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Tronsmart Onyx Prime ($69.99): Can this TWS compete against the big boys?

Tronsmart Onyx Prime: Can this TWS compete against the big boys?

Pros: Tronsmart quality
Solid foundation of sound
Fun sound
Good bass
Phone call quality
Very good battery life
Easy connectivity

Cons: No ANC
App has limitations, good for updates, though
Crazy-insane price bracket
Cannot substitute tips and have the Onyx still fit into the case (Comply foamies)
Only average accessories

Tronsmart Onyx Prime ($69.99): Can this TWS compete against the big boys?

Onyx Prime

Amazon

Intro:


I was lucky enough to be chosen as a participant in the Tronsmart Onyx Prime review program. As such, I was given the unit for free, under the guise of writing an open and honest review. It is implied that the unit is mine to keep but may be asked back for at any time. It is also understood that I will not flip the unit once I am done; as that ever remains low down and dirty, irresponsible and totally uncool. I have also participated in the Tronsmart BT speaker review as well. I appreciated the unit, even with a couple of shortcomings. My daughter now has the unit and is satisfied with the performance.

What follows are my own words without provocation from Tronsmart or any other input, save my own.

Specs:

  1. Chip:Qualcomm QCC3040
  2. Bluetooth Version:5.2
  3. Audio Decoding:aptX Adaptive, aptX, SBC, AAC
  4. Bluetooth Compatibility:AVRCP v1.5, A2DP v1.3, HFP v1.7
  5. Transmission Distance: Over 10m/33ft
  6. Driver:Hybrid Dual Drivers(Balanced Armature & Dynamic)
  7. Playtime:40 Hours
  8. Battery Capacity:Earbuds:50 mAh; Charging Case:500 mAh
  9. Input:5V/400mA Max
  10. Charging Time:Earbud: About 2 Hours;Charging Case: About 2 Hours
  11. Charging Port:Type-C
  12. Dimension:70 x 48.3 x 30.4mm/2.75 x 1.9 x 1.20 inches
  13. Weight:55.1g/ 1.94oz

In The Box:

Gear Used/Compared:

iPhone 13 Pro Max
MacBook Pro

1More ComfortBuds Pro ($79)
1More ColorBuds 2 ($79)
Fiil T1X ($55)
Bomaker Sifi II ($50)

Songs Used:

BHT & TM
Alex Fox
Tommy Emmanuel
Jesse Cook
Peter Frampton



Unboxing:

Coming in a brightly colored orange and white box, you get a feeling of fun upon first impression. I will state that the box is large, overly large. In this day and age, companies should be minimizing packaging while still promoting their products. The box is very informative with life-size picture of the TWS buds and case on the front and the technology on the back. The flapped side shows and exploded diagram of the unit, which is quite informative along with box contents. The last side (opposite the flap) shows off the three usages with color pictures.

Opening the flap, you get a larger than life exploded diagram on the flaps along with a clear plastic protecting cover over the unit, case and tips along with the different sized ear hooks. Removing the plastic tray, which holds the above-mentioned items, you find the instruction manual, a desiccant pack and a box, which contains a very nice USB-C charging cord. Standard fare for all, and well protected, but still large. A nicely presented packaging show, nonetheless.

Fit/Finish/Build:

As per typical of this price, the unit is made of plastic. Made of three or four pieces fit together well, there is a slot behind the nozzle, which holds the ear hook in place. This is the first TWS of which I have kept the ear hook on without it bothering me. The unit is on the larger size, and the outer panel, which drops down looks like a solar panel to me. The inside has four copper connecting points, which is how the unit charges inside the case. This is a nice idea and could possibly have charging benefits.

The nozzle has a nice lip, which while thin is of sufficient size to keep the tips in place, but not be too large of a diameter. Putting on some used Comply T-series I have; I could listen for a good 2-3 hours without bother. Using the included silicon tips, I could go longer, but the sizes provided did not give me adequate isolation; even in the largest offered size. I will state that the build/finish is a bit below this price point to me, but not inexcusable by any means.

As mentioned, the best fit comes with Comply’s, and I do wish more manufacturers would follow Sony’s lead of making foams, which can also stay on when the unit is charging. I find it quite annoying that in order to use foam tips, I either have to go to a smaller size, or remove them every time I put the unit in the case.

Overall build, fit & finish would be average to slightly above average to me.

Technology, etc:

Marketed as a dual driver, the BA is mounted right in the nozzle to gain full benefit of being close to the listeners ear. The bass unit (DD) sits in a cavity behind, but melds well together. Since the BA unit is so close to the listening experience it is first and forefront in the occurrence. As such, this pushes the mids and treble notes to the front.

Functions:

When one purchases a TWS bud, how it is used is as important as how it sounds to me. Lack of easy functionality can ruin a thoroughly enjoyable experience and having a steep learning curve of the functions is tantamount to looking like a dolt in public situations, which demand your control. The Onyx Prime is fairly intuitive, with one touch on the right as volume increase and one on the left as volume decrease. Double tapping pauses and plays on either. Tapping and holding for a second (or two) starts the track over on the left and moves to the next on the right. A nice easy feature.

Calls are answered or ended with two taps when incoming and rejected by holding like you would for rewind/fast forward. Easy to use and understand. Tapping three times enters or exits gaming mode, which expands the soundstage to me when used in audio mode. Again, with low latency, the sound and placing of necessary gaming items is accurate and precise. While certainly not a gaming headset, it will work for that game of Retro Bowl or Clash Royale on your commute into work.

Call quality is good as you would expect, with active technology noise reduction. In a conversation with our son, he said I did sound a bit distant, and muted, but not bad. That is of course in comparison to the excellent call qualities of the iPhone 13 Pro Max as it is.

Sound:

Summary:

Marketed as a fun alternative, but still an audiophile one to boot; there is no hiding behind the fact that the mids are pushed forward. This gives a certain vibrancy to the note, coming from that BA in the nozzle as well. That said, the notes are not so far forward to cover the rest. Bass is fairly taut but a bit slow in response, lending a certain amount of warmth and richness to the signature. Treble sounds good, but not great. Cymbal clashes sound a bit analytical and less than realistic. Not bad mind you, but not on par with others. That fun signature does lend itself to getting your juices flowing, such as in a workout segment, though.

Isolation even with the largest silicon tips is below average to me and would be an annoyance in noisy situations. I would certainly opt for foam tips as mentioned above, but not if I were riding a bike in traffic. There, I would tolerate the noise for safety’s sake. Call quality is good, with minimal distraction, and the “gaming” mode provides fairly low latency keeping its head in the game so to speak. Adding to the fun sound, vocals come across as fairly clean and crisp, which helps across all platforms.

More:

It really is a different beast when reviewing TWS items. You can judge for good audio quality such as the more expensive Sony’s or M&D’s but when you hit the sub-$100 market there are plenty of discrepancies to keep you busy judging whether the unit is actually good, bad or indifferent. The Onyx Prime comes across as a fairly decent example that lacks some of the frills available in its peers. There is no noise cancelation, which makes traveling with them interesting as you would need foam tips (to me) in order to isolate the sound. Having traveled extensively this fall, noise cancelation is a must to me, and others such as the much more expensive Sony’s M&D’s & B&W’s all come with top class noise cancelling technology. So, in that regard, the Onyx Prime falls behind. That said, two of the models I compare below also fail that note, but those came about before noise cancelling technology became “needed.”

Based purely on the audio merits, the sound is pretty decent. Bass while not as strong as others comes across as competent with a bit of low-end gruff. On Big Head Todd’s Bittersweet, the bass guitar follows the sound as it should, but lacks that visceral feeling of others to me. As a foundational aspect though, it is just fine.

The mids are a conundrum to me. With little bleed of the bass into the mids, they take the front of the stage in the signature. This can be good for it provides good detail and decent enough clarity; but it can also highlight a bit of overemphasis, which can lead to near sibilance or grating in vocal presentation. Todd’s voice is so superb you want it to sing all day, but on the aforementioned song, it can come across as a bit strident. Guitar work comes across presented cleanly, though.

Up top, the treble note adds to that conundrum of the mids. Cymbal clashes sound a bit artificial here, and this can give a falsity to the sound, but in overall consideration is not really that bad. I pick a bit here. That stridency can give a sort of lift to the top here, helping promote that fun part of the signature. On Jesse Cook’s fabulous acoustic Shake, the song alone makes me want to take up Spanish dancing lessons. On the Onyx Prime I pretty much feel the same way as that push up top adds to the experience without much bother.

That lack of isolation tends to hinder separation as well as layering, since the outside sound competes for attention. But, using Comply T-series foam tips, there is a decent effort at the two. For an audiophile branded TWS, it is laudable. I would call it on par with the others at this price. Soundstage is decently wide, tall and only a bit too shallow for my tastes. This presentation gives you an up-front feel, but without too much depth.

App use:

While using the easy app, there are 8 preset EQ’s, which can easily change the character of the Onyx. None are completely offensive, but some are better to me such as the “Deep Bass” and “Orignal,” while the “Rock” and “Vocal” sound quite a bit off to me. “3D” does add a bit of depth to that soundstage, which I said was lacking, so there is that as well. Updating to Firmware version 2.2.5 was easy to download and install using the app until the “rebooting you device” aspect, which did take a bit. Other than that it was fine. I could not tell a difference in sound after the update.

Comparisons:

Tronsmart Onyx Prime ($70) v 1More ComfortBuds Pro ($79):

This was the first pair I tried when I traveled, and I liked them very much. With excellent noise canceling qualities that do not hinder the audio quality these quickly became my favorites to use on the plane. Until I tried the Sony’s…but that is another story. The CB Pro offers the guttural bass that the CB2 lack, and it is on par with some very fine IEM’s in my estimation. These should be a very big selling point of this TWS, and I highly recommend a listen if you like very good noise canceling as well as deep, rich bass. This does tend to bleed a bit into the mids, which are more withdrawn than the Onyx, but still quite good. Cymbal “realness” is about the same in both, as in lacking; but this should not hinder your choice. Limitations pretty much abound in any TWS below $100.

Of the two, this is an easy choice for me due to the additional bass and noise canceling ability. The ComfortBud Pro wins handily, even with a bit of a learning curve and connectivity, which took a bit. That said, the above should not stop you from trying the Onyx Prime for it does provide good quality.


Tronsmart Onyx Prime ($70) v 1More ColorBuds 2 ($79):

Very mid-centric in sound, the ColorBuds 2 are almost too bright for my taste. They fit very well, and all but disappear in my ear, with the best fit of any here. Lacking the deep guttural bass, the CB2 focuses on clarity, which they have in a copious amount. Make sure you have the right tip mounted for isolation, as a lack of seal can play with the sound. Pushing the unit into my ear deeper does result in better bass quality and quantity; but one should not need to do that as often as I had to with the CB2.

That said, these are a fine TWS bud, with better clarity than the Onyx can hope for. If you want details galore, the CB2 is the choice amongst these two. Engaging as well, but I would give the overall nod to the Onyx Prime for my tastes.

Tronsmart Onyx Prime ($70) v Fiil T1X ($55):

The last two are purchases I made at the recommendation of Scarbir, who to me is the undisputed king of TWS reviews. While he may focus on those models, which are more economical (less than $150), his reviews are spot on to me and I feel the same as he does on both of these. The T1X was a co-purchase with the Sifi II, and I do not regret either. As they are both a couple of years old, neither has the noise canceling of the two 1More branded TWS buds.

No matter, for I purchased these for the audio quality, and feel the T1X is still a solid purchase. With better bass depth and grunt, the T1X provides for a better foundation to me. Along with that, there is a bit of bleed into the mids, which also sit behind those in the Onyx. That artificiality of cymbal hit is present as well. But the treble note to me comes across as ever so smooth. Easy to use function-wise as well, I still really like the T1X. This would come down to whether you like better bass, and a very solid “audiophile” sound, or less bass, and a more forward mid-based “audiophile” sound. Solid choices, both.


Tronsmart Onyx Prime ($70) v Bomaker Sifi II ($50):

Of the Fiil & Bomaker, I do believe the Sifi II provides me with a better audiophile sound, but with a bit less bass. Mids almost on par with the more forward Onyx, but presented better, this is still one fine TWS bud. Other than being a real PITA to get out of the case, connection is easy and fit/use is the best of those here. I do hear that the original Sifi supposedly sound better, but I am thoroughly satisfied with the Sifi II for its wonderful melodic signature, that provides just enough bass to keep a solid foundation, and the best vocals this side of a much more expensive TWS bud. Better 3D presentation as well make this an easy recommendation for those who want an audiophile-grade TWS. Mind you it is almost as fun as the Onyx signature as well. Lacking noise cancelation here does hinder its use, but the isolation with silicon tips is much better than the Tronsmart. If the Bomaker had more bass quantity, it would be considered a giant killer. As is, it is a very solid choice to me.

Finale:

I have on hand an excellent selection of TWS buds with which to review and listen. As such, I have quickly become as spoiled about them as I am about IEM’s or headphones. This is not necessarily a bad thing for not only do I find my preferences, but also can gauge those on hand against what cometh my way. And the Tronsmart Onyx Prime came at a very good time. Having spent a good portion of the fall in air travel, I auditioned many TWS buds on planes and through airports. Most are very good, with some extraordinary ones as well (reviews coming).

This also highlights my own personal purchases here and what technologies have trickled down since then as well. The Onyx Prime seems to bridge that gap between audiophile and all-purpose TWS pretty well. Even without noise cancelation technology, it sounds pretty good. A more forward mid-section than I prefer, and a lack of deep-reaching bass hinder my overall satisfaction with it, but quite possibly not yours. If you like a solid mid-section, with easy to use controls and a fun sounding blend to your TWS bud; then you could do much worse than the Onyx Prime. This would be a good pair for the gym bag to keep you going on those extra sets you know you should do after the holidays, which might be motivation enough.

I thank Tronsmart for the inclusion in the Onyx Prime review tour, this is a pretty decent TWS bud they have here and might be worth a listen if you espouse to the virtues set forth above.

Cheers.


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