Of the complaints against true wireless earbuds, two that stand out across the board are poor battery life and high price. But one of those issues might soon be a thing of the past, as we’re starting to see some relatively affordable models hit the market. The Soul Emotion earbuds are $49.99 completely wireless in-ears from the company once associated with the rapper Ludacris. They’re easy to operate and fairly priced for what they offer, though there’s no denying they sound a bit like budget earphones.
The Emotion’s all-black or all-white design consists of two earpieces that magnetically dock in a relatively small charging case. The outside of the case is glossy like the earpiece’s outer panels, and both the case and the panels feature the Soul logo.
Along with the case, the earbuds ship with a very short micro USB charging cable and four pairs of
The outer panels of each earpiece are actually push-button controls—pressing either ear once will play or pause a track, twice will skip forward, and three times will skip backward. For call management, press the left ear only—once to answer or end a call, or hold for a second to decline the call.
The mic offers poor intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word recorded, but some were rather hard to make out, as the mic sounds both fuzzy and far away. Also, the audio during phone calls is in one ear only—another annoying across-the-board facet of the true wireless experience.
Soul estimates battery life to be roughly six hours, which is actually decent for true wireless in-ears (but not great for wireless earphones in general), though your results will vary with your volumes. The case carries roughly two full charges beyond the one the earphones hold, but again, this will all depend on usage.
Connecting via Bluetooth is a simple process, and the earbuds had no trouble automatically re-pairing when taken out of the charging case, as well as disconnecting when docked.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earbuds deliver solid bass depth that doesn’t distort at top volumes. The lows do seem to overpower the mix slightly—this is not the deepest bass response we’ve heard, it’s more
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Emotion’s general sound signature. The drums here sound full and round, but not overly thunderous as they sometimes can on bass-forward in-ears. Callahan’s baritone vocals receive plenty of low-mid
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain it punchiness, but we hear the vinyl crackle and hiss in the background far more than we might normally, which tells us there’s some sculpting in the highs. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with solid depth, but nothing like many deep bass-forward earphones can muster.
For orchestral tracks like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the lower register instrumentation takes a step forward in the mix and the higher register brass, strings, and vocals take a step back. This is simply a less crisp sound signature than we typically encounter. It’s not that the bass is wildly boosted, it’s that the high-mids feel a bit subdued.
If this were an expensive pair of true wireless earbuds, our rating would be low, as the sound is simply not fantastic. But they’re decent enough, and for $50, decent seems forgivable right now in the true wireless realm. We like the sound of the $50 JLab JBuds Air more, though they have some annoying design quirks that aren’t a problem here. If you have more room in your budget, the JLab Epic Air, the Jabra Elite Active 65t, and the Jaybird Run all deliver solid audio performance. But it’s unfair to expect the budget-friendly Emotion to compete on the same level as options that are three times as expensive. Ultimately, the Emotion earbuds work, their controls are easy to use, and the audio they produce is more than tolerable, making them a decent option for the price.