The Realme Buds Q2 is the latest pair of budget true wireless earbuds to be launched in India. Being yet another option in the budget tier of personal audio products, the Realme Buds Q2 will unsurprisingly attract attention in terms of whether it sits alongside the likes of the Oppo Enco W51, the Soundcore Liberty 2, the OnePlus Buds Z, the Skullcandy Sesh and Realme’s own Buds Air 2, in terms of mainstream true wireless earbuds below Rs 5,000 that are worth buying. Straight up, the Buds Q2 creates a fair impression thanks to how it looks, and given that Realme has previously made earphones before that sound reasonably decent too, the Buds Q2 will also have the same responsibilities resting on its shoulders.
AUDIO QUALITY: DECENT MIDS, SOMEWHAT BALANCED BASS BUT MUTED HIGHS AND MUDDY
Straight on to the sound quality, then. First thing – the Realme Buds Q2 is not revolutionary, so don’t expect sound that absolutely blows you away. It features a single 10mm dynamic ‘Bass Boost’ driver, which pretty much makes its intent known in terms of its sound profile. It also has what the company calls its custom noise cancelling audio chip inside, called the R2.
In terms of the sound, the audio is clearly biased towards producing louder bass. However, it isn’t just a strong bass line that the Realme Buds Q2 manages to produce. The earbuds offer major emphasis on the entire low frequency range, while clipping or reducing the highs. This becomes apparent in practically any song that you listen to, especially if you compare it to better balanced alternatives. For reference, we used a pair of KZ ZST X wired IEMs, connected via Bluetooth through the Astell & Kern XB10 Bluetooth amplifier DAC. The mode of listening, in both cases, was a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, with Dolby Atmos turned on and no equaliser tweaks.
The Realme Buds Q2 offers reasonably clean bass, at least as long as you keep the volume levels within about 70 percent of peak. Interestingly, it does attempt to focus on delivering clear and emphasised mids, in order to deliver good vocals. For the most part, this works in making the average listening experience better than some of the other inexpensive true wireless earbuds. However, the Realme Buds Q2 clearly clips highs, which affects numerous instrument arrangements in tracks – especially those with elaborate ensembles.
As a result, high octave keys sound depressed, and hi-hat rolls sound very muted and pushed to the background. The audio signature is biased towards the warmer end, but there is a lack of flair in the overall package. The focus on lows has made the overall sound signature a bit demure, and while cranking up the volume does make the Buds Q2 a bit more expressive, another problem arises if you do so. The Realme Buds Q2 sounds a bit muddy at peak volumes, which really brings out the limitations of the true wireless earbuds.
For references, if you listen to a lot of rock, the Realme Buds Q2 will sound slightly disappointing in the way it subdues soaring guitar riffs and elaborate piano arrangements. Even a lot of the higher pitch rolls produced by cymbal rolls will sound too reduced – all of which is apparent in popular tracks such as The Eagles’ Hotel California, The Scorpions’ Holiday and Deep Purple’s Highway Star. On the other end of things, if you listen to a lot of Bollywood tracks, vocal-driven songs such as Sapna Sand’s ‘Jo Ghum Hua Hai’ will sound warm and pleasant on standalone terms, but you miss much of the expressions of the dayan (the treble drum of the tabla), and the piano in the background sounds a bit muddled. Similar characteristics persist across various vocal ranges – be it Kailash Kher’s ‘Piya Ghar’ or Mohit Chauhan’s ‘Mai ni Meriye’.
All things considered, the Realme Buds Q2 is certainly not bad, per se, especially when its Rs 2,499 price tag is considered. It does have its strengths, such as in trying to emphasise mids and balance the bass, but the subdued upper-mids and highs, paired with muddled distortions at higher volumes and colouring the entire sound with a bass bias make it a strictly average performer on price-agnostic terms.
NOISE CANCELLATION AND BATTERY LIFE: BARELY PASSABLE ANC, DECENT BATTERY STAMINA
The Realme Buds Q2 offers active noise cancellation of up to 25dB, on paper. In the real world, the noise cancellation levels aren’t particularly emphatic, and a far cry from what you may have experienced through over-ear headphones. Even if you’re experiencing noise cancellation for the first time, chances are that you’d still find it inadequate. Even in terms of in-ear monitors, the noise cancellation is shallow, and will only work to slightly attenuate environmental noise.
It might, however, work if you’re not fond of noise cancellation that’s too heavy. It can be helpful if you’re sitting with your family and hoping to get an important email written amid the general chatter. However, it will likely fall short when used in airplanes, and will be only slightly effective to reduce surrounding noise. It’s passable, in the sense that something is better than nothing – especially so when one considers the Rs 2,499 price tag. The latter is what makes it the most affordable ANC earbuds around with acceptable audio quality, so that in itself is a compelling factor for the Buds Q2.
In terms of battery life, the Buds Q2 appears to be rather adept. While we are yet to exhaust the full charge cycle of the Realme Buds Q2’s charging case, the earbuds themselves offered a steady playback time of a little over six hours from just the earbuds. Realme promises 28 hours of total playback time including the charging case, which seems plausible. We’ll update more details about the overall battery life in the coming days.
BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN: FAIRLY PLEASANT FOR ITS PRICE
While the overall build quality of the Realme Buds Q2 may be very evidently plasticky, the use of soft-touch plastic, paired with a matte overall finish and the light shade of blue/grey is a clearly good idea. The earbuds look pleasant, and feel fairly smoothly built. The case does look like it might get scratched fairly easily if you keep it in a bag with keys and other objects, but the minimal branding and the pleasantly pebble shaped case looks and feels undoubtedly nice.
Simply opening the case will automatically connect the earbuds to a paired smartphone, which is an ergonomic move. To pair with a new device, long-pressive the button below the lid for three seconds does the trick. The earbuds, unfortunately, do not have any charging indicator, so if the charging connector doesn’t sit flush with either of the earbuds at any point in time, you don’t have any real way to find that out. The single green LED on the case lights up when the earbuds are active and also when charging, which is a design flaw that Realme surprisingly overlooked.
VERDICT: WORTH CONSIDERING PURELY FOR ITS PRICE
The Realme Buds Q2 is not the best in terms of empirical audio performance, but when compared to its rivals in terms of its price tag, the Realme Buds Q2 certainly comes across as worth considering. It is also pretty much the most affordable ANC earbuds right now, so that’s a major plus. Its bass is comparatively well balanced, and the mids do better than many budget earphones. It gets Active Noise Cancellation, which, although not the most effective, is still useful at times. It even has decent battery life, and with all of this bundled in at Rs 2,499, the Realme Buds Q2 is worth being considered if you’re looking for the most affordable true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation in India.