Noise has rapidly amassed the status of providing competent audio solutions at relatively affordable price points. Earphones such as the Noise Shots X-Buds, the Shots X5 CHARGE and a few others have proven to be great value for money purchases, for those who want to experience commendable sound quality while avoiding putting a serious dent in the pocket. Noise recently launched a new pair of true wireless earphones dubbed the Noise Shots XO. They are priced at Rs 5,499 and look positively appealing on paper. Featuring extravagant features such as wireless charging for the case, a battery life spanning a total of 36 hours and much more, these earphones will certainly have consumers all around vying to purchase them. However, are the Noise Shots XO comparable to previous successes from the company? Let’s find out.
Build and design
The Noise Shots XO are available in three colour variants – Space Grey, Rose Gold and Metallic White. We received the Rose Gold version which is by far the most eye-catching variant. We’re not exactly fans of the Rose Gold shade, however, if you do like this colour, you’ll find the charging case pretty pleasing to look at. Aside from the charging case and the earbuds themselves, the box contains a drawstring cloth pouch to carry the case in, two extra pairs of silicone tips, and a USB Type-C charging cable. You’ll also find a user manual and a warranty card tucked neatly within the packaging. The drawstring pouch is white in colour and, unfortunately, it tends to get soiled pretty easily.
Contrary to the approach most audio brands take, where they attempt to shrink the dimensions of the charging cases for true wireless earphones, Noise opted to take the opposite route. The Noise Shots XO has a large and bulky, circular charging case which resembles a drum. The top part sports a metallic rose gold tint, while the bottom sports a matte, baby pink look.
The USB Type-C charging port resides on the rear side of the case, hidden under a rubber flap. While we give props to Noise for attempting to reinvent the conventional charging case design, the case is actually far from pocketable. It will make more sense to tuck these away in a backpack or a purse rather than have it bulging quite noticeably from your pockets. The top portion of the charging case is also a fingerprint magnet and scratches extremely easily.
The top portion of the case features a circular dent where you need to place your thumb and then push it outwards to reveal the earphones within. Unfortunately, we found the process of swivelling the cover of the case every time quite tedious. We’d rather prefer a traditional case opening mechanism. Nevertheless, after a couple of times opening the case, you do get used to this tedious opening/closing mechanism.
Opening the case reveals the earphones themselves that fit quite snugly within the case. The magnetic gold points inside the case easily pull the earphones towards them when you drop the Shots XO buds into the case. We turned the case over and shook it quite thoroughly to judge whether the buds would fall out. Turns out, they don’t budge the slightest bit, which is quite impressive.
Coming to the buds themselves, they sport a dual-tone colour and finish just like the case. The angled nozzles and the eartips have a baby pink tone, while the backside of the earbuds features a metallic rose gold tint. The earphones resemble a teardrop and the rear of the earphones bulge outwards considerably from the nozzles.
The ‘XO’ moniker can be clearly seen on the earphones as well, with the left earphone housing a pink ‘X’ on the touchpad (rear end) of these earphones while the right earphone houses an ‘O’. Since the ‘X’ and ‘O’ are in the shade of light pink and the background is a metallic rose gold tint, the letters seem quite subtle and end up looking pretty classy.
Nevertheless, the earphones do tend to protrude quite a bit from your ear. They’re not inconspicuous in any manner, especially the rose gold variant and will definitely garner a fair bit of eyeballs. The fit inside the ear is also snug and comfortable. We wore them for hours on end and did not feel any kind of fatigue or pain in our ears, which is impressive. Overall, while we quite like the ergonomic design and aesthetic of the earbuds, the charging case, in our opinion, is inordinately bulky and just odd-looking. Also, the swivel-to-open mechanism isn’t smooth and seamless, which really cost these earphones some serious points when it comes to the build.
One of the most prominent features of the Noise Shots XO is the ability to power the charging case wirelessly on any Qi-enabled charger. You simply need to place the charging case bottom-side down on a Wireless Charger and the device begins powering up. Noise has included an LED indicator just below the charging port, which can be easily seen through the rubber flip when lit up as well. The indicator, while the case is charging, blinks once every 2 seconds if the case has 0-25% battery percentage, twice every 2 seconds for 25-50%, thrice every 2 seconds for 50-75% and four times every 2 seconds for 75-100%. It’s a simple, no-nonsense way to relay that the device is being charged while also divulging how much battery percentage the case currently has. Depending on the wireless charger you’re using, the charging speeds will alter, however, we were able to juice the charging case up to full from almost empty in merely two hours with a 10W wireless charger.
The battery life of the Noise Shots XO is extremely impressive. It features a total battery of 36 hours, with 6 hours on the buds itself, while the charging case holds an additional 30 hours, according to the company. This means you should be able to charge the earbuds 5 times or more, using the charging case. In our testing, we were able to extract about 5 hours of battery life from the earphones at 70% volume, and we were able to bring the charging case down to 5% battery percentage after charging the earbuds around 6-7 times. Note that, the earbuds were usually not completely drained when we put them back into the case.
Another handy feature is that you can use both the right or the left earbud in mono mode if you want to. You simply pick up either the right or left earbud from the case and connect to that particular bud in the Bluetooth menu of your phone.
The Noise Shots XO also comes with touch controls, accessible via the rear surface of the buds. The touch panel is slightly indented inwards in a curved manner, which lets you easily rest your finger in the cavity. For the most part, the touch controls are responsive and work well. However, there’s no volume controls present, which is disappointing, especially if you like tweaking with the volume levels constantly. You’ll have to grudgingly pull out your phone every time you want to adjust the volume.
The touch controls are pretty simple to remember and quite intuitive as well. Tapping on either earbud once will pause/play music and also answer/end a phone call. Tapping twice on the right earbud will take you to the next track while tapping twice on the left one will bring you to the previous track. To end a call, you simply press and hold either earbud for a period of 2 seconds. Lastly, a triple-tap on either earbud will activate your voice assistant.
While we’ve read about a few people facing some issues when pairing the earphones to their smartphones, we faced no such hiccups. It was actually an extremely seamless process for us. All you need to do is extract the earbuds from the case, they will automatically turn on and go into pairing mode. Next, you head over to your Bluetooth menu and connect to either ‘Shots XO – R’ or ‘Shots XO – L’. You’ll hear a ‘Pairing Successful’ and ‘Connected’ prompt, after which a prompt will have you pair to the second earbud. Just hit ‘OK’ and it’s done. After this process, both earbuds will automatically connect to the last paired device when pulled out of the charging case. If you do face any issues with pairing the device, make sure to read the user manual. It gives you detailed instructions for pairing manually, resetting the device and more.
The Noise Shots XO also comes equipped with a bunch of additional features such as ENC (environmental noise cancellation), IPX7 water resistance rating, USB Type-C/Wireless fast charging (case charges up in approximately 2 hours), Qualcomm aptX HD support and Bluetooth v5.0.
Regrettably, sound quality is where the Noise Shots XO really falter. Feature-laden as these earphones are, their appeal really diminishes due to their muddy, bass-heavy sound profile. Today, we have multiple earphones that flourish even with a bass-forward sound profile such as the Jabra Elite 75t, 1MORE Triple Driver, and more. Still, the Noise Shots XO boasts an excessively bass-forward sound profile that deteriorates the integrity and balance of sound.
Both, the bass as well as the lows, are extremely exaggerated, to a point where they sound muddy and distorted. They also veil most of the fine details in the mids, especially the lower-mids. In Ludens by Bring Me The Horizon, the bass beats sound extremely cloudy and distorted, while the vocals sound lacklustre due to the exaggerated lows. There’s plenty of auditory masking in the mids in almost all genres of music. This is extremely disappointing since Noise usually manages to maintain a good balance between the different frequencies, sadly, this is not the case with the Noise Shots XO.
The vocals, especially male vocals, sound muddy as well. In Rescue Me by OneRepublic the vocals are almost relegated to the background with the bass beats completely overpowering the entire song. However, female vocals tend to do slightly better since they are usually above the treacherous zone of auditory masking. The highs are slightly better-sounding, but they are slightly under-extended, which inhibits the earphones from reproducing high notes with precision. You’ll still feel like the highs are slightly muffled due to the obnoxious bass and lows, still they’re better than the completely drowned out mids.
The soundstage is lacking on the Noise Shots XO, however, that’s a common trait present on most closed-back, in-ears. Imaging appears to be somewhat decent. You can position instruments, however, the overall muffled sound and imprecise frequency reproduction throws you off so much that you don’t really end up paying attention to the positioning of the instruments. Overall, the excessive bass-boost and overexaggerated lows will likely throw off even staunch bass-lovers.
To make matters worse, the microphone quality is not up to standard as well. Noise claims that the earphones come with ENC technology, however, when we received or made calls using the Noise Shots XO, the person on the other end could hear plenty of background noise and also complained that our voice sounded pretty muffled. We tried switching over to calling over data as well, and the problem persisted.
The only reason the Noise Shots XO wins back some points in the performance department is that the passive isolation is excellent and there’s almost no sound leakage. Additionally, the battery life is also stellar. We used the earphones with the charging case for about a week without having to recharge the case once, which is pretty impressive. The earbuds themselves came extremely close to Noise’s claim (6 hours). They lasted for about 5 hours and 40ish minutes.
While the Noise Shots XO sport a relatively affordable price tag along with a plethora of premium features, the poor sound quality is what kills its cause. The aggressive bass-forward sound profile, as well as the overexaggerated lows, maims the overall balance of the sound, no matter what genre of music you’re listening to. Despite the impressive battery life and nifty wireless charging feature, we find it hard to recommend the Noise Shots XO to users exploring the market for a good pair of true wireless earphones. We hope Noise redeems themselves with their next release and continues to provide affordable and competent audio solutions like before.