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Edifier TWS NBQ review: Cheap noise-cancelling earbuds with bold sound

The Edifier TWS NBQ is a solid AirPods Pro alternative with great sound and noise cancellation at a low price

Edifier TWS NBQ review
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Our Verdict

The Edifier TWS NBQ has much better sound and active noise cancellation than its price suggest, though such cheapness does have its drawbacks.

For

  • Excellent sound
  • Surprisingly good ANC
  • Steady battery life
  • Dust- and water-resistant
  • Game Mode and companion app shortcuts

Against

  • Missing standard controls and features
  • Unattractive design
  • Loose fit

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Edifier TWS NBQ has much better sound and active noise cancellation than its price suggest, though such cheapness does have its drawbacks.

Pros

  • + Excellent sound
  • + Surprisingly good ANC
  • + Steady battery life
  • + Dust- and water-resistant
  • + Game Mode and companion app shortcuts

Cons

  • - Missing standard controls and features
  • - Unattractive design
  • - Loose fit

The Edifier TWS NBQ offers high-quality sound, active noise cancellation (ANC) and water resistance for nearly $200 less than the AirPods Pro. In addition, this true wireless upstart has reliable battery life and unique features that aren’t even available on some of the best wireless earbuds.

Edifier TWS NBQ specs

Color: Blue, pink, white

Battery life (rated): 6 hours (ANC on), 8 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

Processor: Not stated

Size: 1.4 x 1 x 0.7 inches (per bud), 1.2 x 2.3 x 2 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud), 1.5 ounces (charging case)

Having tested this pair of buds for over a week, I’m happy to report the TWS NBQ surpasses expectations, with superb sound quality and noise neutralization. It isn't perfect, however, and certain missteps have it fall short of the very best noise-cancelling earbuds. However, as this full Edifier TWS NBQ review will explain, the overall performance makes it difficult to overlook entirely — especially at such a low price.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Price and availability

The Edifier TWS NBQ is available directly from Edifier. It is sold in three colors: Blue, Pink, and White.

These buds cost $59, which is incredibly affordable for ANC wireless earbuds. It comes in at an even lower price than the Anker Soundcore Life A2 NC ($79) and Edifier's own TWS NB2 ($89.99). Luxury models like the AirPods Pro ($250) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279) have more features and stronger ANC, though they also come at a premium.

For all of the latest sales, be sure to bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Design and comfort

The TWS NBQ won’t win over fashion-forward listeners, but its durability will appease budget shoppers who want something sustainable. One can see the AirPods Pro’s influences, from the grille on the front to the plastic casing, which features high transparent UV screen coating that Edifier claims is scratch resistant. The casing comes with an IP54 rating for dust- and water-resistant protection. This is a higher certification than the AirPods Pro’s IPX4 rating, which can also handle sweat and minor splashing but isn't rated for dust and dirt protection.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Be that as it may, the bulkier form and materials fail to make these buds aesthetically appealing. The logo on the front also means that AirPods users will easily spot them and snicker from afar.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bundled with the TWS NBQ is a clamshell-inspired charging case with silver logo airbrushed on the top. It’s thicker and wider than the AirPods Pro’s case, but much lighter to conveniently carry on the go. While the flip-top lid keeps the case tightly shut, the buds sound loose when docked (you can hear them slightly shaking around), bringing into question the quality of the charging magnets. 

On the inside, you’ll see an LED light, as well as left and right symbols that indicate where each bud goes. What’s cool is that the right symbol doubles as a pairing button, a sneaky detail Edifier integrated into the design, and one that will likely go unnoticed unless you press it.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Comfort and fit are a mixed bag. Initially, I thought the large and elongated sound port would pinch my ears, but it rested gently on the concha to enjoy 2 straight hours of listening before any soreness occurred. However, the ear tips don’t produce a tight seal, resulting in some slippage. Swapping them out with the other two pairs of tips included in the box didn’t help much either.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Controls and digital assistant

Edifier went the touch control route, though the integration wasn’t properly executed. First, the touch panels seem awkwardly placed below the speaker grille; I’m used to most true wireless earbuds having them closer to the top. The other issue is that Edifier only programmed double- and triple-tap gestures, limiting functionality on these buds.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The left bud lets you cycle through the listening modes (ANC, Ambient Sound and Game Mode) or answer/end a call. the right bud also offers call controls, in addition to managing playback with play, pause and skip inputs. There are no onboard volume controls or a previous track function, sadly, and to make matters worse, the buds don’t even support Siri or Google Assistant.

Furthermore, the touch controls aren’t very dependable. Sometimes it would take two or three attempts to get an intended command working, and even then, the sensors would mistake triple taps for double taps. I tried to see if swipe gestures would be accepted, an input method that seemed to work better on the Enacfire A9 (another pair of sub-$100 noise-cancellers), but they didn’t.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Active noise cancellation

Unlike the controls, the ANC on these buds is impressive. Common household noises like centralized air conditioning, cat meows, and loud televisions went unnoticed. There were moments my wife snuck up on me that led to a few jump scares and laughs. Even sitting next to my son as he rocked in the electric swing was peaceful; the gears and rocking mechanisms did not draw my attention. His grunting was also muffled, though his cries were loud and prominent when listening to music.

During walks, the TWS NBQ minimized some traffic sounds like bell-ringing bicyclists and whisking cars. Wind resistance was also better than I anticipated. Edifier’s dual-mic array helped diminish the whooshing effect usually produced in drafty conditions. High-frequency noises like police sirens and whistles were unavoidable, but only a handful of models are designed to handle that level of ambient noise.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Edifier also developed an Ambient Sound mode for those who want to increase their awareness when out and about. Again, the mics are powerful and make environmental sounds more distinctive, though blaring ones are harsh on your hearing. It was nice having brief and clear-sounding conversations with my wife without removing the buds from my ears.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Audio quality

Edifier’s 10mm diaphram unit does a fantastic job with sound reproduction, allowing listeners to distinguish between voices and instruments. Frequencies are well-balanced as well, giving you a sweet mix of highs and mids with emphasized lows. 

The ascending synths on DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” hit their mark and brought more energy to what’s already an upbeat and melodic track. I was most amazed by the TWS NBQ’s instrument separation, which allowed the rhythmic bassline and percussive elements to shine without compromising Will Smith’s laidback rhymes. This was a reoccurring trend when tapping into other hip-hop records; Travis Scott’s “Butterfly Effect” knocked hard with strong reverberation that gave the boomy sonics an everlasting presence, distortion-free.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Switching over to soulful funk classics, The Isley Brothers’ “Voyage to Atlantis” was a serene listen highlighted by some incredible electric guitar play that sounded vibrant on these buds. The voice reproduction also had me raising both eyebrows in awe. To hear Ronald Isley’s solo ride smoothly over brother Ernie’s heightened riffs was satisfying.

Other media like videos and podcasts sounded great too. There isn’t a customizable EQ to tweak sound, but Edifier included a Game Mode that lowers audio latency when playing mobile games. I’m not a huge mobile gamer, but I indulged in a few rounds of Mario Kart Tour for the sake of testing and noticed some improvement. Character voices and certain sound effects (like drifting, or smashing through a power-up box) were more in-sync with the action after I enabled the feature.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: App and special features

Edifier Connect doesn’t host a variety of high-performance features, like the Jabra Sound+ app used by the Jabra Elite Active 75t, but there are some serviceable ones that slightly enhance the user experience.

The homescreen greets you with battery level indicators for both buds, along with toggle controls for Noise Cancellation and Ambient Sound modes, which come in handy if you’re struggling to enable either mode directly on the left bud. A music player can be found at the bottom to manage playback and volume, plus you can add a background photo from your camera roll.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Hitting the Settings option on the top right presents several other controls to adjust and enable/disable other functions. Standouts include tap sensitivity, prompt tones, re-pairing, and timed shutdown to place the buds in sleep mode when inactive for a certain amount of time. This is also where you’ll find Game Mode. The other cool feature is the widget to enable Noise Cancellation, Ambient Sound or Game Mode without having to enter the app. It’s accessible by pulling down the notification bar at the top of your smartphone.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Battery life and charging case

One category the TWS NBQ has the AirPods Pro beat is battery life. Not only do these buds promise you 7 hours of use with ANC on, but you can also extend listening times to 9 hours when disabling the feature. Factor in ANC, high volume, and lots of streaming, those numbers drop by about 1 hour. Do the math and this is still a few hours more than what the AirPods Pro offers with ANC on (4.5 hours) and off (5 hours). I was cool with the three days of entertainment these buds offered before recharging.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging case also holds more playtime, generating up to 32 hours when fully charged. If you’re planning on using ANC all the time, then that number drops to 23 hours, which is one hour shorter than the AirPods Pro’s case (24 hours). Edifier claims that the TWS NBQ supports quick charging, though the numbers provided don’t exactly sound quick: 2 hours for a full charge. Wireless charging isn’t part of the package either.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Call quality and connectivity

The TWS NBQ won’t match the AirPods or AirPods Pro’s call quality, but it’s fine for making brief calls. Despite the low volume on the opposite end, I was able to communicate clearly with my wife when she was out on grocery runs. She mentioned my voice sounded muffled at times, but that mostly occurred when I was outdoors. External sounds like chatty pedestrians and dog barks did make their way into our chats.

Edifier TWS NBQ review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bluetooth 5.0 operated decently. Range was shorter than expected, peaking at 25 feet before audio stuttered or calls dropped; 30 feet is the industry-average distance. Pairing to Android devices was seamless with the model instantly showing up on the available devices list when opening the charging case. There was one issue I encountered when attempting to pair with my MacBook Pro. Sound went mute after establishing the initial connection, which forced me to remove the TWS NBQ from my devices list and repeat the pairing process to get it working. 

The TWS NBQ supports stereo or mono, should you want to switch between dual and single bud use, though I would have preferred other wireless features like Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology.

Edifier TWS NBQ review: Verdict

At $59, the Edifier TWS NBQ gives you the audio and ANC performance of a sub-luxury model. Listening to music is rewarding, thanks to a punchy sound signature that fills your ears with impactful bass and doesn’t cheat you out of mids and highs. Noise neutralization is arguably the best in the sub-$100 range. The amount of playtime generated on a single charge is higher than what Apple, Bose, and Samsung promises users. It’s also thoughtful of Edifier to toss in a few goodies like Game Mode and a smartphone widget that acts as a shortcut for the app.

While there is much good to be shared, the bad must be accounted for as well. A companion app is always appreciated, but the feature set lacks heavily in comparison to what Jabra, JBL and even low-budget brands like JLAB offer; a customizable EQ goes a long way. It’s also baffling to see voice assistance excluded from the final product. The design isn’t anything to rave about either and the tips don’t provide the securest fit.

Even so, it’s impossible to overlook the level of performance these buds deliver, especially on the audio front. Consider giving the TWS NBQ a shot if you desire wireless earbuds that are super affordable and give you better sound and battery life than the AirPods Pro.

Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.