When apple announced the Air Pods, every brand wanted to pursue the same concept. And with Bluetooth 5 and aptX becoming more affordable, the TWS earbuds concept took centrestage.
While the market is filled with TWS earbuds, each one has a unique feature set and design style to suit the brand and its users. And now the race in this segment concentrates on three most important features – battery life, ANC offering and lowest latency possible. And definitely what finally boils down to the purchase are design, audio quality and price. Redmi is known to be the budget segment under the Xiaomi hierarchy and the offering from Redmi is for the masses. While Redmi has made its mark in the budget smartphone segment, they are now trying to capture the audio accessory market, starting with the Redmi Earbuds S.
The Redmi Earbuds S is a remake of the Redmi AirDots S that’s sold in the international market, but is catered to the Indian customer keeping audio performance and budget in mind.
Tiny as they look, these earbuds are pretty comfortable and don’t protrude from the ears. Simply twist them in your ear canal and you are ready to go. Encased in a matte black exterior, the earbuds weigh in at just 4.1g each and have just a single tactile button on each bud, and perform just four different roles. Single click to play or pause the track, double click to accept/reject calls, long press to summon your phone’s Google Assistant or Siri, and triple press to turn on low latency mode for gaming.
Battery life stated is 4 hours on a single charge (43mAh battery in each earbud) and three more charges from the charging case to give you a good 12 hours in total. If you are using a single earbud, then expect around 24 hours (or more) in total. Yes, you can use a single (left or right) earbud alone, while the other one sits in the case to charge itself.
Pairing is simple – simply pair the earbuds from your phone the first time you pick them out of the charging case and you are set to go. Disconnect from the phone and they go into pairing mode, ready for another device. Sadly, they cannot be paired to two or more devices simultaneously, so you cannot simply switch between phones/devices like most other BT headsets can. If you want to connect to another device, then you have to disconnect from the first one, and vice versa.
Multi-colour LEDs inside each earbud denote the current mode – pairing/charging. The LEDs are well dimmed out and do not glow after they are paired, making them less noticeable to others around you.
The charging case is pretty simple, has a very nice and firm build and snaps open/close similar to the AirPods case. Sadly, the case is not equipped with any switch like the latter which enables the pairing or connect/disconnect functions for the earbuds.
Also, there is no app for the earbuds, so you cannot change button functions, activate latency modes, tune EQ modes or check for firmware updates. In short – these are simple no-hassle TWS earbuds to simply connect and enjoy the audio.
As for the ergonomics, it is very comfortable, unlike many other TWS earbuds that either protrude from your ears too much or are too large and drop down from either side. The earbuds sit within the ear cavity very comfortably, and since they are in-ear types, they provide a good amount of ambient noise isolation. Three types of silicon tips are provided for different ear canal sizes, so users can choose which fits best for them.
The earbuds are almost invisible when worn – almost unseen from straight up ahead. They sit snug within the ear cavity and are helped to stay in place by the shape of the ears themselves. Wearing them is simple – simply insert them in vertically and then twist them horizontally to stay put. The fit is perfect and probably will fit every type and size of human ears out there. And if you are commuting by public transport, there’s no worry if someone brushes against your face and causes them to fall off. Speaking of wearing, the earbuds are designed with an IPX4-rated body to prevent damage from sweat and casual splashes/rains. So heading out for that morning jog, commuting in the afternoon traffic, or simply having those night walks by the beach will be absolutely no issue.
As for performance, the Redmi Earbuds S, according to Xiaomi, has been tuned keeping the Indian audio taste in mind. The bass has been kept well under moderate limits and does not overpower the mids either. The highs are also decently good. The volume levels are not as high as expected but is sufficient for most tasks such as calls, movies and music. Listen to Bollywood or Hip Hop and you will be happy, but if you are into Jazz or Country, you will be able to tell the difference that these earbuds have been tuned with weightage given to lower frequencies. The bass singnature is prominent. However, overall, you won't complain.
The noise isolation is also good enough, too, and it helps in keeping out unwanted ambient sounds at bay. Overall, the audio performance is well above average, enough for daily audio/video usage and phone calls too, and on such a small budget.
Sadly, Redmi/Xiaomi has preferred to go with a tactile button instead of a capacitive touch panel for the function buttons. Xiaomi says that they took a call after feedback from the large community, which stated that touch-based buttons are occasionally prone to accidentally changing tracks. They say that the decision was taken to keep the button use as minimal as possible to avoid the learning curve and remembering the different clicks needed for different tasks. While that is true, having to depress the buttons each time is a pain for some too.
Using the Redmi Earbuds S while sleeping/laying down is great. They are pretty comfortable as they are almost at level with the ears. However, there’s one problem – thanks to the physical button – they often get pressed accidentally and summon the assistant, or keep pausing the tracks/movies time and again. An app to control/change the button’s functions would have seriously been a boon to many users. Redmi needs to think of an app so that these areas could be addressed.
Xiaomi also did not give functions to control the tracks and volume from the earbuds, like most TWS eadbuds feature. Each time you need to skip tracks or change volumes, or even dial a last number on your recent call list, you have to ask your smart assistant (Google/Siri) to do it after a long press. This is painful for those who don’t use or rely on AI assistants as much (for example, myself), and will have to pick up their smartphones to do the task, defeating the purpose of having the function buttons on the earbuds. Hence, an app would have been better for those who would like to customise the buttons according to their use.
The earbuds don’t have any ear detection either. If you remove the earbud(s) from the ear, they don’t pause the audio track. So if you remove them from your ears, they still stay connected and the audio/movie you were playing continues. They only disconnect from the phone when they are placed in the case for charging. However, having the above said feature would be an additional expenditure, which also explains the affordable cost for the product.
But yes, there’s one feature that I liked most – the low latency. A triple-click on either earbud enables or disables low latency mode which helps big time while playing most games that require audio-video sync. This is to keep the sync in audio-video so that your game does not turn out disturbing. So playing PUBG Mobile will not be as irritating as they are on conventional BT or TWS earbuds. In fact, Xiaomi has measured these low latency timings at 122ms. So playing games with low latency mode turned on is probably one feature that you will enjoy with the Redmi TWS Earbuds S. The low latency mode is a big feather to its cap and almost no other TWS earbuds have come as close to delivering it as better. Nevertheless, wired headphones will always be the only best option for gamers and BT headsets will probably never take that spot.
Playing around with the Redmi Earbuds S was fun, especially when going on video calls and playing games on the phone in between free times. While a few features are a bit disheartening (physical buttons, lack of controls to tweak the button features, no options for volume control/skip tracks), the low latency mode, above average audio performance, tiny and comfortable form factor and the awesome budget pricing is what helps recommend these TWS on a seriously tight budget. Yes – that ridiculous price tag of just ₹1,799 will automatically start your fingers typing your bank details on Mi’s shopping website so you could stick them in your ears all day.