“With three drivers per bud, the SoundPeats Opera05 are a bargain for audiophiles on a strict budget.”
- Great sound
- Affordable price
- Decent battery life
- Unique design
- Adjustable EQ
- No control customization
- No wear sensors
- No wireless charging
It shouldn’t matter what name is on a set of headphones or a Bluetooth speaker. If it delivers a great experience for the price, it’s going to get a good score.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t developed a fondness for certain brands over the years. Take SoundPeats, for example. It’s a tiny company based in China, going up against the likes of Sony, Samsung, Bose, Apple, and Sennheiser — all household names with deep marketing resources.
My first experience with the company was in 2020 with its Truengine SE, a $40 pair of great-sounding wireless earbuds that were absolutely worth every penny. The company has produced a dizzying number of new earbuds since then, and while they haven’t all impressed me like that first set, I think it has a winner its newest buds, the Opera05 ($8o to $100).
Gotta love gold
Designing earbuds that will be appealing to a huge variety of folks is no easy task. It’s why Apple has standardized the AirPods line using its signature white (despite offering most of its other products in a variety of finishes and colors,) and it’s also why most non-AirPod copycats opt for all-black, or something equally neutral. SoundPeats has done exactly that in the past, but not this time. The Opera05 are gold, and unapologetically so.
The entire touch control surface (complete with a stylized S logo) is gold, as is the band that encircles each earbud and the charging case — even the microphone ports are gold-toned. It’s a lot of gold. I admit, this put me off when I initially unboxed the Opera05, as I am not a big admirer of gold. But the design has grown on me considerably, and while it’s still not my jam, I think there are plenty who will gravitate toward it.
There’s just one problem. The shape of the earbuds, their highly polished exterior, and the way they sit in their charging case, make for very tricky ergonomics. Two weeks after getting them, I’m still struggling to extract the buds from the case without fumbling them.
Though a bit on the chunky side, I found them comfortable to wear, thanks to the small and ergonomic section that sits inside the ear. You get three sizes of eartips to help with the fit.
Triple drivers rock
I’ll get into some more of the features in a moment, but let me first tell you the best thing about the Opera05: they sound absolutely amazing when you consider their price. SoundPeats has given each earbud two balanced armature (BA) drivers and a 12mm dynamic driver — a setup that’s becoming increasingly common in the wired in-ear monitor world, but is still a rarity in the wireless world. Each of these drivers reproduces specific sets of frequencies instead of relying on a single driver to do them all. When well executed, a hybrid design like this lets you hear more detail, with less overlap between sounds. And while not perfect, the Opera05 is indeed well executed.
Top this design off with Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec for wireless hi-res audio when using Android phones and we’re now talking about earbuds that have the potential to rival Sony’s excellent WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3, but for less than half the price.
Don’t get me wrong, the Opera05 can’t quite reach that level of performance, but they manage to outclass the $100 Soundcore Space A40 — a set of excellent LDAC-enabled hi-res earbuds — making them one of the best-sounding set of buds you can get without entering the $200-plus territory.
The bass is punchy yet controlled, and there’s impressive clarity through the mids and highs. Because earbuds literally put sound inside your head, it can be a challenge to open things back up, but the Opera05 did a good job of it, with a soundstage that’s wide enough to keep things from feeling claustrophobic.
The SoundPeats app gives you the ability to tweak EQ if things aren’t quite to your liking, with both presets and a custom 10-band equalizer, though I felt almost no need to do that. If bass feels especially weak, try switching the size of eartips. I did this after a few test tracks and it made a big difference.
I’m guessing SoundPeats blew its Opera05 development budget on the fancy triple-driver design because there’s almost nothing else to discuss feature-wise.
There’s no wireless charging, no wear sensors for auto-pause, no ability to customize the tap controls — there isn’t even Bluetooth Multipoint. It’s normal for LDAC-capable buds to disable multipoint when using LDAC — these features are often incompatible — but you typically get it back when you turn LDAC off.
You get some protection from sweat and water, but at IPX4, it’s only just enough to qualify for that description.
There is, however, active noise cancellation (ANC). It does a decent job of reducing some sounds, but it’s not the magical hush of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II or the Apple AirPods Pro 2 — that’s OK though, for this price, there’s no reason to expect that. My one critique is that there’s no way to customize the controls for this feature. You can’t simply switch between ANC and transparency mode without cycling through a “normal” mode (no ANC, no transparency).
Call quality is very good when you’re in a quiet spot, but the mics struggle with even a light breeze or background sounds. At times, if things get loud, your voice will be totally lost. Even in ideal surroundings, you might end up shouting — the transparency mode doesn’t function during calls so that you can hear your own voice clearly.
Battery life, however, is a bright spot. SoundPeats claims a single charge will last 4.7 hours when using both LDAC and ANC. But if you turn off ANC and force your phone to use the SBC codec, you can get as many as nine hours before needing to recharge. The case holds about 2.7 recharge cycles, which gets you to a maximum of 33 hours, give or take. These numbers all assume a 60% volume level.
Save now, spend later
SoundPeats has decided to initially offer the Opera05 via Kickstarter at $80. It claims that if you back the project at this level, you’ll get the earbuds in April 2023. But our usual advice regarding crowdfunding still stands, despite the fact that these are real earbuds, not just a prototype. If you like the look of the Opera05, you might be better off waiting until they hit Amazon, which SoundPeats says will happen later this year, at a $99 price.
Also on offer is the Opera03 — identical to the Opera05 in almost every way except color (they use a rose-gold trim) and number of drivers: the Opera03 use just one BA driver instead of two.
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