1-underscored veho stix earbuds review
CNN  — 

It’s tough to beat the convenience of true wireless earbuds. And as more companies have thrown their proverbial hats into the arena, we’ve seen them race toward affordability. The Veho STIX True Wireless Earphones recently came to our attention, thanks in part to their formidably frugal $69.99 sale price from the $129.95 price tag.

We’ve reviewed many true wireless earbuds. In fact, we picked our favorites of 2020 here. However, few quality buds we’ve reviewed come close to the price of the STIX. A notable exception are the Samsung Galaxy Buds, which can dip as low as $80 during sales. You can check out our review of that pair here.

Naturally, we found ourselves comparing these devices throughout the process. And after listening to numerous tracks, making calls, draining the batteries multiple times and more, we’ve come to the conclusion that the STIX are a mixed bag with decent overall value .

A standard setup

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The Veho STIX True Wireless Earphones have a familiar design. They feature a circular region with a touch surface for controlling music, calls and smart assistants. Unlike that of AirPods and AirPods Pro, this is flattened and cylindrical, rather than smooth and rounded.

The eartip is attached to this section. By default, the medium tip is attached, but you’ll also receive a smaller and larger set for the right fit. Stemming from the bottom of each bud are long, thin cylinders, a design with which we’re quite familiar. These are where the antenna and microphones are housed.

The STIX are black from tip to tip, sporting a glossy “V” on the touch surface of each bud. Like most true wireless earbuds, you can control both playback and calls here, as well as access your device’s smart assistant.

A single tap will play and pause music, as well as answer and hang up calls. A double tap brings up your assistant of choice, either Siri and Google Assistant. Skipping tracks, rejecting calls and powering on and off the buds are all performed by holding your finger on the touch surfaces for varying lengths of time.

Overall, the controls are simple and easy to learn. You have to hold your finger on a bud for five seconds to turn them off, so we never mixed up this function with, say, skipping to the next song, which takes just two seconds.

Budget Battery

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These earbuds do well in the battery department for their price range. They are expected to provide four hours of battery on a single charge, with enough juice in the included battery case to be refilled up to three times.

This held true during our testing. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, which can often be found on sale for just $10 more than the STIX (though normally $129.99), lasted 5-5 1/2 hours when we tested them for our review. With seven additional hours from the battery case, you get less total battery life, but a longer listening session on the Galaxy Buds.

Of course, both of these buds pale in comparison to more expensive pairs like Apple AirPods and the Samsung Galaxy Buds+, which receive 22 and 24 hours of battery life (counting the charging cases), respectively. But at $69.99, the STIX hold up for your money.

Lacking in bass

3-underscored veho stix earbuds review

When it comes to inexpensive true wireless earbuds, sound is usually a hit or miss. The STIX did surprisingly well, but the bass left much to be desired.

Overall, the music was quite crisp. Once we found the right eartips to create a good audio seal, we tried out a few songs, including “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen.

The STIX produced clear vocals, and instrumentals rang with a similar quality. From punchy drums to satisfying plucks of the guitar, everything sounded good. It wasn’t as crystal clear of an experience as we had with AirPods Pro — the Apple buds seem to have a greater tonal range and sound quality, not to mention more crisp drum output. But we were more than satisfied with the performance of the STIX when we kept the price in mind.

We also got a good sense of 3D space when listening to “I’m on Fire” and other tracks. Instruments sounded like they were on a stage, with drums to the left and guitar. And in each song we tested, vocals came through front and center, resonating well in the soundscape.

When we listened for bass, however, there wasn’t much to be heard or felt. We tried “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, and the normal thundering beat was reduced to a dull tap. Not only was there not much of a bang, but there wasn’t much depth, either.

These buds simply can’t reach the deeper tones that other buds can achieve. The Galaxy Buds, for example, have decent bass, which can be improved using an in-app equalizer. And more premium pairs like the Powerbeats Pro and AirPods Pro, as well as regular AirPods, blow the STIX out of the water.

In terms of call quality, these buds could use major work. During several calls, our recipients complained of a faint crackling noise that persisted after we spoke. They also described us as sounding low quality and tinny. However, we didn’t experience any issues on our end.

Additional features

When we check out audio tech like the STIX, we always look for a companion app. And when we come across one, we hope to find an equalizer that lets you customize your sound experience. Unfortunately, the STIX lack an app, soyou have to stick with the sound out of the box.

The STIX are not without their benefits, though. As we mentioned, you can access both Siri and Google Assistant from the touch surface. Plus, they are IPX5 rated, making them water resistant.

And once you find the right ear tip, they would be great workout buds, if not for the poor bass. Without a strong backbeat, we found our music was washed out by the sound of our footfall.

Bottom line

The Veho STIX True Wireless Earphones are sleek from the buds to the charging case. And while they sport impressive sound clarity, their budget factors shine through. The bass is particularly weak, battery life is poor compared to more expensive devices and your friends will complain if you call them with these in your ears.

If bass-forward music isn’t a must, the Veho STIX True Wireless Earphones ($69.99; store.cnn.com) are a good option on the cheap. But if you see a sale running on Samsung Galaxy Buds or another quality pair, the extra few bucks will be worth it.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.