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Review: Sony WF-1000XM3

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The market of true wireless earbuds has exploded recently and Sony’s new iteration takes everything to the next level. The company announced its wireless noise-canceling earbuds – the WF-1000XM3 –  a couple of months ago and we recently received a review unit for a test drive. 

The technology that the WF-1000XM3 uses is the same as the WH-1000XM3 over-ears headphone. Both the models are packed with the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e. So you get one in each earbud, containing a DAC and analogue amp, digital noise-cancellation engine and a 24-bit signal processor. 

The earbuds feature a refined design and outstanding build quality, something we have come to expect of Sony’s products. In terms of colors, you get two options – black and silver. The one we received for this review was the black variant. Nevertheless, both colours look excellent. 

The earbuds are very comfortable to wear when paired with the ear tips of your choice. Inside the box, you get a choice of four long hybrid silicone rubber earbuds and three triple-comfort earbuds. Choose the one you are comfortable with, install and fire up the Sony headphones app, and you are good to go.

Place the earbuds into your ears and what you experience is a blissful listening experience without any external disturbances thanks to Sony’s noise-cancelling tech. The earbuds fit vertically, with the Sony logo pointing down, before you twist them so they face forward. On the earbuds, you get an LED which indicates when it is charging or when they are our of the case for Bluetooth pairing. 

You also get touch panels,  the functions of which can be customised using the Sony Headphone app. The audio quality of the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds is outstanding. The HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e also accomplishes stunning sound thanks to 24-bit audio signal processing and DAC with amplifier. Meanwhile, the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX) upscales compressed digital music files including MP3 formats.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 sounds fantastic. You also receive a bit of bump on the bass frequencies and the mids. Whatever I listened to, whether it was A. R. Rahman, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Queen, Illayaraja, Michael Jackson, and so on, everything sounded extremely incredible. 

On a single charge, the earbuds provide enough backup for about 5 hours before they need recharging. But I like the fact that the earbuds support quick charging. So, about 10 minutes of charging provides you with around 1.5 hours of playback, which can come in handy when you are traveling, for instance.

For a price of $245, the Sony WF-1000XM3 may seem to be a bit on the higher side. But then, as they say, quality comes at a price – in that content, the Sony WF-1000XM3 is worth every penny spent. The Sony WF-1000XM3 this walks away with the Gadget Voize Editors’ Choice award.

Price: $245

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Review of the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds in the UAE

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Sony launched the very popular WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Earbuds two years ago, and the company has now followed up with an upgrade that includes a key highlight. The Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds were launched a week ago and as soon as Sony executives mentioned the new earbuds were now 25% smaller than the predecessor, there was a huge sigh of relief.

Video: Sony Launches the new WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds in the UAE

Don’t mistake me, the WF-1000XM4 were an awesome pair of truly wireless earbuds. However, the XM4 was a tad too bulky for true comfort. Now, in a flash, the XM5 has swooped in and conquered this crucial enhancement for providing a better fit. And that’s not all – the XM5 boasts an upgrade in sound quality, noise cancellation, and call clarity. In addition, the WF-1000XM5 is also Sony’s most expensive earbuds yet, coming in at a price point of AED 1299.

The WF-1000XM5 aren’t just smaller, they’re also 20% lighter and incredibly streamlined. This sleek transformation applies to both the earbuds and the wireless charging case, now sporting a more pocket-friendly rounded shape. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet it’s hard not to appreciate the XM5’s elegant design. The days of the XM4’s chunky, somewhat odd-shaped build and gold accents are behind us.

The XM5 has emerged as a testament to sophistication – compact, polished, and graceful. The golden microphone port still remains, however, it now seamlessly blends into the earbud’s body, resembling more of an exquisite inlay rather than a mere functional element. In fact, these earbuds could easily grace a black-tie affair without seeming out of place.

Inside the eco-friendly paper packaging, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of Sony WF-1000XM5 goodies. There’s the star of the show – the earbuds themselves, snugly nestled inside the trusty charging case. Upon opening the package further, you’ll find a handy USB charging cable, a trio of spare polyurethane foam ear tips in different sizes, and a thoughtful set of instructions. However, this time Sony goes the extra mile by including an ace up their sleeve – a set of extra-small ear tips. This little addition comes to the rescue of those with daintier ear canals, guaranteeing a snug and perfect fit for all.

The exterior of each earbud has undergone a modern makeover, featuring a glossy plastic material that gives off a premium aura. This sleek surface meets contemporary standards both in appearance and tactile feel. However, a contrasting touch reveals the outer shell designated for touch controls and housing the outer microphone setup; this area boasts a finely textured matte finish. Remarkably, these touch controls work seamlessly.

The WF-1000XM5 has also added a new driver, which Sony calls Dynamic Driver X. This new driver measures 8.4mm, and it surpasses its predecessor’s 6.4mm unit by a leap. This enhanced size translates to less movement for the larger driver, a feature Sony claims aids in minimising mechanical noise. To further refine the audio output, Sony has used two different materials for different frequencies – one optimised for the highs and the other tailored for the lows.Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds

Shrinking down by a solid 15% in comparison to its older sibling, the charging case has undergone a sleek makeover. It now rocks a dedicated pairing button at the back, and upfront, there’s a discreet LED indicator winking at you. The charging case also supports both USB-C charging and Qi wireless charging. And don’t think twice about juice – it’s got enough to fuel your earbuds through a trio of charge cycles.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 may not be ready to swim with fishes, but they’re not afraid of a little rain. With an IPX4 water resistance rating, these earbuds are your buddies for casual drizzles during your outdoor escapades or those intense sweat sessions at the gym.

Sony has truly upped the ante in touch control finesse with the WF-1000XM5. In past iterations, you were limited to a single set of functions per earbud. But this time around, the possibilities have expanded, presenting a whole array of actions at your fingertips.

And, once you pop an earbud out of your ear, the music will pause on both earbuds, and when you put the earbuds back into the ear, the music playback resumes. In addition, if you press and hold the left earbud control, you will be able to enter into the transparency mode, which lets you listen to the world around you.

To unlock the earbuds’ full functionality, you will need to download the Sony Headphones Connect App. Beyond updates, it’s your hub for custom EQ, Ambient Sound tweaks, and touch sensor customization, compatible with Android and iOS. The app is also needed for Sony 360 Reality Audio, Speak-to-Chat, and DSEE Extreme, their proprietary algorithm that enriches lower-quality audio.

Sony has also taken a technological leap with the XM5. They’ve transitioned from the single V1 processor (used in the XM4) to a dual processor arrangement: the new V2 Integrated Processor alongside the latest HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e, dedicated to noise cancellation. This combined force, coupled with the XM5’s six microphones and revamped drivers, elevates ANC performance across most frequencies.

In my experience, this holds true. While the XM4 excelled in ANC, the XM5 takes it up a notch, which is particularly noticeable in specific scenarios, such as low-frequency noise. Another improvement is the XM5’s ability in tackling wind noise while in ANC mode. Wind often hampers ANC’s effectiveness, and the XM5 proved to be undisturbed by wind noise.

When it comes to call quality, the WF-1000XM5 shine by skillfully obscuring any background noises that typically divert attention from your voice. From traffic hum to construction clatter and even strong gusts of wind, these earbuds erase them all to a point where the other side of the call remains blissfully oblivious to any trace of these sounds.

Sony has consistently delivered brilliant sound quality, and the XM5 continue this legacy with brilliance. Their sound signature presents a subtle yet discernible enhancement over the XM4’s performance. Renowned for its strong bass response, Sony doesn’t disappoint – it’s rich, melodic, and now finds a better equilibrium alongside other frequencies.

Across diverse genres spanning hard rock to jazz, these earbuds meticulously preserve individual elements, ensuring clarity in vocals as well. As for Bluetooth 5.3 connections, the WF-1000XM5 stand firm, offering an average range for wireless earbuds – approximately 25 feet indoors and up to 45 feet outdoors with no obstructions.

When it comes to noise-cancelling earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM5 stands tall as one of the finest options available today. However, this quality comes at a cost. With a price tag of AED 1299, these earbuds might not be the first pick for those on a budget. However, if your preferences lean towards exceptional active noise cancellation, top-tier sound quality, and comprehensive software support, the WF-1000XM5 undoubtedly justifies its premium pricing.

Price: AED 1299

Photography by Ryan Chris

Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds
AED 1299










  • Final Rating

4









Summary

The XM5 have emerged as a testament to sophistication – compact, polished, and graceful. The golden microphone port still remains, however, it now seamlessly blends into the earbud’s body, resembling more of an exquisite inlay rather than a mere functional element. In fact, these earbuds could easily grace a black-tie affair without seeming out of place.

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Soundcore Intros the New R50i Earbuds in the UAE

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Soundcore has launched its latest true wireless earbuds, the Soundcore R50i. “The Soundcore R50i is more than just a pair of earbuds; it’s an embodiment of a lifestyle. In the bustling and fast-paced life of the UAE, we understand that our consumers seek technology that can keep up with their dynamic daily routines. Whether they are mobile gamers, office commuters, or fitness enthusiasts, the R50i is designed to provide an unparalleled auditory experience to not only elevate any moment, but make every day truly feel like that individual’s personal soundtrack,” says Faraz Mehdi, General Manager, Anker Innovations, MEA and South Asia.

The R50i earbuds come with 10mm drivers and 22 preset EQs are available via the Soundcore app to personalize your audio experience. Bluetooth 5.3 ensures seamless connection, allowing effortless transitions between calls, music, and podcasts. AI-enhanced calls, powered by dual microphones, render crystal-clear conversations, while a remarkable 30-hour playtime ensures uninterrupted audio. Fast charging support allows a 10-minute charge to provide an additional 2 hours of playtime.

The R50i is also equipped with IPX5 water resistance, making it a reliable companion during intensive workouts or under unpredictable desert climates. It also supports Instant Pairing and Single Earbud Mode for a more convenient and flexible user experience.

The anti-loss lanyard keeps the earbuds safe and secure, perfect for users always on the move. Additionally, the Soundcore app includes a “Find My Buds” feature, enabling users to locate their misplaced earbuds effortlessly.

The R50i is available at a price point of AED 99 at the Anker Innovations Brand store in Mirdif City Center and Carrefour outlets across the UAE.

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Review: Huawei FreeBuds 5

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Huawei’s much-awaited FreeBuds 5 have arrived in the UAE, boasting a fresh design that resembles a piece of jewelry for those who desire stylish earbuds. While the appearance is impressive, these earbuds are not solely about aesthetics. They uphold the high standards of previous Huawei audio devices, inheriting remarkable specifications and features.

The FreeBuds 5 model features a droplet-shaped design with double-C curves. This design aims to enhance contact with your ears, reducing strain and providing a comfortable, breathable wearing experience. The earbuds have a shallow in-ear section, lower height, and a 32-degree tilted stem to ensure a comfortable fit and evenly distribute pressure when you tap the bud.

According to Huawei, the design of the FreeBuds 5 is inspired by Prince Rupert’s Drop which is created when molten Kunlun Glass is dropped into water. The stem of each earbud contains a tactile zone that responds to touch (both short and long) and sliding gestures. Multiple acoustic grilles conceal the conversation microphones and the active noise reduction system. Additionally, wearing sensors are located at the base of the stems, which automatically pause playback when the earbuds are removed and resume it when they are put back on.

You can choose from three colour options for the Huawei FreeBuds 5: frost silver, ceramic white, and coral orange. Huawei sent us the ceramic white variant for this review. These earbuds are also IPX4 water-resistant.

Usually, open-fit earbuds have difficulty providing effective noise cancellation due to the absence of a proper seal with the ear canal. However, the FreeBuds 5 boast intelligent dynamic ANC, equipped with three microphones on each bud, which can adjust noise cancellation in real time for an improved experience.

The Triple Adaptive EQ, meanwhile, offers real-time adjustments to optimise the sound based on various factors such as ear canal shape and volume. It operates between 100-2000Hz, while the earbuds are capable of producing frequencies as low as 16Hz thanks to ultra-magnet dynamic drivers.

The earbuds also possess Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification thanks to the LDAC codec, which provides 96kHz/24-bit audio at 990kbps. The L2HC codec covers even more Hi-Res bases. The charging case has a nice glossy finish and combined with the earbuds’ batteries, provides up to 30 hours of listening time (with ANC off). A brief five-minute charge will provide you with two hours of listening time. These earbuds are compatible with both iOS and Android devices and support dual-device connections.

The lightweight feel of the FreeBuds 5 was one of the primary design objectives, and Huawei has certainly accomplished this goal. After just a few minutes of wearing them, the earbuds become virtually imperceptible. Inside the box, you get the charging case with the earbuds inside it. You also get two pairs of ear tips, the charging cable, and some paperwork.

The pairing process for the FreeBuds 5 is simple and easy. Just hold the button on the side of the case for a few seconds to enter pairing mode, and then the earbuds will appear in the Bluetooth menu of your phone, tablet, or computer. For additional features, download and install the Huawei AI Life app.

However, if you are using a non-Huawei device, you must first install AppGallery before installing the AI Life app. Although the earbuds can be used without the app, I highly recommend using them as all the advanced features are available within the app.

If you’re familiar with Huawei audio products, you’re likely acquainted with the AI Life interface and features. For those who are new to it, here’s a brief overview of what you can accomplish with the app.

On the app’s home screen, you can quickly check the battery level of each earbud and the charging case. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover the Connection Center, Sound settings, and several other helpful features housed under the More tab.

The Connection Center lets you view all of your connected devices (the Huawei FreeBuds 5 support multipoint connection), and with a single tap, you can choose your preferred device to inform the earbuds about your preferred music source.

Navigating to the Sound Quality and Effects menu provides access to predefined EQ settings, as well as a novel capability: manual adjustment of the 10-band EQ to create your own sound profile. This menu also allows you to activate HD calls and select whether to prioritize sound quality or connection quality.

Despite their unique shape, these earbuds do offer touch gesture support. After getting accustomed to the buds’ placement in your ears, utilising these gestures is a simple and straightforward process. You can double-tap to play-pause or answer/end calls, swipe to adjust volume, and tap and hold to modify noise cancellation settings. It may take some time to adjust, as the stems’ shape is distinct.

The Huawei FreeBuds 5 feature three microphones that work in conjunction with a 3A noise cancellation algorithm and a deep neural network (DNN) algorithm to adaptively eliminate noise during calls and music playback.

Noise cancellation can be toggled into three modes: dynamic, general, and cozy. Dynamic mode automatically adjusts noise cancellation based on the earbuds’ built-in microphones, while General mode provides the highest degree of noise suppression. Cozy mode is best suited for quieter environments. The ANC feature does an amazing job of suppressing outside noise.

In order to gauge the audio performance of the Huawei FreeBuds 5, we started off by listening to “Aga Naga” from the movie “Ponniyin Selvan 2”. This track by A R Rahman showcases the mids, lows, and high frequencies with aplomb! There is a larger-than-life feel but there is also a sort of elegance to the track, which the Huawei Freebuds 5 brings out perfectly.

Next, we tested the buds with another beautiful composition by A R Rahman – “Ninaivirukka” from the movie “Pathu Thala”. The vocals and the piano rendition were simply awesome to listen to. Whether it was “Kana Yaari” from Season 14 of Coke Studio, or “Sagavaasi” from Coke Studio Tamil, we’re pleased to report that the FreeBuds 5 performed admirably, emphasising the vocal midrange frequencies, bass, and other elements, with exceptional detail.

The battery life of the FreeBuds is consistent with Huawei’s claims. With active noise cancellation (ANC) enabled, Huawei says that you can get up to 3.5 hours of use, and I was able to verify this. When I listened at fairly loud volume levels with ANC on, I received 1 hour and 49 minutes of use before reaching 50% battery level, and a total of 3 hours and 21 minutes before the earbuds ran out of power.

Overall, for a price point of AED 599, the Huawei FreeBuds 5 provides a solid set of features. It offers support for LDAC, ANC, very good audio performance, good battery life, and an eye-catching design. The Huawei FreeBuds 5 is thus highly recommended.

Price: AED 599

Huawei FreeBuds 5
AED 599










  • Final Rating

4









Summary

The lightweight feel of the FreeBuds 5 was one of the primary design objectives, and Huawei has certainly accomplished this goal. After just a few minutes of wearing them, the earbuds become virtually imperceptible.

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