Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Redmi Buds 5A Review: Offers the Expected

The Redmi Buds 5A were unveiled in India alongside the Redmi Pad SE in April this year at Xiaomi’s ‘Smarter Living & More’ launch event. The audio wearable comes with active noise cancellation (ANC) and Google Fast Pair support, as well as an IPX4 rating and a companion app. These true wireless earphones (TWS) are also the company’s cheapest wireless audio offering in the country to date. After using it for about a couple of weeks, I tell you why this is a good choice if you’re looking for ANC TWS on a tight budget.

Redmi Buds 5A Review: Design and Features

The Redmi Buds 5A sport a traditional in-ear design and offer three ear tip size options. In the box, the earphones come with medium-sized tips fitted on the earbuds and two extra pairs of silicone tips—a small and a large. The biggest of these ear tips gave me the best fit. The box, however, does not include a charging cable. The only other item in the box is the information/instruction leaflet.

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The Redmi Buds 5A come with Google Fast Pair support


The Redmi Buds 5A earbuds have charging ports on the bottom of the stem, which does not have any direct skin contact, saving some people the hassle of dealing with metal allergies. The touch control areas are placed higher up the stem.

Sleek and slight, the Redmi Buds 5A charging case comes with the design of a “polished pebble,” according to the company. Now, of course, you are unlikely to mistake the oval case for a lakeside cobble, but it is small enough to withstand the comparison and be an easy portable accessory. What makes it easier to carry around is the weight, which is about 41.2g including the two earphones along with the charging case. Each earbud individually weighs about 3.6g.

The Redmi Buds 5A charging case holds a USB Type-C port at the bottom. When the case is charging, a static white light appears next to the port and turns off when it is fully charged. The light also appears when the earphones are turned on, that is, when the case is open. Two identical indicative white lights appear on top of the earphones while powering on.

Redmi Buds 5A Review: App and Specifications

Although the Redmi Buds 5A comes with Xiaomi Earbuds application support, it offers very little control. Once you connect the earphones to your smartphone, it prompts you to download the app. Once the app is successfully installed and it recognises the earphones, you are met with a very simple, direct layout. Below the image of the earphones in their case, you see the battery percentages of the left and right earbuds separately, alongside the battery life of the charging case. This last option disappears as soon you shut the case back up after taking the individual earphones out.

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Redmi Buds 5A controls, as seen on the Xiaomi Earbuds Android app


One of the controls the application offers is choosing between the ANC modes – transparency, noise cancellation and ANC off. Once selected, the particular mode appears marked in blue. Just below the ANC controls, there is an option for ‘Additional Settings.’ This leads to a tab with three more functions. At the bottom of the screen, there is a ‘remove earphones’ option, which allows users to remove the control for the Redmi Buds 5A earphones to be removed from the app.

You can also find a ‘rename earphones’ option which you can use to change the name of the TWS earphones, the name that they are recognised by on connected devices. The third option is a toggle to turn the ‘low latency’ mode on or off. The low latency mode is claimed to offer users a smoother gaming or video-watching experience, the potency of which we will discuss in a bit.

The app is, however, immaterial to me, as the ANC and latency modes of the Redmi Buds 5A can be accessed via simple touch controls. It may not be completely redundant, as some people may find it easier to control these functions through the app.

The Redmi Buds 5A carry 12mm dynamic drivers, up to 25dB ANC, an IPX4 rating for splash-resistance earbuds, AI-backed environmental noise cancellation (ENC), and support for Google Fast Pair and Bluetooth 5.4 connectivity. The earphones only support the SBC codec, and in this review, we will discuss how that impacts the users’ hearing experience.

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The Redmi Buds 5A are claimed to offer up to 30 hours of battery life


Redmi Buds 5A Review: Performance and Battery Life

Budget ANC-supported TWS earphones are known for convenience. In a word, that is what Redmi Buds 5A offers. ANC under Rs. 1,500. Easy to carry, lasts all day. These are made for casual use and convenience, and in these categories, they meet expectations. They are ideal for you if you use them to drown out traffic or a mild cacophony and immerse yourself in your favourite podcasts or music.

The touch controls on the Redmi Buds 5A are straightforward – tap twice to play/pause or answer a call and tap thrice to reject/end calls or change tracks. Users can press and hold for two seconds each to switch between ANC modes, while they need to long press the touch zone for 1.5 seconds at the same time on both earphones to change latency modes. The exclusion of a single tap control ensures fewer accidental commands while adjusting the fit of the buds, or one’s long hair.

At the given price, I am never anticipating elation as far as sound quality is concerned. When I played Stuck in the Middle With You by Stealers Wheel on these Redmi Buds 5A, I was not expecting to hear the details of the arrangements. I did not hear them. Expectations met. The bass-heavy sound still offered a good enough experience for me to enjoy the song. At a higher volume, though, about 60 or 70 percent, the sound appears more muffled. Moving on to something with more guitars and pianos, Hozier’s Too Sweet plays at 50 percent with a similar cloaked overture. If “lo-fi, Hozier playing in the other room as you study” is your vibe, then you are in luck.

But once we move to 70 or 80 percent volume, the distortions in most tracks are noticeable. It’s not ideal, but it’s not a deal breaker either.

For instance, when I play Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks, the bass-heavy, slightly muffled sounds take nary away from Ray Davies’ bemoaning of unfair tax rates. It even makes tracks like Immortals by Fall Out Boy or Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz bright and enjoyable. Definitely more so than the honks and screeches of urban traffic.

Some of the sound quality is compromised owing to the Redmi Buds 5A’s only support for the SBC Bluetooth codec. This offers a stable connection but lossy sound processing. They do not even support the AAC codec, which is preferred by most iOS smartphones and tablets. 

Even with 60ms latency, I experienced a considerable lag on the Redmi Buds 5A with games like Battlegrounds Mobile India. This is not unexpected. Despite turning on the low latency mode, it did not make much of a difference. However, the latency was unnoticeable when it came to online or offline video playback, thus proving yet again that they are perfect only for casual use.

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The Redmi Buds 5A does not come with a charging cable in the box


With ANC turned off, the Redmi Buds 5A earbuds are claimed to offer a battery life of up to five hours and up to 30 hours of total playback time with the storage case on a single charge. I got close to five hours of listening with just the earphones, ANC off, and volume at 50 percent. For context, that is about the first four episodes of Heeramandi or four and a half episodes of The 8 Show.

If we turn the ANC on, though, the battery of the Redmi Buds 5A runs out significantly faster. With ANC on, with just the earphones, I got only about three hours of use at 50 percent volume. With 10 minutes of Fast Charge, I could use the earbuds for about another hour, with a similar volume and noise cancellation setting.

The charging case of the Redmi Buds 5A holds a 4,40mAh battery, while each earphones have a 34mAh battery. A complete charge of the case, using a 67W Redmi adaptor and a USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable, takes about an hour and a half. Within the case, the earphones need about 45 minutes to get from zero to 100.

Last but not least, calls. The AI-backed ENC on the Redmi Buds 5A conquers a quaint residential area bylane noises, but not that of a bustling roadside. When called using these earphones, the mics offer as much clarity as your surroundings. If you are not a fan of grittily screaming a vastly incorrect ETA to your punctual and impatient friend in a public place, avoid making calls using these earphones. Go hands-on with your phone, instead. But with a stable connection, the voice you hear from the other end of the call using these TWS wearables is clear enough, if characteristically muffled.

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The Redmi Buds 5A charging points are at the bottom of the stem



If you are on an extremely tight budget and are on the lookout for ANC-supported TWS earphones, the Redmi Buds 5A for Rs. 1,499 are a good choice. At the given price, the earphones are best for casual use. They do not promise anything they cannot deliver. The sound obviously lacks details when compared to mid-range TWS offerings and products with higher and better specifications. But the power and bass they offer are well worth the price. The lack of a charging cable in the box can be easily foregone as you can use any old USB Type-C cable to charge it up. If not primarily used for heavy mobile gaming, even the 60ms latency is almost inscrutable.

However, if your budget has slight wiggle room, you can consider the Noise Buds Venus TWS earphones (Review), currently available in India at Rs. 1,699, for slightly finer noise cancellation, lower latency and better battery life. At Rs. 400 more than the Redmi Buds 5A, you can also get the Honor Choice Earbuds X5 TWS earphones (Review), which were introduced in the country earlier this year and come with an IP54 rating for dust and splash resistance as well as an equaliser control in the accompanying app.

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