XRound Aero review: Feature-packed earbuds for gaming and music
Xround's latest Aero Bluetooth true wireless earbuds ship with a dazzling array of features, with a low-latency gaming mode, 3D surround sound processing, dual-mic noise reduction and editable EQ profiles top of the list. But let's start with the basics; we've spent the last couple of weeks getting acquainted with them.
These are reasonably lightweight earbuds at 4.2 grams (0.15 oz) per side. The charging case weighs your pocket down a little more at 45.8 g (1.62 oz), with the tradeoff being a pretty decent battery life: six hours for the buds themselves and up to 24 hours overall with the charging case. I'll say this about the case though – without looking at it, it's hard to work out which way this square box opens, so I think it's worth putting more tactile cues into future designs to cut down on some excessive one-handed pocket fiddling that could easily get customers kicked off a train.
In terms of tips, they ship with three sizes of Spinfit silicone tips and three pairs of "soundproof" tips that offer slightly more isolation from external noise. I've tried both, and probably prefer the soundproof ones, which feel a little warmer, both physically and in the sound. Both are comfortable for a long wear, but for those that prefer memory foam tips, you can get some of those as a US$12.99 optional accessory.
They run Bluetooth 5.0 over SBC and AAC profiles, with a strong connection that I haven't caught skipping or glitching, and which is solid for a good few steps further than the 10 m (33 ft) advertised, matching or beating pretty much every set of true wireless earbuds I've tested to date. IP54 water resistance means you can use them in all weather, even if you wouldn't want to submerge them.
Controls are simple and intuitive, and include the ability to swipe up and down along the extending stalk of the earbuds for volume control (right) and track selection (left). You can edit some of these commands through Xround's MyTune app for iPhone and Android.
The app also gives you access to a seven-band graphic equalizer with several presets, two shareable custom slots and a "TailorID" system that gives you a short three-minute subjective hearing test and uses the results to build you an individualized EQ profile across those seven bands, pulling back frequencies you're particularly sensitive to and boosting those that you can't detect as well. This makes the Aeros one of the few sets of earbuds that attempt to address the fact that everyone's hearing is vastly different.
Personally, I didn't find my own TailorID EQ curve particularly pleasant; I found it lacked low end and was a little harsh up top. Indeed, once I started playing around, the setting I arrived at left everything pretty much flat except the lowest frequency slider, which I maxed out. With a single, 6-mm titanium-coated driver, the Aeros struggle to deliver huge low end and are outclassed in this regard by larger dual-driver setups in the same price range, like the Soundpeats H1s.
The H1s, though, offer no form of editable EQ, and while they bring the beef at the low end, they don't sound as clear and defined as the Aeros. This is no surprise, really – pushing heavy bass can certainly muddy up and overpower the top end. So it's a matter of priorities. Personally, I think the Aeros sound pretty good out of the box, and better with the bass pushed to the max.
And then there's the XRound Reality Lite 3D surround system, which the company describes thus: "We believe that the most critical key to the quality sound derives not from the frequency, but rather from reverberation. XROUND incorporates the important variable of time, to all its products when it comes to sound-tuning. By using a 3D Cumulative Spectral Decay (CSD) plot to observe the reverberation, XROUND audio products capture a much higher degree of fine detail. For example, low-frequency linear diffusion provides a clear bass, the low latency of the mid-frequency reduces harsh sounds to the ear, appropriate reverberation at the high-frequency provides a better sense of spatial perception."
I'm not going to pretend I understand what any of that means. In practice, this surround sound option cancels out whatever EQ options you've chosen and gives you a different sound altogether that seems to split things out into a much broader stereo sound stage. This makes individual instruments and tracks much easier to isolate and visualize when you're listening to music, and it makes it easier to pinpoint sounds in 3D space when you're playing games. There's a tradeoff, though; your EQ choices are negated and the sound of the surround modes emphasizes trebles for exceptional clarity. This is OK for me at level 1, but surround level 2 feels like it's overdoing things and can be very harsh on my ears at high volumes. This feature feels most useful to me in a gaming setting.
In terms of gaming, Xround has placed a priority on low latency. In gaming mode, the company claims latency is down to an excellent 54 milliseconds, or about one eighteenth of a second. That's about as good as true wireless earbuds get at the moment, beating the Soundpeats H1s above, which themselves are pretty stellar at 60 ms in gaming mode, or Apple's Airpods at a much slower 181 ms.
To use these things with my PlayStation 4, I used the XT01 Bluetooth Transmitter, which is an optional $39.99 accessory. Its native plug is USB-C, but it goes into an old-school USB-A plug via a small adapter, and when paired with the Aeros, delivers an even lower latency gaming experience at just 50 ms. There's pass-through charging for devices like phones or the Nintendo Switch, as well as a tiny mic on a 3.5-mm jack that plugs into your controller to improve the sound of your voice during in-game chat. I didn't have any issues with latency playing this way – it's still there, but really only noticeable as a slight lip-sync issue when characters are speaking. I enjoyed the surround sound mode and the extra situational awareness it gave me, particularly in open-world games like Red Dead Redemption 2, with threats, NPCs and other sound sources all around me.
And finally, to the dual-mic setup for phone calls. Each Aero earbud has two mics: one near the ear canal pointing outwards, one at the end of the stalk pointing down toward your mouth. XRound has spent significant development time trying to figure out how best to isolate your voice from background noise by processing these four audio inputs. I'd say it works pretty well, but it's still not as good as simply holding the phone to your face; I had no complaints making phone calls indoors, but people definitely noticed street noise when I was outdoors. Xround gives you the option to feed your own voice back into your ears through a sidetone option in the app, and that's a very handy way to figure out when background noise is reaching an annoying level for your conversation partner.
In all, I think Xround has put together a good set of earbuds here with features and options up the wazoo. I think the sound out of the box is great for a single-driver setup, and the ability to play with the EQ curve certainly gives you a lot of flexibility to tune the sound to your own liking, unless you're in search of monster bass. They're among the best you can get for latency, they perform well for phone calls, they're comfortable and light in the ear, and the overall design quality feels high.
They're available now for $74.99 from the Xround website. Check out a video below.
Source: Xround Aero