review

Tronsmart Onyx Free Review IPX7 Rated Earbuds

Friday, October 23, 2020

These days, a lot of true wireless earbuds do come with touch control technology, which has improved vastly being now a lot more responsive. Overall, touching or tapping a sensor does make operating controls from earbuds more convenient than pressing a physical button, which can sometimes force you to jam the earbud in the ear canal. 
That's not the case though with the Onyx Free earbuds, which use a Panasonic tactile switch that is extremely easy to activate and almost feels like operating touch controls. Because the Onyx Free use mechanical switches, the buttons provide a nice tactile feedback response you don't typically experience with touch controls. 
The Tronsmart Onyx Free have the same tear-drop shape design as the Spunky Beat earbuds with a soft plastic outer shell and fabric mesh nozzle tips. Keeping the weight low are also the silicone ear tips, which are wafer-thin and very comfortable inside the ear canal. That said, because of how thin they are the silicone eartips don't provide the same isolation as thicker silicone ear tips, which also help to improve the bass response. Each earbud weighs 4 grams.
The Tronsmart Onyx Free charging case weighs 36 grams and has a compact tall frame made mostly of matte plastic with a glass-like shiny plastic finish on top of the lid, which is nice although it attracts a bit more fingerprint smudges. The hinge of the lid is also made of plastic.
The front of the charging case has four tiny battery status leds and a small lip that helps open the lid easier. When closing the lid, the charging case leds automatically flash to display the status of the battery. Opening and closing the lid automatically powers on and off the earbuds, although you can also manually turn them on and off. The Onyx Free earbuds are easily removed when tilting them out at an angle and, they securely slot back into the magnetic charging pods.
When opening the Onyx Free charging case lid, it also activates bluetooth pairing; hence you can pair and connect the earbuds while inside the charging case, which is super convenient. By default, the left Onyx Free earbud has to be connected first then, a message prompt appears asking you if you want to connect the second earbud. You can pair the Onyx Free earbuds individually with different devices. Also, when both earbuds are paired with one device, you can switch between stereo and mono with either earbud.
The Tronsmart Onyx Free earbuds have been designed to power off automatically to save battery when the earbuds are running low on battery. The earbuds also power off when they aren't connected to a device after 5 minutes. The Tronsmart Onyx Free charging time is 1 hour for the earbuds and 2.5 hours for the charging case. 
The 500mAh battery inside the charging case can power the Onyx Free earbuds for an extra 23 hours  (via SBC and at 70% volume). If you only listen at medium volume (50%), the charging case can potentially give you up to 35 hours of battery power. An audible beep can be heard when reaching maximum and minimum volume, although if the volume is loud the beep cannot be heard very well
Embedded inside the Onyx Free earbuds is also a Qualcomm QCC3020 bluetooth 5.0 chip, which supports aptX, SBC and AAC and 15 meters wireless range, which is longer than the standard 10 meter range. With aptX and AAC support audio lag is greatly reduced when watching videos.
The Tronsmart Onyx Free earbuds have the same mix of matte/shiny plastic construction, which can withstand a lot more water than most earbuds; hence their IPX7 rating, which means they can be submerged under 1 meter of water for half and hour. That said, the Onyx Free earbuds aren't really recommended for swimming because the earbuds are not water tight like IPX8 rated earphones.
The Onyx Free earbuds physical button makes a very satisfying clicky sound when pressed. The button controls all functions, including volume, skipping tracks and call handling (answer/end/reject). The circular shiny ring around the buttons doesn't actually light up; hence it's just for decoration. The Onyx Free earbud status led is actually located inside the pinhole next to the button and does not flash during audio playback.
The microphone (one per earbud) also shares the same pinhole as the status led and features Qualcomm's cVc noise cancellation technology that minimizes some background noise. The Onyx Free microphones perform similar to the Spunky Beat so, it's good for informal calls. For work related calls, the Onyx Ace stem style earbuds deliver better clarity, thanks to their dual microphone setup (two mics per earbud).
The Tronsmart Onyx Free earbuds have a 7 hour runtime when listening at 50% volume and via SBC (6 hours via aptX). You can get around 3.5 hours at 100% volume via SBC and 2.5 hours via aptX. Unless you really like your volume extremely loud or are tying to block background noise, you won't really need to crank the volume that high. At 70% volume, you can get good enough fidelity while conserving battery life. Considering that there is only a small battery (40mAh) in each earbud, the battery life of the Onyx Free earbuds is good. In standby, the Onyx Free earbuds can hold a single charge for up to 3 months.
The Tronsmart Onyx Free earbuds integrate highly sensitive 6mm drivers that can deliver a loud volume output. The driver diaphragm is made with Polyurethane (PU), which is a plastic material and an interesting choice since most earbud driver diaphragms are coated with metal (aluminium, graphene or titanium). Biocellulose material is also used for driver diaphragm, although it's not as widespread. 
While PU drivers may seem like an odd material to use for speaker drivers, the Onyx Free earbuds deliver surprisingly good sound overall. The bass is not overly emphasized and it's nicely balanced with the midrange and treble, which is clean with a clear instrument separation. 
UV sterilization is another feature you get with the Onyx Free earbuds, which is designed to disinfect the earbuds by killing germs. This feature is virtually impossible to test out without proper equipment to see whether it works or not. According to research though, for UV light to effectively kill bacteria it requires UVC type (not UVB or UVA) with a UV wavelength between 100nm and 280 nm. 
Another critical factor is time. UV light requires time to kill germs, some estimate up to 30 minutes, depending on the power of the UV radiation. Tronsmart doesn't state how much electromagnetic radiation the Onyx Free charging case generates but, the UV sterilization process is automatic so, it takes place every-time you open and close the lid. After 30 seconds, the UV sterilization process stops and can be interrupted at any time. There is an unbranded USB-C to USB-A cable included, alongside different size silicone ear tips. You can buy the Onyx Free earbuds on amazon. Check out the review of the Spunky Pro earbuds.

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