Bluetooth headphones have come a long way in terms of design and performance. And with almost every brand offering a dash of their own, it can be quite hard to choose, as everyone tries to stand out, in one way or another.
Tronsmart is one of these brands. And the Encore S4 is their warrior in this overpopulated battlefield. For a budget headset, it does seem to have some nifty tricks of its own, including intuitive controls, a neckband design, and the most notable one being ANC or Active Noise Cancellation, which they and as others claim greatly reduces outside noise so you can better appreciate your music.
Now I’ve tried quite a couple of expensive pairs with ANC, the Sony MDR1000XM2 and the Bose QC 35s, and I’d have to say that the implementations of ANC in both were superb. So for a budget headset like this one (PhP2,899), can I expect it to work just as well? or is it more of a gimmicky feature? let’s find out in this review.
Design, Build Quality, Comfort
Like most Bluetooth headsets with the same design, the Encore S4 is mainly made up of plastic. That being said, build quality is excellent, and the device feels sturdy. I did try flexing and bending it, and there were no squeaks or signs of fatigue. So if you’re like me who tends to give headsets a beating, this one’s good for the books.
The headset uses a headband design, with the Bluetooth module, and all the controls placed on the band. Speaking of which, the buttons are made up of a rubbery material, and are easily distinguishable. The headband itself also feels very comfortable, even with long hours of use. There’s a dedicated switch and indicator for Active Noise Cancellation.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust the length of the headband. The cable that connects the drivers to the headband also quite thin, and while they don’t feel flimsy, a little caution isn’t so bad to practice.
You get a Play/Pause button, which is also used to turn the device on and off, and for pairing with a source. The volume up and down buttons also double as skip track or previous track, with a long-press.
The device can be charged using the microUSB port, which is covered by a rubber flap. And while it does seem sturdy, my only concern is that the flap might fail with prolonged use, especially when you open it again and again for charging. While these aren’t exactly advertised as being waterproof, I did wear them in the middle of a drizzle for about 10 to 15 mins on a walk, and they survived.
The headset comes with three pairs of tips, with the medium ones already installed. I did use the larger tips, and it’s quite easy to get a good seal.
Noise Cancelling Performance
Usually, in-ear headphones can already block out a huge amount of outside noise. But Tronsmart decided to build on that, with Active Noise Cancelling. And I’m delighted to say that it’s not a gimmick, and is as real as it gets. Perhaps, the only thing i’m not happy with is that there’s no voice prompt saying that it’s On or Off. Sure, you can look at the indicator light, but you’ll have to remove the neckband to do that.
On a bus, I could hardly hear the engine, as well as the conversation of those in front, and the TV. Walking in the street, I could still hear the engine sound from cars passing by, but not the splashing sound coming from their tires hitting the pockets of water on the road.
In a mall, I was with 4 people, and I could only barely hear what they were saying. It’s also enough to drown out the sound of the mall’s speakers, and the murmuring of other people around. Overall, the ANC on the Encore S4 is more than decent, especially at this price point.
The Encore S4 is a headset that responds to how well recorded your music is. Play a badly recorded track, and it will make you realize how important it is to get a good quality source. Put in a well-recorded track, and it’ll give you more reasons to enjoy.
If you’re a basshead, you won’t get a lot of that here. There’s just enough to keep the track alive, but not too much that it beats the other frequencies. On fairly recorded tracks, I found the vocals to be slightly lacking in detail.
The highs also suffer from a loss in clarity. It’s as if there’s a veil between your ear and the band. The sweet “sss” sound which really rounds a track well, just isn’t there. Soundstage is pretty much the usual. The band playing near you, but not in your face. Instrument separation is also decent, as you can clearly distinguish each sound, despite the dismal sound quality.
There were instances that the sound cuts off even when the source, in this example, a phone, was just in my pocket, and I was wearing the headset. As far as range goes, I was able to go around 7 meters away before the connection started to fail.
With ANC On, the Encore S4 managed to churn out 11 hours of playback in a single charge, which is certainly less than the 15 hours that Tronsmart claims, but close enough. Charging the device takes around 3 hours.
Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.