A budget earphone with active noise-cancellation (ANC) that focuses on bass and is actually worth the asking price? Yes, the Realme Buds Air 5 Pro offers that. Launched recently in India, the Buds Air 5 Pro comes with 360-degree spatial audio (which wasn’t very great), ANC (best-in-class), LDAC codec for Hi-Res wireless audio, multipoint connectivity (hallelujah!) and more.
At just ₹4,999, the Buds Air 5 Pro are worth it. They are, in my opinion, the best TWS earbuds south of ₹5,000. Let’s take a closer look.
If you’ve used Realme TWS earbuds before then you’d be familiar with the design. It’s standard and pretty dull. The case is capsule-shaped and the buds have a stem-type in-ear design. The glossy white (Sunrise Beige, as Realme likes to call it) colour that I got for review had many scratches within the first few days and often needed to be cleaned because of fingerprints. Realme has embossed the brand name on the top side and there is a silver reset/pairing function button on the right side.
The hinge is sturdy and the case provides a clicky satisfaction upon closing. The case, and the earbuds, are lightweight and I had no comfort issues after wearing them for hours at a stretch. The buds come with an IPX5 water resistance rating. That means you needn’t worry about wearing them in the rain or while sweating it out at the gym.
There is a touch-sensitive area on the outer surface of the buds. It took me a long time to learn the controls, and even longer to get myself to accurately perform the controls each time. It’s never been this tough before.
At the time of receiving the Buds Air 5 Pro, my daily driver was Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5. It’s a smartphone running the latest Android 14 OS. I open up the case and voila, the pop-up to pair my Buds 5 Pro showed up instantly on the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Thirty minutes later, I was left very frustrated. For reasons unknown, the Buds 5 Pro fails to pair with my Galaxy Z Fold 5 (I also tried them with the Galaxy Z Flip 5) for more than a few seconds. I’ve confirmed this with several others who have had this problem.
Thankfully, the buds seamlessly connected with the Nothing Phone (2) and the Honor 90 smartphones. Maybe a software update can fix the pairing issue with Samsung smartphones.
The earbuds support Spatial Audio (360-degree audio effect) but I wasn’t blown away by the feature. It’s definitely not as accurate as some of the more premium buds out there. What I was excited about was the addition of LDAC codec for Hi-Res wireless audio. In this price range, that’s definitely a welcome addition.
The earbuds pack two drivers in each of the buds (one for bass and one for treble). The buds also come with ANC (up to 50dB), which is one of the most powerful in this segment. The ANC effortlessly drowns out the noises around you. There is also a transparent mode in case you want to be aware of your surroundings.
Coming to the audio quality, one can safely say that the audio is crisp, with clear vocals (listening to podcasts was a pleasant experience), but the boosted bass was a little too much for my liking, Anything heavy on the vocals and you’ll be disappointed as they are just drowned out. The one thing I wouldn’t recommend, as with most budget earbuds, is listening to audio at high volume levels. The sound is too muffled for any kind of enjoyment.
There is a lot to enjoy though. The ANC is powerful and works as intended, and the call experience was best-in-class. Both sides could hear each other clearly, even when I was walking through the noisy streets of Delhi.
Thumping pop songs sound the best and podcasts have good clarity to them. Just don’t go around hunting for background sounds or instrument separation, and you’ll really enjoy these buds.
Realme has claimed a 40-hour battery life for the Buds Air 5 Pro -- 10 hours on a single charge, and 40 hours with the case. I routinely got around 8-9 hours of charge before depleting the battery. With ANC on, I would get just under 7 hours. Not as good as Realme claims but definitely above average. Many earbuds in this segment last just 3-4 hours with ANC, so the Buds Air 5 Pro are definitely a step up.
The buds support fast charging. You can juice it up for 10 minutes and get up to seven hours of playback. That’s mighty impressive.
I’ll give two thumbs up to Realme for the Buds Air 5 Pro. It’s a solid addition to the sub- ₹5,000 price bracket. It’s probably one of the most value-for-money earbuds right now. It’s got ANC, support for LDAC, dual drivers, and more. The battery life was impressive, and the sound quality is top-notch (except for the excessive bass).
If you’re a fan of bass-forward sound signature, then go ahead and purchase these buds without thinking further. If not, the Oppo Enco Air 3 Pro is a solid alternative. There are also some from Jabra and Sony, in case these don’t fit the bill for you.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts @IMSahilBhalla.