Review: Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS – Well-Tempered

I was enjoying some tea when I took this pic - catch the teapot in the corner of the photo.
I was enjoying some tea when I took this pic – catch the teapot in the corner of the photo.

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The Air3 Deluxe HS offer a natural-sounding midrange, but the fit and bright treble may deter some purchasers.

General Usage
70%
Rank #23
Audiophile Usage
66%
Rank #18
Tested with Sparrow System 1.0

Score Breakdown

Click the label to navigate to the section.

Case

81%

Earbuds

66%

Software

50%
What We Like 😍
  • Natural-sounding midrange
  • Good bass for the category
  • Coherent overall sound
What We Don't Like 🤢
  • Loose fit
  • Treble is a little too hot for my tastes

Where to Buy

Introduction

Portable audio manufacturer Soundpeats has lately undertaken a Herculean effort to expand and diversify their lineup of budget true-wireless (TWS) in-ear monitors (IEMs) and earbuds. I’ve had a chance to listen to many of them – the Life, the Air3, the Opera 05 (review forthcoming), and now the Air3 Deluxe HS.

Of all these, the Air3 Deluxe HS are my favorite by far, although for many people (especially commuters), they may well be the least practical. They are a pair of earbuds (or “half-in-ear earbuds,” as Soundpeats officially refers to them) roughly equivalent in form factor to the original Apple AirPods.

At a standard selling point just shy of USD$50, these earbuds sit squarely in the budget market, though they’re not quite bottom-of-the-barrel. The pricing model suggests that, although they may not offer audiophile-quality sound, they should offer some advantages over the lowest-priced options.

They justify their price point. Why? Read on to find out!

Case

The earbuds are snuggled nicely into their case for the night.
The earbuds are snuggled nicely into their case for the night.

The Air3 Deluxe HS case resembles the AirPods case in form. It’s small, no-nonsense, and very, very portable. The time-tested design certainly works, and I found no issues!

Battery

  • Battery Life: 20 hrs
  • Connector: Micro-USB
  • Wireless Charging: No
  • Battery Capacity: 30mAh*2 + 300mAh

The 20-hour battery life of the Air3 Deluxe HS case is pretty bog-standard for the price bracket. Nothing to complain about here, but nothing to write home about either.

UX

  • Can be opened easily with one hand: Yes
  • Pass the shake test: Yes
  • Light Indicators:
    • Not charging: Green / 50-100%; yellow / 10-49%; red / 0-10%
    • While charging: Red breathing slowly / 0-20%; yellow breathing slowly / 21-69%; green breathing slowly / 70-99%; solid green / 100%

In daily usage, the case works perfectly fine. It slips into my pocket easily, stays closed until I want to open it, and opens and closes with a satisfying snap.

Design

  • Shape of the case: Rounded rectangular
  • Material: Plastic
  • Build Quality: Good

The glossy surface of the case attracts fingerprints and scratches rather easily, but that’s to be expected. I prefer the glossy finish over the fake-vinyl look many cases (including some by Soundpeats) go for.

Portability

  • Weight: 36.3g
  • Portability: Outstanding

At a weight of 36.3g with earbuds included, the Air3 Deluxe HS offers great portability.

Earbuds

I enjoy the little mesh filter in the opening of the capsule.
I enjoy the little mesh filter in the opening of the capsule.

Battery

  • Battery Life: 5 hrs
  • Charge Time: 1.5 hrs

For the market, 5 hours is a pretty standard battery life.

UX

  • Control Mechanism: Touch
  • Touch Accuracy: Average
  • Control Symmetry on both earbuds: No
  • Mono Use: No

I’ve said it before and will say it again: I don’t particularly dig touch controls for IEMs or earbuds. I often find myself accidentally activating various functions while trying to adjust their position in my ears.

This is not an exception from the norm, of course, and IEMs that implement touch controls will often cause this UX issue. So we can’t really count that against Soundpeats here, who are just trying to respond to market demand.

As it stands, I don’t care to learn the control set, but those who do will likely find it not too difficult to manage.

Design

This picture is perhaps the most descriptive when it comes to build quality. It's solid, but not incredible.
This picture is perhaps the most descriptive when it comes to build quality. It’s solid, but not incredible.
  • Profile: Low
  • Material: Plastic
  • Comfort: Good
  • Fit: Average

The Air3 Deluxe HS design is relatively unexceptional. Visually, they are just a black AirPods clone, albeit with a slightly more triangular (less rounded) body. No problem with that – they just look like normal earbuds to me.

Fit-wise, they sit well enough in my ears. I can wear them for hours, as they don’t put any pressure on any part of my pinnae, but the fit isn’t exactly rock-solid.

I wouldn’t wear these during any sort of exercise, but wearing them while walking around town is just fine.

Of course, because they’re earbuds, they leak prodigiously and offer no sonic isolation. If you plan on using these on any form of public transit, please do your ears and fellow riders a favor and get a pair of IEMs, which form a proper seal.

Mic

  • Noise Cancellation: Good
  • Voice Pick-up: Good

Connectivity

  • Audio Codec: LDAC, SBC
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.2
  • Bluetooth Chip: WQ7033AR
  • Auto-connect when: Case cover is opened
  • Average drop-outs in an hour: 0
  • Multi-point connection: No

Waterproof

  • IP Rating: IPX5

The Air3 Deluxe HS are rated at IPX5, which means they can withstand a “low-pressure water stream from any angle” but should not be immersed. This makes them potentially viable for use during physical activities, although the loose fit will likely be an issue.

Sound

I like the way the earbuds balance on the table.
I like the way the earbuds balance on the table.
  • Driver: 10mm dynamic driver
  • Sound Signature: Neutral-bright
  • Bass: Average
  • Mids: Excellent
  • Treble: Substandard
  • Sound Detail: Average

Overall, I like the approach Soundpeats took when tuning the Air3 Deluxe HS. Overall, the sound signature works for most music. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it’ll work for everyone.

Let me be clearer. I’m not a basshead – I use Etymotics as my daily drivers, which are not very bassy at all. So, to me, the Air3 Deluxe HS have an acceptable amount of bass for a pair of earbuds.

But they are definitely a bass-light, bright-leaning pair of earbuds. They also have some issues in the treble, including a few nasty peaks that can get quite piercing in bright recordings.

Bass

It’s true that with a single-driver pair of earbuds, it’s somewhat difficult to achieve a good balance between bass response and midrange and treble clarity. Those products that managed it (such as the ultra-cheap Yincrow X6) demonstrate that it is possible in a budget product and have mostly used a fabric pad to amplify the bass.

Soundpeats have favored the midrange and treble in tuning the Air3 Deluxe HS. Fine by me – many of my favorite over-ear headphones are somewhat bass-light, too.

Be warned: bassheads should look elsewhere.

While this pair of earbuds are bass-light, the bass response is markedly improved over the lackluster Air3. They have a significant suckout in the bass that extends to the lower mids. The Air3 Deluxe HS have the same thing going on but to a lesser degree.

A sine sweep reveals that they roll off steeply below 100 Hz, with the bass mainly inaudible relative to the rest of the music below about 60 Hz. That’s about what we’d expect from a product like this.

Meanwhile, there’s a slight hump in the mid-bass, around 200 Hz, which is pleasant as it adds body to instruments and voices.

Midrange

I was surprised and pleased to see that the midrange of the Air3 Deluxe HS, while it tilts toward the upper midrange, is relatively well-tuned.

In terms of the frequency response, there is a dip from about 500 Hz to 1500 Hz, then a steady rise above that until the pinna-gain peak at around 3 kHz.

The result is that the “presence” region of instruments is accentuated, but not in a way that feels particularly unnatural. Voices generally sound like voices, and instruments sound like instruments. The timbre of the midrange is thin, but it’s not otherwise “off” or “unnatural” like it is in many products in the same price bracket.

I’m happy to say I find the midrange of the Air3 Deluxe HS very competent for the price.

Treble

The crystal placed nearby increases treble clarity by 50%.
The crystal placed nearby increases treble clarity by 50%.

At this price point, I don’t expect insane detail or resolution, but the Air3 Deluxe HS have some issues that render them an occasionally uncomfortable listen.

As good as the midrange is, when a track contains much high-frequency content, I often run into a painful 8 kHz peak that can make cymbals and sibilant consonances in voices (“s,” particularly) distractingly bright.

Unfortunately, this peak obscures a lot of sonic information – such as the content of the lower treble, for example, despite not being particularly recessed.

There’s another smaller peak at around 6 kHz, but this isn’t the primary source of annoyance. Above 10 kHz, the treble rolls off fairly quickly, but this, too, is to be expected of a pair of TWS earbuds at this price.

The treble, while not terrible on all recordings, can often be painfully bright, especially in tracks that are already brightly mastered. It can also obscure detail throughout the rest of the frequency band, including (occasionally) the midrange.

Software

  • Available on: iOS and Android

The Air3 Deluxe HS uses the proprietary Soundpeats app, which I like for its EQ functionality. However, the “adaptive EQ” option is still borderline useless – you can read more about that in my prior review of the Soundpeats Life.

Conclusion

The scratch in the case is not included with the earbuds. My bad!
The scratch in the case is not included with the earbuds. My bad!

For just under USD$50, the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS are a fine package.

The semi-open earbud form factor inherently limits the bass response and forgoes the possibility of any isolation from external noise. Meaning the Air3 Deluxe HS are not an appropriate pair of TWS earbuds for everyone, but the natural-sounding midrange may click with some users.

The often uncomfortably bright treble means that those sensitive to treble may also want to steer clear of this product.

Nonetheless, I’m proud of Soundpeats for making a product with proper tuning (of sorts). I recommend the Air3 Deluxe HS to listeners primarily focusing on classical or acoustic music.

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