Last year, Oppo and Realme surprised the entry-level TWS earbuds market with a bunch of good products. The Enco W51 and the Realme Buds Air Pro stood out with their Active Noise Cancellation system – a feature that’s still a novelty in the sub-Rs 5,000 segment. I am yet to find out better alternatives in this segment but the Noise Elan caught my eyes for one unique feature. Also Read - Top 5 smartwatches with menstrual tracker for women: Garmin Lily, Amafit GTS 2 mini, more
Similar to the Oppo and Realme earbuds, the Elan features a multi-microphone system. Unlike the other, however, the Elan uses the system to only provide a transparency mode. Quite an unusual implementation, right? It costs Rs 3,999 and is also aimed at gamers with rated low latency. There’re touch controls too and without the stems, it does help if you want to go discrete. Also Read - Noise Colorfit Pro 3 with SpO2 monitor, heart-rate tracker launched at Rs 3,999
Is this worth buying then? I spent two weeks with a pair as my primary choice of earbuds and I have a lot of stuff to say. Also Read - Best in 2020: Our favorite affordable TWS wireless earbuds under Rs 5,000
Design and comfort
If you are going truly wireless with your earbuds, you have to choose between the in-ear designs or the AirPods-esque “stem” design. I am inclined towards the AirPods design, given that it helps the buds to stay put in my ears. However, in-ear designs, like the Noise Elan, work for many. The Elan’s earbuds are large but are shaped just the way sit comfortably. These still fall out the moment I am speaking to someone, or doing any other activity that involves a massive jaw movement.
The silicone ear tips work wonders in blocking the ear canal and create a strong passive noise cancellation system. The build quality of these earbuds isn’t on par with what I have seen from Realme, Oppo, and Xiaomi so far, especially for a pair of earbuds that costs Rs 3,999. However, I am glad to see touch controls here, and these are highly responsive too. I feel touch controls are the natural way to interact with earbuds over buttons.
The case itself is made out of tacky plastic, although I appreciate the matte finish hiding smudges and scratches. There are POGO pins inside to charge the earbuds while magnets hold them in place firmly. I found the LED indicator for battery charge status useful while the presence of a USB-C port makes it a relief (you won’t have to carry a separate cable).
Sadly, the earbuds lack wear detection sensors – something that comes as standard in most earbuds costing Rs 4,000. After using the Enco W51, this is quite an inconvenience.
I tried out the Noise Shots X5 Pro last year and I found them having a very pleasant audio signature. My personal preference is towards a slightly bass-oriented audio profile with strong mids. The Noise Elan overdoes the bass, eventually amping up the mids more than required.
Whether it’s peppy Bollywood songs or soothing western country music, the Elan holds on to its bass-driven tuning well. For example, in Rahman’s “Dil Bechara”, the drum work, as well as instruments, are laden with bass, which eventually shadows the vocals. The high frequencies eventually get drowned out in the process, given that a 6mm driver has to deal with everything. The overall audio profile eventually sounds muddy.
On the other hand, those loving the “thumping bass” effect may find the Elan’s tuning nice. On the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, I noticed the gains with the aptX codec but the AAC codec on the iPhone 12 made the Elan earbuds sound slightly flatter.
The strong passive noise isolation only adds to the bass effect. I would have liked Noise to offer two audio profiles, similar to how it offered on its older models. Even as a bass lover, I would have liked the overall tuning to lean slightly towards neutral.
Now comes the actual feature that makes the Elan unique – the transparency mode. The Elan uses its dual-mic system to offer a digital transparency system. In theory, you tap the right earbuds four times and you can listen to the ambiance clearly. In practice, I did not find the feature useful. There were only a few times I used the transparency mode in the office to eavesdrop on my neighbors (only to find it out of taste). For the rest of the time, I preferred taking out the earbuds in order to have a conversation.
The transparency mode amplifies the ambient sounds for aiding eavesdropping on distant sources. However, I found it quality too artificial. Moreover, as soon as I resume playback from any streaming app on any smartphone, the transparency mode cuts out automatically. I would have preferred the system to stay active when I switched it ON.
Honestly, I feel Noise could have worked out a way to include even a rudimentary form of ANC system. However, the Elan uses its dual-mic system to aid voice reception in calls. Compared to other affordable in-ear TWS earbuds, the Elan does a decent job catching my voice in crowded spaces. It’s still far from good but for the price, I think it is acceptable. I still recommend the stem designs for better call experiences.
I found the touch controls on the earbuds responsive and easy to use. I particularly liked the volume adjustment gestures and the shortcut to aid the high latency mode. Speaking of the high latency mode, the Elan is a good option for mobile gamers playing online multiplayer titles. There’s still a notable delay but it’s lesser than conventional wireless earbuds. The connectivity to both my iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 Plus was strong (I could comfortably talk without any drop in connection while being in the other room).
One of the reasons the Elan earbuds are massive is because of the battery (I suppose, as Noise hasn’t listed the battery capacity). I usually use my earbuds for two hours maximum on any given day. It has been two weeks and I have never found the earbuds dying on me. Additionally, the battery case indicator still shows 75 percent of charge left. This is great by all standards, especially for an affordable TWS earbud. During the first charge, it took close to two hours to fill up the battery from a single blinking LED (under 10 percent).
Before I started using it, I assumed the Noise Elan with its unique transparency mode-only would throw up some use-case that could change the way I look at TWS earbuds. If you have gone through the entire piece, it is safe to say that hasn’t happened. The transparency mode could only appeal to a niche category of users. The Elan sounds like most other entry-level in-ear TWS earbuds from Redmi, Boat, Realme, and other bunch of Chinese-origin affordable earbuds. It will please you only if you love pronounced bass in everything you listen to. Moreover, there are quality control issues – my earbuds automatically altered the volume levels to uncomfortable levels.
If audio quality is what matters the most, I recommend the Oppo Enco W31 for the same price. If deep bass is what you seek, the Redmi Earbuds S from Xiaomi offers similar performance at a much lower price, that too without quality control issues. The Realme Buds Air Pro is the one to go if you seek ANC at a very low price.
However, the Noise Elan is what I would recommend if you forget to charge your earbuds. I was unable to drain the battery below 50 percent with regular usage even after two weeks, forget killing it. Those making the jump to wireless earbuds for the first time should check this out once.