Cancel active noise without breaking the bank
Of late, we are seeing a shift in the audio market where manufacturers are offering premium features in their mid-range real wireless solutions to appeal to more price-conscious customers. Active noise cancellation, transparency mode, wire detection and other features are paving the way for more affordable offers like Realme Buds Air Pro, which we reviewed recently and Oppo Enco W51, which we are reviewing today. This significant change aligns with the interest of customers who do not want to burn a hole in their pocket but still enjoy some high-end features. The Oppo Enco W51 is Oppo’s latest truly wireless launch in India and it comes with many alluring features. While it certainly looks good on paper, let’s explore our full review to find out if it survives the hype.
Construction and comfort
On top of that, the Oppo Enco W51 may look like any other AirPods Pro clone, however, its unique charging case and earbud design language set it apart from Apple’s popular word-canceling true wireless earbuds. The Enco W51 comes in two color options – Floral White and Starry Blue. We found the former as our review unit and were intrigued by its overall suppressed appearance which was enlivened by the pearlycent effect on the glossy back surface of the earbud housings. It is reminiscent of the rear housing of the white variant of the Samsung Galaxy Buds +.
In AirPods Pro, the stem of the buds is also flattened as opposed to the tubular stem. The touch sensor is placed on the surface of these stems, however, they are placed slightly lower on the stem than in the conventional upper part. Unfortunately, due to the awkward position the buds often do not register taps and we sometimes need a lot of effort to perform basic functions through touch control. More about touch control in the next section.
Earbuds have a rectangular shape that is comfortable for most ears, however, small ears (like the reviewer) may feel a bit tired after wearing these buds for a few hours. This is not because of the weight, the buds are extremely light, but because of the elongated size of the buds. Oppo offers a total of four sizes of silicone tips and we found the fittings to be the safest and most comfortable by default. Make sure you try all the silicone tips and find the best fit possible as it is crucial to have a moderately good ANC experience in these buds.
For small sized ears the fit can be uncomfortable after a few hours, however, there is no doubt that it is quite smooth and safe for most ears. The buds stick to our ears even after we put them on and do not move too much during intense physical activities like jogging or running. In addition, these buds are IP54 dust and water-resistant, so you can bring them to the gym even if you sweat during a workout. However, they will not work well with moderate amounts of excessive sweating and mild splashes.
The charging case of Oppo Enco W51 is smooth, lightweight and ultra-pocketable. Although we wish the hinge of the charging case was reinforced by steel, for the most part, the build seems quite stiff. Shaped like a flat square pillow, the Oppo logo has an LED indicator light on the top and back of the lid, as well as a USB Type-C port. Overall, the build quality and comfort of these buds have managed to impress us considerably, except for the slight discomfort and slight weakening of the lid in our reviews for the extended period of use. If you want a pair of earbuds that are even more distinct, you might consider going for the Starry Blue variant which is a bit more attractive, with its golden and blue dual-tones.
The most enticing feature of the Oppo Enco W51 is, of course, the active noise cancellation. According to the company, these earbuds use a full six hybrid noise reduction microphones as well as a dual-core noise reduction chip to achieve noise reduction depths up to 35dB. We tested the ANC keeping in mind that these are not over-the-ear headphones and they are not from a company like Sony that has an established track record of great ANC products. With all of this in mind, the Oppo Enco W51 has done an amazingly good job of cutting out certain ambient sounds.
Earbuds emit significant amounts of noise at low frequencies, especially constant noise. Thus, confusions like an AC drone, a low speed ceiling fan and an aircraft drone should be substantially submerged. There is a slight hiss in the background when the ANC is active, but it is almost negligible and should not bother most users too much. Earphones do not play high-frequency sounds such as human screaming, mechanical keyboard typing, horn and whistle. It also has a tough time drowning out mid-range noise, which has been greatly reduced in more expensive ANC solutions such as the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. Yet, with a proper seal and music on, you will rarely hear any confusion, which is quite impressive for a pair of sound-canceling earphones at this price point.
Earbuds are powered by Bluetooth v5.0 and unfortunately come with SBC and AAC codec support, no aptX support. You will also find IP54 Dust and Water Resistance, Touch Control and USB Type-C Charging. So far, in addition to the ANC, this is quite the ideal fare for what you would expect for true wireless earphones below 5K. However, Oppo goes beyond that and offers a host of other features like wireless Qi charging for case and wear detection. The latter is a feature where simply pulling the earbud from your ear will cause the music to stop and re-insert it.
This is another integral feature that you may have noticed at first, since for non-Oppo phones stuck with the default touch controls, this is the only way to pause or play music because there is no touch command. Touch commands are limited to double tap and triple tap, where a double tap on the right will take you to the next track (there is no provision to go to the previous track on the Oppo phone), and left cycle through a double-tap ANC mode and normal mode. A triple tap on any earbud activates your device’s voice assistant. The earbuds, however, do not come with the ambient listening that is present in the Realme Buds Air Pro, which is priced the same. However, Realme Buds Air Pro doesn’t come with wireless Qi charging, so it’s all about which feature you prefer. The Oppo W51 also supports fast pairing on selected Oppo phones. Nevertheless, the normal pairing was quite instantaneous and consistent.
You also get a mono listening feature that lets you listen to music only through one earbud, even if the other is docked in a charging case. This is a very convenient feature and is often missing in mid-range true wireless earphones. Overall, the Oppo Enco W51 is highly featured but we want the ability to customize the controls to be universal and not limited to Oppo users as the default controls are not universal.
Moving on to sound quality, the Oppo Enco W51 has a 7mm dynamic driver with dual TPU composite graphene diaphragm. The company claims to have employed an algorithm that compensates for the loss of audio quality due to ANC. We tested the Oppo Enco W51 with our usual test tracks and did several other tests of different genres during our week-long testing period. The Oppo Enco W51 definitely has a V-shaped sonic signature with boosted bus and emphasis treble.
The bass response, especially the upper bass region, sounds dynamic and lively with a certain thrust without being disobedient. However, the problem arises when you hear tracks with low-bus or sub-bus response. In this particular region of the frequency spectrum the bass response seems to be so high that it makes a booming sound. In such tracks Bad guy By Billy Ilish, The sub-base thumps that are held throughout the duration of the song are pushed too hard which leads to a melodic mask in the middle. Because of the hearing mask, the voices are not as clear and dynamic as they could be. Additionally, the sub-bus also has a slight distortion that mars the detail considerably.
The voices, by themselves, have character and good melody, however, they seem to have lagged somewhat behind the huge plan of things. Bases and logos are often towered over vocal and mid-range instruments that are clearly visible on tracks such as Pull me down By Dream Theater, Where drums beat vocals and lead guitars, making them somewhat unlisted. The staging on the other hand was quite good. The soundstage was wide enough and the imaging was stellar, with the exact position of the instruments.
Triple detail and sparkly for the most part, however, in such tracks Hunter By BjorkThere is a lack of sibilance that overpowers the entire track. We would prefer the option to tweak things a bit with an EQ but unfortunately, the Oppo Enco W51 is not equipped with app support. Nevertheless, the sound profile is quite decent and quite detailed. However, for EDM and hip-hop fans, the sub-base thump and rumble may be a little more powerful. Bus Heads, however, may prefer this sonic signature.
The microphone quality in the Oppo Enco W51 is quite mediocre. Although there was no irresistible amount of distortion during the call, the microphone received a considerable amount of background sound. We tried gaming with the Oppo Enco W51, and noticed that the earphones had some latency issues. It does not support LDAC or aptX and does not come with a gaming mode, so this is expected. However, high latency is not transmitted to streaming services like YouTube and Netflix which seem to be the minimum latency between audio and video.
The battery life of the Oppo Enco W51 will definitely be lower for real wireless earphones by 2020. The earbuds themselves have 3.5 hours of play time when the ANC is on and 4 hours when the ANC is off. In total, the combined battery life of the earbud sport (charging case + earbud) is 20 hours when the ANC is on and 24 hours when the ANC is off. That means the case will charge your earbuds about 5 times the full charge, which is pretty good. However, the battery life on the bud is moderate.
In fact, with the ANC turned on and in our experiments with 50-60 percent volume, we recorded only 2 hours and 45 minutes of battery life in the buds, which is insufficient. We have been able to move closer to the company’s claim with the mixed use of ANC. With a standard USB-C cable the charging case is completed in about 1 hour and 20 minutes, whereas with wireless charging, it takes about two and a half hours to fully charge. Kiwi wireless charging support is a very rare feature in this price range. Realmy Buds Air was a feature, however, the company dropped it with its latest Realmy Buds Air Pro.
The last row
Priced at Rs 4,999, the Oppo Enco W51 is a tempting purchase, complete with features like ANC, wear detection, IP54 water and dust resistance, Qi wireless charging, mono listening and voice assistant support. However, some features such as quick pairing and customizable touch controls are reserved for the Oppo phone only, which is a bit disappointing. Also, in the case of real wireless earbuds in 2020, the 3.5 hours playing time on earbads must be down. The sound is quite decent with punchy base and sparkly treble, however, the midges are slightly recessed and there is some sibling in the upper register which can cause hearing fatigue. Overall, the package is quite tempting from the outside, but the Oppo Enco W51 has some chinks in the armor. It is up to you to decide how serious these chinks are for you. Still, under 5K, earbuds pay a decent price for a secure fit, decent sound, ANC and money to get recommendations from us (especially so, if you have an Oppo device).