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Edifier NeoBuds S review: What’s the point?

Just save your money and get the NeoBuds Pro instead

Edifier NeoBuds S
(Image: © Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Edifier NeoBuds S are practically identical to the NeoBuds Pro, which makes them a great pair of earbuds. But that also makes the $50 price increase harder to swallow and more difficult to recommend.

Pros

  • +

    Detailed sound quality

  • +

    Stylish, comfortable design

  • +

    Great ANC

  • +

    Good battery life

Cons

  • -

    $50 more than the identical NeoBuds Pro

  • -

    No auto-pause support

  • -

    Limited touch controls

  • -

    Weird app layout

It’s easy to look at the Edifier NeoBuds S and think, “Haven’t I seen these before?” But their similarities to the Edifier NeoBuds Pro run deeper than the surface.

If you take a look at their spec sheets, you’ll notice they are identical save for three features: aBluetooth 5.2 upgrade, a chipset switch to Snapdragon Sound and a $50 price bump. Everything else is seemingly the same.

So beyond testing whether these earbuds are actually any good, we have another question to answer: are the NeoBuds S worth the price premium over the NeoBuds Pro? 

Edifier NeoBuds S availability and price

The Edifier NeoBuds S are available to buy for $179. As mentioned above, that is a $50 price hike over the NeoBuds Pro.

You have one colorway to select in the all-black with gold highlights.

Edifier NeoBuds S design

Edifier NeoBuds S

(Image credit: Future)

Identical to the NeoBuds Pro, you’re getting a premium combo of soft-touch plastic and aluminum, which gives the pebble case a nice feel in the hand, and thanks to the sleek, curved design, it’s easily pocketable.

Plus, it has to be mentioned again, that LED strip continues to be quite the party piece. Does it add any additional functionality? No, but it’s a damn cool party trick.

Going into details, the case and earbuds sport the same dimensions: 2.6 x 1.9 x 1 inches for the former and 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches for the latter. There is a small change in the earbuds weight (0.21 ounces compared to the Pro’s 0.19 ounces), but the case remains the same at 1.4 ounces.

Edifier NeoBuds S

(Image credit: Future)

This means the container is a little thicker and heavier than the AirPods Pro case (2.4 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches and 1.6 ounces) and earbuds (0.19 ounces, 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches). 

From the buds to the eartips, the Neobuds S are a premium pair of earbuds that have a nice, secure fit and a lightweight, compact case. Plus, the huge array of different-sized tips makes for a snug fit, no matter how large your ears are (no judgment — mine puts Gary Lineker to shame).

Edifier NeoBuds S controls and digital assistant

I forgave the limited and patchy on-board touch controls on the NeoBuds Pro as part of a bigger cost-cutting exercise to give you Hi-Res audio at a cheaper price. But in $180 earbuds like the NeoBuds S, I can’t really give them a pass.

Edifier NeoBuds S

(Image credit: Future)

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. Touch inputs can be hit and miss too, with it taking a few attempts to skip tracks at times.

It’s not all bad, though, as 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.

I would have hoped for improvements here, but you’re getting more of the frustrating same.

Edifier NeoBuds S active noise cancellation and ambient listening

The NeoBuds S provide up to 42dB of active noise cancellation — exactly the same as the NeoBuds, which means you’re getting some seriously strong ANC.

Can you tell those extra two decibels over the AirPods Pro? Not really, but in practice, these do a great job at muting the background noise of rush hour traffic and face-smacking wind. Your favorite songs and podcasts will go largely undisturbed.

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); I was able to hear her clearly with no noticeable lag from the microphone pick-up. 

Edifier NeoBuds S audio quality

Edifier NeoBuds S

(Image credit: Future)

Identical to the NeoBuds Pro, the S offers a tag team of a 10mm dynamic driver and a Knowles balanced moving iron coil, which does an admirable job of separating the deep bass and detailed treble.

On paper, one big difference is the move to Snapdragon Sound, which supports a different, more widely supported Hi-Res audio codecs such as aptX and aptX adaptive up to 24-bit/96 kHz. Yes, you’re not getting LDAC, but let’s be honest, most phones don’t support it , 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

Honestly, exactly the same. Sound has a decent amount of depth that isn’t held back by mids and doesn’t hamper on any soaring high tones. Compared to the AirPods Pro,the flatter profile makes them more versatile across genres while still managing to deliver a satisfying bass thud.

“2009” by Mac Miller is a great example, as NeoBuds S manage to hit every detail with expert precision. Comparing them like-for-like to a test track I used on the NeoBuds Pro, Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D” shows just how alike these are. Both handled the ever-changing instrumental tapestry exactly the same without a hint of distortion.

Put simply, they sound great, but exactly the same as Edifier’s own earbuds that are $50 cheaper.

Edifier NeoBuds S app

Edifier NeoBuds S

(Image credit: Future)

The Edifier Connect app is free to download, but is still a bit of a weird mess. Sure, all the features you need are readily available, but they’re presented alongside an unnecessary amount of promo.

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.

Where it gets weird is the amount of space Edifier uses to link you to its online store. That space could have been used for additional icons to access settings faster, but no. Why would I need to buy more earbuds after having some earbuds?

Edifier NeoBuds S battery life

Edifier promises five and a half hours of listening time and 16 hours total in the case with ANC turned on, which is extended to six and 19 hours, respectively, when you turn noise cancelling off. 

On paper, this would be a little longer than the NeoBuds Pro, but in reality you’re getting exactly the same — hitting just under five hours on one charge. That’s not bad, and with fast charge support, you can get two extra hours out of a 15-minute charge.

This outperforms the AirPods Pro in listening time (4.5 hours and 4 hours respectively), but falls short of the cases (extending to 24 hours in both). 

Edifier NeoBuds S call quality and connectivity

Edifier NeoBuds S

(Image credit: Future)

Sharing an identical six microphone setup to the NeoBuds Pro, it should come as no surprise that call quality is exactly the same. Ninety percent of the time, your voice is picked up clearly, but there are some moments of stress testing like rush hour traffic or windy days where you will have to repeat yourself.

Noise isolation works well to pick out your voice in almost all situation;s, with the person on the other end also comes in loud and clear.

Connectivity got an upgrade thanks to Bluetooth 5.2, but works practically the same as the Pro over distances up to 20 meters (65.6 feet) away — the distance from my spare room to the living room. 

And still, just like Edifier’s previous buds, there are some connection breakups that hurt the experience. Across my iPhone, MacBook or Realme GT, all of which were right next to me, there were some hiccups that disrupt whatever you’re listening to. 

This is another part of the formula that I really hoped Edifier would have addressed, but here’s to hoping a firmware update swoops in to fix it.

Bottom line

We arrive at the verdict with a bittersweet feeling. In use, the NeoBuds S are a great pair of earbuds, but since they are virtually indistinguishable from the NeoBuds Pro, they’re pretty pointless.

This pointlessness is hammered home by the fact these are $50 more expensive than the NeoBuds Pro. The S is supposed to bring better versatility with Snapdragon Sound audio technology, but you’ll be hard pressed to hear any difference between them.

If your heart is set on the NeoBuds S, wait for them to come down in price because, right now, you can get the same for less.

Jason England
Staff Writer

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.