 4 review: a solid update to an iconic pair of wireless headphones, but the competition is now too hot
7:00 pm | May 5, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Headphones Wireless Headphones | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Beats Solo 4: Two-minute review

The Beats Solo 4 are long-awaited on-ear wireless headphones that aim to improve on the company's 2016 Solo 3 with an increased battery life and additional features, including a USB-C port for simultaneous charging and lossless hi-res audio playback, and Spatial Audio – as well as some new color options.

When wearing the Beats Solo 4, I was pleasantly surprised at how well isolated I was from my immediate environment, despite the lack of active noise cancellation (ANC). The claimed 50-hour battery appeared to hold true during my tests too, which is great for such comparatively small and light headphones.

As with most of the best Beats headphones, style is at the forefront, and the Slate Blue variant I tested certainly makes a statement (they are also available in Matte Black and Cloud Pink). Some parts of the plastic build and headband padding feel cheap, though, and certain aspects of its engineering, such as the folding mechanism, don’t inspire much confidence.

They offer a secure fit that’s impressively solid for on-ear headphones, withstanding the rigors of physical activity without shifting, which is important considering that Beats is promoting these headphones for exercise. However, on-ear headphones don’t really work for my ear comfort, and these did nothing to change that – and long-term comfort is made worse by the lack of adequate padding on the headband; I couldn’t use them for more than an hour at a time. 

The controls also provide issues: the main 'b' button is easy to accidentally press when hanging Solo 4 around the neck, and I found the volume buttons hard to locate while wearing. Pressing them also puts undue pressure onto the ears, which, as you can imagine, is an uncomfortable sensation. 

The sound is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Solo 4. The bass response can be impactful at times but wooly at others, while the mids sound muddy and lack punch compared to more of the best wireless headphones at the same price. These problems aren’t solved if you listen via any of the higher-quality wired options. The upper mids are where the Solo 4 sound their best, but the highest frequencies don’t have enough sparkle and clarity in comparison to the competition.

The Sony ULT Wear WH-ULT900N, for example, are the same price in the US (and cheaper in the UK), and beat the Solo 4 on pretty much all fronts: they have much better sound, comfort levels, and come with ANC. The Sennheiser Accentum Plus is another superb option for those who want something more audiophile-friendly, with impressive ANC and wireless hi-res support.

Beats Solo 4 held in hand

(Image credit: Future)

Beats Solo 4 review: Price & release date

  • Priced $199 / £199 / AU$329
  • Launched in May 2024
  • Available in Matte Black, Slate Blue and Cloud Pink

The Beats Solo 4 are priced at $199 / £199 / AU$329 officially, and were available to buy from May 2nd, 2024.

This is lower than today's flagship headphones – the Beats Studio Pro are $349 / £349, while the Sony WH-1000XM5 officially cost $349 / £299. Both of these are larger, over-ear models with ANC. 

For basically the same price as the Solo 4, you could also get the Sony ULT Wear WH-ULT900N or the Sennheiser Accentum Plus. Both of these are over-ear rather than on-ear, which usually improves low-end frequency response, and feature ANC and some other features lacking here. The Sennheiser headphones also match the Solo 4’s 50-hour battery, even with ANC on.

Beats Solo 4 review: Specs

Beats Solo 4 close-up of left driver

(Image credit: Future)

Beats Solo 4 review: Features

  • Apple and Android smart features
  • Lossless wired playback via 3.5mm and USB-C
  • No active noise cancellation

The feature set for the Beats Solo 4 is what you would expect from a modern pair of wireless headphones. One-touch Bluetooth connectivity made it easy for me to connect to Android, iPhone and Windows PCs, and lossless audio playback is supported via a wired USB-C connection. This means you can listen to sources that provide superior quality to MP3 or AAC file formats, imparting more detail across the entire frequency range, theoretically. Simultaneous charging is also possible when connected to devices that provide power. 

However, there is no high-resolution audio support when connected via Bluetooth, as the Beats Solo 4 only support AAC and SBC wirelessly, which are both compressed formats; there’s no aptX or LDAC.

There is also a 3.5mm analog input and included cable so you can use them just like a traditional pair of wired headphones, meaning you can enjoy unlimited playback without using any battery power. Again, this can offer higher-quality audio than Bluetooth, and is useful on planes.

The Beats app is responsive, easy to use, and offers options to easily manage privacy controls, such as location permission, notifications and analytics, and battery optimization settings. It also provides the battery level as a percentage that actually updates for all 100 numbers, which is very useful (and not something all headphones provide – some just note when they've dropped by 20%, for example). 

There's fast pairing and auto-switching between compatible devices for both iOS and Android ecosystems – and the Find My system for both platforms in supported. However, Apple users get a few extra features, such as hands-free 'Hey Siri' access and Audio Sharing, which lets users share playback with multiple pairs of AirPods or Beats headphones at a time. Better than these, though, is that Apple users get Personalized Spatial Audio for movies or Dolby Atmos music. There’s no support for this on Android.

I mentioned auto-switching between devices above, but be warned that this only worth within the Apple or Android systems. So, it auto-switches between iPhone and Mac; or it switches between Android and Chromebook. There's no standard multi-point pairing, so you can't switch between, say, an Android phone and Windows laptop seamlessly.

True to their minimalist aesthetic, the Beat Solo 4 headphones only have four buttons, and all of them are pretty well hidden. The main 'b' button is on the left hand side and integrated with the company logo, and controls main functions, such as play/pause and skip track, depending on the number of times it is pressed. The button is tactile and operates smoothly, although I did find it easy to press accidentally, especially when they’re hung around the neck.

The volume controls are located on the ring around the 'b' button, with the top half increasing volume and the bottom decreasing. Again, these function well, but they require too much force to register, which meant I was pressing the entire left driver into the side of my head, which isn't comfortable.

The power button is perhaps the most hidden of all, being a tiny little dot finished in the same color as the rest of the headphones. Locating this blindly when wearing the Solo 4 isn’t easy. It also has to be held down for a few seconds, but hold for too long, and you enter pairing mode. Getting the timing right is tricky, and the only audio prompt you get is when the Bluetooth connection is established. The only indication that the Solo 4 are turned on is a small LED on the outside. Basically, make sure you turn them on before they're on your head.

The microphone is also high quality, although perhaps too eager to pick up extraneous noises. When making a test call with the Solo 4, my interlocutor commented that, although I was coming through clearly and loudly despite the considerable amount of wind outside, other background noises also came through prominently, such as people talking around me in the street.

Beats quotes the battery life as being a generous 50 hours of playback. And during my test, this figure seemed to live up to reality.

I tracked them as generally losing around 5% battery per 2.5 hours (without Spatial Audio turned on), which puts them right in line for the 50-hour claims from Beats. I also observed them drop around 10% after a 6.5 hours of playback too, so you may get a little over 50 hours – but as usual with headphones, it can depend on volume and other factors.

  • Features score: 4/5

Beats Solo 4 wireless headphones close-up of ear pads

(Image credit: Future)

Beats Solo 4 review: Sound quality

  • Bass is hit-and-miss
  • Boxy lower mids, clear upper mids
  • Great passive noise isolation

Despite Beats having a reputation for bass-heavy headphones, the Solo 4 are pretty controlled on this front. The low frequencies are deep without being overbearing, although they don’t have the precision and control I would hope for. There are times when the bass is too boomy and wooly, especially noticeable in songs with sustained low notes.

The lower mids are also disappointingly muddy, but the upper mids are pleasantly crisp without being harsh. Songs with detailed percussive arrangements, for instance, come across well in the Solo 4. But the highest frequencies don’t sparkle as much as they could, lacking the finer details at the top end of the spectrum.

When connected via USB-C rather than Bluetooth, you get access to lossless audio, which, in theory at least, should provide a listening experience fit for audiophiles. During my audio test via USB-C with our special TechRadar playlist on Tidal – which provides lossless music streaming – the results weren’t radically different to Bluetooth. The bass was still amiss, and while the mids were more punchy, they still weren’t as clear as I would have liked. Using the 3.5mm analog input seemed to marginally improve the quality of these frequencies, but not by much.

In comparison to the Sony ULT Wear headphones and Sennheiser Accentum Wireless that I've already mentioned in this review, there's no competition really – these both offer more detail, a better balance across the frequencies, and a clearly richer experience overall.

Where the Solo 4 shine, though, is the noise isolation. Despite not having any active noise cancellation profiles, external sounds are blocked out well. This helps songs with heavy reverb and a strong sense of space to be comprehensively conveyed. Spatial Audio experiences are also improved by the isolation, making the illusion of the surround sound theater experience more compelling. The dynamic head tracking meant that whichever way I turned my head, even slightly, the audio panned to always match the direction of the source. 

At this price, it’s hard to get a better movie sound experience on headphones than Apple's Spatial Audio tech provides. This is a nice bonus if you'll watch a lot of movies, but really still has limited appeal for those who will only listen to music with them. 

  • Sound quality score: 3/5

Beats Solo 4 wireless headphones in their case

(Image credit: Future)

Beats Solo 4 review: Design

  • Snug and secure fit
  • Uncomfortable for sustained periods
  • Nice colors, but limited selection

The case that comes with the Beats Solo 4 is made from a soft fabric material, which makes for a lighter carrying weight. However, it does make me more concerned about their safety when buried at the bottom of a backpack or stuffed in a suitcase than if they had a hard case.

The opening for the case is also quite small, so using it isn’t exactly a seamless experience: it’s near-impossible to take them out without sliding the headband adjustments, and putting back the included 3.5mm analog and USB-C cables in their own pouches within the case is also quite the chore, since the openings for those are very small as well.

And despite being smaller than over-ear headphones, the depth of the case means that they aren't that much smaller to carry around, if at all. The Sony ULT Wear WH-ULT900N over-ear wireless headphones, for instance – which are bigger than the Solo 4 – have a case which is longer and wider, but thinner, which is something I personally prefer, as I find such cases easier to pack away. 

The Solo 4 stay true to the Beats aesthetic, looking almost identical to the Solo 3. The look is minimal and the Beats logo is displayed prominently on the sides of each can, so everyone knows what you’re wearing. The Slate Blue finish I had is vibrant without being garish, although Matte Black and Cloud Pink are other color options you can choose from. It's a little disappointing there are only three options, since the Solo 3 came in five colors, but I'm sure more will become available over time.

The adjustments on the headband are smooth and relatively easy to make – although this was trickier while wearing them, as they were fairly tight on me. The hinge mechanisms for folding the earcups feels quite loose, and so doesn’t hold them in folded position with much support. The plastic used for the overall construction doesn’t especially premium either when compared to the likes of Sony and Bose headphones.

The fit is very snug and secure, despite being an on-ear design, and so having less surface area on the pads to grip your head. Having used them for exercise, I can say that they stay on without the slightest deviation. Beats has mentioned exercise as a key use case for the Solo 4, and even in a world of fitness-focused earbuds, they do this job very well.

The price I paid for this secureness, however, was a lack of comfort overall. Despite the particularly plush ear pads, the Solo 4 felt the same as any other pair of on-ear headphones I have tried – which is to say, painful after long sessions. Not everyone feels the same but, if you’re someone with sensitive ears to pressure, like me, then these aren’t going to be the on-ear headphones that change your mind. Glasses wearers will also be in even more potential pain – but again, I will concede this is something I am personally quite sensitive to.

But with the Beats Solo 4, the more universal issue is the feeble headband padding, which meant that the top of my head felt the strain as well. The rubber coating also feels cheap and offers too much grip if anything, often sticking to my hair, causing issues when sliding them on and off. 

The upshot is that I couldn’t wear the Solo 4 for more than an hour at a time before I had to give my cranium a break. But when you do take them off and hang them around your neck, I encountered another problem: since the earcups don’t swivel, the edges can rest uncomfortably between the chin and collarbone. It may seem like a small point, but other headphones at this price point do have rotating cups to rectify this problem and make life more comfortable.

  • Design score: 3/5

Beats Solo 4 held in hand face on

(Image credit: Future)

Beats Solo 4 review: Value

  • Rivals offer better sound for the same price
  • No ANC is disappointing
  • Smart features for both Android and iOS is rare

The Beats Solo 4 are priced at $199 / £199 / AU$329, and the competition at this point is quite stiff. The Sony ULT Wear WH-ULT900N, for instance, are currently available for the same price, if not cheaper, and best the Solo 4 in virtually every aspect. I tested them directly against the Solo 4, since we had both in for review at the same time.

The Sony headphones have superior sound and comfort levels, as well as having more features, including ANC. The Beats Solo 4 almost get away with this omission thanks to their frankly excellent natural noise isolating capabilities, but it’s still far perfect, and other headphones at this price point feature ANC too.

In no small part, you'll be paying for the specific styling and the unique mix of Android- and iOS-friendly features. A lot of people will feel that's worth it, but I'm not sure it's quite enough. These features, plus Apple's top-tier Spatial Audio, good battery life and USB-C audio mean they're reasonable for the price overall – but you can spend your money better.

  • Value score: 2.5/5

Should I buy the Beats Solo 4?

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Beats Solo 4 review: Also consider

How I tested the Beats Solo 4

  • Tested on Android, iPhone and PC
  • Streamed music from Tidal and used stored MP3 tracks
  • Tested over 10 days

I tested the Beats Solo 4 over the course of a week, in various scenarios. I tried them with an Android phone and an iPhone, as well as a laptop and a Fiio M11S high resolution music player. I made use of all their supported features, including wireless playback via Bluetooth, and wired via 3.5mm analog and USB-C. 

I listened to music directly from lowly MP3 files in 320kbps quality, as well as via hi-res streaming service Tidal. I tested them with a variety of genres, including rock, pop, electronic, classical and jazz. I listened both in quiet indoor environments and noisy outdoor ones. I also tried exercising with them to test how secure the fit was.

I also made phone calls and recorded voice memos with the Solo 4 to test the microphone quality too. 

I also tested the battery life by leaving the headphones connected to a mobile device via Bluetooth to play through a playlist at a typical listening volume.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: May 2024
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