Oppo Enco Free review
Oppo has slowly and successfully inserted itself into the western phone market after great success in its native China. With the Enco Free, the company is hoping to equal that success in the crowded true wireless earbuds market.
Sadly, the Enco Free headphones are middle of the road, with poor fit overwhelming the experience, even though the audio quality is solid.
Fit & Finish
The Enco Free aren’t in-ear headphones in the regular sense. Even though they come with medium and large size rubber tips for in-ear fit, the small size tips make the earbuds mirror the shape of Apple’s AirPods and are designed to sit in the crook of your outer ear rather than be inserted into the ear canal.
This means, like AirPods, the buds fit fairly loosely and it’ll depend on the size of your ear as to whether they just fall out all the time. I found that they did fall out a lot more than other true wireless earbuds that I’ve tested.
Oppo’s design mistake here is the matt finish on most of the buds, with a glossy part on the outside for touch controls. Rival earbuds like AirPods and Huawei’s FreeBuds 3 are glossy, which in my experience means a grippier surface next to the skin that helps the earbud stay in place.
The matt texture next to the skin with the Enco Free means they were constantly falling out of my ears or coming loose, particularly when out on a run or when eating. Even when using the buds for a voice call – a feature they are designed to do – the movement of my jaw caused them to unseat them from my ears.
This fit issue underpins the less than happy time I had with the Enco Free. As mentioned, medium and large tips are included in the box to create an in-ear fit, but the bulbous wedge shape of the buds is not the right for such a fit. I have small ear canals but found all the tips ineffective.
An IPX4 rating will protect them from splashing water or rain, so they’ll work for runs outside (if they stay in your ears).
The charging case is a matt finish with a silver Oppo plate on the front that houses a small LED for charge and sync lighting. The case offers a, you guessed it, AirPod-esque charging system as you slot the stems into it.
I found the buds stayed true to their promise of five hours of music playback on a full charge – just. Sometimes they died after three or four. The case is rated for an addition 20 hours, so four more charges. It charges via the supplied USB-C cable.
These shortcomings are a shame as the audio on the Enco Free is pretty impressive for a product that doesn’t create noise isolation with a good in-ear fit or include active noise cancellation.
This means audio comes out fairly high in the treble and mids at high volumes, and I often needed high volumes on several test devices because any external noise drowns out what you’re listening to because of the poor fit.
In a quiet room, ‘Debaser’ by Pixies sounded bright and well-reproduced with decent enough low end for the size of the buds, but it’s a stretch to say there’s much bass on display. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division was equally bright sounding but a little too thin.
The Glands’ ‘Straight Down’ is crunchy and vibrant, though that might be partly down to this reviewer’s like of that records’ production. ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash is also well rounded at a decent volume, but in a quiet room someone commented they could easily hear what I was listening to thanks to the excessive sound leakage.
‘Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major’ by Bach (you’ll know it) lacked overall colour and depth. I wouldn’t recommend these or any other outer-ear wireless headphones for classical music, but you probably knew that already.
The Enco Free don’t support the popular aptX Bluetooth codec either, adding to their sub-par audio.
Tech Smarts & Cnnectivity
My use of the Enco Free was also marred by connection issues. When I took both earbuds out and set them down rather than in the charging case, every time I put them back in the connection was now without audio – Bluetooth on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra) showed a connection, but audio did not play from any app.
Audio then started playing out of the phone’s speaker despite a connection showing. Fun! On the plus side, the buds have a feature that quietens the noise from your surroundings if you’re in a call to isolate your voice, which I found worked pretty well.
But I could not get the auto-connect pop up Oppo advertises to work on any device, including the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom. Despite this it’s a nice touch that the buds work fine on an iPhone, including the touch controls.
These touch controls are a great feature, with double tap to pause or play on the right side and slide up and down for volume on the left. I used the volume one a lot and wished the AirPods had them having used such a feature here.
The price of the Enco Free excuses some audio and performance issues to an extent. You do get what you pay for here, and if the fit works for you then you’ll be able to forgive the less than stellar audio. But I always got the best out of them when sitting stock still, which is not how most people will use true wireless earbuds. They fell out or came too loose to hear the audio every time I ran with them.
Price & Availability
Oppo told me the Enco Free will launch in Q2 2020 in the UK and select European countries, but couldn’t confirm a price at the time of writing. They cost $219 in New Zealand, which is a shade over £100. They’re available in black, white or pink.
This is a very competitive price considering AirPods cost £159 for the basic model. But my guess would be that Oppo will sell the Enco Free for more than £100. Huawei’s £170 Freebuds 3 are a good option over the Oppo if you have an Android phone.
We’d sooner recommend the £119 Cambridge Audio Melomania 1, our current pick of the best true wireless earbuds. We’ve also tested a range of budget wireless earbuds if money is tight.
The main issue with the Oppo Enco Free is poor fit. This is something that is subjective but I’ve used or reviewed a lot of true wireless earbuds and these have some of the poorest fit I’ve encountered so far.
If you want outer-ear buds then I’d sooner recommend the Huawei Freebuds 3 despite their flaws. Apple’s original design AirPods are also a better fit and I’ve used them for three years with no connection issues.
You should only consider the Enco Free if you’re on a tight budget and are mainly going to be using them in a quiet indoor setting.
Oppo Enco Free: Specs
- Driver: 13.4 mm dynamic driver Frequency response range: 16 Hz~20 kHz Battery: life 5hr on one charge, 25hr with charging case
- Weight: 48.2g overall
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