Truly wireless earbuds are everywhere. They are not only at the airport and malls, but also inside Mumbai’s local trains. Three years after the launch of first AirPods, truly wireless earbuds have become a revolution. While Bragi was the first to conceptualize such a design, AirPods made the segment popular among consumers. The launch of Apple’s truly wireless earbuds was met with skepticism, but it paved the way for such a design to become commonplace. Apple remains the key player in this segment, but a host of other brands have joined the fray. The action, however, seems to have shifted to low-end of the price segment. There are a number of companies making truly wireless earbuds including Noise, boAt, Detel, Fingers to name a few. Noise Shots X-Buds are a cheap but truly wireless earbuds that aims to democratize the technology.

The concept here is the same as that of Bragi or Apple AirPods. You get two earbuds that are connected to each other with the help of a wire. They stay inside a case which secures and charges them. The Shots X-Buds even have a design similar to that of AirPods with a stem extending from the buds. They come in a matte black finish and an accompanying case. It costs only Rs 3,999, which makes it less than one third the price of entry-level AirPods. So, what is the difference between this cheap true wireless earbuds and Apple’s AirPods? Should you give up on your wired earbuds? Let’s find out.

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Design and Battery Life

As I mentioned before, the Noise Shots X-Buds have a conventional design. They stick to the basics of a true wireless earbuds design. They come in matte black finish, which gives it an edge in terms of appearance. There are two wireless earbuds with a stem extending from the buds. The stem, however, does not look big and has chamfered ends that make them look fine. These earbuds have a rounded-rectangular design that is one of the differences when compared with AirPods. They have in-ear style buds design and come with three sizes of ear tips. In my time with the buds, I found the earbuds stay in your ear but if you move a lot, there is a chance of it falling out.

One of the most intensive places to test the fit is crowded local trains in Mumbai. On one occasion, I boarded the train with both buds in my ear and when I entered the coach, there was only one. The second earbud had fallen and luckily, I had a friend to take note. It is easy to keep them in your ear while you are not moving around. These, however, won’t stay secure in your ear if you are going for a run or taking part in a physical activity. Noise has also played it safe with the design of case. Unlike the AirPods, the case for Noise Shots X-Buds has an oval shape. It is taller but not wider. When you open the case, the earbuds don’t slide inside, and instead lie flat. It is a neat mechanism, but it is not comfortable to remove the earbuds from their slot.

There is only one microUSB port on the case, which is to charge these earbuds. At the front, there are four LEDs to show the battery capacity of the case. Noise claims the earbuds offer four hours of battery life and case can charge it three times over. In other words, the Noise Shots X-Buds are rated to last for four hours on a single charge. In my time with the device, I could not deplete the earbuds or the case. I used them intermittently for nearly a week and there was still some juice left in the case when I charged them again recently. In comparison to some other budget true wireless earbuds, the Noise Shots X-Buds have good build quality, a case that is not flimsy and battery life that is good for a couple of days of listening.

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Gestures and Bluetooth Connection

Before we get to sound quality, it is important to talk about gestures. Unlike traditional earphones, wireless earbuds don’t have a physical connection between them. This makes it difficult for manufacturers to put buttons on them. The alternative option is to use gestures and they are a mixed bag on the Noise Shots X-Buds. Noise has split touch gestures between the two earbuds for functionality. On the right earbud, double tap acts as play or pause button while triple tap takes you to the next track. On the left earbud, triple tap takes you to previous track. To increase volume, you slide on the right earbud and to decrease the volume, you slide on the left earbud. On either earbuds, you can tap to answer calls, double tap to end call and long press to reject. Lastly, you can touch and activate Google Assistant or Siri.

In my time with the earbuds, I found the sliding gesture to increase or decrease volume working the best. However, the gestures to play or pause music did not work all the time. Most of the time, I wanted to do something and ended up activating Google Assistant. In one instance, the tap resulted in the phone calling the last dialed number. These are the areas where AirPods truly excels for its price. When compared to Noise, the AirPods have far less false positives as far as gestures are concerned. Is it a deal breaker? Well, the answer is No. When it activates Google Assistant in the middle of you watching Friends, before it leaves Netflix, you will get annoyed. After some time, you just kind of ignore it and find a way around it. Noise should have made it possible to disable to certain gestures through a dedicated application.

One thing that Noise could not mimic from AirPods is the Bluetooth pairing. Apple uses a dedicated chip called H1 to enable seamless pairing between AirPods and Apple devices. It is as simple as you open the case and the device is immediately recognized on iPhone or iPad nearby. Samsung and Huawei have also adopted this feature. In the case of Noise Shots X-Buds, you need to do old school pairing by going to Settings and Bluetooth and manually pairing the earbuds. Again, it is not a big deal but it is a classic example of where technology stands right now. In terms of range, the Shots X-Buds were not the best Bluetooth earbuds that I have used. There were occasional drop in range and thus sound.

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Sound Quality

You might be wondering why sound quality sits so low in my review. Well, the answer is simple: true wireless earbuds don’t offer great sound. If you are planning to buy true wireless earbuds then know that you are getting it for convenience and not sound quality. Even AirPods, which costs Rs 14,900, does not offer the best sound quality. Noise Shots X-Buds are no different. If you listen to music through streaming services then you will find them decent for the price. However, the overall balance seems to be lacking. If you are like me who has started listening to Lizzo a lot then you will find the lack of balance immediately. These earbuds excel in mid-range with very good balance and no crackling sound even at maximum volume. The bass is clear and pronounced and goes deep with vocals.

I tried a wide array of music and while listening to a saxophone-based song, I found the treble to be coarse. It seems to have issue with lower treble frequency. I am willing to ignore it but you may not. The details are adequate while listening to Bollywood music and piano keys sounded great. Arijit Singh sounds like Arijit Singh and classic songs remain enjoyable. The earbuds are also good for listening to podcast and watching TV shows. The Noise Shots X-Buds are not the best sounding earbuds that I have tried in my job but they triumph in terms of convenience. If I need to pack light, I will choose these over my Sony over-the-ear headphones. Since they have earbuds design, it results in decent seal and pseudo noise isolation.

Should you buy

If you are in the market for headphones then it is time to buy wireless Bluetooth models. It is only likely that smartphone makers will ditch audio jack even on budget models. In such an instance, a Bluetooth headphone will become default choice for consumers. If you are leaping to Bluetooth then it would make sense to consider true wireless models. Noise Shots X-Buds are not overzealous like Samsung Galaxy Buds or Apple AirPods. They rather try to be understated and deliver on key areas. It does not want to be jack of all trades but it does master a few key areas. The best part here is the price.

At Rs 3,999, the Noise Shots X-Buds are so cheap that you can buy three and still save some money when compared to AirPods. The matte black finish is really good and offers very good comfort. They don’t stay in ears as well as the new AirPods Pro but it is more about price than comfort. When it comes to sound, they are definitely not the worst. They are decent in terms of sound quality and might even appeal to those listening to certain types of genres. The gestures is a big disappointment and I would have liked to see option to disable some of them. I have seen a lot of these in Mumbai local trains and after using them, I understood the reason. People are choosing them for comfort over audio quality and I am with them.