We know it for a fact that Indian tech companies are effectively bossing the true wireless earbuds market share. Noise, a brand that’s a crucial piece of that jigsaw of domination has decided (at least before other brands realize the need for the same) that there is a need to build on the already extensive lineup of affordable wireless earbuds they have on sale, with something more mature.
Indian tech company Noise’s IntelliBuds are adding unique smarts to an improved audio experience, but do you really need to go that far? A price tag of ₹4,999 isn’t what you may exactly expect from wireless earbuds that are boasting of technology from German tech company Bragi – specifically, the Bragi OS is the underlying technology here and gesture controls are making a strange yet intriguing debut on wireless earbuds. Even more so, at this price point. Immediately, this has an advantage over rivals, who still struggle with their own earbuds’ software.
Noise isn’t the only one to adopt Bragi OS…
There are other brands working with Bragi as well, including Skullcandy and Klipsch. Yet, Noise seems to have done the most vocal deployment of the partnership, at least on our shores.
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What do we compare it with? There are a bunch of options, including the IntelliBuds’ own siblings, alongside wireless earbuds from OnePlus, Xiaomi, Realme and Boat, to name a few. None have the value adds though, which makes direct comparisons redundant. You’d be buying the Noise IntelliBuds for the extra set of features.
The fact that Noise is using the Bragi OS as the foundation for the IntelliBuds, means you get a companion app (that’s NoiseFit Smart; free for Android phones) that is visually appealing, neatly laid out and still has a fairly detailed level of personalization on tap. The only limitation here is, this app (not sure if it is the Bragi OS limitation) is available just for Android phones at this time.
Apple iPhone users will feel left out, and in this case, rightly so too. The price, the performance potential and unique gesture control don’t come along, in one, all too often. But ecosystem monopoly is becoming a thing for sure, something we’ve seen with Apple and now Samsung, with some aggression.
Even though Noise doesn’t have an ecosystem to safeguard, supporting the more popular Android platform likely gives them more bandwidth, than having to work on two platforms.
Strong foundations for good sound, but it has to evolve
In each ear are 6mm audio drivers. Noise hasn’t used dual drivers, which is understandable at this price point. Perhaps a slight premium would have been acceptable, and they could have given the IntelliBuds serious advantage for sound quality. Nevertheless, this simply works, and works very well. For affordable wireless earbuds, these do quite well in terms of a lively sound signature.
It isn’t neutral tuning, but the lower frequencies have just enough of a boost that we didn’t find the need to change the in-app equalizer from its default setting. Across genres, we noticed appreciable level of detailing and the replication of the finer aspects of the soundstage, but to a certain degree, the Google Pixel Buds (around ₹6,999) do justify the extra expense for a more inviting sound signature.
Anything lesser than what the Pixel Buds cost, you’d be hard-pressed to find many wireless earbuds that can trump the Noise IntelliBuds on pure sound quality. This is a call you need to make, whether spending a little bit more on wireless earbuds, would be a better option.
Controlling sound with head movement is unique, and the implementation turns out to be better than we had expected. You can move your head up and down to control volume, for instance, or simply shake your head in the “no” gesture to disconnect an incoming call. We noticed the volume controls are quite responsive, but often, don’t know when to stop. Gently lift your face up to increase the volume and even though you level it back again to look ahead, the buds still increase the volume a couple of notches before stopping.
That said, the uniqueness of this feature will remain for a while at least, particularly if you’re okay with the slight inconsistency with calibration. This is a nice feature to have. Even more so, a genuine attempt at evolving wireless earbuds, something that Noise’s rivals have failed to do.
What’s gone wrong? Quite a lot, actually
Yet, it is not all peachy for the Noise IntelliBuds. We noticed certain rough edges in our experience with these wireless earbuds, which take away from the otherwise lofty expectations.
First and foremost, Noise’s reverse take on noise isolation, which is an active Transparency Mode, does seem abrupt. If the music or audio playback is paused, these buds sort of open up, to allow more ambient noise in. And the vice versa, the moment the audio playback resumes.
Two issues with this. First, the transitions are very abrupt. Jarring almost, even though after a while, we were ready for it. Secondly, the ambient noise that does filter through sounds very machine-esque (robotic, in other words). It is attempting to give you a better grip of the surrounding din, but you really won’t understand spoken word. Till you take off the Noise IntelliBuds, that is. Which defeats the very purpose.
The other problem, and this seems more down the quality-control alleyway, is with battery life. We experienced all sorts of eccentricities, as we used the Noise IntelliBuds. This is with the latest firmware update, mind you.
The charging case, for instance, never charges more than 79 percent. We’ve tried to completely drain this down, clutching to the faint hope that it may be a calibration problem (though such a wide error margin is almost never it), but that didn’t fix. There isn’t an optimized charging (or something similar) option that we could find in the app – these, when enabled, usually charge the battery up to 80% only, to increase longevity of the physical battery pack
Secondly, the battery discharge with either earbud even though used as a pair always, is never in sync. Sometimes, the right bud drains more and sometimes the left earbud is relieved of its charge quicker. There have been instances when the difference has been as high as 8 percent. This puts a mark of uncertainty on usability.
There are automatic disconnection issues also at play. There were instances when after use, both buds were placed back in the charging case and the lid subsequently closed – this is when the earbuds should seamlessly disconnect from the phone. The Noise IntelliBuds, often don’t. At this point, if you don’t realise this, you’ll likely find these buds drained when work is of utmost importance. The fix is to open the lid and close it again.
Strong foundations, but a few pieces need to be placed
There is the expectation that Noise would have ironed out the quality issues we have faced, with the retail units which consumers would buy. Failing which, the experience certainly gets soured.
It is imperative that it happens, too. After all, the Noise IntelliBuds are building from a robust foundation. The audio hardware is well placed for good sound, the BragI OS gives it motion control functionality that’s unique, and there’s a simplicity to the feature set which most users would appreciate. But not at the cost of basics being out of sync, such as battery life or reliable connectivity.