I’ve reviewed a couple of sets of earbuds from SoundPeats and been quite impressed. Their new TrueAir earbuds look remarkably similar to Apple’s AirPods, but they aren’t an exact clone like some more dubious brands you’ll find online.
They’re a lot cheaper than AirPods – check the description down below for the current price. But they have a few features even Apple’s latest AirPods Pros don’t have. You can control volume via the touch controls, and they have support for the higher quality aptX and AAC codecs. And they have USB-C charging too, although unfortunately no wireless charging.
Their new Qualcomm QCC3020 chip finally promises no audio sync delay and more intelligent pairing, two issues that do tend to plague more budget earbuds.
I’ll be taking a look at their features and determine if pairing, especially to multiple devices is any better, before testing how they sound and their overall performance. And as always, I’ll test their fit for general use and for running.
Could these be the budget true wireless earbuds you’ve been waiting for!
Inside the box, you get the earbuds themselves in their charging case, a USB-C charging cable and a multilingual instruction manual.
The charging case is a similar length and width to the Apple AirPods Pro case but thicker. It measures 59mm by 47mm and is 30mm thick. With the earbuds, it weighs a pretty lightweight 41g. Although bigger than the AirPods and AirPods Pro case, it’s still quite compact with decent build quality and a magnetic hinged lid.
There’s a pairing button on the front and the USB-C charging port on the bottom. I’m always happy to see USB-C charging on budget earbuds, but unfortunately there’s no wireless charging.
When you open the lid, you’ll see the LED indicator next to the hinge of the case. There are no status LEDs on the outside of the case or on the earbuds.
Pairing is done while the earbuds are still in the case with the lid open. Initially the earbuds will pair with each other. Then the status LED will briefly flash white ready for pairing with your device. Pair to SoundPeats TrueAir in your Bluetooth settings. Voice prompts accompany powering on, pairing and connecting to your device.
Your phone will connect to the right earbud. A few moments later, you’ll get a Bluetooth pairing request which you’ll need to accept if you want to use the earbuds independently in mono mode. You’ll then see two pairing records in your Bluetooth settings: SoundPeats TrueAir and SoundPeats TrueAir L.
I don’t have a smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip or higher, but if you do you shouldn’t see this additional pairing request.
To pair with another device, the earbuds again need to be in their charging case with the lid open. Press and hold the pairing button for three seconds until the LED status light again flashes white briefly. The earbuds will disconnect from your currently paired device and are ready to be paired to another device. If you want to switch back to a previously paired device, again press and hold the pairing button for three seconds, and then tap on Soundpeats TrueAir or SoundPeats TrueAir L in your previously connected devices list. You only need to connect to one or the other.
If you remove both earbuds they’ll work in true wireless stereo mode. But if you just want to use one earbud, either earbud will work independently in mono mode. And even if you’re using both earbuds, and return one to the case, the remaining earbud will continue to play without interruption if it’s the master earbud. The right earbud will be master if you’re connected to Soundpeats TrueAir and the left earbud is the master if you’re connected to Soundpeats TrueAir L. But this latest Qualcomm chip cleverly switches across even if you return the master earbud to the case and close the lid.
So if I’m listening to both earbuds and return the right earbud which is the master; when I close the lid, after a short delay my phone will automatically connect across to the SoundPeats TrueAir L and I can continue playback.
It’s still confusing seeing two seperate pairing records, but once you understand what’s going on it works pretty well. And you don’t really need to understand what’s going on to use them!
The only issue I had was pairing them to an Apple Watch, which doesn’t support the additional pairing prompt. They do pair, but you get a pairing failed voice prompt when they try and complete the mono setup. You’ll just have to use them in stereo mode.
Whilst we’re still talking about pairing, if you have any issues and want to factory reset the earbuds and delete all pairing records, first delete the pairing records on your currently paired devices, then press and hold the pairing button for 10 seconds with both earbuds in the case and the lid open. You’ll hear the earbuds chime quickly three times. Close and then open the lid to restart the pairing process.
The earbuds have around 5 hours of battery life, and the 600mAh charging case will charge them up to 5 times, so with the earbuds and case you can get up to 25 hours of battery life in total. Charging the battery case from empty takes up to 2.5 hours using the supplied USB-C cable.
You’ll need to open the lid to see the status LED under the lid flashing whilst the case is charging. This will turn solid green when the case is fully charged. This LED also indicates the remaining charge of the case when you first open the lid.
You’ll have to use your phone to check the battery level of the earbuds themselves.
Like many of these true wireless earbuds, they’re fiddly to remove from the case. They’re held in magnetically with their charging contacts on the base of the stem.
Their stem based design is very similar to Apple AirPods but their stem is a little thicker and their head a little more bulbous.
The earbuds are made from the same glossy white plastic as the case and like the case, feel quite well made. Both earbuds have a microphone towards the bottom of the stem.
Again like the AirPods these aren’t in-ear earbuds. They just rest in your ear, but they feel more secure than Apple’s offering, in my ears at least. But not as secure as in-ear buds like SoundPEAT’s TrueCapsule or Apple’s AirPods Pro.
There are advantages to this design. They’re very easy to slip in and out without any adjustment and you get to hear your surroundings without the noise isolation of in-ear buds. I also find them comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. I’ll discuss audio quality shortly.
I did try running with these earbuds, which is something I’m not able to do with Apple’s AirPods. They have a surprisingly secure fit and stayed in very well for the whole run which I wasn’t expecting. I still feel far more confident using a set of in-ear buds or even the bone conduction Aeropex headphones, but it does still make them a versatile set of earbuds.
The touch controls let you pause and play playback with a double tap on either earbud. A single tap on the left or right earbud decreases and increases the volume respectively. And a long press on the left and right earbuds skips back or forward a track respectively.
Finally a triple press will activate your voice assistant. It’s a nice complete list of features you can control, but I found it quite hard to activate basic pause and playback with the double press, and even harder to trigger a triple press. And of course if you’re using them in mono mode, you’ll only be able to adjust volume and skip tracks in one direction.
Sound quality and performance
The large 14.2mm diaphragm drivers deliver good sound especially in the mids. You’re never going to get the bass of in-ear noise isolating earbuds, but they still do pretty well. I did find they struggled a little at the high end where they can sound quite harsh especially with sibilant sounds. Reducing the volume does help a bit.
Considering they cost a fraction of the price of AirPods, they sound different but not really any worse. The AirPods are generally more balanced, but for a lot of music I actually preferred the overall sound of the TrueAirs.
Where AirPods are hard to beat are with phone calls. The TrueAirs do have dual microphones which do a decent job when there’s little background noise, but in a noisy coffee shop for example they really struggle, like most budget earbuds I’ve tried.
They do support the higher quality aptX and AAC codecs, although I can’t say I really noticed the difference in playback.
A more useful feature promised by the new Qualcomm chip is less audio latency and these are the first budget earbuds that had negligible audio sync delay playing back YouTube on iOS.
Since they don’t have any passive noise isolation, you do tend to play them louder and sound leakage is very apparent at anything over 60% playback volume.
They don’t specify any IPX rating apart from on a frequently asked questions on their website where they state they are IPX5 rated. They worked fine on a winter run, where snow showers were more of an issue than sweating.
I got around 4-5 hours of usage out of the earbuds at around 70% listening volume which is decent and you’ll most likely have the charging case with you so it’s unlikely you’ll run out of charge. You could even charge one earbud and listen to the other continuously if you wanted to.
The earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 and range was good and the earbuds were generally quick to connect. I did get an occasional drop out when testing them with dozens of Bluetooth devices around, but out and about they were fine.
If you’re after a budget alternative to Apple’s AirPods, the SoundPeats TrueAirs are definitely worth considering. Their design isn’t quite as slick but they offer at the very least comparable sound quality, and battery life for that matter for a fraction of the price. And they have a far more secure fit, in my ears at least.
The touch controls are fiddly and call quality in noisy environments isn’t great but the latest Qualcomm chip makes pairing about as straightforward as it gets for earbuds in this price range, and finally solves the audio sync issues that have plagued these true wireless earbuds.
If you like the stem based design, and don’t like the isolating feeling of in-ear buds these might be the right earbuds for you. If you do prefer the in-ear fit, SoundPeats’ TrueCapsules would be worth looking at. And if you’d rather a more discreet look with no stem, there’s the popular SoundPeats TrueFree+ or the Tronsmart Spunky Pros, all around the same price. Or the Creative Outlier Airs if you have a little more money to spend. I’ve reviewed all these earbuds and many more, so take a look at the on screen cards, or down below in the description for links.
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SoundPEATS TrueAir: https://amzn.to/2SRTay7
SoundPEATS TrueCapsule: https://amzn.to/38xszNp
SoundPEATS TrueFree+: https://amzn.to/3bH9N86
Tronsmart Spunky Pro: https://amzn.to/37yg1nI
Creative Outlier Air: https://amzn.to/2P09k7n