Enjoy plenty of sound from a petite pair or Dudios Earbuds without breaking the bank!

Keeping up with the Joneses seems to be a lesson that our children experience at an ever-younger age.  My eldest son wanted a pair of earphones after his cousin received a pair of AirPods.  Now my nine-year-old wants a pair of his own earbuds because his brother has a pair of earbuds.  Knowing that they are less than responsible with their iPads and other tech, I did not want to spend money on a device that they will easily lose.  Let me be clear, just because the children want something does not mean that they get it.  I feel that this is an important lesson that we must teach our children.  They can save their chore money, they can make gift lists, and sometimes my wife and I will provide gifts.  We have tried to instill into them a sense of value, cost/price, and quality.  Additionally, we have worked to teach them that name brand, although popular, does not discredit, disprove, or reduce the merits of lesser-known products.  Luckily, companies like Dudios have inexpensive gear that provides much more value than you would expect.  For under $30, you will not find a better pair of earphones for the money. 

The Dudios FreeDots True Wireless Earbuds V5.0 arrived in a 3 5/8 inches wide by 4 inches long by 1 9/16 inches black retail box.  The cover/flap panel had a well designed wrap-around blue sticker.  Along the top left of the sticker, you will find the Dudios name and along the bottom left, you will find the FreeDots name (IPX7 Sweat Resistant).  Along the middle of the panel, you will find “True Wireless Earbuds V5.0,” an image of the charging case/earbuds, and small print noting Sound With Substance, Auto Pairing/High-Quality Sound/16 Hour playtime/Secure Comfortable.  The section that was on the opening flap had the same “Sound with Substance” phrase but also provided the Shenzhen address, support@dudios.com address, www.dudios.com address, and the product manufacturing labels.  I removed the outer plastic, lifted the front flap, and then removed the thin black foam layer.  I found the 1.48-ounce, 3 inches long by 1 3/8 inches wide by 1 1/8 inches tall Dudios FreeDots case, and both earbuds nestled safely within a foam cutout.  Behind the charging case, I found a small rectangular accessory box, which contained the 10-inches long USB-A to USB-micro charging cable and two extra pairs of ear tips (Small and Large). Lastly, after I removed the foam layer, I found a heptalingual instruction manual and warranty guide. 

Before plunging into the earbud testing, I grabbed the short USB-A to USB-micro cable and topped off the earbud case.  Simultaneously, I picked up the manual and evaluated the features of the earphones. The manual promised Bluetooth V5.0, a 10-meter range,  four-hour playtime, 1.5-hour charging time, three additional charges from the case, and 24.5mm by 17.9mm by 17.9mm earbud sizes. The second page provided an incredibly useful diagram/table of the ear tip multifunction buttons (MFB).  A single press of either of the earbuds will play/pause music or will answer/hang up a call-in phone mode.  A single tap, followed by a hold of the left earbud, will allow you to return to the previous track, and the same commands on the right earbud will allow you to advance to the next track.  If you receive a call, you can repeat the same command to reject the call.  Having reviewed several earbuds lately, I was pleased that the Dudios FreeDots provided in-ear volume controls.  Specifically, when you double-tap the right earbud, the volume will increase, and if you double-tap the left earbud, the volume will decrease.  When involved with phone conversations, you can use the double-tap to change between calls.  Again, I was immensely pleased to find track forward/reverse and volume up/down after recently reviewing devices that did not provide those features. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it is quite convenient to control your smart device with the earbuds.

To pair the devices, simply lift the lid of the case.  The earbuds will automatically power on, enter into their TWS (True Wireless Stereo) mode, and flash red and blue to alert you that they are ready.  Remove the earbuds, place them into your ears, navigate to Settings, then to Bluetooth on your smart device, and then select FreeDots from the list.  During this process, you will also hear a female voice announce “Power On,” “Connected,” and “Power Off.”  After the 1.5 hour charge time, I opened the lid and followed the above instructions without any issues.  Throughout the testing process, I did not have to follow the reset instructions that were in the manual.  After three and a half hours, the right earbud, and then the left earbud announced “battery low.”  At Roughly five minutes and ten minutes later, the earbuds announced the “battery low” warning before shutting off. I replaced the earbuds into the case, closed the lid, and waited an hour and a half for them to charge.  After several uses, I repeatedly found the earbuds to last just under four hours per charge.  With a 30 minute to and from work commute, I was able to enjoy an entire week of driving before having to charge the case.  Each of the lightweight earbuds fit comfortably within my ear canals with the pre-installed tips.  If you need a larger or smaller fit, you can change the tips with the included accessory tips.  

To test the earbud parameters, I used the audiocheck.net website.  Navigating to the “Audio Tests” section, I chose to use the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz).  I was able to hear the bass sounds starting at 20 Hz, which is at the lowest range of human hearing.  Using the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz), I was able to hear the high pitched tone at 15 kHz.  If you are unfamiliar with my reviews, I tend to run through the same steps for each of my earbud tests.  Humans can hear from about 20Hz to 20kHz, but we tend to lose the upper range of hearing at a much quicker pace.  Listening to music too loudly, attending concerts, mowing the yard, shooting guns, etc., can leave you with permanent hearing loss, if not careful.  Thus, as a nearly 40-year-old male, the ability to hear 15 kHz is pretty great.  My children, aged 11 and 9, were able to hear 17 kHz.  To test the Left/Right/Center programming, I used the Left/Right (Stereo) test on the website.  As suspected, the programming was correct.  The last thing that I test on the website is “The Real Thing” on the Stereo Perception and Sound Localization Test page.  The earbuds passed each of the above tests and provided a comfortable experience throughout the testing stage.  

If I did not know that this pair of headphones could be purchased for under $26, I would place them into the $50-75 range.  They are small, lightweight, and the charging case was very easily stored in a shirt pocket or in a pants pocket.  I was pleased with the rate of charge, the nearly four-hour power duration, and the ability to gain three extra charges from the case.  Even before listening to my favorite songs, I was impressed with the overall package.  Truly, the sound was not going to be that great for a sub $30 pair of in-ear wireless earphones, right?  Honestly, I could not have been more wrong!  The bass was full, the sounds were clear/smooth, and overall felt well balanced.  I used the Dudios earbuds to listen to music through Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Pandora, and listened to a few selections with Audible.  If you have not listened to the Audible Original Stuck, I would recommend you peruse the sample and consider downloading the book.  Beyond music, I tested the FreeDot Earbuds with Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Hulu, Movies Anywhere, and watched a little “Big Brother” on CBS All Access.  

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Before listening to more of my favorite songs, I tested the earbuds with my typical test tracks.  To evaluate the quality of the bass, I listen to “Train Song” by Holly Cole,  “Bright Lights Bigger City” by CeeLo Green, “Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold” from The Hobbit, Home Free “Ring of Fire,” and ultimately The Dark Knight Rises Joker Theme “Why So Serious,” (3:00-4:00).  Between the sultry bass line of “Train Song,” to the modern sounds by CeeLo to the instrumental effects of “Why So Serious,” I feel that the earbuds did an okay job in the bass department.  There were times that I would have liked a more balanced sound, but for the price, the bass was more than adequate.  I would rate the overall bass at 8.5/10.  To test the mid and upper sounds, I listened to the instrumental sounds of The Far and Away Soundtrack, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Soundtrack, and the BraveHeart Soundtrack.  Additionally, I used “What a day that will be” By Gospel Plowboys and also by Jerry Lambert, “Chain Breaker” by the Gaither Vocal Band, Bob Marley and the Wailers “Turn Your Lights Down Low.  I found the best sounds at approximately 70% volume and truly believe that these earbuds are a bargain for the quality.  To give the earbuds a more poppy feeling, I listened to Megan Trainor “All About that Bass,” “Dear Future Husband,” and Charlie Puth “One Call Away,” “Marvin Gaye,” and the “See you Again” tribute.  Lastly, to test staging and overall blend, I used Radiohead “The National Anthem,” “Caribbean Blue” by Enya, and “Bubbles” from Yosi Horikawa.  

Summary:
Although these earbuds are not AUDIOPHILE grade devices, do not have active noise canceling, nor transparency mode, I was quite pleased with the experience. The staging was a little muddied, the bass was less crisp than top-end devices, but the fit was comfortable.  The small size fit perfectly within the concha of my ear, allowed for side laying on a pillow, and did not result in ear canal fatigue.  I loved the intuitive controls and the inclusion of volume controls, as well as forward/backward track selection control.  Phone calls were passable, but the microphone location caused the recipient to feel that I was in a tunnel, and I felt far away as well.  The packaging was informative but lacked the pizazz of some of the larger box brands.  Perhaps saving a little money on the packaging allowed them to provide better features without costing more. I was pleased with the appearance/shape/feel/comfort of the earbuds.  I do not think, in this case, that I missed USB-C charging, nor the active noise canceling.  Overall, I would rate the earbuds at 9/10 for sound, 9.5/10 for comfort, 9.5/10 for battery life, 8.5/10 for accessories, 10/10 for price.  Look to the Dudios FreeDots for a good every-day-carry option, and one that you will not be afraid to lose/get wet.

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