Noise has quickly risen to become one of the main volume drivers for affordable gadgets in India, with a strong focus on smartwatches and true wireless earphones. Most of the company’s products are priced competitively, but Noise’s most recent launch in the TWS space takes a considerably different approach — one that shows intent and ambition to drive the average price of its products upwards. The Noise IntelliBuds is among the company’s most advanced and promising true wireless earphones so far.
Priced at Rs. 4,999, the Noise IntelliBuds have been developed in collaboration with Bragi, famous for being the first brand (that we know of) to go to market with true wireless earphones back in 2015. The headset is pitched as a ‘smart’ one, with head-gesture controls, hot voice commands, and plenty of customisation options through a specially-developed app. Is this the smartest true wireless headset under Rs. 5,000 that you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
Noise IntelliBuds design and features
Although the IntelliBuds is the most expensive true wireless headset in Noise’s product range, it’s still priced fairly affordably as compared to much of the competition, at Rs. 4,999. Expectedly, it’s a fairly ordinarily looking pair of earphones with no exceptional design cues or even the tendency to pack more into a smaller form factor. The earpieces and charging case on the Noise IntelliBuds are large and somewhat bulky, although not unpleasantly so.
The Noise IntelliBuds have a proper in-canal fit, long stems extending downwards, and a flat touch-sensitive surface with the brand’s logo etched on. The earphones are available in two colours, black and white; while I don’t have any complaints regarding the white review unit sent to me, the black looks a bit better in my opinion.
The earpieces are IPX5 rated for water resistance and weigh 5.4g each, while the charging case weighs 45g. It isn’t a particularly small charging case, but you should still be able to slip it in your pocket when not in use without much trouble.
Unlike most options priced at around Rs. 5,000, the Noise IntelliBuds don’t have active noise cancellation. This might be an eyebrow-raiser for many, but the brand is pitching the IntelliBuds as a ‘smart’ option and wants you to look beyond the lack of obvious features such as ANC. That said, the secure, comfortable in-canal fit does offer decent passive noise isolation, and there is a transparency mode.
The ‘smart’ experience on offer on the the Noise IntelliBuds is admittedly an interesting one for a number of reasons. The headset has features that are designed at making the user experience easier and more intuitive, such as hot voice commands and head tracking gestures, as well as detailed app-based functionality. If you prefer a more predictable and classic approach to the way you use earphones, standard touch controls are present as well.
Noise IntelliBuds app and specifications
Much of what the Noise IntelliBuds offer has to do with the collaboration with Bragi. The earphones are powered by ‘Bragi OS’, but it’s important to clarify here that this isn’t an ‘operating system’ in the same way that devices such as smartphones, media streamers, or even smartwatches have them. Instead, Bragi OS enables some additional ‘smart’ functionality on the Noise IntelliBuds, such as the on-device voice controls and head gesture tracking.
All of this works through the Noise IntelliBuds (NoiseFit smart) app, which is available only for Android at the time of this review. The app lets you set up and calibrate some of these features, which then work natively on the earphones themselves, instead of relying on the connection with the smartphone and Internet to function.
You can also use the app to view the battery levels of the earpieces, configure and customise the touch controls, and adjust the equaliser settings. The app interface is nicely laid out and easy to get used to, although I did find the touch controls to be a bit complicated to configure. Connectivity with the app was buggy on occasion as well, with the battery indicators sometimes not showing the levels correctly, and on a couple of occasions not loading the interface at all despite the earphones being connected.
The Noise IntelliBuds true wireless headset has 6mm dynamic drivers, with Bluetooth 5 for connectivity and support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. The sales package includes three pairs of silicone ear tips for the earphones, and a short charging cable.
Noise IntelliBuds performance and battery life
Although Noise has seen some phenomenal growth in sales figures in recent months, the brand is still largely viewed as a specialist in the affordable space. This puts significant expectations on the Noise IntelliBuds, given the Rs. 4,999 price tag and the promise of premium-grade capabilities. Indeed, the overall experience for me was largely pleasant, although some features did feel forced and unpolished, and the sound did not seem to match up completely to competing options in this price segment.
To start with, I tried out the special features that come as part of the collaboration with Bragi — hot voice commands and head gestures. The former worked quite well for me, with the earphones registering the wake command most of the time, and usually understanding any of the specific voice commands I gave right after.
I was able to control playback, volume, turn on or off the transparency mode, and accept calls using voice commands. Interestingly, this doesn’t need an Internet connection to work, as is the case when using voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Siri; all of this works natively on the IntelliBuds headset itself, once set up. Of course, this only covers hardware functionality, but you do have the option to use your smartphone’s default voice assistant for the more comprehensive functionality it offers.
Head-tracking gestures on the other hand, didn’t work very well. Despite redoing the calibration process a few times, even the slightest head movements tended to cause something to inadvertently happen on the Noise IntelliBuds. Keeping my head in a certain way would cause the volume to increase or decrease unexpectedly, among other undesired effects. I found it best to keep this feature switched off.
While the feature set and specifications come across as decent for a headset in this price range, sound quality on the Noise IntelliBuds is rather underwhelming on the whole. I wouldn’t go as far as to call the sound unpleasant, but there certainly wasn’t anything special about it. The headset felt held back and restrained even at loud volumes, with the tuning feeling a bit lazy and unrefined.
Listening to New To You by Calvin Harris, the sound was comfortable and entirely bearable even over long periods of time, but the delivery lacked any real drive or feeling. The violin riff at the beginning of the track and its accompanying electronic beat sounded dull, with the Noise IntelliBuds not really delivering any emphasis at any part of the frequency range. While the highs felt a bit more pronounced a bit further into the house-pop track, the bass felt a bit boring and unexciting.
Even with more vibrant and naturally lively tracks such as Tokyo Night Train (Claes Rosen Remix) by The Midnight, the Noise IntelliBuds felt restrained and somewhat lacking in character. The somewhat dull sonic signature might have been forgiven, was there a reasonable amount of detail to be heard, but there wasn’t too much of that either. That said, you’re unlikely to be put off by the sound in any way; your favourite tracks shouldn’t really be adversely affected, but the point of enhancing the listening experience is somewhat lost with the Noise IntelliBuds.
Transparency mode does a decent job of improving your ambient awareness without interfering with audio playback, but it did sound a bit too artificially amplified for my liking. Call quality is acceptable indoors, but the lack of active noise cancellation did affect my ability to concentrate on calls in even relatively quiet outdoor environments. Connection stability wasn’t an issue for me, with the Noise IntelliBuds working well at distances of up to 3m from the paired smartphone.
Battery life is pretty good on the Noise IntelliBuds, with the earpieces running for around seven hours on a single charge at moderate volume levels. The charging case added three full charges, for a total run time of around 28 hours per charge cycle. Fast charging is present, and the earpieces can fully charge within the case in up to 30 minutes, but a full charge of the case and earpieces took around two hours for me.
Noise has typically enjoyed success in the budget segment for true wireless earphones, but the IntelliBuds is a refreshing sign of intent from the Indian company. It’s an approach that is tech-driven, yet focused on the user experience rather than often meaningless specifications and feature-padding. It’s also incredibly brave, given the lack of ANC despite this being the company’s most expensive true wireless headset yet.
Unfortunately, the Noise IntelliBuds is let down by what comes across as an unpolished and seemingly unfinished overall experience. Gesture controls didn’t work too well for me, and the sound was uninspired and dull on the whole. While I look forward to whatever comes next from Noise, for now, the IntelliBuds aren’t quite worth a recommendation at this price, and you’ll be better served by the OnePlus Buds Z2 or Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro in this budget.