The entry-level TWS earbuds market is saturated with questionable devices, but is the Haylou X1 Neo able to provide actual value at a very inexpensive price tag? The earbuds make use of the Bluetooth 5.3 which seems to focus a lot more on energy efficiency than previous versions and the manufacturer does promise up to 5 hours on a single charge, which is fairly conservative.
There is also a low-latency mode for people that play games on their phone and want to use their earbuds while doing so, and the IPX4 water resistance should provide some protection when working out. What about the sound quality? Again, the price tag does keep my expectations in check, but the manufacturer has added 13mm drivers for potentially better volume and ampler sound.
And yes, Haylou has released a few gems over the last year, including the PurFree BC01 bone conduction headphones and the Solar Plus smartwatch, but I am still a bit skeptical in regards to inexpensive TWS earbuds. That’s because they don’t last that long. I have tested lots of TWS earbuds over the years and only a few still function to this day. So, even if the quality is similar between cheaper earbuds and more expensive ones, there is a chance the latter will last for far longer.
The PurFree are still working just fine with constant use, while the W1’s charging case can no longer be powered. It’s a bit of a gamble, so let’s put the Haylou X1 Neo to the test to see its performance and sound quality, as well as check for some signs that may show how long it can last.
Build Quality and Design
In a somewhat similar fashion to the Haylou W1, the X1 Neo also follows the traditional earbuds look, sporting an elongated neck, but it doesn’t rely on silicone tips. Instead, the plastic earbud has the speaker on the side which is an approach widely used by Apple with its TWS earbuds. I suppose that some of the advantages are the extra space for the antenna and even the battery, while the main section (the one that you insert in your ear) can be a bit smaller.
The disadvantage is that you don’t get that passive sound sealing which does help quite a bit with the sound quality, especially considering the small speaker of the earbuds. One Haylou X1 Neo earbud measures 1.35 x 0.7 x 0.65 inches (1.79 x 3.43 x 1.67cm) so they’re quite literally not larger than the traditional earbuds heads.
And each X1 Neo bud is covered by a black matte finish (there is also a white variant) plus at the end of the elongated neck, there’s a faux metallic ring – I suppose it does enhance the aesthetic value of the earbuds. The manufacturer seems to have added two microphones, one at the end of the aforementioned faux metallic ring and one near the speaker, so the Haylou X1 Neo is built in a manner as to potentially provide a decent noise canceling while taking a call (we’ll see that during the test).
On the other side of a Haylou X1 Neo earbud, there is a narrow glossy area where there’s a status LED which will quickly flash white when the earbuds are ready to be paired and then once in a while after the pairing with a source device has been successful. You may have noticed that there are no buttons and yes, the Haylou X1 Neo does have a dedicated touch-sensitive area (within the glossy section) for controlling the way the earbuds will function. Tap once on any earbud to Pause or Play the current track, double tap the right earbud to skip the track and double tap the left one to return to the previous track.
If you press and hold the finger on any earbud for two seconds, it will switch to gaming mode and back, and, in case of a call, you can answer it with a simple tap. Unfortunately there is no volume control, but I wasn’t really expecting it at this price point – I barely expect it even when going past $100.. Now let’s talk about just how comfortable the Haylou X1 Neo actually are. I barely felt them in my ears which is not something that I can say about other TWS earbuds. But at the same time, the Haylou X1 Neo always feel like they may fall off and, while most of the time, they will sit tightly in your ear, it is possible to dislodge them depending on how you move your jaw (while eating).
But the good news is that you won’t be bothered by any pressure point and can wear these earbuds for hours at a time. As for sport and workout sessions outdoors, I don’t really recommend anything that doesn’t have a silicone hook to keep the earbuds in the ears. And, as for the Haylou X1 Neo, I noticed that the earbuds can become slippery and it’s very easy to drop them which makes it tricky using them outdoors even when not doing any physical activity. I do need to mention that the Haylou X1 Neo are indeed IPX4-rated, so rain and sweat should have no negative impact.
The Haylou X1 Neo Charging Case
Most charging cases are designed to be compact and easy to carry around, but painfully plain (the GravaStar Sirius being the exception), but the Haylou X1 Neo went with a slight different approach. The case itself is made of plastic and it measures 1.3 x 0.68 x 0.65 inches (3.43 x 1.73 x 1.67 cm), so it’s very, very compact. And it’s pill-shaped, so it’s very easy to carry in your pocket. The interesting element is the semi-transparent lid which will let the LEDs to shine through and, since the light from the earbuds is strong, it creates a nice visual effect.
I suppose Haylou could have taken advantage of this effect, but it decided that it’s better to put a single small status LED on the front of the case. If the LED will flash white while, then the case is charging and the LED will become solid white after the battery is fully charged. That’s it, no indication of the actual percentage, not even in increments of 25%, nothing. I suppose a redeeming feature can be considered the USB-C charging port.
Internal Hardware and Connectivity
The Haylou X1 Neo use 13mm dynamic drivers which is quite a bit for a small pair of TWS earbuds and could translate to both higher volume and a more ampler sound (if you hate that tinny sound – I know I do). And, while the W1 did come with Knowles armature which did translate to a very good sound reproduction, it seems that Haylou left it out this time due to budget constraints, no doubt about it.
But the Haylou X1 Neo do come with Bluetooth 5.3 which won’t add anything in terms of coverage – still the same 30 feet with some interference. But it will be better in terms of energy efficiency, so a smaller battery will produce a better battery life, at least that’s what I am expecting. Lastly, the Haylou X1 Neo do support all the generic codecs, including the SBC, so no AAC or aptX, which is unfortunate, but expected.
As with all other TWS earbuds that I tested so far, I first checked the driver quality using a sweeping tone and listening carefully for any buzzing. And the Haylou X1 Neo performed really well since the tone was clear and absolutely no buzzing could be heard. Next, I checked if the drivers in the two earbuds match and indeed, the sound played in the middle, with no deviation, so everything is fine from a technical point of view.
Next, I listened to a binaural recording to get a better idea about what to expect from the Haylou X1 Neo and I immediately noticed that the volume reaches high, but it’s a bit inconsistent since the voices are very loud, while the instruments are a bit more recessed and quiet. The imaging is fairly well done since I could tell where the instruments were positioned, as well as the voices. The sound stage is not that wide, but this does not necessarily mean that the sound feels intimate, it’s just more narrow. The voices were clearly forwarded and the instrument differentiation is not that great and this is something that I noticed with multiple songs. I first listened to a few bass-focused tracks and the go-to for deep bass is Zhu – Faded.
And, I immediately noticed that the bass is not deep and instead, it feels superficial and somewhat hollow. The voice is forwarded and dominates the scene, while the bass has no presence. Moving forward to System Of A Down – Mr Jack which is a complicated song with lots of things happening at the same time. The voices were again dominating, but not very contoured, the bass is anemic and the overall, the sound seems muddy. The mid-bass-focused song Morph The Cat by Donald Fagan seems to be handled a bit better, although that echo-y effect is still present and the voice is again forwarded. Moving to a more mid-dominating track from Ariana Grande – Breathin and it seems that the female voice is a bit better defined, but still forwarded.
Vance – She Burns is another song that showcases the male voice and it’s again pushed forward, the instruments are not that well defined. Moving to the treble-focused songs, I listened to Guns n Roses – Sweet Child o Mine. And the treble is piercing, everything is loud and dominating, so I got fatigued very quickly) the first instinct was to turn the volume lower. Still, the voice seemed better defined than with the other tracks, although very forwarded as well.
Some other aspect that I need to mention is that lots of outside noise will creep in and alter the sound quality, so it’s best to listen to songs in a more quiet setting.
Gaming Mode and Latency Test
The Haylou X1 Neo do offer a Gaming Mode which, as the manufacturer says, should lower the latency down to 0.06s. And the way to activate it is by pressing and holding any earbud for a couple of seconds. All TWS earbuds that I tested and had this type of feature implemented did have a vocal notification to let me know which mode was enabled, but not the Haylou X1 Neo. No, these earbuds will make a chiming noise which doesn’t really help differentiate between the modes – not even the user manual is that helpful in this regard.
So I just listened to when the sound quality is worse and assumed that this is the Gaming mode and I was right (it’s the double chime sound). To check if the real-life latency matches the advertised one, I first established a baseline by checking the latency while playing a game on a phone without any connected earbuds. It was about 50ms. Then, I connected the earbuds and checked the latency in Music mode. It was approximately 230ms which is a bit better than the average (300ms).
Then, I switched to the Gaming mode and the latency did go a bit lower, but not really near the 60ms. It was 210ms. Still a good result for a pair of inexpensive earbuds, but well above the advertised value.
The Call Quality
Even if the Haylou X1 Neo did not mention anything about the quality of their microphones, there still seems to be some noise canceling tech considering that the background noise is usually almost completely muted and the voice is slightly forwarded. But, it does lack a bit in clarity since the caller has complained that my voice sounded a bit distant.
The Battery Life
Each Haylou X1 Neo earbud is equipped with a 30mAh battery and, while the advertised battery life is 20 hours, there is a small ‘*’ there which confirms that this is the overall performance, including the charging case. So, on a single charge, the Haylou X1 Neo should reach 5 hours and, in my tests, it seems to get a bit over 4 hours if the volume was set to 60%.
It’s easy to dismiss the entry-level portion of the TWS earbuds market since very rarely there’s an actual gem to be found, but a lot of people have a very limited budget and this is their only way to experience having a pair of true wireless earbuds. The Haylou X1 Neo have a decent battery life, provide a gaming mode which will slightly improve the latency (not really down to 60ms), but the sound quality is not that impressive. I suppose the mainstream songs could sound decent, but don’t expect anything close to higher fidelity which I guess makes sense at this price tag. Then again, the W1 are also fairly decently priced at the moment and they sound miles better. A for longevity, I genuinely can’t tell the difference between quality TWS earbuds and cheaper-built ones, so I suppose it’s up to luck and QC.
Haylou X1 Neo
- Bluetooth 5.3
- Very lightweight earbuds
- Very compact charging case
- Decent battery life
- Decent call quality
- No volume control
- No way to tell how much battery is left on the charging case
- No passive noise sealing
- The sound quality is not that great