“Temper your expectations!” That loud voice played in my mind, on a loop, as I was unboxing the newest audio product from the house of Redmi (a sub-brand of Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi). The Redmi Buds 4 Active retail for just ₹1,399 and are one of the cheapest in-ear wireless earbuds on the market. These recently launched earbuds focus on a minimalist approach and audio quality. I’m thankful I kept my expectation in check after having used earbuds for a week.
Before we dive in, let me make one note for all of you. These earbuds aren’t going to be replacing your daily drivers but they are a worthy second pair to have handy. With that out of the way, let’s break it down.
The Redmi Buds 4 Active come in two colours - Air White and Bass Black - and have a pebble-shaped case (slightly unwieldy). The case is made of plastic (rough-textured) with a strip covering the circumference. There’s the usual USB type-C port along with a LED indicator to show the charging status. The flap has a satisfying enough click to it. But make no mistake, there’s nothing premium about the case. There is no pairing button that we’ve become used to on most other earbuds cases. Inside the case are two stem-shaped earbuds.
On the rear side you see the Redmi branding. It’s a clean case, overall.
The earbuds themselves do nothing to differentiate themselves from the crowd. They are relatively lightweight and do fit securely. They’re IPX4 rated, which means that they can withstand splashes.
Thanks to supporting Google Fast Pair, the Redmi Buds 4 Active instantly paired with my Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Android smartphone. Just flip open the case and tap on the connect button and voila. It’s magic.
Since these earbuds are a budget offering, there’s no multi-point connectivity. The lack of a pairing button on the case means that it is a slight hassle to pair these with other devices. Pairing with other devices sometimes requires putting them back on pairing mode. To enter pairing mode one has to tap five times on each earbud. It’s an unnecessarily tedious process. Nonetheless, once you get the hang of it, it happens pretty quickly.
The fit is impeccable, but that’s one part of the equation. A good fit won’t mean anything if the audio quality doesn’t match up. Unfortunately, the audio quality on the Redmi Buds 4 Active isn’t up to the mark.
When listening to a jazz song - like Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet - or a live version of a song - the sound will seem like it’s running away from you rather than filling a room. In this price segment, none of the earbuds have instrument separation, and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is the dull sounds coming from the earbuds. The vocals lack much clarity.
However, play some of the famous 2000s pop songs, and these earbuds will do a good job. The sounds will pop and you’ll get a satisfying listen to Britney Spears, Ricky Martin and so on.
One thing I did like about the Redmi Buds 4 Active is the fact that the silicone tips have done a good job of blocking out the surrounding noises. Not for a moment did I miss active noise cancellation on these earbuds. The Redmi Buds 4 Active come with environmental noise cancellation (ENC). Whether it was the silicone tips or the ENC, I’m just happy that I could focus on what I was listening to.
One of the three calls that I had taken back-to-back had put me on speakerphone. For most of that call, I couldn’t hear the person on the other side of the line, and they could barely hear me as well. If you’re buying these earbuds for the sole purpose of taking voice calls/work meetings, then I’d suggest you look elsewhere.
The Xiaomi Earbuds app provides little to no use. There are hardly any features there: no EQ or additional settings. There’s just a setting for low latency (which doesn’t do much to aid the performance while gaming) and showing the battery and charging status.
The Redmi Buds 4 Active come with a 34 mAh battery (in each earbud) and a 440 mAh cell in the case. The earbuds last up to five hours on a single charge and 30 hours with the case according to the company.
I used the earbuds for a couple of hours each day. During my review period, I didn’t have to charge it even once. It comfortably lasted me a week (about 25 hours of usage), almost living up to Xiaomi’s claim of 30 hours of battery.
Yes, the Redmi Buds 4 Active aren’t the best-sounding earbuds out there. But in this price range, the bar is low, and the Redmi Buds 4 Active comes out on top. Yes, they are far better than what the likes of Boult, Noise, PTron, and boAt offer in the true wireless earbuds (TWS) market.
The fit is far better than any of the competitors. That’s half the game won. They have good battery life, support for fast charging, and good noise isolation. If you’re strictly on a budget of ₹1,500, then these are the earbuds to get.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He tweets @IMSahilBhalla