Apple had sent the benchmark of what true wireless earphones were supposed to be – convenient and comfortable. These two reasons led the Apple AirPods to be the top-selling true wireless earphones on the market, the world over. Since Apple’s success, several manufacturers, popular and startups have jumped on the truly wireless earphones bandwagon and have had their fair share of success. Brands like Bragi and Jabra have achieved a vast amount of success in this space and well-known smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung and Sony to have created a niche for themselves in this space.
While the above-mentioned brands will sell their products at a premium price, there are several startups that have entered this segment of consumer electronics and are selling their earphones at a fraction of the cost.
In our lab, we have an OEM wireless earbuds that came in for a consideration from China, and its model name states PB-01. The wireless earphones retails for Rs 1,400 on the Indian market and are branded under different names. These earphones are sold by the OEM manufacturer (minimum order would be around 500 pieces) to different manufacturers and companies under different brand names yet keeping the overall design the same. These earphones are also good for corporate as gift items to guests and employees. Each earphone costs around USD $19, and a bulk offer will go for even cheaper. The OEM manufacturer in China is Weifang Jing Meng Foreign Trade Import & Export Corporation. More products, information and contacts can be found on the link to the manufacturer. This product was tested under various conditions just to tell you if this product is worth it or not or if you should shell out your hard-earned cash for something that costs significantly more.
The PB-01 will not win any design awards for the best-looking earphones out there. Their design is very simple and minimalistic and this is why we actually liked them. They don’t have any flashy branding or gaudy colours and because of this, they can feel right at home in an office or at a gym. The earbuds feature a button that takes up the entire real estate of each earpiece. This button can be used for a variety of functions such as pairing, powering it on/off, answering calls, etc. There are LED indicators on each earphone that indicates the battery status, such as charging, operation, low power and pairing.
The earbuds are built of the same plastic that adorns the case, while it may not be built of the strongest of plastics, it definitely is lightweight. This makes listening to music for hours extremely comfortable.
Being a budget accessory we didn’t expect too much in the way of design. However, we were proved wrong. The PB-01 earphones come with a charging case, this alone puts it heads and shoulders above its competition. Usually, wireless earbuds that come with this price don’t have a charging case and instead need to be charged by attaching a cable. With this feature in tow on the PB-01, you can easily just slip it back into the unit and it will top up the battery of each earphone since the case has a power bank built in separately.
The charging station features a generic design and there’s nothing really fancy about it. It is a black unit with a transparent lid. The entire case is made out of plastic and due to its small footprint, it is easily pocketable. The quality of the plastic used here is not the best and there is a distinct possibility that the lid may break if you’re not careful.
There is an indicator on the case that shows that the battery charge/power in the form of a string of four LED lights. Apart from this, there is a power button located here. The case also features two slots with magnetic pogo pins that keep the earbuds securely in place. We felt that this is a great touch as there are certain brands out there that lack this basic feature that is so useful.
Along with the earphones and charging case, the packaging includes a manual, a charging cable, additional ear tips, a pouch and a carry bag to stow the device when not in use.
When it comes to features, you may think that taking the price into consideration it will absolutely devoid of any features. With the PB-01 this is not really the case and it comes with features that could rival BT headsets that cost significantly more. To start off, the earphones come with Bluetooth 4.1 technology this ensures that you get a strong signal for high-quality audio playback. Because of this BT technology, you can easily move to around 10 metres from the source without signal loss. This helps when you’re in the gym and keep your phone aside during cardio or weight lifting sessions.
The frequency response range of these earphones is 24Hz - 24KHz and its impedance are rated at 24 ohms. It supports HSP, HFP, A2DP and AVRCP protocol for easy use too. For iPhone users, you can check how much battery charge is remaining before it dies out and this is a handy feature that’s available with the PB-01 earphones.
A neat feature of these earphones is that you can use them either mono or stereo. This means that you don’t need both earphones on you to enjoy music and they can be used separately. We found this feature intriguing as usually when you use earbuds like say AirPods for example, the music switches off if you remove a single side. With this feature in tow, even you do accidentally happen to lose an earbud, you can still enjoy the music through a single earphone. Additionally, if you are using it only for calls, you can use any convenient ear (left or right) or use it one after the other to get the longest power runtime possible. Good option for those who are on frequent calls and travelling during the day.
To pair the earphones with your smartphone the process is pretty straightforward; you keep the buttons on each earpiece pressed till the LED indicator starts blinking blue and then you complete the BT setup process on your phone. To indicate that earphones are on, an automated voice will inform you that it's powered on. With this, you know that you’re good to go. When turning it off, this voice will again sound indicating that it's powering off.
A feature we found lacking was that there was no option to control volume directly on the earphones itself; however, considering the price of this product we don’t dock any points off it. and with almost no room on the device itself, having a volume control on it is almost impossible.
During our test when we initially set up the PB-01 we faced a lot of issues getting both earphones to work in stereo mode. If we turned on one, the other would automatically switch off. After putting it back in its case, and unpairing it from our phones we tried again. Next time it worked instantly and we faced no such issue again. For those who are looking to purchase these earphones, don’t lose hope and think you have got a defective piece, all you need is to unpair it and pair it once again and they should work fine.
One thing we really liked about the earphones is that they connected to the phone pretty quickly. As far as audio audio quality goes, we weren’t holding our breaths to get the most awe-inspiring performance. However, it must be said that the performance is pretty average. When it comes to bass heavy music, you will not get the punch you crave and it falls short. It is worth mentioning that the bass feedback will also depend on how snug you wear the PB-01. Also, the bass is a tad distorted and there is an unwanted crackle while listening to higher volumes. In the top end, the highs are decent enough but were not as precise as we hoped it would be. The mids sound a little muffled and left us wanting some overall separation. Overall, its a mediocre pair of earphones for basic music, videos and calls. Don't expect too much from it.
The earbuds come in a charging case that features a 400mAh battery. The charge time is about two hours and once topped up, you can playback music for about 3 hours. However, if you do play music on a higher volume, your battery life may take a hit.
The PB-01 costs about Rs 1,400 in India (and for $19.5 in China) and as mentioned earlier these are an intriguing pair of earphones. Initially, we were quite despondent with the setup process and were beginning to lose hope. But once we got it working, we were left pleasantly satisfied with it. These earphones are targeted at those who want the convenience of true wireless earphones without shelling out bucket loads of cash to get decent audio quality....