Review: Soundpeats nails it again with new H1 wireless earbuds
Weirdly-named Hong Kong wireless earbud manufacturer Soundpeats has released what it calls its best-sounding hybrid wireless earphones yet, and since we were so impressed with the last set of Soundpeats we tried, we thought we'd check out the latest and greatest.
True wireless earbuds are getting better and cheaper all the time, but there's still a ton of disappointing gear out there that suffers annoying dropouts, turns itself on and off unbidden, offers poor battery life or just doesn't sound that good. The Soundpeats Truengine 2 dual-driver buds we reviewed last year handled the basics pretty much faultlessly while sounding terrific to my ears, and at the time that was a genuine surprise.
This October's new hotness is the H1, a set of "hybrid" earbuds running Bluetooth 5.2 through Qualcomm's QCC3040 wireless chips. Thanks to super-low power consumption, the earbuds themselves offer an impressive 10 hours of play time per charge, and the slimline magnetic snap-in charging case is capable of giving you three full charges on the go, bringing the total to 40 hours.
They ship with three sizes of rubbery ear tips, and a fourth set of Comply "premium foam tips" which are both more comfy and more noise-isolating. As with the previous set, they pair and connect nearly instantly when you pull them out of the case, and switch off quickly and reliably too when you stick them back in the case.
A comprehensive set of controls, including volume, play/pause, track forward and back, phone and voice assistant features can be managed with the right combinations of long and short taps on the earbuds. One of these controls, three short taps on the left, activates "gaming mode," a low-latency audio mode boasting a claimed industry best of 40 milliseconds. I can just pick a difference when watching a video, but I wouldn't say there's much of an audio lag in regular mode, and I doubt I'd have noticed it at all if it hadn't been pointed out.
The banner feature for these earbuds is their hybrid dual driver system. It's a hybrid in that each earbud uses two different sound sources; the low end and mids are supplied by a regular enough 8.6-mm titanium dynamic driver, and the trebles are split off and sent to a balanced armature driver from Knowles.
You can check out this horribly 90s-looking video for a full explanation of how these work, but the upshot is an incredibly small and lightweight treble driver that uses very little power while delivering very clear and crisp high frequencies.
In every personal audio device review, we have to talk about sound quality, and I have to make the following disclaimer: you should basically never listen to another person's opinion on the sound of headphones or earbuds. Nura's brilliant adaptive audio headphones showed us convincingly that what sounds good to one person's unique physiology can often sound horrible to another person. Your ears, if you like, have a different EQ curve to mine, and your opinion on sound is the only one that matters.
So my very subjective and largely worthless opinion on the sound of the H1s is this: they sound terrific. Punch is great at the very bottom end, giving an immersive and exciting sub-bass rumble you feel as much as hear. This doesn't seem to be a general pushing of all the low frequencies, because it doesn't, for example, make a bass guitar overpowering. I'd guess the higher range of the bass spectrum is pulled back in the name of clarity. The mids seem to more or less get out of the way, as is my personal preference, and the top end is beautifully crisp and airy and present without being harsh or grating.
The overall effect is pleasing, engaging and immersive to me – but I really enjoyed the last ones too, so maybe Soundpeats' chief audio designer has very similar ears to me.
As for their capability as a headset for calls, well, mixed results there. In regular phone calls standing indoors, they work well. Outside in traffic, despite cVc dual mic noise cancelling, people said my voice sounded muffled and overpowered by street noise. Trying to use these buds on my morning Slack call with the New Atlas team, I was so quiet and indistinct that I had to turn them off.
I'm yet to find a set of earbuds that do calls well in all situations; at the end of the day, the mics are around the side of your head and a long way from your mouth, and even today's cleverest audio processing can't cancel out that basic physical issue. These are more or less on par with most other true wireless buds in this respect, and I can't say I expect anyone to come out and solve this problem any time soon.
So all in all, I feel the H1s prove that the Truengine 2s were no fluke: Soundpeats makes a rock-solid set of true wireless earbuds that do what you want, when you want, sound great to my highly biased ears, nail the fundamentals as well as anyone and give me very few reasons to get annoyed with them.
They're on Kickstarter now at an impressive early bird pledge level of US$79, having already smashed their crowdfunding goal. Shipping is slated to begin in December, and while the pandemic may prove disruptive to timelines, we'd consider this company a low-risk buying proposition thanks to its 10-year history across a large range of products.
Source: Soundpeats H1 Kickstarter