Well-balanced sound • Bass isn’t overmixed • Easy Bluetooth pairing • Comfortable to wear for long periods of time
Slippery case with small indent can make it hard to open • Shorter than expected battery life • Microphone is basically unusable for phone calls
The Soul Electronics Emotion wireless earbuds aren’t perfect. But when the price is just $50, it’s easier to look past the negative and enjoy the well-balanced sound.
Like most new technologies, true wireless earbuds started expensive. But they’re gradually becoming more affordable.
Apple AirPods are nearly ubiquitous at this point, and the only thing really holding them back is the $159 price tag. In an AirPod world, Soul Electronics’ $50 Emotion earbuds are enticing. The promise of six-hour battery life, well-balanced sound, and a slim design are even better.
However, the big question is: How these compare to more expensive designs like Apple’s? I switched from using AirPods daily to the Emotion buds, and the results were surprising.
A slippery case
Like most true-wireless earbuds, the Emotion comes with a case that does double duty for storage and charging. Since these are fully wireless earbuds, there is no charging port on the earbuds themselves. Instead, you set the right and left ones into specific cradles in the case where the charging pins can connect.
Rather than a white carrying case shaped like dental floss, the Emotion case is a wider rectangle that comes in either black or white. It can still fit in your pocket comfortably or in the palm of your hand. However, it’s a pain to open — that’s mostly because of the smooth outer coating. The slight indent on the front also doesn’t have enough depth to make it useful when opening the case.
Word to the wise: Don’t eat potato chips or anything greasy before attempting to open these. It won’t end well.
Unlike the Crazybaby Air 1S, another true wireless pair, it doesn’t require a Master’s degree to charge these. Merely rest them in their respective spots, and a circle in the middle will glow. That’s the only indicator you get that they’re charging, however. A microUSB port on the back lets you charge the case when it runs out of juice to charge the earbuds.
Super lightweight earbuds
While the case has a few misguided choices, the earbuds are light at just 5 grams each. The lack of heft makes a considerable difference in fit, especially if you have sensitive ears. For some, Apple’s AirPods can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, partly due to their elongated design.
Emotion doesn’t steer far from the general course for earbuds. The physical tip extends from the main bud, where you’ll find the charging ports and the actual sound technology. This isn’t a fully sealed design, and as such, the earbuds aren’t water resistant. Or sweat-resistant, for that matter — look elsewhere for a gym pair.
You can customize the fit of the eartip with four different sizes of gel tips that are in the box. You should be able to get a tight fit that won’t fall out. These aren’t noise-canceling, but do a decent job of isolating you by blocking out some of the ambient din.
Easy Bluetooth pairing
Apple AirPods still stands as the easiest pairing process among Bluetooth headphones, but the Emotion is as close you can get to it without a specialized chip like Apple’s earbuds have. Once you’ve managed to open the case, removing the earbuds will have start pairing mode. From there, open Bluetooth settings on your device and connect to “Soul Emotion.”
It is nice that there’s a step or two less than most Bluetooth pairings, but there aren’t many other conveniences. For instance, these earbuds lack the intelligence to stop playback when you take them out of your ears and resume it when you put them back in. You also can’t control volume on the buds — only play/pause, track advance/rewind, and calling.
For sound quality, I didn’t have the highest expectations for Emotion. However, after a ditching AirPods for a week and using these, I can say I’m quite surprised with their sound quality.
Brands like Beats and Skullcandy tend to raise the bass, which works well for rock and pop tunes. However, it can end up overpowering slower songs and classical music. Soul Electronics didn’t overemphasize the bass on Emotion, instead delivering a well-balanced sound that keeps the bass to what you might expect from a track.
Songs like “Moves Like Jagger” (Maroon 5), “Sun is Shining” (Axwell & Ingrosso), “Everlong” (Foo Fighters), and “Roulette” (Bruce Springsteen) all have clear bass that comes through well. There is no distortion when listening at higher volumes, and the listening experience feels immersive.
With “Roulette,” the buds handled the fast pace drumming with ease. Both left and right were well represented in stereo. You don’t want the drums to overpower the rest of high and low tones (the guitar and vocals in this case), so they managed to strike a delicate balance.
Overall, with any track I threw at it, the sound was well-balanced. High, low, and bass tones were all clear, and I didn’t experience any distortion at high volumes. Bass was crisp and high tones have a certain vibrancy to them.
An unreliable microphone
I also tested how the Emotion earbuds do with phone calls. Bluntly, I would skip calls altogether with the Emotion earbuds — especially outside.
In test calls, it was hard for the person on the other end to hear me, even at a loud speaking volume in a relatively quiet office. Outside, just a small amount of wind resulted in the other end just practically nothing but white noise. The call audio will only come out of the left earbud for some strange reason as well. You’ll enjoy listening to music on these buds, but pull out your phone for calls.
Mixed battery life
Soul Electronics rates battery life for the Emotion at up to 6 hours on a full charge, and the case provides two more full charges. This is a lot given their size (a full charge for AirPods lasts around 5 hours).
However, in my testing, I got around 3-4.5 hours of playback, depending on the volume level. The louder you listen, the quicker it will burn through juice. I also found that the charging case provides around only 1.5 extra charges. Not terrible — it should get you through the day — though not quite what’s promised.
One annoying factor is that after the earbuds hit 30%, the rate at which they burn through the battery seems to increase. It usually lasts for about two songs after that warning, and it will continue to give you an audible low-power alert throughout the song, basically ruining the listening experience.
A considerable value for the price
So these are not perfect headphones by any means. However, at $50 these deliver a lot even with a slippery case, lousy microphone, and a shorter run time than promised. The easy pairing process scores points, too.
Most important, the well-balanced sound quality will have you feeling good about the value you’re getting. It’s hard to complain about headphones that accomplish their primary goal — to play music — with aplomb.
As long as you manage your expectations and acknowledge the tradeoffs, the $50 Soul Electronic Emotions will still impress.