Phiaton BonoBuds review: Bargain buds with big sound but some drawbacks

Strong bass and a budget-friendly price aren’t enough to recommend these cheap noise-cancelling earbuds

The Phiaton BonoBuds wireless earbuds docked in their charging case
(Image: © Alex Bracetti/Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Satisfying sound, but there are too many compromises even at the low price.

Pros

  • +

    Warm, energetic sound

  • +

    Responsive touch controls

  • +

    Enticing price point

Cons

  • -

    Design is dull and uncomfortable

  • -

    Charging case has low battery capacity

  • -

    No way to turn off ANC

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Phiaton BonoBuds: Specifications

Colors: Floral white, midnight blue, space black

Battery life (rated): 6 hours (ANC on); 9 hours (ANC off); 15 hours (ANC on with charging case); 22.5 hours (ANC off with charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 (codecs: SBC, AAC)

Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Size: 1 x 1 x 5/8 inches (per bud), 3 x 15 x 1 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.18 ounces (per bud); 1.23 ounces (charging case)

The Phiaton BonoBuds are the latest addition to the jam-packed cheap wireless earbuds market. Equipped with 12mm dynamic drivers, active noise cancellation (ANC), ambient listening, and an intelligible 4-mic array, these buds have the characteristics of a notable mid-range model, only they carry a more attainable MSRP: $69.

So, what stops them from being one of the best cheap wireless earbuds out there? Several things. The unimpressive ANC and inability to turn it off rank high on the BonoBuds list of cons, followed by the plain design, charging case’s low battery life, and inconsistent connectivity.

See which models rank among the best noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve tested. And for more affordable selections, check out our picks of the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones.

In the meantime, read our BonoBuds review to get the full scoop on Phiaton’s latest release.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Price and availability

The Phiaton BonoBuds is on sale now for $69 via the Phiaton website (opens in new tab) and is currently discounted to $59 at Walmart (opens in new tab). It's available in black, blue, and white colors. Inside the box are a charging case, USB-C charging cable, three sets of different sized ear tips, quick guide, and warranty card (12 months). 

You don’t have to look hard for sub-$100 ANC earbuds. The Edifier NeoBuds Pro ($99) and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro ($79) are two low-cost alternatives with effective noise cancellation, fantastic sound, and plenty of features. If you’re aiming for premium performance, spend extra on the Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279) or AirPods Pro ($249).

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Design and comfort

Aesthetically, the BonoBuds look a little bland. The bright color options (blue and white) give it some pop, but that’s about it. Details are sparse outside of the laser-printed logo on the front. The design is what you would expect most oval-shaped wireless earbuds to look like. Build quality is sturdy, and IPX4 sweat/water resistance keeps them protected from moisture damage, though you should still be careful not to drop them in big puddles of water.

The Phiaton BonoBuds wireless earbuds on display

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Much of the same can be said about the charging case. It’s not striking, nor is it waterproof, but at least you get some value out of it. The compact, pill-shaped design is conveniently portable and doesn’t weigh much at 1.23 ounces. Phiaton also integrated strong magnets to keep the lid shut and buds docked in their charging slots when on the go.

The Phiaton BonoBuds charging case placed atop a group of pebbles

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The BonoBuds have an ergonomic fit that nestles into the ear for proper stabilization, though I give credit to the flexible silicone tips more for keeping the buds in place. I went on short jogs and moved around the house at a fast pace without worrying about slippage. The angled sound port allowed for seamless insertion.

Our reviewer wearing the Phiaton BonoBuds wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Comfort wasn’t so pleasant due to the bulky cavity pressing up against the concha. Wearing these buds for two hours straight resulted in soreness.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Controls and digital assistant

The BonoBuds have some of the most responsive touch controls I’ve tested in their price range. Input methods consist of single (play/pause), double (forward track/answer call/end call), triple (previous track), and long taps (digital assistance on left bud/listening mode activation on right bud). Swipe gestures also work as well as taps, showcasing the touch panels’ intuitiveness.

I do feel the BonoBuds could have benefitted from volume controls and motion sensors to auto-pause content whenever taking off the buds.

Our reviewing holding the Phiaton BonoBuds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Siri, Bixby, and Google Assistant are all compatible, though the latter was buggy and disappointing. There were times when Google’s AI bot wouldn’t activate after enabling the feature, and when it did turn on, the software often misinterpreted specific words. The other two assistants were more cooperative, picking up words correctly and returning accurate results.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Sound quality

The BonoBuds don’t give you an option to adjust sound; there is no companion app with a customizable EQ or presets. Luckily, their sonic signature is sufficient for both casual and critical listening, feeding your ears deep bass with enough depth to pick up on small nuances in complex recordings. 

Phiaton’s “custom-made” 12mm dynamic drivers give the low end an impactful resonance, as exemplary on Rudimental’s “Spoons.” The looped kickdrum consistently knocked with veracity and the elongated synth patterns were well controlled. But the BonoBuds aren’t just about boom. There’s some wonderful mid and high range to appreciate as well, especially on the same track where elements like the clanky spoon effects and reverbed vocals come in crisp and pronounced.

Rudimental's "Spoon" playing on the Phiaton Bonobuds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Channel separation was also impressive on the BonoBuds. On records like Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunshine,” the double bass and piano keys were delivered fully through the left channel, while the right channel placed slightly more emphasis on the trumpet solo.

Much of my listening time was spent using Apple Music and Spotify. Codec support is limited to SBC and AAC, though the latter operated smoothly when streaming music on my Google Pixel 6 Pro and MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, that was only for music files. Watching Netflix and YouTube videos on my MacBook wasn’t as fun due to lag and poor audio synchronization.

I would have preferred aptX, aptX HD or LDAC support for improved audio quality over Bluetooth, but I’m sure the inexpensive price point played a role in Phiaton’s decision to exclude these codecs.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Active noise cancellation

You can get better overall ANC performance than the BonoBuds achieve. Once again, I suggest looking at the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro and Edifier NeoBuds Pro. That said, you’ll still get some decent noise neutralization out of the BonoBuds. 

The buds blocked out mid-frequency sounds better than I expected, so loud family chatter and dog barks weren’t as distracting. Low-frequency sounds such as airplanes flying over the house and the droning noise from my toddler’s bubble machine motor went silent.

The 1More PistonBuds Pro's active noise cancellation being tested outside

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Phiaton’s Ambient Mode is OK. In short, it increases your awareness of surroundings to hear incidental sounds distinctively. Just don’t rely on it for hearing conversations clearly since the mics struggle to capture vocals well.

High-pitched sounds were completely unavoidable. Hearing my mom-in-law’s iPhone ringer go off every 30 minutes became frustrating during work hours. Then I had my son’s hunger cries to worry about, which broke my concentration a few times. Raising the volume to max level was my only solution for diminishing these noises, but I had to be mindful of protecting my hearing, so that solution didn’t last long.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Battery life and charging case

According to Phiaton, a full charge can get you 6 hours of ANC playtime. That’s not bad since the AirPods Pro only achieves 4.5 to 5 hours. I got about 3 days of moderate use before recharging.

What about battery life with ANC off? Well, what the company failed to mention in any ads or press materials is that you can’t turn off the feature. Therefore, playtime is capped at 6 hours no matter what listening mode you enable. High volume can also decrease it by 45 minutes.

The Phiaton BonoBuds being charged via USB-C cable

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

More disappointing is the charging case, which only holds a max of 20 hours. It falls short of the industry average time (24 hours) set by the AirPods Pro case, and much lower than the rival Nothing Ear (1) case (27 to 38 hours). A 10-minute quick charge earns you 1 hour of playback.

Wireless charging did not make the cut.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Call quality and connectivity

The BonoBuds are serviceable for voice and video calls. Taking my wife’s calls inside the house led to crisp-sounding chats, granted she did mention minor muffling. Speaking outdoors was the same unless the mics picked up wind or any loud background fracas. These noises overpowered my vocals and made it tough to communicate.

Call quality being tested on the Phiaton BonoBuds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Bluetooth 5.2 doesn’t live up to its potential on the BonoBuds. You get solid wireless range (up to 45 feet) in open spaces, but the connection stutters once entering a room with closed doors. Pairing the buds is a breeze. I just wish they came with better auto-connect functionality to instantly pair with recognized devices; going through the Bluetooth settings to select the product many times became tedious. One-tap Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology (to pair to two devices simultaneously) would have been greatly appreciated.

Phiaton BonoBuds review: Verdict

For $69, the BonoBuds offer adequate playtime (for the buds), bass-forward sound, and some form of noise neutralization, even if it isn’t top tier. But cheap wireless earbuds are only as good their competition, and the competition is just too good for consumers to strongly consider owning Phiaton’s newest creation.

Not only do the BonoBuds’ biggest strengths perform better on the Liberty Air 2 Pro and NeoBuds Pro, but those models offer more features and stronger connectivity. Fans of the brand who have very little to spend might find some interest in the BonoBuds. However, Anker and Edifier have challengers that get you more bang for your buck and better overall performance.

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.