The term “flagship killer” is reserved usually for smartphones. Today, I’m expanding its definition to earbuds. Edifier’s $129 NeoBuds Pro sport features include Hi-Res wireless audio certification, a first for true wireless earbuds, long battery life and a premium design. With a list like that, Edifier is set to challenge competition that costs twice as much.
Funded on Indiegogo, the NeoBuds Pro is a chance for the company to celebrate its 25th anniversary in style (if that’s not obvious enough from the really shiny box) by packing a pair of buds with a more sophisticated driver system and stronger active noise cancellation than pricier options like AirPods Pro.
But does the focus on big specs for a small price make for a good pair of buds? Let’s find out.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Availability and price
You can still pick up a pair of NeoBuds Pro from Edifier’s Indiegogo page for $99.
Retail price is set at $129, but they’re not available at retail stores yet. Once they are, we’ll let you know!
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Design
The combination of soft-touch plastic and aluminum makes the NeoBuds Pro feel great to the touch. The pebble-esque form of the case is easily pocketable and the sharp, sleek lines of the buds look great in the ear.
Not only that, but the LED strip turns your earbuds into an ultra-portable offshoot of K.I.T.T. I get it’s an over-the-top party trick in replacement of a simple flashing light, but trust me, it looks cool and your friends will love it too!
Going into specifics, the case measures 2.6 x 1.9 x 1 inches with a weight of 1.4 ounces (39.4 grams). Take the buds out and they have a height of 1.3 inches and a weight of 0.19 ounces (5.3 grams ). Compared to the AirPods Pro (2.4 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches and 1.6 ounces), the case is significantly thicker, while also being lighter. The rounded edges make the Neobuds Pro’s case pocketable, but it will cause more of a bulge in skinny jeans.
Turning to the buds themselves, they are slightly taller than Apple’s Pro option (1.2 inches) with a near-identical weight. That means you’re in for a comfortable listening experience that won’t cause fatigue over longer sessions.
Open the box and you’ll find seven pairs of tips, each a different size. This is more than I’ve seen on any pair of truly wireless earbuds and means you shouldn’t have issues getting a good fit.
From the buds to the eartips, the Neobuds Pro are a premium pair of earbuds that have a nice, secure fit and a lightweight, pocketable case.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Controls and digital assistant
With so much going on with these relatively affordable buds, Edifier had to cut a corner somewhere. That limitation comes with the on-board touch controls.
Interactions are limited to tapping twice or three times on each stem, which can take a while to respond, even with the responsiveness turned up. No long presses or swipes to be found here, which limits your controls to only four options. I didn’t quite notice how much I missed pausing a track until I got rid of it in favour of altering the volume.
On a positive note, Siri and Google Assistant heard my commands with ease once I activated the voice assistant controls. Of course, you don’t get the same seamlessness that you’d find on Google’s or Apple’s earbuds, both of which can automatically say who’s calling or messaging you.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Active noise cancellation and ambient listening
With up to 42dB of active noise cancellation (two more than the AirPods Pro and Nothing ear (1)), the NeoBuds Pro beats many expensive competition on paper, and in my testing, delivered a decent level of noise cancellation.
In practice, those extra two decibels don’t really make much of a difference. That’s not a bad thing though, as your favorite songs and podcasts go largely undisturbed by rush hour traffic or windy conditions, thanks to great ANC plus the secure seal of a well-fitting pair of tips.
On the flip side, transparency mode uses the power of all six microphones to ramp up the volume of your surroundings. My main use case was while cooking in case my partner needed me for something. NeoBuds Pro worked hard to ensure your music is the priority, while subtly adding background noise to ensure I could hear her from across any room.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Audio quality
Now for the most impressive (and important) part of this formula. The NeoBuds Pro tackle sound with the tag team of a beasty 10mm dynamic driver and a Knowles balanced moving iron coil. This separates the duties, with the driver delivering deep bass and the Knowles coil handling the treble.
But the story doesn’t stop there. As Edifier heavily promotes, these are the first true wireless earbuds to achieve Hi-Res wireless audio certification thanks to Low Latency High-Definition Audio Codec (LHDC) support. LDAC from Sony is coming via a firmware update in Q1 2022 too, so these will cover all wireless audiophile-grade bases.
Of course, all this hi-res stuff is nice to have, but most of you won’t put these to the test. Most phones don’t support LHDC, so you’re stuck with AAC or SBC standards. How do they actually sound under this normal usage across the likes of Spotify and Apple Music?
The Neobuds Pro produce delightful sound with delectable depth that doesn’t hinder the mids at all, and allows for heaps of high tones to soar. They give instruments and vocals more room to breathe than the flatter profile of Apple’s AirPods Pro and deliver a stronger thud to the bass than Nothing ear (1).
“Sunday Best” by Surfaces is a delicious feast for the ears, as NeoBuds Pro delivers every level of the track with precision. They even handle trickier tracks with ease, such as Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D” — a notoriously difficult and dynamic orchestral composition for true wireless earbuds with swells, fades and an ever-changing instrumental tapestry. In the face of this, the acoustics didn’t break a sweat with zero distortion at regular listening volume.
Put simply, the Neobuds Pro sound amazing.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: App
The Edifier Connect app will have its detractors, which is a shame because there are some great features to talk about here.
From the standard things like monitoring battery levels and switching between ANC modes, to more impressive inclusions like a fully customizable EQ (with the option to save presets), all the key features are here.
You will also find the Game mode, which improves the latency slightly, though not enough to get rid of the delay between on-screen actions and their accompanying sound. As I always say, if you’re gaming, a wired headset will always be the best option for truly low audio latency, but these are an OK replacement for casual gaming.
I wish Edifier hadn’t used precious space at the bottom of the app to link to its online store. Instead, that space could’ve been used to separate the icons on what is a rather jumbled UI.
Soundcore still holds the crown for best app in this space, but if Edifier improves the UI, it could have a shot of challenging the champion.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Battery life
Edifier promises five hours of listening time and 15 hours extra in the case with ANC turned on, which is extended to six and 18 hours, respectively, when you turn noise cancelling off.
In my own testing, I hit those numbers comfortably, making the NeoBuds Pro good for casual all-day usage with occasional breaks to charge them up. Plus, with fast charge support, I was squeezing an extra couple hours of listening time out of a 15 minute charge.
This outperforms the AirPods Pro and Nothing ear (1) in listening time (4.5 hours and 4 hours respectively), but falls short of the cases (extending to 24 hours in both).
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Call quality and connectivity
With six microphones (two for voice pick-up and four to filter out the surrounding noise), calls almost always go without a hitch. Sure, there were some moments when I had to repeat myself as I chatted to someone while walking near a river on a particularly windy day.
However, this is a problem all earbuds come up against, and the NeoBuds Pro did well in isolating my voice in this circumstance. I sounded a little tinny, but was loud nonetheless, with the person on the other end coming in clearly, which is the priority here.
Connectivity is handled by Bluetooth 5.0 and works fine over distances up to 20 metres (65.6 feet) away which is the distance from my spare room to the living room.
But over time, I faced some occasional breakups, even with my iPhone, MacBook or Realme GT next to me. It’s an odd hiccup to an otherwise stellar package that hurts the listening experience. Hopefully, this is something Edifier can fix with a firmware update.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro: Verdict
The NeoBuds Pro are really impressive. Incredible sound quality that makes far more expensive options blush, a premium, sleek design, and powerful noise cancellation add up to an awesome pair of true wireless earbuds.
But the relatively low price comes at the expense of auto-pause support, limited touch controls, and some connectivity dropout issues that I hope are swiftly resolved.
Overall, there’s a lot to love about the Neobuds Pro, which are a seriously good value for money to boot. You won’t be disappointed.