Ameya DalviMay 16, 2023 08:21:14 IST
– Sounds much better after a lot of tweaking
– 10-band equaliser to create custom sound profiles
– Comfortable in-ear fit, compact charging case
– Decent battery life, wireless charging support
– IP55 dust and fluid resistance
– In-ear detection, volume control on the buds
– Default sound output is incredibly dull and lacks detail
– Erratic ANC; Transparency mode could have been better
– Pricing needs to be more competitive
Price: Rs 4,999
A new audio brand, Ikodoo recently launched their first pair of TWS earphones in India called Buds One. And it seems like the company is looking to take on none other than the OnePlus Buds Z2, one of the best under Rs 5,000 at the moment. Incidentally, Ikodoo also has a product called Buds Z, but that’s an entry-level product, which we will not reference again in this review. Coming back to Buds One, it does have features similar to its OnePlus counterpart and some more. But can that translate into comparable performance or better? Let’s find out.
Ikodoo Buds One: Design and Comfort (7/10)
The design of the buds isn’t unique, and they look like any other TWS buds with stems. The stems here are a bit longer than what we are used to in this segment in recent times. While I can live with the long stems, the shiny glossy finish makes them look plasticky. We got the grey variant for review which manages to mask the smudge marks to an extent. There is no clear demarcation for the touch zones at the back of the buds but it’s not too hard to figure out either. The build quality is quite sturdy despite the buds being quite light.
The oval-shaped case isn’t too heavy either, and even better, it has a smooth matte finish and a compact footprint making it pocketable. You get a charge status LED at the front and a USB-C port for charging as well as a Bluetooth pairing/reset button at the base. There’s also something that looks like an IR receiver next to the port, but it’s probably a speaker that beeps when trying to locate the case from the app. The case also supports wireless charging using Qi-certified chargers; a feature not present on the OnePlus Buds Z2.
The buds are IP55-rated dust and splash resistant, but there’s no ingress protection for the charging case; the Buds Z2 case does. The earbuds have silicone tips that sit nicely in the ear canals offering decent passive noise isolation, and the buds are comfortable to wear for long hours. The fit is snug and they don’t pop out of the ear during a workout or a jog. Two more pairs of ear tips are present in the bundle in case the preinstalled medium-sized tips don’t fit well.
Ikodoo Buds One: Features and Specifications (8/10)
Each earbud on the Ikodoo Buds One is fitted with a 13.4 mm dynamic driver to handle all frequency ranges, and three microphones for calling and active noise cancellation (ANC). You also have wear detection sensors that pause the audio when you remove a bud from the ear and resume when you put it back in. The buds accept double tap, triple tap and touch-and-hold gestures. You can also slide on the earbuds vertically to jump tracks or to increase or decrease the volume; a very useful addition that’s missing on the Buds Z2.
The companion Ikodoo app allows a bit of customisation of controls but not much. But the default controls are well thought out and one may not need to change them. Touch-and-hold lets you cycle through ANC modes – Noise cancellation on, Talk-thru (Transparency) and Ambient aware (a fancy name for normal mode). The app also provides you with a 10-band equaliser that lets you tweak the sound output, without which this product would have been unusable.
Speaking of the app, while it gives you access to a lot of settings of these earphones, it isn’t the most intuitive and can do with a bit of change in nomenclature. It also asks for a lot of unnecessary permissions on Android phones which you can decline. The Ikodoo Buds One is Bluetooth 5.2 compliant and supports SBC and AAC audio codecs. It flaunts a lower-than-usual 48 ms latency figure in game mode and claims to reduce ambient noise by 50 dB when you switch on ANC.
Ikodoo Buds One: Performance (6.5/10)
The wireless range is as advertised with a strong connection up to 10 metres with a clear line of sight. These buds are fairly loud around 60 per cent volume level when indoors, and I had to push it to 70 per cent when outdoors. The sound quality of these buds is a curious case. But before we move on to that, a quick word on something the brand advertises for this product. Vifa, a 90-year-old audio brand from Denmark, has contributed in some way to the creation of the Ikodoo Buds One. I doubt they have anything to do with the tuning of this product though.
The default sound signature of the Buds One is as dull as it comes void of any detail and with excess of loose bass. There is massive masking not just in mid but also high-end frequency ranges. I was quite shocked with the output given its price tag. This sound quality would have been bad for something half its price too. Thankfully, there’s a companion app that offers a 10-band equaliser which lets you literally recalibrate the output here. You also get five sound presets, but they are no good and not worth writing about.
After spending a good amount of time trying various permutations and combinations on the equaliser, the Buds One finally sounded significantly better. Mind you, they do not produce a segment-defining audio quality, but way better than what they sound out of the box or after selecting any of the presets. Whatever adjustments you make on the equaliser are saved as a custom preset. Unlike OnePlus products, you cannot have more than one custom preset here.
Using the equaliser, I lowered the mid and upper bass and boosted some of the midrange and high-end frequencies to get a more balanced output with better detail. At least that restored some clarity in the mids and some sparkle in the highs without losing out the bass punch. The soundstage here is not too broad and the sound feels centred. The detail in the audio is average at best even after the sound tweaks. The OnePlus Buds Z2 sounds noticeably better in comparison.
In comparative terms, the sound quality (post tweaks) of the Buds One is closer to the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 which sells for 60 per cent of its price. Of course, the Ikodoo has more features to offer, which brings me to my next point – ANC. The company touts a 50 dB number for noise reduction, which is probably the highest in the segment in theory. For the record, the OnePlus Buds Z2 promises 40 dB, while the Realme Buds Air 3 claims 42 dB, and the latter still offers the best ANC under 5K in India.
Unfortunately, the implementation of ANC on the Buds One seems erratic. While it does reduce some ambient sounds indoors as well as outdoors, there is a constant hiss like a wind noise that can be heard when ANC is enabled. It isn’t as big a factor once you start playing the audio loud enough, but the hiss shouldn’t exist. The company can fix it with a firmware update if they choose to, but there wasn’t one available at the time of writing.
The transparency mode or TalkThru as it is called here is pretty decent, though not as good as on the Buds Z2 (which is the best in the segment). It does offer you a choice between boosting all ambient sounds or ‘Vocal enhancement’. Both modes do a fair job but the sound does not feel very natural, nor are the vocal frequencies enhanced enough in either mode. I did not face any latency issues here though I had no means of measuring if it actually goes as low as the advertised 48 ms. More importantly, there was no noticeable lag between the video and audio when streaming content.
Ikodoo Buds One: Call quality (6.5/10)
The Ikodoo Buds One call quality is generally acceptable. The voice clarity is perfectly fine indoors with people on the line clearly audible to each other. When outdoors, the Environmental Noise Cancellation algorithm and the mics do a fair job of suppressing the wind and traffic noises, but cannot reduce the human chatter in the background. While my voice was transmitted with good clarity in busy areas outdoors, often voices of people a few yards away were also heard by the person on the line causing a bit of distraction.
Ikodoo Buds One: Battery life (7/10)
The overall battery backup of the Buds One is pretty decent, especially without ANC. The company claims 8 hours for the buds and 27 hours overall with the charging case without ANC, and the numbers drop to 6 hours and 21 hours respectively with ANC switched on. With ANC switched on full time, the buds lasted a little under 5 hours at 60 to 70 per cent loudness. And with ANC off, I could push them closer to six and a half hours. The case can recharge the buds twice more with a bit of juice left in the tank. That takes the total battery backup between 16 to 22 hours depending on your use of ANC.
These are acceptable numbers though not chart-toppers, especially with ANC switched off, which is what users might end up doing till the company fixes the ANC hiss with a firmware update. These earbuds support quick charging, and 10 minutes of charge gives you close to 2 hours of playtime with ANC turned off. The case and buds can be charged fully in about two hours using a wired charger. Wireless charging is supposed to take an hour extra, something we did not test.
Ikodoo Buds One: Price and verdict
The Ikodoo Buds One is priced at Rs 4,999 with a one-year warranty. That is exactly the price of the OnePlus Buds Z2. Yes, this Ikodoo product does offer a couple of extras like wireless charging and volume control on the buds, but the Buds Z2 is a far better performer overall, be it sound quality, ANC or even battery life. To complicate matters further, the Realme Buds Air 3 sells for a thousand bucks lower and offers better ANC than both, and sound quality that sits right between those two earbuds, but closer to the Z2.
I got the impression that Ikodoo tried to add too many features to the Buds One to justify its price tag rather than focusing on the basics. In the process, the product ended up clashing with the aforementioned OnePlus and Realme products which are hard to beat. It would have served the company better to drop a few features like wireless charging, make the pricing more attractive and target the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 instead which sells for Rs 2,999. Their performance is actually comparable. At 5K, it is hard to recommend the Buds One ahead of the options available in India in that budget.