Tronsmart Encore S2 and Encore S4 review: Inexpensive Bluetooth headphones with some compromise
If you’re looking for some inexpensive Bluetooth headphones that actually sound pretty good, Tronsmart might have the solution.
Tronsmart is usually known for chargers and other power delivery products, but it also has a small line of Bluetooth headphones, made for a variety of activities. I was sent two pairs of the five options available: the Encore S2 and Encore S4. Here’s how they measure up to what’s out there.
Tronsmart Encore S2
The Encore S2 is one of Tronsmart’s two “sport” headphone models. This one features a neckband that sits loosely around your neck, with two earbuds attached to cords. I used these every day for about a week and a half in the gym to see if they lived up to the “sport” headphone moniker. Here’s what I found.
Despite the size of the earbuds, the Encore S2 has surprisingly great sound. The bass is low and much warmer than I expected. It’s also incredibly present, which is unusual for “entry-level” headphones like these. The bass is so present in fact, however, that it sometimes muddies up the midrange, which can be a little distracting if you’re actually trying to listen to your music. If you just need a pump-up jam in the gym, though, it’s great.
The high end is where these ‘buds falter for me. The high end just isn’t as crisp as it could be, and if you listen to a lot of rock, much of the more treble-y tracks can get lost in the mix. That being said, for the $24 price tag, the Encore S2’s sound is more than passable and even downright enjoyable.
Fit and design
If don’t love bass — a lot of bass — you may want to give these a pass.
I took this heavily into account, since these are billed as “sport” headphones and came up with mixed feelings. If you’re a runner, you probably won’t like these headphones. I had never worn headphones with a neckband before, so I was skeptical at best, and after a couple cardio sessions, was less than impressed.
I have a fairly slender neck, and the constant jostle of the loose neck band is distracting. It would also twist around my neck sometimes while running, which meant I had to constantly adjust it, and it was just a pain in the ol’ hindquarters. You can tighten the restraints on the earbud cords, but then it all just feels constricting.
With that said, the earbuds themselves fit quite nicely in your ears. They’re the variety that sit in your ears, with the speaker shoved into your ear, which I prefer over the classic, all-speaker design. If you have smaller or larger ears, there are differently sized tips in the box.
The back of each earbuds is magnetic, which helps prevent tangling, but the cords are already connecting to the neckband, so it’s kind of unnecessary, and the magnet is quite weak anyway.
Somewhat peculiarly, the volume controls/pairing button/call controls are on the left side of the neckband, which isn’t a huge deal, but annoying when you’re used to what most headphones are like. And you can’t flip them around, since each earbud is designed to fit in a specific ear.
In a word: excellent. From such a compact set of Bluetooth headphones, you should expect nothing less, but, again, for the $24 price tag, the battery life on the Encore S2 is great. I used these in my hour-long workouts for over a week without having to charge them, so the billed 12-hour battery life is legit.
Should you buy them? Maybe
If you’re looking for an inexpensive pair of Bluetooth headphones that sounds great for its class and can likely last you a week on a single charge, then absolutely snatch these up. If you’re looking for them as workout headphones, I’d keep looking. While the earbuds themselves stay securely in your ears, the neckband is a nuisance, and the lack of discernable controls on the headphones themselves makes it difficult to change volume or answer a call on the fly.
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Tronsmart Encore S4
The Encore S4 is Tronsmart’s noise-cancelling Bluetooth offering, which features a thicker neckband with earbuds attached to cords. I used them every day for about a week while working from home.
With a sophisticated sheen and a $50 price tag, I expected these headphones to sound a bit better than the Encore S2 model, and I was right. The low end is rich, the mids are present, and the high end is discernable, though only just so. It appears that Tronsmart has sacrificed treble for bass in its earbuds, which is probably fine for most folks, but if you’re trying to pick out a hi-hat pattern in a rock tune or some other treble-y elements, you’re rather hard-pressed.
I found the bass dropped out quite a bit when the active noise-canceling was turned off, which was a little annoying, since noise-canceling uses quite a bit more battery, but for the sake of audio quality, I left it on. Like the Encore S2, these ‘buds likely won’t please audiophiles, but for most people and for that price tag, they do sound quite good.
Active noise cancellation
These earbuds are fantastic value, and sound surprisingly good.
First and foremost, we must realize that earbuds with active noise cancellation will never be as good as proper cans. So if you’re thinking you can spend $50 on these and them work just as well as the Bose QC35 headphones, you’re gonna have a bad time.
With that in mind, I set up a fan in my home office to test things out when it was a little cooler outside, and I had the air conditioning going on the hotter days (I’m seated right next to the vent). Even with the fan right next to me, I really had to strain and concentrate to hear it above my music. Turn the noise cancellation off and it was the only thing I could hear, so did these headphones do their job? Absolutely.
They even managed to drown out the TV a little bit, which my wife was watching in the other room. I’ve yet to try these on a plane, but will have to opportunity in a couple months, at which point I’ll update this review.
Fit and Design
The thicker neckband of the Encore S4 is actually more comfortable than that of the Encore S2 because it feels substantial, but when you put it on, you barely feel it, and it stays in place. That’s not to say it stays in place while you run, but it’s perfect for sitting and working or even walking around.
The earbuds are an even better fit than the Encore S2, and you get the various tips in case your ears don’t accommodate the “regular” ones. Again, though, the controls are on the left of the neckband. It’s hard to get used to, but you can at least feel the buttons on this model. The switch for active noise cancellation is a little difficult to move, but that’s a minor annoyance.
Just great. Tronsmart bills the Encore S4 with 20 hours of battery time, and I got that and then some. It wasn’t 20 continuous hours of use, of course, but I made it through three days of work (roughly 8 hours a day) without needing to charge them. The larger battery does make for a thicker neckband, but that’s alright.
Should you buy them? Yes
For inexpensive active noise cancellation, Tronsmart does a great job of providing focused listening in a good-looking package, with great battery life and well-fitting earbuds.
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