The Xiaomi Redmi Airdots TWS is a budget true Wireless earbud system featuring a single 7.2mm dynamic driver, Bluetooth 5.0, and 4 hours single-use battery life. It is priced at $29.99
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I am an audiophile, but I am also a noob. No better way to be because the market for wireless audio gear has expanded rapidly in recent years. Very little of which I have come into contact with save for our exiting audiophile brands wireless gear. Color me interested but paint me inexperienced.
Some of it is good, really good and of course, many DAPs come equipped with a fully wireless experience. High-end companies such as Hifiman are launching wireless versions of $1k headphones so there is something there right?
True Wireless Systems (TWS)
But what about TWS? That’s short for True Wireless Systems and a product niche that has absolutely exploded in the last year or so. Basically, these are independent left and right earphones with zero wires, tons of phone-friendly features and controlled via Bluetooth.
Everyone is doing something of note in this sector from Sony to Sennheiser down to new entries and indie brands. Even Hifiman is there with our initial impressions of the TWS600 earlier this year.
I held off on the full review of the TWS600 because I quickly realized that I knew nothing about TWS. To give some sort of qualifying statement on the TWS600 would probably require hearing a lot of other TWS systems. To know what is bad is to know what is good as they say.
So, we decided to launch the Wireless Weekend as a review series and go through as many TWS systems out there as we can lay our hands-on. From the super cheap to the most expensive, we will cover them all on a weekly basis. The objective is to keep the content light, fast-paced and to the point. For the expensive or complex ones, we may do a more traditional review.
My own methodology dictates we start as close as we can to the bottom end and work our way up to the better gear. Nothing beats low expectations and the odd surprise out of nothing. We have tons of these here in the office already and I have heard a few on a casual basis so I know what to expect and perhaps you do also.
Note, a lot of these TWS gear will not cut the audiophile mustard and wired equivalents are likely to be better. So, I am approaching this with a view to it being a merely casual listening experience and the insight will grow with our comparison ladder the more we do these. The ladder will grow as we move along and our expectations, (and expertise), will be adjusted accordingly.
Xiaomi Redmi Airdots TWS
The Xiaomi Redmi Airdots are pretty much a classic budget TWS at an SRP of $29.99. When I say classic they kind of fit the generic mold of what these systems offer at the budget-end. That includes a single dynamic driver, a fairly compact size, a cradle that acts as a battery charger and of course Bluetooth connectivity with remote control/mic features.
The Airdots were launched in early 2019 and are the company’s entry-level TWS option. These are not the only TWS from Xiaomi either. They have some Apple derivative stuff like the white Mi True Wireless TWS and their Air 2 which retails for around $50 to $100 and more on the high-end for a TWS system.
The Airdots use a non-descript 7.2mm dynamic driver and not much else is known so assume a fairly basic delivery system, aka a single tube and nothing fancy like beryllium diaphragms.
SPL and impedance are not so much a factor as far as I know for TWS earbuds and Redmi have not included any data regarding driver specs. However, we do know that there is an alternative from Haylou called the GT1 that seems to be an OEM rebrand of the Airdots with a similar driver size. These are rated at 32Ω and 110dB so we will guess the Airdots are in a similar ballpark.
What I can tell you is that the default volume does vary on these devices so when you hook them up do check your volume is low on your transmitting source before you start listening to them.
Pleasingly, the Airdots using a Bluetooth 5.0 capable Qualcomm chipset which I was not really expecting for the price point. More expensive units we have in the office here tap out at BT4.2 such as Huawei’s FreeBuds TWS Wireless which are more than twice the price. I am hoping the performance from the Airdots is fairly stable as a result.
Bluetooth protocols supported include AD2P, AVRCP, HFPA, and HSP. Whilst it offers SBC there is no ACC or aptX though which is a shame but then it is $29.99. There are higher priced models that will give you aptX such as Sennheiser’s Momentum TWS and HELM’s TW5.0 but you will pay more for that.
Like a lot of TWS earbuds, the Airdots left and right buds can be used independently of each other should you want to do that. The default side to use in Mono mode is the right side.
‘Mono” use will increase the battery life of the Airdots but it will also mean uneven battery life in both channels which is a huge peeve of mine already. Stereo use with a left-right Bt connection is much preferred to keep battery life in both channels even and also it just sounds a whole lot better, period.
DSP Noise Reduction
Now, this is interesting to me, well anything isolation related should be for these types of earbuds. Redmi calls this DSP intelligent environment noise reduction technology. It is not clear to me how exactly this works unless they use the internal microphone to filter external sound like an ANC or tweak the background noise floor.
IPX4 Water Resistance
For sweaty ears and gym-goers, this is a nice bonus to have at this price point. Waterproofing is not a given in TWS systems by default. In fact, quite a few high-end ones have none at all such as Sony’s WF-1000XM3 at over $200. In theory, these should be safe from a few specks of water or light rainfall.
What it does not have?
Well, a few things but I give them a free pass for now given the price point. The first is a lack of multi-point connectivity for Bluetooth so it is just one device connected at a time. There is no active noise cancellation or ANC either. Technically, there is no dedicated app integration such as Sennheiser’s smart control but you can adapt Dotdroid on Android to partially work with them using a profile called Airdots Youth.
Monitors we review day and daily are fairly small and the Airdot drivers themselves are only a little larger than a typical jellybean Westone driver. However, you can’t really view a TWS as the drivers alone. The big selling point is their carry case which duals as a charger/dedicated power bank.
Some of the flip lid charging cases are relatively large like the Hifiman TWS600 and HELM’s TW5.0 cases. The Redmi Airdots, however, are just the opposite. They are friggin’ tiny and completely pocketable. I have to compliment Redmi on keeping the form factor so small.
The drawback is the generic shape can confuse you as to which side is which. Labeling is for 20:20 vision only under a strong light so it is quite easy to put them in the wrong way around initially.
Materials & Finishing
Both the monitors and the charging case, however, are made of plastic. Not the premium kind either. I have seen cheaper though in the OEM $8 A6S clone which you can read more about below. You only get these in matte black which helps disguise the material cheapness.
They are also quite light and the finishing is actually pretty clean in terms of lines with no loose plastic bits. Xiaomi always has had a knack for producing really clean designs on its products and the Airdots are no different. I just wouldn’t put too much stress on the charger hinge though as it could break.
The other issue I had with the case is the magnet strength in relation to getting them out. They are fiddly due to the angle of the lid and how close they are to the hinge. You simply can’t push them out, you have to semi-grip them and tease them out due to the magnet strength.
For additional protection, I would suggest going online and grabbing a small custom silicone protective case for the Airdots. They make a big difference in the handling and cost something like $4 which is nothing. I grabbed one in red just to make them stand out a bit more. They are pretty soft and cover 99% of the case with just a small opening for the charging USB port and the MI branding logo on top.
Physical or Touch?
As with all TWS, controls are onboard and usually via touch or click button systems buried inside the faceplate or minute buttons on the side. The Airdots use a physical click button system on the faceplates. They are discreet and you honestly would not know the faceplate is a button until you press them down.
Personally, I am not a fan of the physical button thus far. I think I am going to prefer touch controls on TWS. With the Airdots pressing in messes with the positioning of the drivers in my ear and the inward pressure is not ideal either. Touch does a much better job of avoiding that. On the flip side, you will not accidentally hit the controls with a physical button system.
Controls start with pairing and the right side. The left side will automatically pair with the right once you connect to your BT source. Pairing with your source is not rocket science. You simply take them out of the charger and it will begin pairing mode automatically or connect with a previously paired device, if within range.
Beyond that you have controls for playback, call taking, a voice activation service for both Siri and Google Assistant. You do not have volume control abilities from the buds though which is a drawback and a useful feature on other competing TWS. Latency is relatively low despite not having aptX LL
Battery Life & Charging
The Airdots have a 40mAh battery inside the main drivers and can run on a full charge for around 4 hours. I do recommend installing the Dotdroid app on Google Play even if not totally compatible. It will show battery life in percentage and minutes left as well as time to charge to 100% which I find very useful. The case will give a further 12 hours so you get about 3-4 charges out of it.
How good is 4-hours battery life? I would say slightly below average judging by the claimed rates on sub-$100 TWS units. The HELM TW5.0 and Sony’s Sony WF-1000XM3 are rated at 6 hours and 1MORE’s stylish is 6.5.
RHA’s Trueconnect is a little closer at 5 hours, however, its charging case can carry a much bigger charge at 20 hours compared to the Airdots smaller 12 hours capacity. The1MORE Stylish is even more impressive at 24 hours capacity. Given the tiny size of the Airdots case, 12 hours is not terribly surprising.
Probably the more disappointing aspect is the inclusion of Micro USB for charging. Now, quite a lot of these TWS systems do use old charging technology so Redmi are not the only culprits. It does mean it lacks quick charging features from USB-C equipped alternatives such as the 1MORE Stylish which come in at 1 hour. Charging for the Airdots is kind of long at 1.5 hours official for me.
Comfort & Isolation
The Airdots are on the smaller side but have a fairly universal form factor and not as contoured as something like the Mifo or KZ new styles which are more contoured like a traditional monitor. Their small size does have the advantage of being able to sit deep into the canal due to its very long nozzle so tips can do their magic.
Which is just as well because the tip selection is a bit crappy with just a small set of single bore silicone tips in S/M/L. Most TWS I have tried sub $100 have very few tips to speak off so this is not something unusual. I actually got a great fit with the large silicone tips and I suspect that DSP is doing something because the seal is very good indeed.
The comfort level is also very good and they do feel relatively secure in my ear. No, they did not fall out either on the exercise bike so mission accomplished.
Accessories & Packaging
A super basic package and accessory line up. I guess that is fair for sub $30 though I am just not used to it. The packaging is more socks than earphones and fairly cardboard and quite boring looking. Entirely disposable.
Inside you get the case, earbuds, a short micro-USB charging cable, manual and the bag of tips. That is all she wrote folks.
An addendum is the good 3rd party support for the Airdots and at a fairly cheap price also. That includes those protective silicone cases and there are also plenty of USB cables and tips that will fit the Airdots just fine. For example, Symbio hybrid tips work just fine and really do a fantastic job tightening up the sound compared to the stock tips.
I was ready for rubbish, these are not rubbish but they are very much a consumer V-shaped presentation. That means a heavy emphasis on the low-end with a sub-bass dominance and a slow but steady dip down to about 1k.
You get the expected lower-mids dips and a lack of instrumental body and presence, however, vocals beyond 1k are much better sounding forward without being terribly shouty. The Airdots have a pronounced lift from 1-3k so they will favor soulful female vocals over rock male performances.
The tuning also carries a little bit of warmth with it from the mid-bass into the timbre so it is not terribly dry sounding. It has that classic dynamic driver long decay and slow pace about it which really suits that sparse R’n’B and pop modern mixing method.
Whilst there is some treble lift it remains a bit more on the smooth side for vocals and instrumental timbre. I say a bit more, there can be a bit of an edginess to vocal and note attacks that sounds a shade unnatural to me but nothing annoyingly peaky.
Staging is deep with moderate height and a narrow midrange. Most everything is front and center with average width so imaging is not going to be flying in from extreme left/right angles. Instrumental separation, as you may expect, is average but I have heard $30 wired IEMs that have sounded a lot worse. The main saving grace is that excellent sense of depth and power from the Airdots.
Hard rock is a no go for me on the Airdots mainly due to the lack of presence in that lower-mids range. EDM, R’n’B and synth-wave do a lot better, well anything really that tugs on that sub-bass weight and extension which is really the strong point of the Airdots.
If you keep the midrange free of ‘business’ and complexity then they do quite well for its positioned price point. I was more impressed with the likes of the Toxic Avenger and Code Elektro which had a strong sense of PRaT and an enjoyable drive to them. These genres have more emphasis on a contrast of lows and highs which is where the Airdots tuning is more geared towards.
Since the Airdots have no multi-point connectivity despite BT5, checking between devices is a bit of a pain. You basically have to disconnect from one and connect with the other in a very linear fashion.
The initial pairing with each device worked pretty well actually and a lot less complex than some of the other TWS we have here in the office. I had no issues pairing with both my Huawei P20 and Samsung Note 9 as well as a Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and Sony’s 1Z. All devices found the right bud and the left paired right after.
The Airdots connection workable distance was very good on all 4 of our test devices. Both the smartphones easily gave me 10-12 meters direct line with one door and a wall between myself and the phone. I could have possibly got more if I had no run out of apartment space. Two walls brought some cutouts. The physical button controls worked just fine at the maximum distance also.
The Sony 1Z was equally as good as the two smartphones in terms of distance and stability. All 3 kept the signal stable by the way but then again its SBC quality only so it is not shifting a lot of data compared to aptX or LDAC. Only the PAW Touch showed a level of instability with some cut out quite close at 1-2m which would be a concern for me if I was looking to use these two as a pair.
Around $8 or $9
Can you get cheaper than this? I bet you can and I bet it will be as equally as bad if not worse. However, for the price of a cinema ticket it worth checking out just how low one can go.
A good way to start the TWS ladder? Probably, so long as I do not find something more cancer-inducing as this abomination. Still, I did buy it freely. I bought two actually so one of my in-laws is or was (time to print post-Xmas) going to be blissfully unaware this Xmas.
Why pick this one then? Well, the A6S is a classic example of just how prevalent the OEM rebrand business is in the TWS market right now. It is, to all extents and purposes, an Airdots OEM. Yes, an even cheaper version of something that is already rather cheap. I do not even know who makes it, they conveniently left that out of all the supplied packaging. Made in China? You betcha!
It does have certain shared characteristics being an OEM. Similar packaging and accessories, same charging case form factor, look, and size. The driver units look almost the exact same and both have micro USB charging. Both have Bluetooth 5.0 with around 3-4 hours battery life for the A6S buds and a claimed 18 hours or 6 charges for the charger.
However, the A6S charging case is really flimsy with an even flimsier hinge for the lid. The connection points on the A6S drivers also look cruder than the finish on the Airdots. Since it is an OEM, the cheap silicone protection cases also work which is a small relief.
Stability is awful compared to the Airdots. I got constant left-right disconnects and about 2-3m less distance than the Airdots. This was using the Samsung Note 9 and the P20 smartphones which should be my best performers for stability as a source.
Call quality was fair, to be honest. I actually had a call from my car service agent in the middle of testing and not once did he ask me to repeat anything I said nor did I have an issue making out what they were on about.
Just terrible really. It makes the Airdots sounds like a high-end audiophile monitor, which clearly it is not.
The problem? It sounds incredibly compressed with a smaller 6mm dynamic driver inside that is utterly incapable of delivering any depth below 100Hz. Treble is edgy and hot, upper mids are steely and instruments are dry and harsh sounding. Way too much odd-harmonic overtone and not enough refinement on the A6S making it very fatiguing.
By contrast, the Airdots sound much deeper, airier and with way better PRaT compared to this OEM. The level of resolution from the better 7mm dynamic driver is palpable. It actually makes you appreciate that additional $22 cost as if it is a $500 upgrade in audiophile terms. At the low end, the laws of diminishing returns do not apply. Avoid at all costs unless you are ‘evil gifting’.
Of course, I am not blown away by the sound of the Airdots but it is nowhere near as bad as I had expected when dropping down to a budget wireless TWS. Compared to its evil dark OEM equivalent, the A6S, the Airdots are tuned much better with a driver that is clearly pandering to bassheads. But the power it does have and plenty of it and it is not as sloppy as I would have thought.
Obviously, this is the first TWS we are writing about, that comparison ladder will sort itself out over the course of the year. That final score you see is therefore fluid, it might change when we get a wider understanding of how good this is for the price. We will have our top 10 list starting to form by the end of February 2020 which you can access when published also.
For now, the Airdots are honestly not the worst sounding. The connection is steady, the pairing very easy, the fit is good and I am still alive and breathing. $30 is a fair price for the Airdots.
Xiaomi Redmi Airdots TWS Specifications
|Earpiece Design||In-Ear (Intra-Aural)|
|Number of Drivers||1, per Earpiece|
|Driver Size||0.28″ / 7.2 mm|
|Active Noise Cancellation||No|
|Controls/Microphone Location||Controls: Left Earpiece, Right Earpiece
Microphone: Earpiece (Side Unspecified)
|Capacity (mAh)||40 mAh|
|Runtime||4 Hours (BT)|
|Additional Runtime||11 Hours|
|Charging Time||20 Minutes|
0.1 oz / 4.1 g (Each)
|Package Weight||0.2 lb|
|Box Dimensions (LxWxH)||6.55 x 3 x 1.15″|