True wireless earphones have been gradually improving over the past few years, and the product category, which started out as an expensive and premium one, is now very accessible to even budget buyers. In India, we're seeing a big push towards features and design in the true wireless market, with many manufacturers offering great bang for your buck. Realme is one such brand; after establishing itself as a leading manufacturer of smartphones, the company is now turning its focus to the true wireless space.
Its latest product is the Realme Buds Q2, an affordable pair of true wireless earphones priced at Rs. 2,499. Following closely on the heels of the Realme Buds Air 2, the Buds Q2 is the successor to the Realme Buds Q and its earpieces have a similar stem-less form factor. There's also active noise cancellation and app support on this affordable pair of earphones, making this a seemingly excellent value-for-money offering. Just how good is the Realme Buds Q2 headset in practice? Find out in this review.
The Realme Buds Q2's earpieces do not have stems, but do have a proper in-canal fit like the Buds Q
Touch controls, app support, and ANC on the Realme Buds Q2
While most of Realme's true wireless headsets have designs with stems, the Realme Buds Q2 earpieces are a bit thicker and bulkier, but without protrusions. The earphones are a bit larger than the Realme Buds Q, and weigh a hint more as well, but stick to the general look and feel of the Buds Q sub-range. With each earpiece weighing 4.5g, this is still a light and comfortable pair of true wireless earphones. They have an in-canal fit, which ensures proper noise isolation in order to make the active noise cancellation effective.
Despite the price, the Realme Buds Q2 is considerably improved in terms of design and styling over its predecessor. The earphones are available in two colours – black and grey – and I quite liked the grey of the review unit I received. Although plastic, the earpieces and charging case look good, thanks to their dull, smooth finish. The earpieces were comfortable for me, and there are a total of three pairs of silicone ear tips of different sizes in the sales package to allow for a customisable fit. Also included in the box is a short USB Type-C charging cable.
The outer side of each earpiece has a reflective area which is the touch-sensitive zone for the controls. Realme has used what it calls ‘gleaming lamination technology', which means these zones reflect varying colours at different angles, for what I thought to be a very groovy and unique look. Since this is the touch zone for the controls, it's also a grime magnet, and quickly showed my fingerprints which took a bit away from the look of the earpieces.
The controls are simple – the touch-sensitive zones are large enough to ensure a fair amount of accuracy and relatively few mis-hits, and you can even customise the controls to your liking using the Realme Link app. Playback, noise cancellation and transparency modes, as well as your phone's voice assistant, are possible to control using the touch gestures. However, you can't control the volume from the earpieces and will need to use your paired source device to do that.
The charging case is compact, discreet, and very nice to touch and hold because of its smooth finish and curves. That said, the bottom of the case is slightly curved, so it never sits stable on any surface, rocking around a bit with even a slight touch or gust of wind. The back has the USB Type-C port for charging, the front has an indicator light, and the inside has the pairing button. The earpieces latch into place magnetically in the case.
Although the reflective outer surface looks good, it's very susceptible to fingerprints
A big differentiator for Realme's audio range is the quality of its app experience; the Realme Link app is among the best around when it comes to audio and IoT products. I don't often find app support on budget true wireless earphones, let alone an implementation as good as with the Realme Buds Q2. Furthermore, the Realme Buds Q2 are supported by the app on both iOS and Android, which is a considerable change from previous products.
The app lets you see the specific battery levels of each earpiece, switch between noise control modes, activate gaming mode, control the equaliser presets, modify the touch controls, and update the firmware, among other things. It's a simple app to use, and gives plenty of control and customisation options to the user.
For connectivity, the Realme Buds Q2 use Bluetooth 5.2, and support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. The earphones have 10mm dynamic drivers, and apart from ANC and app support, there is also Google Fast Pair and USB Type-C fast charging. The earphones are IPX5 rated for water resistance, and can therefore handle a few splashes of water or wet weather.
Battery life on the Realme Buds Q2 is decent enough. The earpieces ran for around 4 hours, 15 minutes on a single charge with active noise cancellation enabled and the volume set at around the 70-80 percent mark when used with an iPhone. The charging case added three additional charges for a total battery life of around 17 hours in total. It should be possible to get a bit more out of the battery with ANC off, and with fast charging for the earphones and case, Realme promises three hours of listening after 10 minutes of charging.
Performance is very good for the price with the Realme Buds Q2
While Realme's audio product range is usually feature-filled, sound quality and overall performance have been hit-or-miss with past products. However, with the Buds Q2, Realme has a very good pair of earphones on its hands. Sound quality and ANC performance are surprisingly good for the price of Rs. 2,499, and it's hard to find a more well-rounded product with this feature set and performance level for less than Rs. 3,000 right now.
Support for the SBC and AAC codecs meant that I didn't hear any difference in sound quality between iOS and Android devices, and the earphones were geared to perform well with streaming music. Connectivity was fast and stable on my primary source device, an iPhone 12 mini (Review), with Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube Music providing the audio content for this review.
The pebble-shaped charging case of the Realme Buds Q2 isn't very big, but offers three additional charges for the earpieces
Despite its size, price, and specification set, the Realme Buds Q2 gets the sonic signature right, and the sound quality is just about on par with other true wireless headsets in this budget segment. There's nothing particularly special about the sound, but it is clean and reasonably detailed, with a sonic signature that brings out the best in popular genres. The bass isn't quite as punchy or driven as on some of Realme's other wireless headsets, but it's about as good as you can hope for at this price.
Listening to Hold On (Sub Focus Remix) by Rusko and Amber Coffman, the Realme Buds Q2 were loud, with a gentle, occasionally strong bass attack that brought out plenty of enjoyment in this electronic-dubstep track. That said, the soundstage did feel a bit narrow and focused on the lows, while the mid-range and highs tended to taper off a bit without any real feel. The sound felt a bit closed and contained; this isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're trying to focus on whatever you're listening to, but it did take a bit away from the level of detail.
The Realme Buds Q2 are loud, and were able to keep up with this fast-paced, busy track without much trouble. Switching to The Girl From Back Then by Norwegian folk duo Kings of Convenience, the immersive nature of the sound and the ability to cut out much of the background noise through an effective combination of passive isolation and ANC made for an enjoyable listen. Erlend Oye's soothing voice and the gentle tapping of the percussion instruments sounded calm and cohesive, completely unlike on any other true wireless headset at this price.
As is the case with most budget true wireless earphones with ANC, the Realme Buds Q2 don't offer quite as impressive a level of noise reduction as more expensive options. However, the reduction in background noise was noticeable and immensely helpful in making for easy listening, be it with music or voice-based sound such as audiobooks and phone calls. The aforementioned loudness also helped; I was able to comfortably listen to most content at around the 60 percent volume level. However, increasing the volume to anything over the 80 percent mark made for some loss in detail and shrillness in the highs.
Connectivity between my smartphone and the Realme Buds Q2 was stable, and the headset was decent enough for calls with both ends sounding clear. The low-latency mode did improve response a bit with mobile games at a slight cost to sound quality, but not significantly enough to really justify using these earphones for competitive multiplayer games where even the slightest delay can hurt your chances.
Brands have been pushing the boundaries of what is possible on a budget with true wireless earphones, and the Realme Buds Q2 is impressive in that it offers active noise cancellation, touch controls, app support, good battery life, and decent sound, all for just Rs. 2,499. This is, in my opinion, the best value-for-money general-purpose true wireless headset you can buy right now.
This price segment for true wireless earphones is exciting, with plenty of options that cover specific requirements and use cases. While the Realme Buds Q2 is an excellent pair of true wireless earphones, you might also want to consider options such as the OnePlus Buds Z for its better sound quality, or the Nokia Power Earbuds Lite for its better battery life and IPX7 water resistance. However, if active noise cancellation is important to you, there's nothing better than the Buds Q2 for less than Rs. 3,000.