AU Sounds, another new brand that we have not yet come across. US-based, selling in retail outlets throughout the US, Japan, as well as online. Reading up on the company, things are looking promising, and they have a number of audio products under their belt. With me now, are a pair of the AU-Stream Hybrid TWS Earbuds. They currently retail for $189.99USD, around £150GBP I’d say, so a fair investment. Let’s see if they’re worth it.
- Active Noise Cancellation
- 9mm AU-Titanium drive
- Touch controls
- Supports voice assistant (google, siri)
- Wireless charging (15mins = 3hrs playback)
- 8.6hrs playback as standard, 5hrs with ANC
- Carry case holds 25hrs charge
- Bluetooth 5.0
In the box, you get the earbuds, the carry case, instructions, a USB-C cable and some spare rubber tips (one of each size, S/M/L).
The carry case is absolutely tiny, one of the smallest I’ve come across in fact, although not the lightest. The buds and case come in four different finishes, black, which is what we have here, plus grey, red and gold. To the front of the case, below the lid, are four small indicator lights that illuminate blue and indicate the battery level for the case (not the buds). To the rear of the case is the USB-C port, used for charging but, rapid wireless charging is also available if you have a Qi-enabled dock. Open the case up to reveal the buds. One thing I do like, the underside of the lid is rubber, rather than just the plastic casing found in some. This helps keep the buds secure and it’s a nice touch.
As for the earbuds, traditional in shape and size, although they’ve gone for the larger case size, over say extra rubber wing support. Subtle branding on each bud, they include a microphone each and the face, where the logo is, is touch-sensitive, allowing you to control your content on the fly. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know I’m a fan of the extra wing support. I like s snug, secure fit, one good enough that I can use while exercising and although these don’t include that, I do achieve a very secure and snug with them, which I’m happy with.
Audio performance is very good. The sound stage is good, it’s fairly well balanced, although it can vary depending on the genre but I fear that’s more down to the production quality of the track, not the earbuds. Crisp highs, prominent mids, punchy lows, but in some tracks, I feel the bass could be better. There is no EQ associated with these, so I’m unable to change anything to better suit my taste or the type of music I’m listening to. Overall though, very enjoyable and it’s taking me into the zone, where nothing else matters, just the music.
We get asked all the time, whether you can just use one earbud in at a time, while the other stays in the case. With these, you can.
These include ANC and monitor mode. Switching between the two, monitor mode appears to resemble transparency mode, allowing in certain audio, which is helpful when walking around. Switch to ANC and it’s subtle, but appears the highs and lows are elevated and the difference in sound isolation between the two is very obvious. One minute I can hear my daughter calling me, switch to ANC and poof, what daughter. Fear not, I did help her with what she needed. Between ANC on and off, I’m not noticing any hiss or white noise from the buds when nothing is playing.
The controls work well and I’m glad there is a relatively large touch-sensitive area on each bud. Controls are easy to undertake and the process as a whole is quite responsive. The controls are detailed in the manual and well worth reviewing. In short, a single tap on either bud is play/pause, tapping twice on the right bud for next track, twice on the left for the previous track and hold down for three seconds on either bud to switch between normal, monitor mode or ANC on. There is no volume control via the touch controls.
Comfort for me was very positive. The earbuds are lightweight, they didn’t feel heavy in my ears and they were more secure than I thought. Walking around, (outside, alone, damn lockdown) very comfortable, no complaints at all. Would I use these while exercising, I could, as the fit was snug enough but I feel I got lucky and you will most definitely have different size and shaped ears to me, so may not be snug enough for a run or something more.
Set up was straight forward, it’s the same old process you have with any Bluetooth device. Each bud has quite a large indicator light, a bit of a honeycomb effect going on, which will illuminate red or blue, depending on what’s happening, which helps. There are also voice prompts, so switching between the various modes, you will be told which one you’re switching to.
Battery life was ok and should be more than enough, but I have seen better. Playback is stated at around 8.5hrs in standard mode, 5hrs with ANC on, which I’d say is fairly accurate, maybe just slightly less achieved than quoted. The carry case can hold up to 25hrs of juice and that level is indicated on those four blue case lights. Over about a week, I had several 1 or 2-hour stints with them in, always putting them back in the case after use and I was down to one light or 25% battery life in the carry case. For me, more than enough and If I was doing more than 2 hours of personal audio, i.e on a flight, I’d be going headphones for that longterm comfort.
Dual microphones make for good conversation on the phone. My voice was picked up clearly and had no complaints on the other end of the line.
The AU-Stream Hybrid is in good company, plenty of top tier earbuds within the £100-200 price range, from much bigger brands but I can confirm, AU can hold their own. Very good audio performance, worthwhile ANC, comfortable, secure and easy to use & responsive touch controls. The battery performance could be better and the indicator lights on the carry case are far too small.
For more info, head over to the official AU-Sounds website.