Rewind to a few years ago and true wireless earbuds seemed like absolute magic. The initial products were hard to come by and expensive if you did come by them. And all they offered by way of features was good-ish sound quality. Today, it’s not just raining true wireless earbuds, they’re totally affordable and come with features that once belonged to the top echelon products from audio legends like Bose.

Well, now there’s no Bose in the top five companies that make up the TWS (truly wireless stereo) market share. Look at the figures for 2021.

Imagine Marketing (BoAt) 39.3% market share
Realme 7.7% market share
Nexxbase (Noise) 7.5% market share
Palred (PTron)6.0% market share
Samsung 4.7% market share
Small and stylish

It’s realme’s Buds Air 3 that we’re looking at today. It’s a compact, almost feminine little gadget that comes in either white or an interesting blue. Fitting easily in any pocket, slipping readily into a bag, it’s great to carry around or travel with.

Pushing open the lid of its all-plastic glossy case, you’ll find the buds have a metallic top on the short stem that sits a little differently from other earbuds. It gives the buds a nice look and happens to be quite comfortable. There’s not much twisting and turning you have to do to get a good fit — the buds go straight in and are on the smaller side so create a good seal straight off.

You get a few extra ear-tips in the box. With the realme Link app, you can go through a detailed fit-test to make sure you’re getting the best out of them. The app creates a listening profile based on the test that’s customised for you.

Quiet focus

The app is available on both iOS and Android and will show you how feature-rich these budget buds actually are. The seal achievable with these buds is quite strong, but on top of that you have active noise cancellation of what realme claims is 42 decibels.

You can trigger it from the app or by touching the stem of one of the earbuds. And the noise certainly drops quite dramatically. Many times I worried I might be missing some important sounds around so I kept switching to transparency mode which is again a huge difference. There’s also supposed to be control over the sound of wind.

The ANC deadens the noise enough to close you in and isolate you from other things, leaving you to concentrate on whatever you’re doing or listen to music. While working, I often used the ANC without music just to concentrate better. The only thing I had trouble with is that touching the stem is a bit hit-or-miss. You can set the button actions you like from the app.

The Buds Air 3 are quite comfortable for long calls or listening. They may even be one pair of earbuds that you can use to lie down and listen with, except that you will have to turn off in-ear detection from the app because as the buds touch a pillow they wil tend to shift in your ear. These buds are not at all in danger of falling out while working out and are even sweat resistant. They’re not outright waterproof — specially the case — so don’t give them too much of a shower.

Tuned to please

The sound quality on these buds is very pleasing for everyday listening. Ordinary listeners (as opposed to fussy audiophiles) will want nothing more. There’s enough attention to all categories of frequencies and a volume enhancer in the app that just about doubles the loudness. There are some pre-sets such as Bright and Bass Boost, but no granular equaliser. The 10mm drivers push out a nice full sound.

Rich feature set

The Buds Air 3 are a great example of how you can get smart features today for a truly affordable price. Other than pretty effective ANC, you get multi-point pairing, wireless charging and low latency gaming mode. The buds work with Bluetooth 5.2 and support SBC and AAC audio codecs. You also have Dolby Atmos with profiles for movies, music and gaming, and a feature that adapts sound to the environment. At a price of ₹3,999, the realme Buds Air 3 are quite the value for money gadget.