Review: Belkin’s $60 SoundForm earbuds are cheap, cheerful, and reassuringly solid
The Belkin SoundForm earbuds are solid, albeit unexciting.
Belkin isn’t a name you immediately associate with audio gear. For years, it’s plied a brisk trade in networking gear and pricey, but robust, charging equipment. That’s starting to change, and the company is plying a trade in the TWS (true wireless) earbuds space.
By every metric, wireless earbuds are a growth sector, providing much of the momentum behind wearable tech. Sales reached a ludicrous 444.7m in 2020, up 28.4 percent on the previous year. It’s likely we’ll see similar gangbusters growth for the 2021 calendar year, despite the headwinds caused by supply chain difficulties and the ongoing pandemic.
The TWS space is interesting for another reason: it’s one of the few consumer tech markets where a handful of vendors don’t exercise absolute control. Apple is, obviously, the market leader, but when it comes to shipment volumes, is matched evenly by the “other” category, which includes brands like Anker and Belkin.
The lower end of the market is notoriously cut-throat, and you can easily find a bargain without looking hard. The subject of today’s review, Belkin’s SoundForm buds, sits in this category. Priced at $59.99, it offers a laundry list of important features, like water resistance and touch-sensitive controls. But are they any good?
Ears-On With the Belkin SoundForm
KnowTechie was supposed to get its grubby mitts on the latest-and-greatest SoundForm Rise buds, but due to a quirk of the holiday season, ended up with the previous generation entry-level SoundForm buds. These come in both white and black flavors. We reviewed the former.
In terms of capabilities and quality, the Belkin SoundForm earbuds sit in the middle of the pack. They lack the sophistication of pricier models, like Apple’s AirPods, but the cheap nastiness found within the earbuds typically sourced from arcade claw machines is nowhere here. Put simply: they’re good for the price.
The Belkin SoundForm performs well in three areas: battery life, comfort, and usability.
Let’s talk about endurance first. Belkin claims the SoundForm buds will last five hours between charges for a total of 24 hours playtime when the charging case is factored in. In our experience, that was roughly about right.
The buds themselves are extremely small and light, in part thanks to the absence of a dangling antenna (sometimes referred to as a “neck”).
The hallmark sweatiness and itchiness that comes with prolonged earbud use wasn’t present here, making it well-suited for long audiobook-listening sessions. We also note these are IP5X rated, meaning they won’t break after a particularly intensive gym session, although you shouldn’t go swimming with them.
Finally, there’s the controls. The Belkin SoundForm buds use a touch-sensitive pad, allowing you to control audio playback without reaching into your pocket to grab your phone. These were reasonably accurate and responsive, although we note that the buds’ small size may frustrate those with larger fingers.
When it comes to the sound quality, the Belkin SoundForm hardly wows, but they’re not “bad” by any stretch of the imagination. There’s none of the muffled graininess to be expected of bargain-basement earbuds, but none of the richness of pricier models, either.
And forget about active noise cancellation, although we note the earbuds’ seal did a decent job of mitigating against outside noises.
Call quality was solid but didn’t rock our socks. I could hear the other person, and indeed, could be heard.
Pairing was straightforward, and we didn’t observe any connection drops as we moved from open to closed environments, nor sparsely-populated streets to densely-packed roads filled with Christmas shoppers.
The Belkin SoundForm earbuds are solid, albeit unexciting. Although it doesn’t move mountains with respect to audio and call quality, it’s hard to fault its industrial design. They’re rugged and robust, with decent battery life to boot.
If you’re on a budget, consider these, but also weigh up your options. Anker’s SoundCore Life P3 earbuds are slightly cheaper but come with wireless charging and slightly better battery life.
If you can stretch your budget further, but you’re reticent to clamor into the Apple ecosystem, we’ve been impressed with Anker’s SoundCore Liberty 3 Pro. These retail for $150 and best the Belkin on virtually every point, from call quality to battery life.
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