Of late, we are seeing a shift in the audio market where manufacturers are offering premium features in their mid-range true wireless solutions to appeal to the more price-conscious customers. Features such as Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency Mode, Wear Detection and others are making their way to more affordable offerings such as the Realme Buds Air Pro, which we recently reviewed, and the Oppo Enco W51, which we are reviewing today. This significant shift aligns with the interest of customers who don’t want to burn a hole in their pocket but still enjoy some higher-end features. The Oppo Enco W51 is Oppo’s latest true wireless launch in India and it comes with numerous enticing features. While it certainly looks good on paper, let’s delve into our full review to find out if it lives up to the hype.
Build and comfort
On its surface, the Oppo Enco W51 may look like yet another AirPods Pro clone, however, its unique charging case and the design language of the earbuds set them apart from Apple’s popular noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds. The Enco W51 comes in two colour options – Floral White and Starry Blue. We got the former as our review unit and were intrigued by its overall subdued look that was brought to life by the pearlescent effect on the shiny rear surface of the earbud housings. It is reminiscent of the back housings of the white variant of the Samsung Galaxy Buds+.
The stem of the buds is also flattened, in contrast to the cylindrical stems on the AirPods Pro. The touch sensor is housed on the surface of these stems, however, they are placed slightly lower on the stem than the conventional top portion. Unfortunately, the odd placement led to the buds often not registering taps and we sometimes required several attempts to even perform basic actions via the touch controls. More on the touch controls in the next section.
The earbuds feature an oblong shape that is comfortable for most ears, however, smaller ears (like the reviewer’s) may feel some fatigue after wearing these buds for a few hours. This is not due to the weight, the buds are extremely lightweight, but because of the elongated shape of the buds themselves. Oppo provides a total of four sizes of silicone tips and we found the ones fitted by default to be the most secure and comfortable. Ensure that you try out all the silicone tips and find the best fit possible since this is crucial to getting a moderately good ANC experience on these buds.
The fit may get uncomfortable after a few hours for smaller-sized ears, however, there’s no doubt that it is pretty snug and secure in most ears. The buds stayed wedged on in our ears after putting them in and didn’t budge too much even during intensive physical activities such as jogging or running. Additionally, these buds are also IP54 dust and water-resistant, so you can bring these to the gym even if you do sweat during workouts. However, they won’t fare well with more than moderate amounts of sweat and light splashes.
The charging case of the Oppo Enco W51 is sleek, lightweight and ultra-pocketable. While we do wish the hinge of the charging case was reinforced by steel, for the most part, the build feels pretty solid. It’s shaped like a flat squarish pillow with the Oppo logo smacked on top of the lid and the USB Type-C port at the back alongside an LED indicator light. Overall, other than the slight discomfort in our reviews over extended periods of usage and the slightly flimsy lid, the build quality and comfort of these buds did manage to impress us considerably. If you want a pair of earbuds that stand out more, you can consider going for the Starry Blue variant which, with its gold and blue dual-tone, is slightly more striking.
The most enticing feature of the Oppo Enco W51 is, no doubt, the Active Noise Cancellation. These earbuds employ a whopping six hybrid noise reduction microphones as well as a dual-core noise reduction chip to achieve a noise reduction depth of up to 35dB, as per the company. We tested out the ANC keeping in mind that these are not over-ear headphones and neither are they from a company such as Sony that has an established track record of great ANC products. Keeping all this mind, the Oppo Enco W51 did a surprisingly good job at cutting out certain ambient sounds.
The earbuds cancel out a significant amount of sound in the low frequencies, especially sounds that are constant. So, distractions such as an AC drone, a low-speed ceiling fan, and an airplane drone should be drowned out considerably. There is a slight hiss in the background when ANC is active, but it is almost negligible and shouldn’t bother most users too much. The earphones do not drown out high-frequency sounds such as people shouting, mechanical keyboards typing, horns, and whistles. It has a hard time drowning out mid-range sounds as well, which is minimised a lot more on more expensive ANC solutions such as the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. Nevertheless, with a proper seal and with music turned on, you will barely hear any distractions, which is pretty impressive for a noise-cancelling pair of earphones at this price point.
The earbuds are powered by Bluetooth v5.0 and come with SBC and AAC codec support, no aptX support, unfortunately. You also get IP54 dust and water resistance, touch controls and USB Type-C charging. So far, apart from ANC, it is pretty standard fare for what you’d expect on pair of true wireless earphones under 5K. However, Oppo goes beyond that and offers a host of other features such as wireless Qi charging for the case and wear detection. The latter is a feature where simply pulling the earbud out of your ear will pause the music and putting it back in will resume it.
This is a more integral feature that you initially realise since, for non-Oppo phones that are stuck with the default touch controls, this is the only way to pause or play music as there isn’t a touch command for the same. The touch commands are limited to the double taps and triple taps, where a double tap on the right side will take you to the next track (no provision to go to the previous track on non-Oppo phones), and a double-tap on the left cycles through ANC mode and normal mode. A triple tap on either earbud activates your device’s Voice Assistant. The earbuds, however, don’t come with Ambient Listening which is present on the Realme Buds Air Pro, which costs the same. However, the Realme Buds Air Pro doesn’t come with wireless Qi charging, so it’s all about what feature you prefer. The Oppo W51 also supports Fast Pairing on select Oppo phones. Still, normal pairing was pretty instantaneous and consistent as well.
You also get mono listening feature that allows you to listen to music through only one earbud, even if the other one is docked into the charging case. This is a pretty convenient feature and is often missing on mid-range true wireless earphones. Overall, the Oppo Enco W51 are extremely feature-laden but we wish that the ability to customise controls was universal and wasn’t just limited to Oppo users since the default controls aren’t all-encompassing.
Moving on to the sound quality, the Oppo Enco W51 houses a 7mm dynamic driver along with dual TPU composite graphene diaphragms. The company also claims to have employed an algorithm that compensates for loss in audio quality due to ANC. We tested out the Oppo Enco W51 with our usual set of test tracks as well as multiple others from various genres during our week-long test period. The Oppo Enco W51 definitely features a V-shaped sonic signature with boosted bass and emphasised treble.
The bass response, especially the upper bass region, sounds dynamic and lively with a certain punchiness without being overbearing. However, the problem arises when you hear tracks with low-bass or sub-bass response. The bass response in this particular region of the frequency spectrum seems exceedingly heightened which causes it to sound boomy. In tracks such as bad guy by Billie Eilish, the sub-bass thumps that last through the duration of the entire song are excessively pushed which leads to auditory masking in the mids. Due to the auditory masking, the vocals aren’t as clear and dynamic as they can be. Additionally, there’s also a slight distortion in the sub-bass that mars detail considerably.
The vocals, by themselves, have character and good tonality, however, they seem a bit receded in the grand scheme of things. The bass and lows often tower over the vocals and mid-range instruments which is apparent in tracks such as Pull Me Under by Dream Theatre, where the drums overpower the vocals and lead guitar, making them sound slightly listless. The staging, on the other hand, was pretty good. The soundstage was sufficiently wide and the imaging was stellar, with accurate positioning of instruments.
The treble is detailed and sparkly for the most part, however, in tracks such as Hunter by Bjork, there’s no missing the sibilance that overpowers the entire track. We would love the option of tweaking things around a bit with an EQ but unfortunately, the Oppo Enco W51 doesn’t come equipped with app support. Nevertheless, the sound profile is pretty decent and is fairly detailed as well. However, for EDM and hip-hop fans, the thump and rumble in the sub-bass may be a bit too overpowering. Bass heads, however, may like this sonic signature.
Microphone quality on the Oppo Enco W51 is pretty mediocre. While there wasn’t an overbearing amount of distortion during calls, the microphone does pick up a fair amount of background sounds. We also tried gaming with the Oppo Enco W51, and found that the earphones does have some concerning latency issues. It does not support LDAC or aptX and neither does it come with a gaming mode, so this is expected. Nevertheless, the high latency doesn’t transfer over to streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix which seemed to have minimal delay between audio and video.
The Oppo Enco W51’s battery life is definitely on the lower side when it comes to true wireless earphones in 2020. The earbuds themselves have a fairly measly playtime of 3.5 hours with ANC on and 4 hours with ANC off. In total, the earbuds sport combined battery life (charging case + earbuds) of 20 hours with ANC turned on and 24 hours with ANC turned off. This means, the case will charge up your earbuds around 5 times to full charge, which is pretty good. However, the battery life on the buds is mediocre.
In fact, in our tests with ANC turned on and at 50-60 percent volume, we recorded a battery life of merely 2 hours and 45 minutes on the buds, which is lacklustre. We were able to get close to the company claim with mixed usage of ANC. The charging case tops up to full in about 1 hour and 20 minutes with a standard USB-C cable, whereas with wireless charging, it takes about 2 and a half hours to charge back up to full. Qi wireless charging support is a pretty rare feature on this price range. The Realme Buds Air did have the feature, however, the company has ditched it with its latest Realme Buds Air Pro.
Priced at Rs 4,999, the Oppo Enco W51 is an enticing purchase, chock full with features such as ANC, wear detection, IP54 water and dust resistance, Qi wireless charging, mono listening, and voice assistant support. However, a few features such as Quick Pairing and customisable touch controls are reserved for Oppo phones only, which is slightly disappointing. Also, the 3.5 hours of playtime on the earbuds (with ANC turned on) is definitely on the lower side when it comes to true wireless earbuds in 2020. The sound is pretty decent with punchy bass and sparkly treble, however, the mids are slightly recessed and there’s some sibilance in the upper register which may cause listening fatigue. Overall, the package is pretty alluring on the outside, but there are some chinks in the armour of the Oppo Enco W51. It is up to your preferences to determine how serious these chinks are for you. Nevertheless, at under 5K, the earbuds provide enough value for money with a secure fit, decent sound, ANC, and more to get a recommendation from us (especially so, if you have an Oppo device).