Realme Buds Q review – the truly wireless earbuds to beat under Rs 2,000

Remember when I reviewed the Redmi Earbuds S I’d said, I still don’t recommend any ultra-budget truly wireless earbuds under Rs 2,000? Well, that’s changing today. These are the Realme Buds Q – my current favourite under 2k. 

Hi, I am Ershad from Mr. Phone and allow me to talk about the Buds Q. And of course, compare it to the Redmi Earbud S and pTron Bassbuds Pro. 

Realme Buds Q – Design, fit and comfort

The Buds Q’s case and earbuds are designed by Jose Levy, who is a designer for Hermes – a luxury brand. Realme’s push to make designer products to look trendy and hip is seriously coming in handy. Levy’s inspiration is a cobblestone that achieves a smooth and soft form after enduring millions of years of weathering winds, waves, and gravel. 

Therefore, the Buds Q’s charging case is curved on all sides. However, I don’t think it is as smooth as a cobblestone because the seam where the lid meets the bottom part of the case has a slightly sharp cut. Regardless, it is pretty well done for the price. In fact, the Redmi Earbuds S has an equally soft and nicely rounded case. 

Anyway, there’s a micro-USB port on the rear for charging similar to the Earbuds S. Expecting Type-C would be a bit too much for this price range. There’s also a single LED light on the front that glows red if your battery is low or green when it is fully charged. Owing to the way it is designed, opening the lid with your thumb is not possible. The earbuds are slotted nicely inside the case but the magnets are not very strong. They fall out if you shake the case upside down. The same is true for the Earbuds S by the way. 

As for the design of the buds, I really like the pod-shaped design that makes for a more secure fit inside the ears compared to the Redmi Earbuds S. Another tiny design flair that I like about the Realme Buds Q is the yellow colour inside the silicon tips. Also, the massive R logo on the outside looks pretty good too. 

And, when it comes to comfort, both are equally comfortable for long listening sessions. And for what it is worth, the Buds Q – at 3.6g – is lighter than the Redmi Earbuds S’ 4.1g weight. 

Except for a couple of minor niggles, I don’t have any problem with the design of the Buds Q. If anything, it is actually pretty attractive and very comfortable for its price. 

Realme Buds Q – Controls and app support

The Buds Q has a touch-based control system. You can double tap and triple tap on the earbuds to do specific tasks. Honestly, the touch area was too small and the sensitivity wasn’t great. It would not register touches and taps. I spoke to Realme about it, and they’ve clearly indicated that the Buds Q will have better sensitivity and a larger surface area in the retail units. I will add an update as a pinned comment if anything changes. 

Anyway, as for the controls, the best part is you can configure it to your liking. Thanks to the wonderfully unifying Realme Link app. Want to double tap the left earbud to open Google Assistant? You can do that. Want to long press the right earbud to stop the music? You can do that too. Realme makes it really flexible for users with these customisable options. That said, you cannot adjust volume levels. 

Additionally, similar to the Buds Air and the Buds Air Neo, you get a gaming mode that reduces the latency to 119ms compared to the Earbuds S’ 122ms rating. These numbers are in touching distance of each other and in real life I could rarely tell a difference while testing these with Call of Duty. I am just glad there’s a gaming mode in the first place. 

Realme Buds Q – Connectivity and battery life

As for connectivity, the Realme Buds Q uses Bluetooth 5.0 and the connection can hold for a distance of 10m. I found that claim to be fairly true in my testing. Also, the connection is just rock solid. I didn’t have a connection drop in my testing period. 

As for the battery life, the Realme Buds Q lasted me 4hr 24mins at 100% volume. In comparison, the Redmi Earbuds S lasted me 3hrs 45 mins at 100% volume. Evidently, the Buds Q is better. Plus you also get 20 hours on the case. Which means it can charge it at least four times over. So yeah, the battery life is the best you can find in this price range for now. 

Realme Buds Q – Sound and call quality

There are a couple of immediate specs-based advantages on the Buds Q. You get a larger 10mm driver compared to the 7.2mm unit on the Redmi Earbuds S. Plus you get support for the higher quality AAC codec whereas the Redmi Earbuds S tops out at SBC. Obviously specs don’t mean much if the tuning isn’t good. By default, the Realme Buds Q has a U-shaped sound signature, which you can tell from the frequency curve on the screen. 

By default, the bass is boomy to a point where I got super annoyed for the first couple of days that I was testing it. It is not a good kind of bass. The sub-bass, especially, is so unclean and loose that it masks the other frequencies In Tootsie Slide by Drake, the underlying bass thump would eat into Drake’s voice. It came to a point where I just couldn’t listen to them anymore. 

Thankfully, the Buds Q responded to EQ-ing really well. I used the Wavelet app to change the frequency curve to Bright, which reduced the effect of the low end. And, my experience completely changed. The wooliness immediately vanished and now I could hear more details thanks to the fact that now we were listening to more of the mids and the treble. These earphones respond to EQ well and you must try the Bright EQ in the Wavelet when you buy it. Trust me, it makes the Buds Q shine. 

When compared to the Redmi Earbuds S, the Buds Q is far more dynamic sounding and has more life as well. The instrumentation, the soundstaging, the tonality, and the overall dynamics is just better on the Buds Q. The pluck of a guitar or the clang of a cymbal, in a song like All Apologies by Nirvana, sounds very close to how those instruments should actually sound. I can’t say the same for the Earbuds S, which sounds flat and unrefined in comparison. Yup, I also EQ-ed the Earbuds S to sound the best. Regardless, the Earbuds S don’t have a good tuning by default either. 

I can gladly say the Buds Q sound great for the price, especially if you can play around with the equaliser a little. By default though, the sound signature is just a whole lot of muddied bass response. I know we Indians like bass a lot but how will you distinguish between Pharell William and Nile Rodgers’ voices and the accompanying synth-heavy music, in Get Lucky by Daft Punk, if you want only the bass to assault your senses? 

Anyway, if you ever get a chance to sample the Earbuds S and the Buds Q side-by-side, I’d suggest listening to Do I Wanna Know by The Arctic Monkeys to know which one actually sounds cleaner and more detailed. Obviously, do that after you have used the equaliser to make the changes to the frequency curve. 

As far as calls go, the mic is undoubtedly better on the Realme Buds Q. The person on the other end could hear me better than he could with the Redmi Earbuds S. Moreover, the sound of the person I called was clearer too. Don’t take my word for it, I have a call recording for you guys. 

Realme Buds Q – Verdict

Clearly the Realme Buds Q have impressed me a lot. Realme has hit it out of the park with this product. The Buds Q is easily going to be my de-facto ultra budget TWS recommendation. You get a superior battery life, better call quality and a more refined sound quality compared to the Redmi Earbuds S. It is easy to see why this is the better product overall. I just hope they fix the touch controls in the retail version. 

Even the Bluetooth connection was rock solid with no dropouts, which was the case with the pTron Bassbuds Pro that I liked. But yes, the pTron ones do sound great. Only thing is Realme’s Buds Q is better in many other aspects. Good job, Realme. 

What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments section below. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?