Affordable true wireless headphones were pretty rare until about a year ago, but we’ve seen plenty of brands launching such models recently, with key features like active noise cancellation and app support. . While some of the early products in this segment, such as the Realme Buds Air 2, were a bit crude in terms of performance and capabilities, recent products from brands such as Oppo and OnePlus have come a long way, setting new benchmarks. for what you can expect from a TWS headset under Rs. 5,000.
Not left behind at all, Realme has now launched its latest true wireless headphones, the Buds Air 3. It’s very similar to its predecessor, but promises incremental improvements to overcome some of the shortcomings of the Buds Air 2. That said, it There is now strong competition in this segment, including the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro and OnePlus Buds Z2. Are these the best true wireless headphones you can buy for less than Rs. 5,000? Find out in this review.
Compact and efficient design on the Realme Buds Air 3
The Realme Buds Air 3 is priced at Rs. 3,999 in India, and has been available in Starry Blue and Galaxy White since launch. Realme also recently added a new Nitro Blue color with white racing stripes vertically on the case, and this particular option costs Rs. 4,999.
A new product release usually means you get improvements, and the Realme Buds Air 3 introduces some useful design changes. The earbuds and charging case are smaller than the Realme Buds Air 2, although they look and feel similar. You get a good in-canal fit with these headphones, which helps with noise isolation for active noise cancellation.
Just like the Buds Air 2, the Realme Buds Air 3 have stems molded differently from the main chamber of the earbuds and in a different color. On my review unit, the stems were silver and the ear cups were white. As was the case with its predecessor, there are no logos on the earcups except for the ‘L’ and ‘R’ markings. The headphones are rated IPX5 for water resistance and weigh 4.2g each.
I like the look of the Realme Buds Air 3. The compactness and comfortable fit worked great for me. The retail pack includes a short charging cable and a total of three pairs of silicone tips in different sizes, for a customizable fit. The outer sides of the earcup stems are touch-sensitive for controls, which are customizable through the Realme Link app (available on Android and iOS).
The performance of the Realme Buds Air 3’s touch controls was acceptable, although there were a handful of occasions where a triple-tap gesture registered as a double-tap, or didn’t register at all. Each earbud’s touch area is small and unmarked, which caused occasional misinterpretations. It’s possible to control playback, switch between ANC and listening modes, invoke the default voice assistant on the paired device, and activate game mode directly from the headphones using just these touch controls.
The Realme Buds Air 3 charging case has a similar color and finish to the earbuds. There’s an indicator light on the front, a USB Type-C port on the bottom, and a Bluetooth pairing button on the right. The top has a Realme logo. The review unit sent to me had my name printed on the back of the case, but Realme has confirmed that this is not an available option for customers in India at this time.
Similar to most of the company’s other wireless audio products, the Realme Link app is used to support the functionality of the Realme Buds Air 3. The app allows users to cycle through ANC and listening modes, d enable game mode and control other features such as two-device connectivity, in-ear detection, and more. As mentioned earlier, you can also customize the touch controls of the headphones using the app.
The app lets you choose between three equalizer presets, or you can go through a custom audio tuning process to tune the headphones to your liking. I preferred the “balanced” sound preset. However, custom audio signature may work for some people, as you need to take a hearing test that configures the setting specifically for you.
The Realme Buds Air 3 have dynamic 10mm drivers and use Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity, with support for SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. The active noise cancellation is claimed to offer up to 42dB of sound reduction, and the low latency gaming mode has a claimed latency of 88ms. Multipoint connectivity to connect up to two devices simultaneously is supported.
The Realme Buds Air 3’s battery life is decent for the price, with the headphones running for around 4 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge. The charging case adds three additional full charges, for a total battery life of approximately 18 hours per charge cycle. The charging case is smaller than the Realme Buds Air 2 and adds fewer extra charges, but the earbuds’ better battery life itself makes up for that.
Improved sound, decent ANC on the Realme Buds Air 3
Although feature-rich, the Realme Buds Air 2 were pretty ordinary in terms of sound quality. The active noise cancellation was just about functional, but far from what I expected from recent headphones at this price point. The Realme Buds Air 3 offer a decent step up from its predecessor in terms of performance, offering a little more detail and ANC quality, while retaining the reliable connectivity and ease of use that stood out on the Buds Air 2.
Support for SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs meant I had the same listening experience on Android and iOS, and I primarily used an iPhone as the source device for this review. Starting with Martin Solveig’s Intoxicated, the sound was much more refined and tuned than on any other Realme true wireless headphones I’ve reviewed.
The Buds Air 3’s sound signature is meant to be tuned for strong bass, but the lows were clean and tight, unlike the typically punchy and sometimes overbearing lows I’ve encountered on other options in this price range. The highs were comfortable and clean, although the midrange was just a little restrained over the highs and lows, but not much. This helped bring out the strengths of Intoxicated nicely, making the track engaging and very clean, especially its strong and fast beat.
I liked the level of detail offered in Childish Gambino’s Feels Like Summer, with this soothing slow-tempo track that sounds particularly good at all volume levels. This is where the Realme Buds Air 3 have improved the most over the Buds Air 2, delivering a much nicer and more comfortable sound that’s more than what you’d expect at this price point today. today. I enjoyed Donald Glover’s vocals as much as I liked how the headphones reproduced the fainter details in the instruments in this track.
The improvements in the Realme Buds Air 3 made the sound much easier and more comfortable on the ears, and I didn’t experience any unpleasant effects or listener fatigue at reasonable volumes. However, I found this somewhat “safe” approach tended to hold the headphones back a bit when it came to attacking and driving sound, compared to the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro and OnePlus Buds Z2.
The active noise cancellation on the Realme Buds Air 3 was a better index than its predecessor and worked well indoors. Sounds such as the hum of an air conditioner were about quiet, while office chatter and urban exterior sounds on a busy street were a little softer. This made for easier and more focused listening, but spending a bit more on options like the OnePlus Buds Z2 or Nothing Ear 1 would get you considerably better ANC performance.
Transparency mode seemed a little unnecessarily amplified, but definitely improved my ability to hear my surroundings. I found it easier to remove a single earbud and rely on the auto play and pause feature during short conversations. Connectivity on the Realme Buds Air 3 was very good, with the earbuds working reliably at distances of up to 4m. Multipoint connectivity worked seamlessly and I was able to use the headphones for calls without any issues.
Realme has an impressive track record of value-for-money products, and the Realme Buds Air 3 keeps the brand relevant in the affordable true wireless headphones segment. With improved sound quality and active noise cancellation, a more compact size and shape, and useful features like multipoint connectivity, the Buds Air 3 are a really good pair of true wireless earbuds to consider if you’re looking for something under Rs. 5,000.
That said, the sound quality and ANC performance of the Realme Buds Air 3 are decent for the price. The quality doesn’t quite match what you’d get from some other recent launches such as the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro and OnePlus Buds Z2, but the overall experience makes this headset still worth considering in this price range, and it does not disappoint.