I’ve been keeping something from you.
For the last couple of months, I’ve barely used my AirPods Pro. That’s right – my “favourite ever earbuds” have remained pretty much untouched in the studio, apart from being used occasionally for Zoom calls.
This is for two reasons. Firstly, the right AirPod ear tip has broken and needs replacing and, secondly, my head has been swung firmly in the direction of something else.
When I reviewed the OPPO Find X5 Pro in March, I was also sent a pair of OPPO Enco X earbuds. I spent most of my time back then focusing on the phone, but when the time came to return the Find X5 Pro, they very kindly let me keep the earbuds.
I’m glad they did, because I’ve been using them heavily ever since, and I think they’ve stolen Apple’s crown when it comes to noise-cancelling earbuds.
This is a big claim, I know, but here are four reasons the OPPO Enco X beat the AirPods Pro, hands-down.
Reason 1: The sound
This struck me immediately. The sound produced by the Enco X is utterly fantastic. Don’t get me wrong – the AirPods Pro sound great, but they pale in comparison to OPPO’s effort.
Developed in conjunction with Dynaudio, OPPO has been able to lean on decades of audio experience and, we’re told, “evaluated 30 different materials and 152 components, and went through 120 rounds of structural fine-tuning in collaboration with the largest acoustic laboratory of Dynaudio”.
I’m willing to believe that claim because these are such a confident-sounding pair of earbuds. They achieve this via the DBEE 3.0 Sound System, a coaxial dual-driver design, and a balanced membrane driver. Combined, this means we get to enjoy audio quality that is typically only found in high-end devices.
There’s plenty of rich, detailed bass, nicely settled mids, and a top end that never fatigues. If I can characterise the sound in any way, it’s that they sound ‘live’ and full of character.
Audiophiles would doubtless pull them apart, but these aren’t audiophile earbuds; they’re resolutely consumer-grade and need to cater for the masses. OPPO and Dynaudio have absolutely nailed it – these are the best-sounding earbuds I’ve ever heard. By comparison, the AirPods Pro sound flat and boring.
Reason 2: The fit
I often have trouble with earbuds fitting reliably in one – or both – of my ears. AirPods Pro are just about ok, but the left ear always requires regular readjustment while running to prevent it from falling out.
The Enco X rarely need to be fiddled with once placed in my ears. I’ve run countless miles with them and they feel far more secure in my lugholes than the AirPods Pro.
Fit is a very subjective thing, and earbud manufacturers have an unenviable task in creating something that works for the majority of people, but there’s something about the Enco X that makes them incredibly comfortable to wear both while being active and for long stretches.
Reason 3: The case
I’m obsessed with headphone and earbud cases, I know. But they are such an important aspect of the ownership experience.
A bad case can ruin an awesome pair of earbuds, and while the AirPods Pro case doesn’t commit that crime, it does, once again, pale in comparison to the Enco X case.
When you look at my photos of the two cases side-by-side, you might question my sanity. The Enco X case is, after all, clearly bigger than the AirPods Pro case. However, there’s something about it – something about the design that makes the Enco X case feel less cumbersome.
I’m not a designer, therefore perhaps someone can help me out with this, but despite the Enco X case being wider, taller, and slightly fatter, it somehow feels smaller than the AirPods Pro case.
It doesn’t feel as chunky in the hand and feels far less noticeable in my pocket. How OPPO has pulled off this magic trick is completely beyond me, but trust me – this case feels far more pleasing to carry around than the AirPods Pro case.
Oh, and the crowning glory is the fact the Enco X case uses USB-C charging. When is Apple going to make the switch?
Reason 4: The Price
Although you can pick them up a little cheaper elsewhere, Apple sells the AirPods Pro for £239 in the UK. The OPPO Enco X cost just £169. That price sits firmly within the “oh, why not” category for many people, whereas the AirPods Pro still feel overly pricey.
Apple’s earbuds are worth the price – I firmly believe that. If you reside in the Apple ecosystem and have the budget for them, AirPods Pro are one of the best tech purchases you make.
But the Enco X are £70 cheaper, and with the cost of living crisis in full swing, they’re hard to ignore. You’re also getting an awful lot for your money from OPPO. Sorry, Tim.
Where the AirPods Pro win
The Enco X aren’t perfect. Indeed, there are a few areas in which the AirPods Pro remain King of the Earbuds Jungle.
Firstly, there are the controls. Apple has absolutely nailed the button-free haptic experience on the AirPods Pro. It’s a joy to use and is far superior to any of the touch controls I’ve used on other earbuds.
The Enco X, unfortunately, include touch controls. They’re pretty sensitive, too; when adjusting the fit, I’ll sometime accidentally pause or rewind the audio. The saving grace is, as mentioned earlier, the fit itself – I rarely have to touch them once placed into my ears. Regardless, I’d much prefer a ‘squeeze’ input method like the one found on the AirPods Pro.
OPPO’s earbuds don’t offer any form of spatial audio, either. If you’re into that kind of thing and intend on using your earbuds to watch content on Apple TV (or pretty much any other Apple device, for that matter), the experience offered by the combination of Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos on the AirPods Pro is seriously impressive.
Lastly, there’s the device switching. If you’re an Apple user, the ease with which you can transfer the AirPods Pro between your devices is unrivalled (if a little unpredictable at times). This is the main reason I continue to use the AirPods Pro for calls – it’s just so convenient. OPPO can’t compete with this, obviously (although they’re good callers in their own right), but it does deserve special mention.
It’s worth noting that the Enco X are also water and sweat proof, feature wireless charging, have great noise cancelling, and deliver up to 25 hours of playback on one charge. As I said earlier – you’re getting a lot for your money.
There’s an awful lot to like about the earbuds you’ve probably never heard of.
I can see myself using the Enco X at least until Apple finally renews the AirPods Pro. And when they do… boy do they need to be good to tempt me back.
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