Boult Audio Airbass ENCore Review: Better for calls than music
Before brands like Realme, Soundcore and OPPO spread their wings to the sub- Rs. 2,000 segment of wireless earphones and upped the ante, brands like Boat and Boult Audio were viable options in the category. Boult recently launched their new Airbass ENCore true wireless (TWS) earbuds that claim to focus on supreme call quality among other things. The buds are meant to have a superior environmental noise cancellation algorithm, and hence the highlighted ENC in the model name. The earbuds also boast of good battery life and durability. While the feature list is impressive, I hope the sound quality hasn't been ignored. The aforementioned brands have seriously raised the performance bar in this segment. Time to figure out if this Boult Audio product can live up to the new standards.
Decent looks, lightweight, good in-ear fit
The Boult Audio ENCore buds as well as the charging case are on the larger side. The build quality of the product is acceptable for the segment with the case sporting a matte finish, while the buds are distinctly glossy. They do look a little plasticky but not cheap. We got the white variant for review, and while the charging case is fully white, the buds have two tones -- the stems are white and the angled buds as well as the eartips are gray. Thanks to the angle, the buds fit snugly in the ears and offer decent passive noise isolation with the pre-installed medium-sized silicone tips. There are two more pairs of tips in the bundle in case medium isn't ideal for you. The buds stay in place even during jogs but they do stick out of the ears a bit. The stems are touch enabled; it's good to see the company opting for touch controls in this budget.
Standard feature set for the budget
While the Boult ENCore does not have active noise cancellation (ANC), it does claim to support ENC for calls. Each bud is equipped with two microphones to cut out the background noise. These earbuds provide you with touch controls too, but they aren't programmable and you have to make do with the predefined gestures. You do not get a companion app either. But wait, hardly any brands offer that feature in this segment. Guess Realme has just spoilt us with those options. Double tap is used to play/pause the audio or answer/end calls, while touch and hold on left or right buds lets you jump to the previous or next track respectively. Triple tap on the left bud brings up the voice assistant but volume control isn't assigned to any of the gestures. Pressing the button inside the charging case for 3 seconds resets the buds and Bluetooth connection and gets them in pairing mode. The back of the case has a USB-C charging port, and right next to it is a charge indicator LED. These earphones are Bluetooth 5.0 compliant and have support for AAC and SBC codecs. The earbuds have IPX7 rated fluid resistance, so they can not only survive a bit of sweat or rain, but also a quick dip in a puddle. The wireless range is standard with the buds maintaining a stable connection of up to 10 meters with a clear line of sight. But with a concrete wall in between them and the source device, the range drops drastically. Also, the buds switched off and restarted on their own a couple of times; hard to explain why.
Average sound quality that is bass-heavy but lacks detail
The sound output of these earphones is predominantly bass-heavy, and the bass isn't tight either. The buds are loud enough at 70 to 75% volume. While the bassheads may like the output, it failed to impress me, mainly due to the lack of detail. The low-end frequencies are boosted to a point where they overpower a sizable chunk of the midrange spectrum. There is significant auditory masking and instrument separation isn't great. The vocals have reasonable clarity but feel recessed. The highs have a decent presence and balance the bass to a point but not entirely. The soundstage is quite narrow and the audio feels crammed in a smaller space giving a sense of clutter. I know these are budget TWS buds, and certain shortcomings of the output can be overlooked, but in recent times, I have heard a lot better in this segment and my expectations are set accordingly. That said, watching movies or web-series wearing these is not a bad experience at all. The extra bass comes in handy in action sequences, and dialogue clarity is manageable though not the best. The good part is there was no noticeable lag between video and audio when consuming content on Prime Video on my phone as well as a smart TV paired with these earbuds.
Good call quality, even better battery backup
The key areas of focus for this product are call quality and battery life, and it manages to deliver on both the fronts. The ENC does a good job of keeping ambient noise in check and people on either end of the call are audible to each other with good clarity, irrespective of whether you are indoors or outdoors. When outdoors, the microphones manage to keep traffic and wind noises at bay, though they cannot eliminate the former entirely. You may need to adjust the direction of the earbud stems for better results. The battery backup on the Boult Audio Airbass ENCore is quite impressive. The company states a total battery life of 36 hours. During my testing, the earbuds and charging case combined could deliver close to 29 hours of playback. The buds alone manage to last a little over 5 hours on a full charge at 70-75% loudness. The charging case can recharge them fully four more times and there is still some juice left in the case. The charging case has the newer USB-C port, and takes under 90 minutes to charge the case and buds fully. There are claims of fast charging, or "fastest ever Type-C charging" wherein 15 minutes of charge can give you 100 minutes of play time. Well, that's nowhere close to the fastest ever, but a good option to have nonetheless if you look past the hype.
Not bad but the competition is too hot to handle
The Boult Audio Airbass ENCore TWS earbuds are priced at Rs. 1,999 with a one year warranty, and can be found for a couple of hundred bucks less during online sales. While the pricing isn't bad, the competition is a bit too stiff in the segment. Also, these aren't the greatest sounding earphones for music. They are more than decent for watching movies or web-series and even better for calling. The overall battery backup is impressive and IPX7 ingress protection makes them durable too. Now let's look at the competition. The first option that comes to mind is the Realme Buds Q2 that is currently available under Rs. 2,000 too. You get far superior audio quality along with a companion app for configuring controls and sound profiles. You also get functional ANC that is rare in this segment. The battery backup is comparable to the Boult but the call quality isn't as good. In all fairness, the Buds Q2 is an exception rather than a norm in this segment. But since you have that option, why not go for it instead, unless call quality is most important for you? The second option for a similar price is the OPPO Enco W11, which is a like for like alternative in terms of most features. The W11 has touch controls, good call quality and a USB-C port too. The battery backup is almost 10 hours less, but the sound is a lot more detailed with much tighter bass, and you get volume control on the buds.