True wireless earbuds are becoming all the rage. We’re not talking about wireless earbuds that have a cord tethering the two buds, no, we’re talking true wireless buds. The trend kicked off by the Apple AirPods, despite them looking like something gross hanging from your ear.
Regardless of this mental imagery, I had to try a pair at some stage. The premise is really simple: 2 physical earbuds that have their own Bluetooth wireless connection to your phone and (hopefully) solid battery performance to see you through your daily commute or a chunk of your day at work on a single charge.
There’s an increasing market for the earbud style wireless audio devices including Sennheiser, Apple, Samsung, Jaybird, Bose and Sudio. Who is Sudio? They’re a Swedish company who are building devices and selling them based on quality, not their name and given our previous experience they’re doing a good job of that.
We reviewed the company’s Regent headphones back in 2017 and now I get to take a listen to the Sudio Tolv.
Far from being the most expensive option on the market, you’d be forgiven for expecting some corner cutting on design, build or (perhaps the most important) the sound that’s delivered to users.
When you open the box you’re greeted with a very simple looking case with a flip top and a small loop you could couple onto a keyring or bag loop to keep them handy. The case is hard plastic, doesn’t look outlandish, protects your investment and has a battery built in to keep your earphones charged through the day/week. Perhaps a little disappointing is the MicroUSB charging port for the case (instead of USB C) but I can’t see this being a deal breaker for many anyone.
The other contents of the box are a small booklet labelled “instructions” – not sure what this is for though – and some vital accessories like a charging cable for the case and the varying sized tips for ears. There’s three extra tip sizes in the package aside from the one that is pre-fitted to the earpieces for you which opens up the accessibility of these to a range of people with different sized ears.
I found the set that was fitted out of the box were adequate for my ears, but the slightly smaller set were more comfortable for me. This shows that while some will work, it’s worth trying the other options to ensure you have the best fit for you. I also found after putting the slightly smaller tips on that the movement of the earpieces during physical activity all but stopped. If you’re an avid runner, or ride mountain bikes a lot they may cause you a bit of concern with the potential to fall out.
The earphones are surprisingly lightweight and fit my weird shaped ears particularly well. There are multiple options to choose from with the supplied tips, meaning that various ear types and shapes are catered for out of the box. This has a huge effect on the comfort and importantly on the fit of them, meaning active users aren’t going to be pushing them back in or adjusting them constantly to avoid an earpiece falling out. Each earpiece has a touch controller on it to allow independent power control and some control over music playback.
I was pleasantly surprised at the battery in something so physically small. I was getting a solid 5 hours of playback on a single charge at reasonably high volume. At lower volumes, 6+ hours wasn’t a stretch at all. But it was the case carrying a hefty little battery that recharged when the buds go back in for storage that took the battery to the next level. The case holds a full 4 charges for the earbuds taking the battery capacity to a full week of use for most users.
How do they go in daily use?
The Sudio Tolv promise a lot on paper and once you find earpieces that fit, they don’t disappoint.
The fit was pretty comfortable, although if you’re using the touch controls it can get a little uncomfortable as the earpieces slowly make their way deeper into your ears. The fit will be different from person to person, so take the time to figure out what will work for you – earbuds may not be the answer.
The controls themselves are very simple and (like gestures or other touch controls) just require a bit of practice and muscle memory.
- Single press – play/pause
- Double press – previous track (left earbud) /next track (right earbud)
- Triple press – reduce volume (left earbud) / increase volume (right earbud)
- Long press – turns on or off both ear buds (right earbud) or just one (left earbud)
My main problem with this is the time it can take to adjust the volume up and down by using the touch controls. If I’m adjusting more than one or two clicks, I’ve found myself grabbing the source device to adjust the volume to my needs.
A secondary issue is when using just the one earpiece, you lose half of your controls. This isn’t something I do regularly, but it would be a problem if you did. It would be great if you could customise the touch options on each ear, as well as for single ear listening.
It was mentioned earlier that really active people may want to look at other options as the Tolv do move around a little in your ears. They’re not marketed as sport specific so I don’t have a major issue with this.
How do they sound?
Despite the other technology involved and the impressive nature of how small the Tolv earpieces are, It would be something of a failed review to not discuss the sound. This is where the tale goes back to the fit of the ear tips again.
Starting with the basics they’re not noise cancelling. A good fit does block out a lot of surrounding noise, but in a very noisy environment you’ll still hear that background noise.
The fact is that earphones vs over/on ear sound requires a good fit or “seal” in your ear canal for some of the sound replication to be worth listening to. This is particularly prevalent when you’re talking about bass. When you get the fit right and you’ve got the right sized tip, you’re in for a lightweight audio treat.
The low register sound was where this really made a difference making it hit and miss. Earphones rely so heavily on having a seal to your eardrum to simulate bass, that “punchy” sound needs to be generated by a cone that is smaller than your smallest fingernail and a driver that weight nothing. When you get the right fit of tip on the Sudio Tolv, you’ll get a sense of bass and broad sound delivery – if you lose that seal you’ll be listening to flat music that is missing low range and a big portion of the vocal or mid-range of sound.
The solid mid range sound that gives a great depth and immersion of into your listening. Regardless of your listening preference: Rock, Pop, Metal, classical or even Podcasts – the quality of sound in the mid-range is really consistent.
The high range sounds was good, but very quickly becomes shrill at higher volumes. So much so that it became uncomfortable to listen to, but it’s important to note that this was only at high volume with some audio. At a comfortable volume, the high range sound was very acceptable, across all types of listening.
Out of the box, I found them pretty well tuned (I have reduced the upper register a bit over time and am VERY happy now) but depending on your preference of audio, you may want to use an EQ app on your device (or in-app such as Google Play Music) to adjust the output to your liking. I’ve used a number over the years, but can recommend that Equalizer + Pro works a treat and is very easy to use.
While I was impressed with the quality of sound that something so small can produce. I’ll be completely up front, they’re very good but not to the same level that a good set of over ear headphones will produce.
Are they worth it?
I’ll be honest… I really like good sound, I wouldn’t call myself an audiophile but I’m definitely willing to spend a bit more to get good quality equipment. The experience I’ve had with the Sudio Tolv has moved me from my solid stance of over ear headphones or don’t bother.
So yes, I’ve become something of a fan of the technology as a combination of the light weight design and build, plus the general broad functionality makes wireless earbuds pretty enticing.
They’re a very good implementation of the form factor with a case that packs enough charge to keep you bopping for at least a couple of days, for many users closer to a week. The audio delivery is very good for such a small form factor but it does have some drawbacks.
The battery is good, but if you’re a regular traveller (and the lack of noise cancelling hasn’t turned you away) the battery life will play a part in your buying decision. On longer flight, they’re just not going to go the distance. In fairness, they’re not designed to do that!
Should you buy some?
You can pick up a pair on the Sudio website for AUD$179 and given the cost of some of the competitor products, the Tolv offers a really good value for money option. There are some pretty serious options out there that will potentially offer better sound, battery life or even fit. They’re also going to make a far bigger dent in your finances.
The Sudio Tolv are one of the best bang for buck audio offerings I’ve had the opportunity to take a look at in some time.
Due to health reasons: These in-ear audio devices were not requested back by Sudio