Apple wasn’t first to market with true wireless earbuds when launching the AirPods, but it has become the product to beat in the category. This is where Soul Electronics thinks its new Emotion earbuds fit in.
Finding a pair of true wireless earbuds is really easy these days – even if you're on a budget. In fact, budget true wireless headphones have taken over. The Emotion are perfect example of that, even being described as a $50 “budget-friendly alternative” on its Amazon page, without specifically mentioning the AirPods.
Semantics aside, we know the focus here, and while the effort is admirable, there are some caveats to consider before picking them up.
Soul highlighted the Emotion’s lightweight and nimble design, and rightfully so: The earbuds are small, with a decent build quality. Even the charging case is smaller than most, making it not only easy to pocket, but perhaps easier to misplace, too. That's something they share with the AirPods, except there is no tracking feature included here.
Like other earbuds in this category, the Emotion 'buds plop right into their cradle, with a slight magnetic pull when the connectors on both sides touch. Spin it around to the back of the base and you'll find a microUSB port for charging, with the case including an extra two charges through its own internal battery.
One small area for improvement is that the Emotion could've used a matte finish instead of the piano black gloss – as that, coupled with the small indent on the front, made it way more challenging to consistently open and close it.
At a mere 5 grams, they don’t feel weighted when wearing them (a problem that other true wireless headphones have), but they are limiting in a few ways.
They are neither water-resistant, nor sweat resistant, for example. That means if you plan on using these at the gym or on a run, you’re rolling the dice, since the warranty wouldn’t cover that damage. Also, while we could play/pause or skip and repeat tracks, we couldn't control volume from the onboard buttons. Taking them off also doesn’t pause music, as is the case with other models.
The good news is that you get four sizes of eartips in the box, making it easier to find one that fits best. There’s a short microUSB cable and quick start guide, and that’s about it.
We liked that Bluetooth pairing was so painless. As soon as we took the buds out of the case, they were in pairing mode, which we confirmed on the phone. The whole process was done in a matter of seconds – and, even better, every time we took them out of the case thereafter, they connected immediately.
Overall, the connection was stable, but the dropouts were noticeable. We couldn’t really figure out any sort of pattern other than to note that moving the phone around in hand had an impact. In some instances, carrying the phone in a left pants pocket sometimes led to hiccups.
We also can’t recommend these for phone calls. It wasn’t the connection that was the issue, but rather it was the microphone’s inability to capture what we were saying clearly. Callers complained we sounded distant and cut out, making conversation too difficult to flow.
They do support the AAC Bluetooth codec iOS devices use, but it doesn’t appear to be the case for aptX, which Android phones use. That means Bluetooth audio streams default to the SBC (Subband Codec), which isn’t as efficient as aptX is.
Getting a snug fit is important when using the Emotion earbuds. Their smaller stature could make noise leakage harder to contain, but that really depends on how good a fit you have. The tighter the fit the better as a tight seal brings out more of the bass ... or at least what little bass there is on offer here. (If you’re looking for booming bass, this isn’t it.)
Soul gave the Emotion a relatively balanced soundstage, albeit one with limited scope. The lows aren’t bad for what you get, but they won’t feel punchy. The highs and mids are okay, though we felt like the mids offered the weakest response.
That doesn’t mean you’re losing everything, though. The restrained bass plays better in other genres, so if you’re more a fan of rock, jazz, country or classical stuff, the sound might come off better to your ears. We noticed this when listening to a playlist of classic jazz, plus another of classic rock. An older track like Aerosmith’s Dream On didn’t feel out of place, for instance. Nor did a jazz track like Breakdown from Kandace Springs.
These results are fleeting, however, only because of the importance of the fit. Put in a different pair of eartips and the sound is very different. That’s a distinction without much of a difference compared to other true wireless earbuds, since they’re equally affected, but the point is that getting better sound of the Emotion took some work – and we have to keep volume fairly high to achieve good results.
That said, default volume was too low for any environment where ambient noise was even mildly noticeable. That means using these at the gym is already risky based on the build, and you’d have to crank up the volume to drown out the noise.
If you're looking for a pair of gym headphones, these aren't them.
Soul claims a six-hour battery life per charge, but that’s at the default volume. Since we had to go above that all the time, we were usually closer to four hours. Having an extra two charges certainly helps, but keep the rated number in perspective. You may be looking at 18 total hours on paper, but our experience was closer to 10-12.
The Emotion also have what appears to be some sort of front-loaded charging in that juice drops faster when the battery hits a lower threshold. For example, we were surprised to be at 25% and hear a low battery warning pipe up while a song was playing. Not once, but every couple of minutes.
Once every 5% is enough, but then we realized the level was dropping fast. We went from 25% to automatic shutdown in a mere 15 minutes – and that's really not ideal. We would’ve liked to see more efficient battery performance here.
For $50 (around £39, AU$69), you get a decent pair of earbuds in Soul’s Emotion. They aren’t flashy, and just focus on playing music above all else.
That said, despite their affordable price point, we wouldn’t give these a glowing recommendation. When alternatives for iOS users, like the LiteXim Aerobuds, are around for the same price — and include things missing here — they're just not as good of a value as they appear to be.
We of course understand that making sacrifices is part of making and manufacturing any budget product but if the tradeoffs we mentioned above sound like they could be dealbreakers, you’re better off looking elsewhere ... even if that means paying a bit more.
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