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The Apple AirPods have revolutionized the wireless earphones the way other Apple products have revolutionized the portable music player and the smartphone. Everyone seems to have a pair and it seems like those who don’t, wish that they do. If you have been looking for a pair of similar TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earphones but cannot afford or refuse to pay the Apple price, or perhaps you have an Android phone instead of an iPhone, the realme Buds Air 2 may be the wireless earphones you are looking for.

As usual, Apple is not the first in the market with a new product but rather ensure that theirs is the best version of the product. Also as usual, not long after Apple debuts their product, other companies tend to copy Apple’s products. While there are very good alternative TWS earphones from companies like Sony and Bose, these cost as much if not more than the AirPods. realme on the other hand is a well-known brand that produces high quality tech products at budget prices. I have been eying realme’s TWS earphones for awhile now and when they released the realme Buds Air 2, I had to take the bite.

Premium Features, Budget Pricing

Here is what the realme Buds Air 2 offers on paper. Cheapest pair of TWS earbuds with ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), touch controls, quick charging and even smart wear detection. And I bought these for the equivalent of about US$40. Considering that the specs are closer to the AirPods Pro, it sounds just too good to be true. But since this is the realme brand, I held my skepticism in check and took the plunge.

Realme Buds Air 2

Right off the bat, the packaging and product quality is actually pretty good. The earbuds and the charging case in no way look like cheap knockoffs. The headset is available in both black and white but I got the white version. Like AirPods, it has touch sensitive stalks. The stalks themselves have a shiny metallic accent which makes the buds flashier than AirPods. Some people may not like this but I’m fine with the look.

Pairing is quick and easy although you do have to download the companion app first on the phone. Besides showing the charged level of each individual bud and the charging case, it can also be used to customize some features such as the touch and tap controls of each earbud. For example, I changed triple tapping on the right stalk to skip track while tripping tapping the left stalk goes to the previous track. Google Fast Pair is supported which means that pairing is automatic on all other devices that uses the same Google account as your current phone. Neat.

The smart wear detection works as advertised. When either earbud is removed from the ear, playback pauses. Playback automatically resumes when earbud is reinserted in the ear. This is one feature that is missing for Android AirPods users. And to have this feature in a pair of budget earbuds really blows my mind.

Of course the pièce de résistance feature is the Active Noise Cancellation. I do believe that the realme Buds Air 2 are one of the cheapest pair of TWS earphones with ANC on the market today. Fun fact: the only other cheaper pair that I am aware of is also from realme. To be honest, I did not expect much of the ANC feature at this price range. After all, the regular AirPods don’t offer any noise cancellation, active or passive. I will cover how well the ANC performed below.

One Month Later

I have been using my pair of Buds Air 2 for about a month now. I mainly use them on my daily morning runs. The fit is good once I picked the best fitting ear tips and despite me getting all sweaty, the buds do not fall out. The headset comes with 3 sets of silicone ear tips for a customized fit. Once you find the correct pair, they do block out a significant amount of environment noise through passive noise cancellation.

Lets get this out of the way, while the ANC does help reduce outside noise and make listening to music a better experience, it is not great. While they can’t compare to a pair of Bose, they did perform better than I expected considering the price point. In addition, you can switch ANC on and off or turn on transparency mode. This is similar to the transparency mode on the AirPods Pro. It allows you to hear certain ambient sounds like traffic noises and conversations more clearly. Technically, you can switch to transparency mode to talk to someone without removing the earbuds.

Realme Buds Air 2

So far I’ve been very happy with the performance of the realme Buds Air 2 although I do have a couple of minor issues. The first is that I have problems removing the buds from the case when my fingers are sweaty. The rounded buds and totally smooth stalks makes it really tricky to get a good grip. A slight indent on the stalks would have helped.

Secondly, there were a couple of times when placing the earbuds back in the case did not disconnect the Bluetooth connection with my phone or trigger the charging. I got puzzled when no sound came from my phone speakers. I believe this was caused by dirty connectors at the bottom of the stalks that prevented them from connecting properly with the charging case.

The only major issue I faced was when one of the earbuds refused to emit any sound. Cleaning the contacts and rebooting the earbuds didn’t help and after scouring the net, I finally found the solution. repeatedly Inserting and removing the bud from the case in quick succession a couple of times did the trick. Not sure why they worked but it did.

The touch controls on the stalks work maybe 80% of the time and when they do work, there is a slight half a second lag. To me this is not a deal breaker but your mileage may vary.

Conclusion and Summary

To have working ANC, touch controls and wear detection is unheard of in a pair of budget TWS earphones. In fact, realme packed so much into the Buds Air 2, I believe it may even cannibalize sales of their Buds Air Pro, their “pro” level earbuds with ANC.

If you are looking for a pair of TWS earbuds that have the bell and whistles of Apple’s AirPods or even AirPods Pro but at a fraction of the price, I think you won’t be disappointed with the realme Buds Air 2. The sound fidelity and ANC performance may not be comparable but these cost less than 20% than the AirPods Pro list price so it is hardly a fair complaint. At this price point, it is hard to recommend any other pair of TWS earbuds.
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