In a market where audio technology has experienced rapid evolution, quality, and innovation have often been accompanied by hefty price tags. However, QCY, a manufacturer known for its focus on affordability, has managed to disrupt the budget noise-canceling earbud market, offering remarkable performance without breaking the bank. In this comprehensive review, we dive deep into the QCY T13 ANC, The ArcBuds (also known as HT07), and the MeloBuds (also known as HT05), exploring their features, design, performance, and how they stack up against premium competitors.
Comfort and Design
The quest for the perfect pair of earbuds involves not only exceptional sound but also all-day comfort. Among the QCY options, the T13 ANC earbuds immediately stand out for their compact, lightweight design. They boast a form factor strikingly reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods Pro, providing a secure fit without feeling obtrusive. For users who prioritize comfort, the T13s are a strong contender.
The MeloBuds, though slightly larger, maintain excellent ergonomics and comfort akin to the T13. QCY has managed to capture the essence of comfortable earbuds, making them ideal for extended listening sessions. However, The ArcBuds, while also comfortable, require a bit of adjustment. They feature a slightly deeper insertion into the ear canal, which may not suit everyone. Some users may find it challenging to achieve a secure seal, especially during exercise or active use.
Speaking of exercise, The ArcBuds exhibit a propensity for wind noise interference when transparency mode is enabled during outdoor activities. On the other hand, both the MeloBuds and T13 perform admirably in this aspect, minimizing the intrusion of wind noise and ensuring a seamless listening experience. Additionally, both the T13 and MeloBuds are equipped with water-resistant ratings, IPX5 and IPX4 respectively, making them suitable for activities that involve sweat, splashes of water, or light rain. However, it’s important to note that they are not designed for submersion in water, so swimming with these earbuds is not advisable.
Battery Life and Charging
The battery life is a crucial consideration, and all three QCY earbuds offer competitive performance in this regard. With a single charge, users can enjoy up to six hours of playback, and the charging case extends the total listening time to a commendable 24 hours. While wireless charging is not a feature included in these budget-friendly options, the case design itself is worth mentioning.
The case of The ArcBuds stands out for its thin and compact design, bearing a resemblance to Apple’s AirPods Pro case. This slim form factor makes it a convenient addition to your everyday carry. The other two cases, while slightly thicker, remain pocketable and practical for daily use.
Controls and Connectivity
QCY’s budget earbuds make a strong impression when it comes to controls and customization. All three pairs offer highly sensitive touch controls, with the ability to customize various functions through the companion app. One notable limitation is the inability to customize the long-hold function on the earbuds. By default, the right earbud is dedicated to noise canceling, while the left earbud handles game mode activation. However, the app allows for customization of volume control and other functions, offering a level of personalization that is often absent in budget earbuds.
The earbuds also include a sleeping mode that completely deactivates touch controls if needed. While the earbuds lack automatic pause and play features when removed from the ears, this omission is understandable given the price point.
Regarding connectivity, the QCY earbuds support SBC and AAC codecs, with Bluetooth 5.2 on the MeloBuds and The ArcBuds, and Bluetooth 5.3 on the T13. Notably, all three pairs support mono mode, allowing users to use a single earbud while leaving the other in the case. This functionality is particularly useful for phone calls or when you need to stay aware of your surroundings. Furthermore, the low-latency gaming mode ensures a satisfactory gaming experience, making them suitable for casual gaming, with a response time of around 400 milliseconds.
Sound Quality and Customization
When it comes to sound quality, all three QCY earbuds offer a commendable audio experience with various tuning characteristics to suit different preferences. The T13 ANC earbuds provide a slightly v-shaped sound signature, offering deep sub-bass and decent treble. While they deliver satisfying bass and a good overall sound, the treble may not be as crisp as some audiophiles would prefer. The sound profile of the T13 is a great fit for listeners who enjoy immersive bass-heavy audio.
The ArcBuds, on the other hand, have a different sound profile. They focus more on mids, delivering clear vocals and a somewhat wider soundstage. This tuning lends itself well to various music genres and is appealing to users who prioritize vocal clarity and balanced audio.
The MeloBuds, however, take the lead with a sound profile that is both impressive and well-rounded. They maintain a slightly v-shaped sound signature similar to the T13 but with a richer bass response, crisper treble, and a more open soundstage. This sound quality is more than satisfactory for most listeners and caters to a wide range of musical tastes.
One noteworthy feature of the QCY earbuds is their ability to customize the sound profile with a 10-band equalizer in the companion app. This level of customization is rarely seen in budget earbuds and allows users to fine-tune the audio output to match their personal preferences. With the ability to save custom presets users have the freedom to experiment and discover their preferred sound signature.
Noise Canceling and Transparency Mode
In the realm of budget noise-canceling earbuds, the QCY options deliver remarkable performance that exceeds expectations. Despite their competitive price points, they offer effective noise canceling that can rival premium alternatives.
The MeloBuds and The ArcBuds, both equipped with 40 dB noise-canceling capabilities, perform exceptionally well. The MeloBuds, in particular, deliver a superior noise-canceling experience, outperforming their price tag. They effectively reduce ambient noise, providing an immersive listening experience.
The T13 ANC earbuds, while being the most affordable option among the three, still offer respectable noise-canceling quality. They manage to significantly reduce external noise, allowing users to focus on their music or content.
One remarkable feature of The ArcBuds and MeloBuds is their wind noise reduction mode. This feature prevents the microphones from picking up wind noise, making them ideal for outdoor activities, especially during windy conditions. It’s a testament to the thoughtful design and engineering of these budget-friendly earbuds. However, it’s essential to be aware that enabling this mode will reduce the overall strength of noise canceling by approximately 50%.
The QCY earbuds also provide users with the ability to customize the strength of the noise-canceling effect, a feature that is often absent in premium earbuds. This level of customization enables users to fine-tune the noise canceling to their specific needs, a remarkable feature considering the budget-friendly price point.
Sound Quality and Transparency Mode
Budget earbuds often struggle with occlusion in their transparency mode, leading to an unnatural sound when speaking or being aware of your surroundings. QCY has taken a step in the right direction by addressing this concern.
In this aspect, the T13 ANC earbuds exhibit the most occlusion, making them the least natural in transparency mode. While still acceptable for most users, the occlusion effect may be noticeable in certain situations. However, it’s important to note that the level of occlusion is subjective, and some users may not find it to be an issue.
The MeloBuds, on the other hand, reduce occlusion significantly, providing clearer and more natural sound when using transparency mode. This is a notable improvement over the T13, enhancing the overall listening experience, especially in scenarios where awareness of your surroundings is crucial.
The ArcBuds fall in between, offering a balanced performance in terms of occlusion. While not as pronounced as the T13, they provide a comfortable middle ground, ensuring that users can enjoy transparency mode without excessive intrusion of ambient noise. Additionally, users can adjust the transparency mode’s strength via the app, offering further customization to cater to their specific needs. This level of control is a welcome addition, especially in budget earbuds where such features are often overlooked.
Both the MeloBuds and The ArcBuds include a vocal mode in transparency, which prioritizes voice clarity. This feature is a valuable addition, particularly for users who engage in conversations while using their earbuds. It ensures that voices come through clearly, enhancing communication in noisy environments.
Volume and EQ Customization
All three QCY earbuds offer similar volume levels, providing ample loudness for most users. This ensures that you can enjoy your music or content without feeling restricted by low volume levels. As a reference, it’s important to be aware that listening at high volumes for extended periods can potentially lead to hearing damage, so it’s recommended to find a comfortable listening level to protect your hearing.
With the inclusion of an EQ customization feature in the app, QCY has provided users with the tools to fine-tune the sound to their liking. This feature enables adjustments to the bass, mids, and treble, allowing users to craft their ideal sound profile. The 10-band equalizer offers a wide range of customization, empowering users to create audio experiences that cater to their unique preferences. Additionally, users can save custom presets, making it easy to switch between different sound profiles for various music genres or content types.
Comparisons with Competitors
To put the value and quality of the QCY earbuds into perspective, let’s compare them to some of the best alternatives in their respective price ranges:
- MeloBuds vs. Soundcore Liberty 4NC: The Soundcore Liberty 4NC remains a strong option in the sub-$100 range. While the MeloBuds come close in sound quality, the Liberty 4NC offers slightly better noise canceling. However, they come at a significantly higher price point.
- MeloBuds vs. Edifier TWS1 Pro: The Edifier TWS1 Pro outperforms noise canceling but lacks customization options. The MeloBuds offers a well-rounded package with strong sound quality and customization.
MeloBuds vs. SoundPEATS Noise-Canceling Earbuds: While the SoundPEATS earbuds excel in noise canceling, the MeloBuds offer better sound quality and more customization options. The SoundPEATS alternatives are also pricier.
In conclusion, the QCY T13 ANC, The ArcBuds, and the MeloBuds have made a significant impact on the audio market by offering a compelling combination of affordability, comfort, sound quality, customization, and noise-canceling capabilities. These earbuds have managed to challenge premium alternatives in terms of performance while maintaining an attractive price point.
Among the three options, the MeloBuds stand out as the best overall choice, offering a well-balanced sound profile, robust noise canceling, and extensive customization options. They deliver impressive value, making them a strong contender in the budget earbud market. For those looking for a budget-friendly alternative to high-end earbuds, the QCY lineup proves that quality audio experiences don’t have to break the bank. These earbuds are a testament to the fact that affordability can coexist with exceptional performance.