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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 portable audio 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 few weeks, I’ll tell you why this is a good choice if you’re looking for ANC TWS on a budget.

Redmi Buds 5A Review: Design and Features

The Redmi Buds 5A have a traditional in-ear design and offer three earbud size options. In the box, the earphones come with medium-sized eartips on the earbuds and two extra pairs of silicone eartips: one small and one large. The largest of these earbuds gave me the best fit. However, there is no charging cable in the box. 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 do not have direct contact with the skin, which means that some people do not have to worry about metal allergies. The touch control areas are positioned higher on the stem.

The charging case of the Redmi Buds 5A is sleek and lightweight and has a ‘polished pebble’ design, according to the company. Of course, you’re unlikely to mistake the oval case for a lakeside cobblestone, but it’s small enough to stand the comparison and be an easily portable accessory. What makes it easier to carry is its weight, which is about 41.2 grams, including the two earphones and the charging case. Each earbud weighs approximately 3.6 grams individually.

The Redmi Buds 5A charging case has a USB Type-C port at the bottom. When the case is charging, a static white light will appear next to the port and will turn off when fully charged. The light also appears when the earphones are turned on, i.e. when the case is open. Two identical indicative white lights appear on the top of the earphones during power-on.

Redmi Buds 5A Review: App and Specifications

Although the Redmi Buds 5A comes with support for Xiaomi Earbuds applications, it offers very little control. Once you connect the earphones to your smartphone, you will be prompted to download the app. Once the app is successfully installed and recognizes the earphones, you will be presented with a very simple, direct layout. Below the image of the earphones in their cases, you can see the battery percentages of the left and right earbuds separately, next to the battery life of the charging case. This last option disappears as soon as you close the case again after removing the individual earphones.

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

One of the controls that the application offers is to choose between the ANC modes: transparency, noise reduction and ANC off. Once selected, the specific mode will be highlighted in blue. Just below the ANC controls there is an option for ‘Additional settings’. This leads to a tab with three more functions. There is a ‘remove earphones’ option at the bottom of the screen, which allows users to remove the Redmi Buds 5A earphones removal controls from the app.

You will also find a ‘rename earphones’ option that allows you to change the name of the TWS earphones, the name by which they are recognized on connected devices. The third option is a switch to enable or disable ‘low latency’ mode. Low latency mode is claimed to offer users a smoother gaming or video watching experience, the potential of which we’ll discuss in a moment.

However, the app is of no interest to me as the Redmi Buds 5A’s ANC and latency modes can be accessed via simple touch controls. It may not be completely redundant as some people may find it easier to control these features through the app.

The Redmi Buds 5A feature 12mm dynamic drivers, up to 25 dB ANC, an IPX4 rating for splash-resistant earbuds, AI-assisted ambient 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 affects the user’s 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 their convenience. In short, that’s 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’re ideal for you if you use them to drown out traffic or a mild cacophony and immerse yourself in your favorite podcasts or music.

The touch controls on the Redmi Buds 5A are simple: double tap to play/pause or answer a call and triple tap to reject/end calls or switch songs. Users can press and hold each for two seconds to switch between ANC modes, while they have to press the touch zone for 1.5 seconds on both earphones simultaneously to change latency modes. The elimination of single-tap controls allows for fewer accidental commands while adjusting the fit of the buttons or one’s long hair.

For the given price, I never expect elation in terms of sound quality. When I played Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You on these Redmi Buds 5A, I didn’t expect to hear the details of the arrangements. I didn’t hear them. Expectations were met. The bass-heavy sound still provided enough experience to enjoy the song. However, at higher volumes, around 60 or 70 percent, the sound seems more muffled. Moving towards something with more guitars and pianos, Hozier’s Too Sweet plays at 50 percent with a similarly veiled overture. If “lo-fi, Hozier playing in the other room while you study” is your vibe, then you’re in luck.

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

For example, when I play Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks, the bass-heavy, slightly muffled sounds barely take away from Ray Davies’ complaints about unfair tax rates. It even makes songs like Immortals by Fall Out Boy or Feel Good Inc. from Gorillaz bright and enjoyable. Definitely more than the honking and screeching of city traffic.

Some of the sound quality is compromised because the Redmi Buds 5A only supports the SBC Bluetooth codec. This provides a stable connection but lossy sound processing. They don’t even support the AAC codec, which is preferred by most iOS smartphones and tablets.

Even with 60ms latency, I experienced significant lag on the Redmi Buds 5A with games like Battlegrounds Mobile India. This is not unexpected. Despite having low latency mode enabled, it didn’t make much difference. However, the latency was unnoticeable when it came to playing video online or offline, proving once again that they are only perfect for occasional 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 up to five hours of battery life and up to 30 hours of total playback time with the storage case on a single charge. I was able to listen for almost five hours with just the earphones, ANC turned off and the volume at 50 percent. For context, this is the first four episodes of Heeramandi or four and a half episodes of The 8 Show.

However, if we enable the ANC, the battery of the Redmi Buds 5A will drain significantly faster. With ANC on, using just the earphones, I was only able to use the device for about three hours at 50 percent volume. With 10 minutes of Fast Charge, I was able to use the earbuds for another hour or so, with a similar volume and noise cancellation setting.

The Redmi Buds 5A’s charging case houses a 4.40mAh battery, while each earphone has a 34mAh battery. Fully charging the case, using a 67W Redmi adapter and a USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable, takes about an hour and a half. In the case, the earphones take about 45 minutes to get from zero to 100.

Last but not least: calling. The AI-assisted ENC on the Redmi Buds 5A overcomes the sounds of a quaint residential area, but not that of a busy road. When you call with these earphones, the microphones provide as much clarity as your surroundings. If you are not a fan of boldly shouting a very incorrect arrival time to your punctual and impatient friend in a public place, avoid calling with these earphones. Instead, get hands-on with your phone. But with a stable connection, the voice you hear on the other end of the call with these TWS wearables is clear enough, albeit characteristically muffled.

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

Pronunciation

If you are on an extremely tight budget and looking for ANC-supported TWS earphones, then the Redmi Buds 5A are priced at Rs. 1,499 are a good choice. For the given price, the earphones are best for casual use. They don’t promise anything they can’t deliver. The sound clearly lacks detail compared to mid-range TWS offerings and higher and better spec products. But the power and bass they provide are well worth the price. The lack of a charging cable in the box can be easily avoided as you can use any old USB Type-C cable to charge it. If it’s not primarily used for heavy mobile gaming, even the 60ms latency is almost unfathomable.

However, if your budget has some wiggle room, you can consider the Noise Buds Venus TWS earphones (review), which are currently available in India for 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 in the corresponding app.


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