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Description

A few years ago, finding a pair of true wireless earbuds under $100 was unheard of. With the ColorBuds 2, 1More is not only coming in well under that $100 threshold, but they are doing it with style. The only real question to ask is, does this refresh of last year’s ColorBuds keep up with the Joneses in the ever-growing value-priced earbud market?

Specifications

  • Price: $79.99 (Amazon)
  • Earbud Dimensions: 27 x 21 x 20 mm
  • Single Earbud Weight: 4.9 g
  • Case Dimensions: 60 x 30 x 38 mm
  • Case Weight: 34.5 g
  • Driver: 7mm dynamic
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.2
  • Bluetooth Range: 10m
  • Audio Format: aptX Adaptive / AAC / SBC
  • Playtime Per Charge: Up to 6 hours (ANC on) / 8 hours (ANC off)
  • Case Charging: 2 additional charges
  • Fast Charging: 15 mins = 2 hours
  • Wireless Charging: Qi Wireless Charging
  • Single Bud Use: Both Earbuds
  • Microphone: 4 Mic with cVc 8.0 Noise Cancellation Technology

Unboxing

At the $80 price point, I don’t really expect an exciting unboxing of the ColorBuds 2, and 1More met that expectation. Along with the charging case, which was securely nestled in the middle of the packaging, you’ll find the bare necessities: 3 additional sets of silicone tips, a short USB-A to USB-C cord for charging, and an owner’s manual. These aren’t some sort of boutique earbuds where you’ll proudly display the box on a shelf somewhere to prove how tech-savvy you are, so if 1More can shave a buck or two off the price tag by going all minimalist on the packaging, I’m all for it.

Fit and Functionality

One of the biggest issues with earbuds, wireless or not, is getting a secure fit in your ear. It may not be a big deal if you’re sitting on the couch playing with your phone, but when you’re out for a jog or bike ride, the last thing you want is that feeling one of your earbuds is starting to slide out of your ear. I’ve used the ColorBuds 2 on multiple rides now, and not once did they slip out of place. I’ve tried other wireless and true wireless buds in the past (Bose SoundSport and SoundSport Free, and Jaybird Tarah Pro, to name a few), and the ColorBuds 2 beats them all in fit and comfort.

I attribute this fit and comfort to the design of the ColorBuds 2. Instead of the symmetrical circle or oval shape many true wireless buds use, the ColorBuds 2 have a smaller, more asymmetrical shape with a curved bottom. This makes the bud somewhat bean-shaped, allowing it to fit in behind my Antitragus (that harder piece of your ear right above the earlobe. By using the shape of the ear to cradle the earbud, there isn’t a need for an extra silicone hook that can slip out of place.

For onboard controls, the ColorBuds 2 use a buttonless touch system. This cuts down on the size of the buds and adds to the sleek, clean look of the ColorBuds. By default, double-tapping on either bud will play or pause audio, triple-tapping activates your phone’s assistant, and pressing a bud for 3 seconds will switch between ANC and passthrough mode. The double and triple taps can be changed to control volume or switching tracks (left is down/previous, right is up/next). There is also a Smart Playback feature that uses an infrared sensor to auto-pause audio when you take either bud away from your ear and then resumes play when it is put back in place.

Regardless of how well they fit or function, a set of earbuds aren’t worth a dime if you can’t use them because their batteries are dead. 1More puts the average playtime for the ColorBuds 2 at 6 to 8 hours, depending on whether you are using active noise canceling or not. I found that claim to be pretty much spot on. Unless you use them non-stop, that means you should get a full day’s use out of a single charge. And even if you do use them without pause, the case holds enough charging power to triple the playtime of the earbuds.  

Audio Quality

Right out of the box, I was immediately put off by the neutral tone of the ColorBuds 2. Midtones were crisp and clear, but there was an absolute lack of bass that had me ready to pull up an equalizer and start making changes to the sound profile. Downloading the 1More app to my Android phone, I was a little concerned that there wasn’t an EQ built into the software. I could always adjust things by changing my phone’s settings, but then I’d have to repeatedly adjust the settings every time I swapped to or from the ColorBuds 2.

1More didn’t leave me without an in-app solution, though. Instead of an EQ, the ColorBuds 2 allow you to personalize your sound profile with SoundID. This nifty piece of software has you choose one of several different tracks and then runs you through a series of tests to mold your unique sound profile. The tests are pretty simple: listen to two profiles, then choose which one sounds better. After making a few of these choices, SoundID compiles the data, and presto, your EQ settings are configured, and everything magically sounds better.

To see whether SoudID really creates a personalized sound, I ran the test multiple times to create various profiles. I’m happy to say that it allowed me to produce some godawful profiles, from the “tin can and string telephone” to the “scuba diver” and everything in between.

The SoundID process may not be the tool of choice for audiophiles that enjoy tweaking each slider on an EQ to find that perfect sound. Still, for a novice like myself that uses presets to get “close enough,” SoundID was a quick and easy alternative to finding a suitable sound profile. The only issue I had with the whole SoundID process was the length of the test tracks. During calibration, the track doesn’t loop back to the beginning, often leaving me with dead air before I could make a decision. Pausing and resuming the process would play the track again, but I don’t understand why the track doesn’t automatically loop back to the beginning on its own.

After using SoundID, the default neutral settings were gone, and the ColorBuds 2 sound came to life. I always run a new set of headphones or earbuds through a few of my favorite tracks, and I was pleased to find that the additional bass SoundID added in for me didn’t destroy the crisp mid and high tones that I heard right out of the box. The ColorBuds 2 were able to handle the heavy bass of rock classics like Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls. Vocals came through clean, whether they were the raspy lows found in Disturbed’s The Sound of Silence or the highs of Sia’s Alive. Even throwing the acoustic bass and banjo mixture of The Dead South’s In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company or the jumbled mess of sounds from AronChupa’s I’m An Albotraoz didn’t make the ColorBuds 2 stumble, and both of those songs can make your ears bleed with a crappy pair of headphones. 

I also used a couple of movie clips to put the ColorBuds 2 to the test. First up was the opening chase scene of 6 Underground, followed by the D-Day invasion scene from Saving Private Ryan. Although the ColorBuds 2 can’t compete with a 5.1 surround sound system, the audio quality was still pretty good on both my phone and paired to my PC. Bluetooth connectivity has come a long way, and the audio latency on PC was almost close enough not to be annoying. However, the real star of the show was the Qualcomm AptX compression used when paired with my Android phone. The latency was negligible, with spoken words matching up to the person’s mouth movements and the rumble of explosions synched to the pyrotechnics on screen.

The last piece to the ColorBuds 2 sound quality is the Quietmax ANC (active noise canceling). Nothing beats the immersion that over-ear noise-canceling headphones offer, but the sticker shock can be deadly. So, when you tell me I will get ANC in an earbud priced ad $80? I admit I had my doubts, and to some extent, those doubts were justified. Loud noises can still bleed through, but noises of average levels like people talking or a fan blowing in the background disappear. And although you’ll still hear the sound of wind on a bike ride, it’s significantly reduced. Ultimately, the ColorBuds 2 won’t give you the isolation of a $400 set of over-ear headphones, but they performed much better than I could have hoped.

Oh, I almost forgot about voice calls, as if anyone actually talks on their phones anymore. If you do plan to field a call or two instead of letting them go to voicemail, the ColorBuds 2 have you covered, but just barely. On my end, everything was fine. Volume was adequate, especially with ANC cutting out any background noise around me. As for the people on the other end, no one complained about any extra noise or my voice cutting out or anything, though they did mention that the overall sound seemed flat compared to using my phone’s mic. The calls were completed with both parties understanding the whole conversation, and that’s good enough for me. Still, for anyone who spends a lot of time on the phone, you will want to factor the ColorBuds 2 call quality into your buying decision.

Final Thoughts

While a true audiophile may raise their nose at the sound quality of the ColorBuds 2, I consider them a solid choice for anyone looking for a true wireless option in the sub $100 category. By using SoundID, setting up the sound profile of the ColorBuds 2 was quick and (mostly) painless, and the overall sound quality was quite strong. The call quality wasn’t great, but it got the job done, which is about all you can really expect from an earbud that doesn’t have an inch-long piece of plastic sticking out the bottom to hold the microphone. Other features like ANC and aptX compression (on Android phones only, sorry iPhone users) more than make up for the ColorBuds 2 lack of fancy accessories. Now all I have to do is figure out a way not to lose them, but that’s more about me than it is the ColorBuds 2.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. 
 

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