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OPPO Enco Air3s review: Great sounding open-ear earbuds at an enticing price

By Cheryl Tan - 21 Apr 2024
Launch SRP: S$119

OPPO Enco Air3s review: Great sounding open-ear earbuds at an enticing price

Note: This review was first published on 5 April 2024.

Oppo Enco Air3s.

Open-ear earbuds are a rarity these days since most consumers prefer the silence and solitude offered by in-ear earbuds with active noise cancellation. That said, not everyone enjoys the feeling of having something stuck up their ears, and some people need to stay aware of their surroundings. Happily for these people, OPPO has new open-ear earbuds called the Enco Air3s. OPPO’s earbuds have always been very decent, and the OPPO Enco X2 even made it to the list of the best earbuds we tried in 2023. How will the OPPO Enco Air3s fare? 

The TLDR version:

Delivering excellent value, great comfort, and delightful sound quality, OPPO has a winner in the Enco Air3s earbuds.

Lightweight comfort 

The Enco Air3s looks pretty much like any other open-ear earbuds.

First off, because the Enco Air3s is an open-ear earbud, it has both the pros and cons of this design. It’s incredibly lightweight at just 3.7 grams per earbud and sports the standard open-ear design that works relatively well with different ear shapes. There’s IP54 dust and water resistance on these earbuds, which means they’ll hold up to sweat and rain. 

Surprisingly, once the earbuds are fitted into the ear properly, it does help to block out a tiny bit of external noise. Of course, you’ll still be able to hear most things, whether it’s the sound of your keys clacking, or someone speaking nearby. But softer noises like the hum of an air purifier or air conditioner are dampened slightly. Of course, this all depends on your ear shape, so your mileage may vary. At any rate, most external noise isn't an issue once you play some music.

There’s a tiny touch-sensitive area on the top of the earbud stem, and it registers controls well, although there’s about a half-second delay before actions are completed. Oddly enough, only the double tap (skip tracks forward) and long press and hold (volume down on left, volume up on right) controls are enabled out of the box. You’ll have to download the HeyMelody app to get access to touch control customisation. 

HeyMelody app.Touch control customisation.

Inside the app, you’ll also be able to update the firmware and change the Enco Master EQ between the original sound, bass boost, and clear vocals. There’s also a Game Mode which will supposedly lower the latency even further to as low as 47ms. Multipoint connectivity can also be enabled within the app using the Dual Connection toggle, along with a Find My Earbuds feature which plays a chime so you’ll be able to locate a rogue earbud if it goes missing. 

There’s a nice new feature called OPPO Alive Audio, which essentially spatialises audio for games, music and video apps. OPPO says this is only for supported apps, but there’s no list available. Trying it out with Apple Music, it does feel like there’s a slight difference in the openness of the soundstage and the positioning of vocals and instruments, but it’s nowhere as marked a difference as Apple or Sony’s spatial audio features. 

This feature is powered by the new Tensilica Cadence HiFi 5 digital signal processor (DSP) chip inside, which OPPO claims to offer 25x more processing power along with a 50% improvement in battery life thanks to a 35% reduction in power consumption. There’s also a large 13.4mm composite dynamic driver which can move more air, thus resulting in more powerful bass to help avoid the dreaded weak bass issue that plagues most open-ear earbuds. 

The earbuds run on Bluetooth 5.3 and connectivity is rock solid with no stuttering, no dropouts or lag of any sort during my testing, even at busy Japanese subway stations. There’s only support for SBC and AAC codecs, and Android users will be able to take advantage of Google Fast Pair for easy pairing. 

The charging case is small and easy to hold.

The earbuds are housed in a circular, puck-like charging case which looks quite nice with a champagne gold metallic finish on the lid. However, because everything is made with plastic and there’s no dampening material, the lid snaps shut with a high-pitched, plasticky-sounding clink that doesn’t feel or sound quite as nice as other competitors. 

There’s a USB-C charging port on the bottom which can charge up the case to 100% in about two hours or provide two hours of battery life with 10 minutes of charge, but there’s no wireless charging available here. As for battery life, the earbuds lasted about five hours on a single charge, and the charging case provides another three charges for a total playing time of around 20 hours.

Sound and mic quality

Oppo Enco Air 3s.

When it comes to sound, open-ear earbuds have typically struggled with trying to get a powerful bass response simply because the design doesn’t allow for it. The absence of a proper seal because of the lack of tips that go into your ears means that the air produced by the driver inside the earbuds escapes, which results in weak bass performance. Surprisingly, the OPPO Enco Air3s doesn’t struggle with this issue as much. 

While the bass performance isn’t on par with earbuds that utilise ear tips for a tighter seal, there’s still a decent amount of passive sealing if you seat the earbuds properly, and that allows for relatively impactful bass and sub-bass. If bass isn’t a priority and you just want the comfort of loosely seating the earbuds in your ear, however, the bass is still present, just considerably reduced and flatter. 

The midrange is the highlight of these earbuds, with excellent clarity and detail retention in this range. Pianos, guitar strums, percussion claps and more are prominent and crisp with a balanced tuning that works well across genres like pop, rock and more. Vocals are also more forward in the staging, which works beautifully to convey more emotion and highlight the nuances in the singers’ voices.

There’s plenty of brightness and energy in the treble and upper registers, with string and wind instruments having enough bite and sparkle. The soundstage is decently wide regardless of whether the OPPO Alive Audio feature is activated or not, with accurate instrument imaging and positioning. 

As for microphone quality, it handles external noise and wind noise well with the DNN Noise Cancellation working to remove distractions so that the wearer’s voice is clean and free from distortion on calls. 

Conclusion

The value is quite hard to beat.

Priced at just S$119, we are hard-pressed to recommend another pair of open-ear earbuds that sound as good as the OPPO Enco Air3s. Other options would be the Sony LinkBuds (S$269), the Apple AirPods 3rd Generation (S$269) and possibly even the Huawei FreeClip (£180), although that’s not yet available in Singapore. However, those, as I'm sure you would have noticed, are all significantly more expensive. 

At this price point, the Enco Air3s feels quite unbeatable thanks to the great sound quality and super comfortable fit. Our one quibble would be the plasticky charging case, although that’s a very minor issue that most people will likely not mind too much. 

Note: The OPPO Enco Air3s is available at LazadaShopee, the OPPO online store, OPPO Concept Stores, and authorised retailers.

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8.0
  • Design 7.5
  • Performance 8
  • Features 7.5
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Lightweight & comfortable
Great sound quality
Actual bass
Affordable
IP54 resistance rating
The Bad
No wireless charging
No ANC of any sort
Case feels and sounds plasticky
Touch controls require customisation
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