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Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS Review: A Solid, Affordable AirPods Alternative

 

Person holding a Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS bud

With features like noise cancellation and head tracking, earbuds are getting more complicated all the time. What if you’re looking for something simpler? The Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS are affordable earbuds that keep things simple, with a focus on delivering your music at its best.

You won’t find active noise cancellation (ANC) here. You won’t even find silicon ear tips to help you customize your fit. What you will find is larger drivers than standard earbuds that deliver big-sounding audio without needing a complete seal in your ears to do so.

While the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS sound great for the money, there are a few tradeoffs when it comes to ease of use and convenience. Is the sound quality worth the sacrifices? The price point certainly makes them easier to overlook.

Here’s What We Like

  • Great audio performance for the price
  • Solid call quality
  • Game mode is handy for low latency
  • Good EQ presets
  • 10-band custom EQ

And What We Don’t

  • No wireless charging
  • Battery life is slightly less than advertised
  • Touch controls can be overly sensitive

How-To Geek’s expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews.

Design and Comfort: Standard-Looking and Lightweight Earbuds

Person wearing the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS
  • Dimensions (single earbud): 1.29in (33mm) stem
  • Dimensions (case): 2.28 x 1.76 x 0.9in (58 x 44.9 x 23mm)
  • Weight (case and earbuds): 1.24oz (35.30g)
  • Weight (single earbud): 0.13oz (3.96g)
  • IP rating: IPX4

The Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS use a now-familiar design that takes plenty of hints from Apple’s AirPods. Like the entry-level AirPods, the Air3 Deluxe HS use a semi-in-ear design that lets them simply hang, rather than create a seal with silicon tips. This is a handy design type if you find that standard earbuds leave your ears feeling plugged.

As we’ll look at later on, the Air3 Deluxe HS use a larger driver than many comparable earbuds. You’d think that would mean a bulky main body of the earbud, but in my case, they didn’t feel different from other earbuds. They’re fairly lightweight as well, which I didn’t expect.

The earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant. This means that there is some water resistance, mainly against splashes. Feel free to take these out in the rain or wear them at the gym, but don’t dunk them in water, or they may stop working.

Both the earbuds and the case are glossy black plastic with copper-colored accents. This is a nice-looking color combination, but the glossy plastic does mean these pick up fingerprints easily.

Connectivity: LDAC and Low-Latency Modes

The Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS case with the buds inside
  • Bluetooth version: 5.2
  • Codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • Bluetooth range: 33ft (10m)

The Air3 Deluxe HS use Bluetooth 5.2 for connections. Many earbuds use this newer version of Bluetooth but don’t actually do much with it. These earbuds take advantage of the connectivity in a few ways.

Bluetooth 5.2 introduced the capability for lower latency. Here, Soundpeats uses it as a “game mode” you can activate either with a triple tap or by using the earbuds’ companion app. This reduces latency to 60ms, but it does slightly lower the fidelity of the audio.

On the other hand, Soundpeats added support for Sony’s LDAC codec in the Air3 Deluxe HS. This makes for higher bitrates than standard Bluetooth codecs like SBC and AAC deliver. With LDAC, the bitrate goes up to 990kbps, which equates to 24bit/96kHz.

The LDAC codec isn’t completely lossless, but it does provide a sort of hi-res audio, or at least as close as you can get over Bluetooth. Just keep in mind that not all devices support the codec, including Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

Controls and the Soundpeats App: Touchy, but Customizable

Person using touch controls on the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS

Onboard controls are handled via capacitive touch areas on the outside of each earbud. A single tap on your right or left earbud raises and lowers volumes, respectively. Double-tap either side to pause and resume, or triple-tap the left earbuds to toggle game mode.

These are slightly fiddly and easy to accidentally activate while trying to adjust the earbuds in your ears. Fortunately, you can use the Soundpeats app (available for iPhone / iPad and Android) to turn off the single-tap gestures.

Air3 Deluxe HS in the Soundpeats app
Air3 Deluxe HS settings in the Soundpeats app
Air3 Deluxe HS EQ presets in the Soundpeats app
Air3 Deluxe HS custom EQ in the Soundpeats app

Using the Soundpeats app, you also can toggle Game mode on or off, as well as enable or disable in-ear detection, which automatically pauses and resumes audio when you remove or place the in-ears. You also get access to both EQ presets and a 10-band custom EQ.

The presets are handy, especially the “Soundpeats classic” setting, which restores the midrange response to what you might expect from other Soundpeats headphones. That said, it’s always nice to have a custom EQ, as everyone’s ears are different.

Sound Quality:

The Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS laying out on a table
  • Driver: 14.2mm bio-diaphragm dynamic driver

As I mentioned earlier, it’s clear that the bulk of the budget in the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS is going toward sound quality instead of other features. This explains the relatively large 14.2mm dynamic driver. This might sound small, and it is in the grand scheme of things, but it’s much larger than the 8mm and 9mm drivers we often see in earbuds.

Overall, the Air3 Deluxe HS don’t operate under any pretense of trying to be precise or neutral. These have a V-shaped sound signature, as do many earbuds in the price range. That said, the sound signature here was pleasant and seemed to work well across various genres.

Listening to JAde Wii’s “Speechless,” the various hi-pass and band-pass filters moving around in the song do a good job of pointing out any unpleasant frequency peaks. While there are a few ugly spots, this song didn’t point out any glaring issues with the Air3 Deluxe HS. Even distorted and altered, the main piano that drives the song sounds great.

To test the difference between AAC and LDAC, I started listening to “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf on my iPhone via Apple Music first. I then switched to a 192kHz/24-bit version of the song on my Sony NW-A35 Walkman, and immediately noticed a subtle difference in overall detail. It’s barely there, but noticeable, more as a “feel” than an audible difference.

Great Expectations” by Miles Davis sounds surprisingly detailed on the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS. Near the beginning of the song, the trumpet takes up most of the midrange frequencies, letting the cymbals and hi-hits run free in the higher frequencies. The soundstage is much bigger than I’d expect from earbuds.

While these are clearly tuned for music, performance was also good using them for movies and gaming. You’ll likely want to use Game mode for both for better lip sync, though, as I mentioned earlier, the audio quality does take a hit.

Call Quality and Voice: They Get the Job Done

The side view of a Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS bud

Taking a few calls on the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS, I didn’t notice much of a difference in how calls sounded on my everyday earbuds. At the same time, nobody I spoke to commented on me sounding any different, which tells me that the microphone quality is at the very least decent.

The Air3 Deluxe HS use a four-microphone array to pick up your voice and block out background noise like wind. I found the earbuds held up fairly well against passing traffic and a moderate breeze.

Battery and Charging Case: Less Than Advertised

Person putting the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS case in a backpack
  • Playtime (earbuds only): 5 hours
  • Playtime (earbuds and case): 20 hours
  • Case battery capacity: 300mAh

Soundpeats claims that the Air3 Deluxe HS are capable of up to five hours of playtime on a single charge. This may be possible, but it would have to be at a low volume. In my testing, I routinely got closer to four hours of listening at moderate volumes.

The charging case will charge the earbuds three more times. According to Soundpeats, this should get you 20 hours. From what I’ve seen, I’d play it safe and plan on getting about 16 hours of playback time in total.

One thing I was slightly surprised to see is that the included charging case only charges through the USB-C port at the bottom. There is no wireless charging support, and it doesn’t seem like Soundpeats has any plans to offer a wireless option for the Air3 Deluxe HS.

The charging case features a single LED on the front that indicates whether the case is charging, but that seems to be all the information it has to offer about the battery.

Should You Buy the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS?

If you’re looking for a more affordable, Android-friendly alternative to Apple’s AirPods, the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS are a solid pick. These semi-in-ear models aren’t easy to find, so it’s nice to see another option for solid, simple true wireless earbuds.

That said, even Apple’s cheapest AirPods have the option to add a charging case. Even if Soundpeats doesn’t want to include a charging case by default, an Apple-style option that includes a wireless charging case would have made these much more attractive headphones.

Still, if you aren’t concerned about ANC or other fancy features, the Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS are definitely among your best options for a budget AirPods alternative.

Rating: 7/10
Price: $39

Here’s What We Like

  • Great audio performance for the price
  • Solid call quality
  • Game mode is handy for low latency
  • Good EQ presets
  • 10-band custom EQ

And What We Don’t

  • No wireless charging
  • Battery life is slightly less than advertised
  • Touch controls can be overly sensitive

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