Edifier NeoBuds Pro review: A new standard in affordable audio
“You won’t find better sound quality, ANC, or transparency for less than $250.”
- Awesome sound
- Comfortable fit
- Very effective noise cancellation
- Excellent transparency mode
- Good call quality
- No wireless charging
- No in-ear detection
- Few phones offer LHDC support
The best true wireless earbuds have a lot in common: Great sound, great noise cancellation, a comfortable fit, and plenty of ways to customize your experience via a smartphone app. But they also tend to cost between $200 and $350. So if a set of true wireless earbuds were to offer all of those features, but at a much lower price, say, $129, they’d be a game-changer, right? Edifier certainly hopes so — its $129 NeoBuds Pro have, on paper at least, everything they need to challenge Apple, Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser. Do they deliver? Let’s find out.
What’s in the box?
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Edifier went overboard when it comes to the presentation experience for the NeoBuds Pro. The box, with its large size, magnet-closures, and tons of protective foam, screams high-end luxury, but that translates into a recycling nightmare. I’d like to see the company take a page from Sony’s playbook — the $280 WF-1000XM4 come packaged in a tiny, fully-recyclable cardboard carton.
Inside the box, you’ll find the NeoBuds Pro, their charging case, a USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable, a nylon carry bag, some printed material, and a huge selection of seven sizes of antibacterial silicone eartips (one set is preinstalled).
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The NeoBuds Pro belong to the same family of earbuds as the Edifier NB2, NB2 Pro, and Earfun Air Pro (which Edifier helped to design). They look a lot like these other earbuds, with the same AirPods Pro-style ergonomic shape and small silver stems. However, the NeoBuds are more compact than its older siblings, and have rounded contours on the stems, which give them a more sophisticated look and feel. You may not agree, but I think they look great.
They’re a cinch to get in and out of their charging case thanks to their lay-flat position, though this means the charging case is a bit bigger than models like the AirPods Pro.
The charging case’s combination of matte black plastic and a brushed aluminum accent plate on the top of the lid continues the high-end vibe, and the lid flips open easily and stays open until you flip it closed.
A huge selection of eartips should make it easy to get a comfortable, secure fit.
But the coolest part of the NeoBuds Pro is the red LED charging indicator strip that sits just inside the case’s front groove. It pulses and animates from side to side, like a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, or perhaps Kitt from Knight Rider if you like your technology friendly instead of menacing.
The only thing it’s missing is wireless charging. Edifier seems to dislike wireless charging as none of its true wireless earbuds offer it.
With an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance on the earbuds, they compare favorably to most high-end alternatives.
Comfort, controls, and connections
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Smooth, rounded contours and that huge selection of eartips should make it easy to get a comfortable, secure fit with the NeoBuds. I found the default tips ideal for my ears, and I was able to wear them for several hours without any discomfort. Stem-style earbuds can sometimes feel a little insecure because the stems can prevent you from pushing the buds deeply enough into your ear canals, but this wasn’t a problem with the NeoBuds. While not quite as secure as models with ear hooks or ear-fins, switching to one of the larger sets of ear tips should offer plenty of grip for running or gym workouts.
The NeoBuds use touch-sensitive surfaces at the very top of the stems for the controls. They offer a good amount of sensitivity out of the box, but Edifier has cleverly added the ability to adjust that sensitivity within the Edifier Connect app. You’re also able to customize what the controls on each bud do, but there’s a catch: Despite supporting a wide range of functions, from volume level to ANC mode, there are only two actions per earbud — double-tap and triple-tap. This means that you can choose from a variety of commands, but you can only access four of them from the earbuds.
Want to turn your phone into a private movie theatre? Dynamic mode will do it like a boss.
Why Edifier has chosen not to support additional gestures like single-tap, or tap-and-hold (which would give you a total of eight commands) is a mystery, and hopefully something the company will change with a future firmware update. The control options are also a little quirky — volume control is available, but turning the volume down is always done from the right earbud, while volume up must always be done with the left.
But perhaps the biggest omission is the lack of an auto-pause when you remove the earbuds. The NeoBuds Pro, unlike their siblings, the NB2 Pro, lack in-ear sensors.
Each earbud can be used independently, but you’ll want to make sure the bud you choose has the commands you need. Thankfully, call answer/end is available on both buds by default.
The NeoBuds Pro are easy to pair — simply flip open the lid and look for the device in your Bluetooth settings. The connection is rock-solid and surprisingly strong. Edifier claims a working distance of just 32 feet, but I was able to get 50 feet away from my iPhone 11, even through two walls.
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Edifier has positioned the NeoBuds as the first “wireless hi-res audio” true wireless earbuds, thanks to their ability to reproduce sounds between 20Hz and 40kHz, and their support of the LHDC Bluetooth codec. But unless you happen to own one of the few smartphones that come equipped with LHDC, you probably won’t get to experience these buds at their full potential. In fact, the only phone listed on the LHDC website is the Xiaomi Mi 9 Pro, a model that isn’t sold in the U.S.
But hi-res chops aside, the NeoBuds Pro sound awesome. They use a hybrid driver design that couples a dynamic driver for low frequencies with a balanced armature driver from Knowles providing the highs. It’s an unusual setup for true wireless earbuds, and the result is a big, bombastic sound that is also well-detailed. While not quite as nuanced as earbuds by Sennheiser or Master & Dynamic, the sound is nonetheless thrilling and highly immersive.
With very good stereo imaging, their soundstage is wide and detailed, letting you follow individual instruments and vocals as they enter and exit the mix.
The ANC on the NeoBuds Pro is impressive — easily the best you’ll find on a set of earbuds at this price.
You can choose from two preset EQ modes in the Edifier app: Classic, which offers a relatively neutral signature, and Dynamic which pushes both the low and high ends for an almost overwhelming performance, with bass levels that will rattle your fillings. Want to turn your phone into a private movie theatre? Dynamic mode will do it like a boss. You can also engage a special low-latency gaming mode if you find that there’s a lag between your screen and the audio, but I found the regular mode to be perfectly adequate.
By default, the NeoBuds Pro seem best suited to bass and beat-heavy genres like rap and hip-hop, but there’s plenty of wiggle room to tweak the signature for other genres via the custom EQ mode, which lets you create and save your own presets. Unfortunately, it’s a confusing interface, with elements like “Q Factor” and frequencies that can be set using increments of 1 Hz. Nonetheless, it is possible to dial in a variety of settings so if you find the bass to be too strong, or the midranges too weak, you can change them.
Noise cancellation and transparency
The ANC on the NeoBuds Pro is impressive — easily the best you’ll find on a set of earbuds at this price. And frankly, they come within spitting distance of the kind of performance you’d get from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or the Apple AirPods Pro. You get two ANC modes: Low and high. Low sort of takes the edge off of background noise, while high mode does its best to kill it completely. Walking around a busy downtown neighborhood listening to a podcast is a perfect test of ANC as spoken-word content tends to suffer much more than music when it has to compete with other sounds. With high mode engaged, I was able to hear my podcasts effortlessly. It also does a great job with droning sounds like bathroom fans — a good barometer for how these buds will handle the constant white noise of a jet engine aboard a plane.
Transparency mode (which Edifier calls Ambient mode) is equally good, letting in lots of external sounds, including your own voice, which makes it feel like you’re not wearing earbuds at all. That’s something that lesser transparency systems can struggle to achieve. It’s also adjustable within the app, so you can choose to let a little less sound enter your ears, or decide to amplify those sounds just a bit.
Best of all, switching between ANC and transparency using the tap controls is quick and doesn’t force you to go through the “standard” mode. Standard mode turns ANC and transparency off, which could save some battery life, and you can always engage it from within the app if you need it.
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Edifier claims you’ll get five hours per charge in the earbuds and 20 hours total listening time with the charging case if you use ANC, and that these numbers rise to six and 24 hours respectively if you run with ANC off. After letting them play a music stream at 50% volume, with ANC on, I got exactly five hours of life before the earbuds switched off.
A quick charge of 10 minutes will buy you an extra hour of play time, and both the earbud and charging case can fully recharge from empty in one hour.
These stats aren’t exactly class-leading — in fact, they’re on the low-end of what we can expect these days — but they should still get you through a full day of use without needing to find a charging cable.
You’ll get decent calls with the NeoBuds Pro. Background sounds are kept at bay, and I only noticed a small amount of compression at times when those sounds were particularly loud. Your voice won’t always sound rich and detailed, but it will remain clear and audible, which is the most important thing.
Unfortunately, Edifier doesn’t support side-tone (the ability to hear your own voice clearly while on call). When you place or answer a call, the earbuds will automatically turn off ANC and transparency, and there’s no way to turn them back on via the tap controls or the app until the call has ended. In fact, there’s no way to use the app during a call — it thinks the buds are disconnected while the call is in progress.
Edifier Connect app
Speaking of the app, I think Edifier has some work to do. The home screen provides an excellent overview of the NeoBuds Pro battery levels — including the case when the buds are sitting in it — plus quick access to ANC/transparency modes. And if you’re an iOS user, there’s the option to add a widget to your Today home screen. But accessing features like EQ and control customization isn’t intuitive as they’re buried in secondary screens or menus.
But I really don’t like the Mall and Discover tabs, which are simply windows onto Edifier’s website for buying more of the company’s products. They have nothing to do with the functioning of the earbuds, and they make an already confusing interface harder to navigate.
The Edifier NeoBuds Pro set a new standard for sound quality, ANC, and transparency at an affordable price. They lack some features, and I wish they had more control options, but they’re still an excellent set of true wireless earbuds.
Is there a better alternative?
I’m confident that you won’t find better sound quality, ANC, or transparency at this price, but if other features matter more, you may want to consider these options:
- Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, $100: Great sound, wireless charging, in-ear detection. They also have more control options than the NeoBuds, but their ANC and transparency aren’t as good.
- Amazon Echo Buds (Gen 2), $120 ($140 with wireless charging): Good sound, in-ear detection, and great call quality plus the ability to use hands-free voice commands with Alexa. But battery life is poor and their ANC isn’t as good as the NeoBuds. You can get wireless charging if you want it.
How long will they last?
The NeoBuds Pro seem to be very well built and their IP54 rating offers good protection. I suspect they will last many years if you take care of them. Edifier backs them with a one-year warranty.
Should you buy them?
Yes. The NeoBuds Pro may not have every feature offered by the competition, but for sound, ANC, and transparency — arguably the most important features — they kill it.