Strong ANC, high-quality audio and long battery life make the Edifier NeoBuds S a tempting option for those who want premium earbuds. You’ll need to download the app if you want the full experience, and remember that Snapdragon Sound is limited to a handful of smartphones at present.
Earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) are becoming more commonplace these days. The new Edifier NeoBuds S is the newest name to enter this arena, armed with the new Snapdragon Sound platform (hence the S) and a funky design.
So, is this a name you should be paying attention to? And what exactly is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound?
Design & Build
IP54 waterproof rating
My first impressions of the NeoBuds are very good. The presentation box is solid, well padded and features a flip-top design that’s aesthetically pleasing.
Under the charging case, there’s also another level that houses the charging cable, a soft case, plus a range of different sized tips for the earbuds, all of which are colour coded which is a nice touch. If the first bite is with the eye, then Edifier sets a fine table for the feast.
Removing the charging case reveals a slightly chunky design that’s a mixture of plastic and metal. A matt finish covers the majority of the plastic chassis, with a metallic plate on the lid that bears the Edifier logo.
Unlike the majority of wireless earbuds I’ve tested recently, this case has a clam-shell lid that allows you easy access to the earbuds, as opposed to the flip-top lids which can be a little trickier when it comes to removing buds.
Beneath the housing for the earbuds, there is a small button which you use to enter the pairing mode. This is indicated by the thin LED strip which is illuminated whenever you open the case, plug it in to charge or press the pairing button. If you download the accompanying Edifier Connect app, you’ll be able not only to access additional modes for the earbuds but also assign up to seven different colours for the LED strip.
On the rear of the case you’ll find a USB-C connector for charging the NeoBuds via the included cable.
The buds themselves are pretty standard fare, sporting an in-ear design with short outer stems. Edifier packs three microphones into each bud to facilitate not only the ability to make and receive hands-free phone calls, but also to capture ambient sounds for the active noise cancellation system.
Tap controls are situated on the outside of the stems, and can take a bit of getting used to. On several occasions, I found that I was touching the wrong area when trying to pause playback, switch sound modes or answer incoming calls. This is often the case when moving between different earbuds, but I have to say that the NeoBuds took a lot more getting used to than I’ve found with previous models.
Once my targeting system was fully operational though, I was able to confidently use the buds without too many missed commands, but it still wasn’t consistent enough for buds at this price point. This changed though when I installed the app, as there is a sensitivity control that allows you to adjust how the touch area responds. Bumping this up a bit made an instant improvement, with controls becoming far more reliable and responsive.
One thing that shouldn’t be a problem for anyone using these earbuds is being caught in the rain and worrying about any potential damage, as the NeoBuds S boast an IP54 rating. This means they should be fine if you’re caught in a downpour or using them in a particularly sweaty gym session.
Multiple ANC modes
Good audio overall
Dedicated app required to access all audio features
Sound is delivered through a hybrid-designed Knowles balanced armature driver plus 10mm dynamic drivers in each bud.
Out of the box, the Edifier NeoBuds S offers two sound modes: Ambient and High Noise Cancellation. These are accessed by double tapping on the left earbud, with a voice interface then announcing which mode you’re in.
When in Ambient mode, the buds use the microphones to introduce a subtle amount of the background noise in your environment. This allows you to still hear station announcements, your name being called in a doctor’s surgery or when someone begins talking to you in the office. It’s a very open sound that blends your surroundings and the music to which you’re listening in a balanced way.
Switching to the High Noise Cancellation mode introduces a far more isolated and intimate experience thanks to its -42dB capabilities. There is an immediate firming up of the lower frequencies, with the treble being reduced thanks to the omission of the background noise used in the ambient mode. This doesn’t mean you lose all the high end, as the frequency spectrum offered by the ANC is rich and representative of the original recorded content.
Basically, the NeoBuds S sound very good in either mode but if you want to block out your surroundings then the ANC does a decent job. You’ll still be able to hear close noises, but overall it should help dampen any distractions around you.
Pairing the NeoBuds with my laptop resulted in video content that synced up nicely with the audio, aided by the Bluetooth 5.2 connection, which isn’t always the case with wireless earbuds. So, if you want to enjoy Netflix or YouTube without annoying those around you, using the NeoBuds S means you won’t have to put up with the mind-wrecking sight of lips moving and words appearing so time afterwards.
There’s also a Gaming mode available, which syncs the audio to the fast-moving action on your phone.
Edifier Connect App
If you want to avail yourself of the full suite of audio options, then the Edifier Connect app is required. Once this is downloaded and installed on either your Android or Apple device, you’ll instantly find a range of new modes and tools that can help you personalise the sounds you get from the NeoBuds S.
Alongside the two default sound modes, there are also three more ANC options. These are Normal mode (ANC off), Low Noise Cancellation and Wind Reduction. I’m assuming that these are limited to the app so as not to overwhelm the listener with too many modes to tap through on the buds themselves.
They all work pretty well, although with all the nice weather we’ve had recently, I didn’t get to test the Wind Reduction mode as thoroughly as I’d have liked.
There are also three sound profiles available in the Edifier Connect app, which are essentially EQ settings. Two are preset (Classic and Dynamic), while a third allows you to customise the settings to your preference. I found the Classic mode a little dark, with the upper-mids not too prominent, this was addressed in Dynamic which opened up the sound more.
There’s a fair amount of control available in the Customized mode, with four sliders allowing you to boost certain areas of the sound, then fine-tune them by selecting the central frequency bands. Thankfully, all results are played live as you tweak them, so you don’t need a sound engineering degree to work it all out.
When you find a setting you’re happy with, you can save it under a specific name. This can be repeated with several configurations, meaning you can tailor your preferences for styles of music or spoken word audio, then access them with a couple of taps at a later date.
The app also allows you to assign certain commands to the taps on the earbuds. So, if you prefer a volume control rather than skipping a track when you triple tap the right bud, you can set it up through the app. The same is true of the ANC modes, all of which can be added or removed so you end up with the ones you want to access by tapping rather than using the app every time.
Obviously, one of the main selling points of the Edifier NeoBuds is support for the Snapdragon Sound audio platform. This combines Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive, Aqstic and other technologies to provide up to lossless 24-bit, 96kHz audio with low latency.
Qualcomm aims to make wireless connections as good as wired ones with this system, but to use it you’ll also need a certified smartphone with a compatible Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. At the moment, there are not many around, with Xiaomi, Motorola and iQOO flagships being the most prevalent. The company provides a list of compatible devices so you can see if yours will be able to access the full capabilities of Snapdragon Sound.
As I didn’t have access to any of these devices during my test period, I wasn’t able to experience Snapdragon Sound, and that will be true for you too unless you have a certified handset. So, be sure to check the compatibility list if this particular feature is one that you’re interested in – look for the Snapdragon Sound logo when buying a phone.
Battery Life & Charging
55mAh battery (earbuds)
Long battery life
Quick 10 mins recharge for 1.5 hours listening time
The NeoBuds S last a healthy amount of time when removed from the case. Using various ANC settings I managed to get around 5 hours of listening time from a single charge. Edifier says that this will increase to 6 hours if you choose the Normal (non-ANC) mode instead. Either of these figures is respectable and means you should be able to finish your morning commute or gym session without needing to plug them back in again.
If you need to do so, then 10-minutes in the case will grant you around an hour and a half’s listening time, while the best part of an hour will return them to full strength. The case itself provides around three full recharges and takes about two hours to completely replenish its cells.
Price & Availability
Coming in at £179.99/$179.99, the Edifier NeoBuds S are up against some stiff competition. For around the same price you can pick up the very good Xiaomi Buds 3T Pro or the even cheaper Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, both of which also feature ANC.
While these are worthy opponents, the NeoBuds S offer an excellent blend of sound quality, ANC, and customisation controls, which gives them the edge in my opinion.
Check out our chart of the best wireless earbuds for more options.
The Edifier NeoBuds S offer a great blend of design, comfort and performance. The strong ANC modes make them one of the best I’ve tried at this price point, while the overall sound is excellent.
You’ll need to make sure you install the accompanying app though, as I found the touch controls to be very hit-and-miss until I boosted the sensitivity, plus the majority of audio features are also unlocked via the software.
Snapdragon Sound is a nice addition but is currently restricted to a handful of devices, so be sure to take that into account if considering a purchase.
Martyn has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews for Macworld and its sister site Tech Advisor.