Realme Buds Wireless 2 Review: Feature-rich and affordable Wireless neckband
Most of the wireless earphones released by Realme of late have been impressive, and offer good value for money across various price brackets. We have already reviewed the junior of the two models in their Buds Wireless 2 series with the Neo suffix and were pleased with what it brought to the table. Today, we take a closer look at the more feature-rich Realme Buds Wireless 2 neckband that flaunts some premium features like active noise cancellation (ANC) and support for Sony's LDAC codec. Despite those features, the company has managed to keep the price under Rs. 2,500. Does Realme have another winner on its hands or will the ghost of its predecessor come back to haunt it? Time to figure out.
Good build quality, comfortable to wear for long hours
Like most Realme products, there is very little to complain about the build quality. Right from the earbud shells to the rubberized neckband to the in-line controls, everything has an even finish and seems to be made of quality materials. The Buds Wireless 2 is available in Realme's signature yellow and black combination too, but we got the gray variant for review, which the company prefers to call Bass Grey. It doesn't look striking but nothing offensive either. Just like the Realme Buds Q2, you get an eye-catching area at the back of the buds that reflects different colors. These earphones weigh under 30 grams, and the soft-touch, rubberized neckband sits comfortably on the neck without any discomfort. The company bundles three pairs of silicone tips (small, medium, large), of which the pre-installed medium sized ear-tips worked best for me. They provide decent passive noise isolation and sit comfortably in the ear canals. Just like the Neo, the earbud shells are on the larger side due to the bigger drivers, but they stay outside the ear, while the angled ear-tips enter the canals providing a comfortable and snug fit. This wireless neckband comes with IPX5 splash resistance, and can be worn during workouts or jogs without worrying about sweat damaging them. The right pod hosts a volume rocker, a multifunction button and a noise cancellation (NC) button mainly used to toggle through noise cancellation modes. The multifunction button as well as the NC button are programmable through the Realme Link app and you can assign various functions to them. You also get a tiny multicolored LED that indicates the pairing status of this neckband and also hints at the battery level. A USB Type-C port is present for charging this neckband.
Good codec support, functional ANC and customization controls
By now you may be aware that most Realme wireless earphones are customizable using the Realme Link app. The Buds Wireless 2 is no different. You can assign a function of your choice to the multifunction button for single click, double click, triple click and press-and-hold gestures. You can choose between play/pause, previous track, next track and voice assistant. Single clicking the NC button lets you toggle between ANC, normal and transparency mode and that cannot be changed. The app lets you assign 'switch devices' and 'Game Mode' functions to other gestures for that button. The app also gives you three sound profiles -- Bass Boost+ (tuned by The Chainsmokers), Dynamic and Bright. For more balanced sound, use Dynamic. You can guess what the other two options do. You get a volume enhancer toggle in the app to make these earphones louder. There is also a Power Saving mode that is meant to extend the battery life of this neckband. However, it does so by simply switching off LDAC codec support, which isn't really smart. I wouldn't recommend it as the earphones sound noticeably better on LDAC as compared to AAC. Each earbud is fitted with a 13.6mm dynamic driver. The back of the buds have magnetic tips that hold the earbuds in place when not in use and also serve as an on/off switch; off when stuck together and on when separated. The magnets are powerful enough to hold them in place and avoid any accidental separation. These earphones support Sony's LDAC codec for Hi-Res audio along with SBC and AAC codecs over Bluetooth 5.0. You also get a low latency Game Mode that drops the latency to 88ms to minimize the delay between audio and video.
Impressive sound on LDAC codec, bass-heavy when using AAC
Before we move to sound quality, a quick word on pairing and wireless range. To pair the Realme Buds Wireless 2, all you need to do is separate the buds to get them into pairing mode, find the neckband in the Bluetooth device list on the phone and pair them. You can pair this neckband with two devices simultaneously and switch between them by double clicking the NC button. Wireless range is pretty standard with the neckband retaining a strong connection up to 10 meters with a clear line of sight between the earphones and source, and over half of that with a concrete wall in between. The earphones get sufficiently loud at 70% volume with Volume Enhancer turned on. Moving on to the sound quality, the overall sound signature of the Realme Buds Wireless 2 is warm and fairly detailed. It is enjoyable across various genres of music, except those with instrument-heavy tracks. The lows are boosted a bit, and the large drivers produce a good amount of bass, which is fairly tight as long as you use LDAC codec. The bass feels a little excessive and not as tight when using AAC. The highs are sharp enough without sounding sibilant. The mids reproduction is acceptable with good vocal clarity but average instrument separation. The soundstage is reasonably broad for the segment. Remember my 'ghost of the predecessor' remark early in the review? I was alluding to a major issue present in the Realme Buds Wireless Pro, wherein the sound profile would change and get distorted when ANC was switched on. Thankfully, that issue has been fixed and ANC works well here without impacting the audio quality. It isn't perfect but reduces the background noise noticeably and is perfectly acceptable for the segment. The "Transparency mode" here can use some tweaking. You can hear a constant hiss when outdoors, probably an issue with the ENC algorithm.
Very good call quality, battery life is a mixed bag
Thankfully, that hiss isn't audible during calls, and the microphones as well as ENC (environmental noise cancellation) do a good job. The call quality here is very good and among the best on budget earphones. People on either end of the call were perfectly audible to each other with little background noise seeping through even when outdoors in a crowded area. The battery backup on the Realme Buds Wireless 2 is governed by two things -- use of ANC and the choice of codec. Realme claims figures of 18 hours and 22 hours with AAC codec with ANC on and off, respectively. The number drops to 10 and 11 hours with LDAC codec, everything at 50% loudness. During actual testing mostly at 70% loudness, the earphones managed to last for about nine hours on LDAC and 18 hours on AAC with ANC switched on a quarter of the time. While the number is fine for AAC, I would have preferred it in the 12 to 14 hours range for LDAC. Despite the lower battery life, I would still advise you to stick to LDAC codec (if your phone supports it) as these earphones sound noticeably more detailed on that codec as compared to AAC. Trading sound quality for battery life is never a smart idea. Even if it runs out of juice faster, this neckband doesn't take too long to charge. You can charge it fully in just about 45 minutes. Even better, it supports fast charging, and just 10 minutes of charge can give you between six to 10 hours of playback with ANC off, which is excellent.
An affordable product with impressive features and good sound
The Realme Buds Wireless 2 can be purchased for Rs. 2,299 with a one year warranty. It can often be found for a few hundred bucks lower in online sales. At that price, this is quite a feature-rich product that offers good sound output for the segment along with ANC and customizable controls and sound profiles. It is hard to find a better-sounding wireless neckband with ANC under Rs. 2,500. Call quality is another big plus. But, for comparison's sake, let's look at the alternatives. If ANC is not important to you, and sound quality is the only thing that matters, you should strongly consider the OPPO Enco M31 that sells for less than Rs. 2,000. It has a comparable battery backup, along with support for LDAC codec, but the sound quality is a couple of notches higher. The other alternative in this budget is the Realme Buds Q2 that offers better sound on AAC codec, slightly better ANC, higher battery backup with the case and of course, the convenience of going truly wireless. The call quality isn't as good though.