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Review of TWS headset Honor Choice Earbuds X5e

14.11.2023 09:58

Honor continues to develop its Honor Choice ecosystem, which includes both its own products and devices from third-party manufacturers. However, sometimes confusion arises because the product names may be similar, but the devices themselves are significantly different. For example, there are two headsets: Honor Choice Earbuds X5 and Honor Earbuds X5, which are completely different products.

Recently, the Honor Choice Earbuds X5e headset appeared, which differs from previous models in the form factor “in-ear” rather than “plug”. This device, although simple without advanced features (such as active noise cancellation or wear sensors), has its advantages, including good battery life, light weight and a large driver with a diameter of 12 mm, as well as a relatively affordable price.

In the early stages of development of its ecosystem, Honor pointed to Cosonic as the manufacturer of the headphones offered under the Moecen brand. Although the company later abandoned this practice, this time we again see the inscription “Moecen” on the box of the new headsets. It is possible that Cosonic is responsible for other headphone models within the Honor Choice series, but it is still difficult to confirm this definitely. We are pleased to follow the development of the Honor Choice product line and look forward to new releases.

Specifications

Declared frequency range20 Hz — 20 kHz
Speakers∅12 mm
ConnectionBluetooth 5.2
Codec supportSBC, AAC
MultipointNo
Controltouch zones, software
Active Noise CancellationNo
Battery lifeuntil 7 o'clock
Autonomy including charging from the caseup to 36 hours
Headphone battery capacity38 mAh
Case battery capacity500 mAh
Charging connectorUSB Type-C
Fast chargingNot declared
Water protectionIP54 (headphones only)
Case dimensions60×60×22 mm
Earphone dimensions18×17×33 mm
Weight of one earphone4.5 g
Case weight31 g

Packaging and equipment

Honor Choice Earbuds X5e is supplied in a white cardboard box with a removable lid, on which an image of the device and its brief description are printed.

Honor Choice Earbuds X5e is supplied in a white cardboard box with a removable lid, on which an image of the device and its brief description are printed.

The package includes only headphones in a case and documentation. The earbuds do not need silicone tips, and the manufacturer decided to abandon the included charging cable.

The package includes only headphones in a case and documentation. The earbuds do not need silicone tips, and the manufacturer decided to abandon the included charging cable.

Design and Construction

The headset is made in white color. The surface is glossy, not very resistant to stains from touch. Fortunately, they are not very noticeable against a light background, and they can be removed without unnecessary difficulties.

The headset is made in white color. The surface is glossy, not very resistant to stains from touch. Fortunately, they are not very noticeable against a light background, and they can be removed without unnecessary difficulties.

The headset is made in white color. The surface is glossy, not very resistant to stains from touch. Fortunately, they are not very noticeable against a light background, and they can be removed without unnecessary difficulties.

The headset is made in white color. The surface is glossy, not very resistant to stains from touch. Fortunately, they are not very noticeable against a light background, and they can be removed without unnecessary difficulties.

At the bottom of the front panel there is a small LED indicator for charging and the current operating mode of the headset.

At the bottom of the front panel there is a small LED indicator for charging and the current operating mode of the headset.

There is a hinge on the back panel that allows the lid to open. Its location is emphasized with a square of silver paint applied on top of the plastic. There is a feeling that without this element the panel would look more organic and neat.

There is a hinge on the back panel that allows the lid to open. Its location is emphasized with a square of silver paint applied on top of the plastic. There is a feeling that without this element the panel would look more organic and neat.

The lid is large and can be easily opened with a finger of the same hand that holds the case. There is a closer and it works somewhere in the middle of the way, it also provides reliable fixation in both positions.

The lid is large and can be easily opened with a finger of the same hand that holds the case. There is a closer and it works somewhere in the middle of the way, it also provides reliable fixation in both positions.

At the bottom of the case there is a USB Type C port for charging, as well as a button to activate the Bluetooth pairing mode.

At the bottom of the case there is a USB Type C port for charging, as well as a button to activate the Bluetooth pairing mode.

Overall, the case is assembled very well — without noticeable play in moving parts, unnecessary gaps or other problems.

Overall, the case is assembled very well — without noticeable play in moving parts, unnecessary gaps or other problems.

The headphones are easy to remove from the case — just grab them by the rounded part and pull up. But inside they are not held very tightly due to the fact that they are practically not fixed by the lid. The Honor Choice Earbuds X5e does not pass the “rattle test”: if you shake the case, you can hear the headphones dangling inside. Certification system logos are printed inside the slots.

The headphones are easy to remove from the case — just grab them by the rounded part and pull up. But inside they are not held very tightly due to the fact that they are practically not fixed by the lid. The Honor Choice Earbuds X5e does not pass the “rattle test”: if you shake the case, you can hear the headphones dangling inside. Certification system logos are printed inside the slots.

At the bottom of the earphone “stick” holes, spring-loaded charging contacts are visible. It will be difficult to clean them if necessary, but it is possible — numerous cases with a similar design have proven this more than once.

At the bottom of the earphone “stick” holes, spring-loaded charging contacts are visible. It will be difficult to clean them if necessary, but it is possible — numerous cases with a similar design have proven this more than once.

The design of the headphones is classic, let's say so. We have seen a lot of similar designs for “liners”, and we will see them again — as long as there is at least a small demand, manufacturers will periodically return to the design that is familiar to everyone.

The design of the headphones is classic, let's say so. We have seen a lot of similar designs for “liners”, and we will see them again — as long as there is at least a small demand, manufacturers will periodically return to the design that is familiar to everyone.

At the same time, the design still has its own “tricks” — for example, the sensory zones are highlighted with small recesses that feel good to the touch.

At the same time, the design still has its own “tricks” — for example, the sensory zones are highlighted with small recesses that feel good to the touch.

The “sticks” are a separate element; the joints of the body parts are visible in bright studio light; during operation they are much less noticeable.

The “sticks” are a separate element; the joints of the body parts are visible in bright studio light; during operation they are much less noticeable.

The rounded part has a symmetrical teardrop shape, devoid of special elements that provide additional support to the cup of the auricle.

The rounded part has a symmetrical teardrop shape, devoid of special elements that provide additional support to the cup of the auricle.

There is a subtle bend in the area of the sound guide, which gives a slightly better fixation at the base of the ear canal.

There is a subtle bend in the area of the sound guide, which gives a slightly better fixation at the base of the ear canal.

At the same time, in a number of recent “earbuds” we have seen a slightly elongated “nose” of the sound guide, which serves for a more secure fit and better transmission of the low-frequency range. The Earbuds X5e has a short “spout” — here, too, the developers did not deviate much from the body shape that is familiar and understandable to fans of this headphone format.

At the same time, in a number of recent “earbuds” we have seen a slightly elongated “nose” of the sound guide, which serves for a more secure fit and better transmission of the low-frequency range. The Earbuds X5e has a short “spout” — here, too, the developers did not deviate much from the body shape that is familiar and understandable to fans of this headphone format.

On the inside of the legs there are clearly visible “right”/“left” markings made in silver paint.

On the inside of the legs there are clearly visible “right”/“left” markings made in silver paint.

The total length of the “sticks” is 33 mm, from the base of the rounded part — 18 mm. The headset will not cling to scarves or raised collars. The Honor Choice Earbuds X5e does not have an active noise reduction system, but there are so many holes in the case that it looks like there are — let’s look at them all.

The total length of the “sticks” is 33 mm, from the base of the rounded part — 18 mm. The headset will not cling to scarves or raised collars. The Honor Choice Earbuds X5e does not have an active noise reduction system, but there are so many holes in the case that it looks like there are — let’s look at them all.

Everything is clear with the sound guide hole, it is oval in shape and covered with a metal mesh, slightly recessed inward — it will be difficult to clean it, but sooner or later you will definitely have to do it.

Everything is clear with the sound guide hole, it is oval in shape and covered with a metal mesh, slightly recessed inward — it will be difficult to clean it, but sooner or later you will definitely have to do it.

There is another hole on the inner surface. It can be conditionally called compensatory, but its function in headphones of this format is not only to relieve excess pressure during speaker operation, but also to improve the transmission of the low-frequency range.

There is another hole on the inner surface. It can be conditionally called compensatory, but its function in headphones of this format is not only to relieve excess pressure during speaker operation, but also to improve the transmission of the low-frequency range.

There is another hole on the outer surface of the rounded part — we will assume that it serves to relieve excess pressure during operation of a large driver with a diameter of 12 mm

There is another hole on the outer surface of the rounded part — we will assume that it serves to relieve excess pressure during operation of a large driver with a diameter of 12 mm

But there’s a hole on the outside of the “stick” at the top… Usually, microphones for active noise reduction systems are hidden behind these. It is likely that the Earbuds X5e case was inherited from a model where such a system is present. Well, either there really is a microphone there, but it serves to suppress noise during calls.

But there’s a hole on the outside of the “stick” at the top… Usually, microphones for active noise reduction systems are hidden behind these. It is likely that the Earbuds X5e case was inherited from a model where such a system is present. Well, either there really is a microphone there, but it serves to suppress noise during calls.

Microphone holes for voice communication are located at the ends of the legs, and charging contacts are visible on the sides of them.

Microphone holes for voice communication are located at the ends of the legs, and charging contacts are visible on the sides of them.

Connection

On Honor devices, when you open the headset case, a window for quick connection appears, in other cases you will have to use the smartphone menu — that’s what we’ll do. When you first open the lid, pairing starts automatically, then you will need to press the button near the charging port for two seconds.

The Honor Choice Earbuds X5e does not support a full-fledged multipoint with automatic focus shifting between sources, but you can establish a connection with a pair of devices, and then switch between them with a triple tap on the touch zone of one of the headphones.

We traditionally received a complete list of supported codecs and their modes using the Bluetooth Tweaker utility. There are only two of them — SBC and AAC, which is quite enough for a budget headset. The manufacturer has limited the maximum Bitpool parameter for the potentially very good SBC codec to 39, while the recommended High Quality profile implies a value of 51. The AAC bitrate is also capped at 131 Kbps. Once again, let's assume that the bitrate is reduced to ensure a more stable connection with the source.

During the entire testing period, we did not notice any “out of sync” between sound and image when watching videos or playing games, but if the problem suddenly arises, there is a “game mode” designed to solve it.

Management and software

The headset is configured through the Honor AI Space application. The device is inexpensive, so there are not very many settings. But the most necessary ones are present. On the main screen, you can view the charging level of the case and each earbud individually, update the firmware, and select one of eight equalizer presets. Unfortunately, you cannot create your own.

Control is carried out using touch zones on the outside of the legs, the location of which is emphasized by small indentations. The sensors work well, all touches are registered, including multiple ones.

By default, double-tapping either earbud controls call and playback. A long tap on the left earphone starts the previous track, on the right — the next one. A triple tap can turn on game mode, or help you switch between previously paired audio sources. The control profile can be changed in the application, but within rather narrow limits — in particular, you cannot adjust the volume change. But you can assign a call to the voice assistant to a double tap, and then use it to perform all the necessary actions.

The 'surround' mode adds a bit of reverb and really makes it feel a little more spacious. Also in the application you can read a fairly detailed user manual in Russian.

Exploitation

As we already discussed just above, the headphones have a classic shape — drop-shaped, without additional elements that provide better support for the ear cup. The fit is comfortable and surprisingly secure—during intense workouts, the headphones sometimes have to be adjusted, but nothing more. There is IP54 protection against moisture and dust, so Honor Choice Earbuds X5e is quite suitable for various types of activities. Again, you can worry less about a budget headset during training — even if something happens, you won’t feel as sorry for it as an expensive flagship.

There is no noise reduction system, the passive noise insulation of the earbuds is not the best — using the Honor Choice Earbuds X5e in noisy places is not very comfortable, but it is quite possible — numerous fans of this particular form factor have proven this many times.

Microphones for voice communication

The manufacturer claims that the Honor Choice Earbuds X5e uses “built-in microphones with noise reduction based on AI algorithms,” perhaps — there are actually more than one microphones in each earbud, which is why we saw so many holes on their body. And they are used to operate the noise reduction system, but not when using headphones, but when making voice calls.

To measure the frequency response of microphones, we use a specially prepared room and a monitor acoustic system that reproduces a sweep tone. Naturally, the frequency response of the speakers is far from uniform, so we first obtain its graph using a calibrated measuring microphone. Next, the data obtained is used to construct a correction profile designed to compensate for acoustic features. After this, the signal is recorded using the testing hero, occupying the same position as the measuring microphone earlier. The resulting graph is corrected using a previously created profile, and at the output we are left with the own frequency response of the microphone under test.

The voice of an adult man has a fundamental frequency from 85 to 155 Hz, a woman — from 165 to 255 Hz. But at the same time, frequencies from 300 to 3400 Hz are usually used for voice transmission, which are even called “voice”, since it is in this range that the so-called formants responsible for speech intelligibility are located. The frequencies below are “cut” not only and not so much because of the limited transmission channel, but because they contain various unwanted sounds: the hum of engines, the low-frequency part of crowd noise, and so on.

The Honor Choice Earbuds X5e microphone is configured in a common way. Low frequencies are not perceived predictably. An accent in the region of 300-400 Hz increases speech intelligibility, but makes it sound less natural. Next we see an almost flat frequency response up to about 8 kHz. In general, everything is clear and logical. Let's see how this works in practice.

Autonomy and charging

According to the manufacturer, Honor Choice Earbuds X5e is ready to work up to 7 hours on a single charge, and taking into account recharging from the case, up to 36 hours. Very, very good for a budget fully wireless headset. Of course, developers traditionally indicate the level of autonomy measured under certain “ideal conditions.” We try to bring testing conditions closer to real ones, so usually the level of autonomy turns out to be slightly lower than stated. Let's see how it goes this time.

The safe sound pressure level when listening to music is considered to be 75 dB, but in practice most listeners prefer a level of 90-100 dB. We broadcast white noise into the headphones, fixing the SPL level at around 95 dB, immediately after the start of playback we start recording the signal from the measuring stand — from the length of the resulting track it is easy to understand how long each of the headphones worked.

The headphones discharge more or less evenly — with a difference of no more than 10 minutes. An extremely small number of listeners use headsets in mono mode; most often, turning off one of them is a reason to put both in the charging case. Therefore, in the table we will only include the operating time of the earphone that worked less.

Test 15 hours 18 minutes
Test 25 hours 24 minutes
Test 35 hours 3 minutes
Total5 hours 15 minutes

A little less than stated, but still very good — enough for the road to the office, and for a short walk at lunch, and for a workout… And this is if you don’t put the headphones in the case at all. Fast charging is not stated, but after 10 minutes in the case the headphones worked for just under an hour and a half, so the chances of completely discharging them during everyday use are extremely low. The case is capable of fully charging the headphones 5 times; on the sixth, charging starts, but is quickly interrupted. Accordingly, in total the user has approximately 26 hours of battery life — frequent visits to the outlet will not be required. It takes about 1.5 hours to fully charge the case along with the headphones.

Sound and frequency response measurements

Recently, it has become fashionable to install larger speakers in budget headphones; Honor Choice Earbuds X5e is no exception — drivers with a composite diaphragm with a diameter of 12 mm are responsible for the sound. Potentially, one could expect impressive bass from such a driver, but in this case we are dealing with “earbuds” that deliver the low-frequency range extremely restrained due to their design.

Therefore, the “deep” bass of the tested headphones is pulled back, but the low-frequency register and lower mids are thoroughly boosted — so much so that they slightly interfere with the perception of mid-frequencies, making vocals and parts of solo instruments less readable. At the same time, the high-frequency range sounds harsh and suffers a little from a problem that is commonly called “sand”. It should be remembered that the degree of bass expression is greatly influenced by the fit — in theory, you can place the sound guide nose deeper into the ear canal, achieving a more spacious sound of frequencies below 100 Hz. But earbuds are valued for their comfortable fit, so we’ll do without radical measures. Let us illustrate all of the above using the frequency response graph.

As usual, we draw the attention of readers to the fact that all frequency response graphs are presented solely as an illustration to demonstrate the main sound features of the headphones being tested. You should not draw conclusions from them about the quality of a particular model. The actual experience of each listener depends on many factors: from the structure of the hearing organs to the fit of the headphones, which can seriously affect the transmission of the low-frequency range.

The graph above is shown against the background of the IDF (IEM diffuse field compensation) curve provided by the manufacturer of the stand used. Its task is to help compensate for resonance phenomena in the simulated ear canal and equipment features, creating a “sound profile” that most correctly illustrates how the sound of headphones is perceived by the listener. It can be considered as a device-specific analogue of the so-called “Harman curve”, created by the Harman International team led by Dr. Sean Olive. Let's compensate the resulting frequency response graph in accordance with the IDF curve.

In this form, the graph reflects the subjective listening impressions as fully as possible. A number of users may even like the lack of emphasis on bass — the issue here, perhaps, is only a failure in the midrange. But for budget earbuds, the Honor Choice Earbuds X5e sounds acceptable. In addition, you can adjust the sound to your taste using equalizer presets, of which the headset has 8 pieces. They don't always work as you expect, judging by the name. For example, the “vocals” preset completely cuts off the edges of the range and is more suitable for listening to dialogue in films or the voices of newscasters. But you can still choose something for periodic use — for example, the “Pop” preset performed well, making the sound of high frequencies a little more restrained.

Results

The brand's new model is a good budget earbud with a somewhat controversial, but acceptable sound for its price segment. It should be noted that it has good autonomy, an unexpectedly reliable and comfortable fit, as well as quite decent microphones for voice communication. And all this at an extremely modest price, which allows us to consider the Honor Choice Earbuds X5e as headphones for situations where they are used periodically and are at increased risk of loss — as a gift for children, a headset for outdoor activities, or just headphones that lie at the bottom of a bag just in case happening.