This is the season for true wireless earbuds. The push towards is wireless is finally happening, though it perhaps skipped a generation of wireless headphones for a lot of users who are upgrading from wired earphones or headphones to true wireless earbuds. The reason why that is happening is because while the Apple AirPods probably created this new segment and premium options followed soon after, it is only now that we are seeing a genuine push towards quality at lower price points. Affordable wireless earbuds have been around for a while, but mostly from unknown brands or with extremely dodgy quality. Neither of which are appetising ingredients when you want to splash the cash on your first wireless earbuds. The likes of Xiaomi, Xiaomi’s Redmi, Realme and now Oppo have really driven those unknown brands who were getting by selling inferior buds and experience, all this while, out of the reckoning. That neatly brings us to the Oppo Enco W31, and to be honest, these earbuds truly are punching much above their weight.
The Oppo Enco W31 is priced at around Rs 3,799 which pits this against Xiaomi’s Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 (priced around Rs 4,499) and the Realme AirBuds Neo (around Rs 2,999). The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 and the AirBuds Neo, in their own right, are fantastic wireless earbuds. They are examples of how far along we have come. No longer do affordable earbuds have to be a compromise.
Design: Premium, on a Budget
Everything about the Oppo Enco W31 comes together in a sort of melding of simplicity and convention that it is hard to find anything extraordinary with the design and the personality. And at the same time, find anything wrong with it. What I have is the black version, which I am delighted to report, has a matte finish on the charging case shell. That means it doesn’t catch fingerprints, dust and scratches, and isn’t attention seeking at all for cleanliness. The earbuds sit flat in the charging case, and you open up the lid as you would perhaps open your laptop—it isn’t a tiny lid that opens and thereby requiring you to tiptoe the buds out. What you get is the buds as they lay in their grooves and you have the full width to grip them and pick them out. Incredibly more secure.
The case is well built, doesn’t have a flimsy lid and right down the USB-C port. Everything put together, this weighs 50 grams, which is incredibly light. This isn’t a wireless charging case, but that would be too much to expect anyway at this price. The Oppo branding is done very subtly on the lid, and I like how the shell is pure black with no shiny elements to distract you from the evenness of it all.
The buds themselves are IP54 dust and water resistant. This means dust cannot get inside and ruin these earbuds after a while, and splashes of water falling on these buds will not cause any damage at all. For me, these it well in the ear. The design is very Apple AirPods-esque, and at no point did these pop out of the ear or didn’t sit snugly. Quite light too, which makes these great to wear for Netflix binge watching, for instance.
Interesting is the placement of the charging status LED, which is inside the case. The good thing is when you plug these in for charging, there is no LED light on the bedside bothering you in the night. But see if they have been charged or not, you need to open the lid every time. It takes a bit of getting used to, but certainly not a hardship.
Sound: Be Prepared to be Surprised
In each ear, you will have a 7mm dynamic audio driver streaming the soundtrack of life to you. Oppo says they have used Dual TPU composite graphene diaphragm, and without getting bogged down by complicated science, let us just say that this is able to better handle the extremes of the sound—the low and the high frequencies. These earbuds also support the AAC HD audio codec. The results of this attention to detail are very apparent when you press play.
At default settings, you will perhaps be taken back initially, in the best way possible. Quite frankly, with the price tag of the Oppo Enco W31 in the back of my mind, I perhaps didn’t expect this level of audio goodness. Clarity and bass are very well represented, and in a fairly neutral manner to start off with. Unless it is really bass heavy music that you are listening to (read remixes, for instance), you’d be happy with what you are hearing. The sound is fairly wide coming from these buds and it doesn’t sound artificially boosted at either end of the EQ. Great then, for most listeners.
Want to experience some audio magic? Double tap on the left earbud, and the Oppo Enco W31 activates what is known as the Bass Mode. No, do not for even a second think this is some overpowering and artificially boosted EQ mode which lets the bass come through and kills pretty much everything else in the song. What you instead experience is a very subtle boost in the lower frequencies, which means more bass for you to enjoy for the tracks that demand it. Even in this mode, mids and vocals aren’t overshadowed, something that even the more expensive wireless earbuds aren’t able to avoid.
The Oppo Enco W31 also have sensors that pause playback when you take off both or one of the buds and resumes when you sit back and wear them again.
Noise Cancellation: Great for Music, and Calls
You surely wouldn’t have expected this, but the Oppo Enco W31 has dual-microphone noise cancellation as well. To be fair, this isn’t at the level of ANC, but for this price, it is a great value addition. What you get in each ear are dual microphones working with an AI algorithm that detects, understands and then attempts to cancel the environmental noise. Not only is it great to block out the din, but also comes in handy when you are on a voice call—your noise filters through to the other party clearly.
Battery: Not The Best, But Will Not be a Deal-Breaker For Most
The Oppo Enco W31 do fairly well in terms of battery life, though it isn’t the longest stamina that we have seen so far in wireless earbuds across price points. The earbuds will last around 3.5 hours and topping them up with the case gets you around 15 hours of listening before you need to charge these again. Once the world becomes sort of normal again and you can start traveling, this stamina will probably work for short distance trips, but perhaps not necessarily for long haul flights.
The Last Word: Are You Sure The Price Tag is Not Wrong?
With a price tag of Rs 3,999 for wireless earbuds that feel, look and sound more premium than that, the Oppo Enco W31 are one of those products that clearly deliver a lot of value compared to what you have just paid for them. It does not sound like earbuds around the Rs 4,000 price point—they sound much more expensive. The noise cancellation feature, for whatever it is worth, just shows that a lot of thought went into developing the Oppo Enco W31. Clearly, this isn’t a me-too earbud, in the market just for the sake of it. Buy this for the sound, if nothing else, if this falls in your budget. Is it surprising that even though I am currently reviewing much more expensive wireless earbuds as well, I happen to keep going back to these for the late night music listening quite often?