Phiaton BonoBuds: Specifications
Colors: Floral white, midnight blue, space black
Battery life (nominal): 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)
Cut: 1 x 1 x 5/8 inch (per bud), 3 x 15 x 1 inch (charging case)
Lester: 0.18 ounce (per bud); 1.23 ounces (charging case)
The Phiaton BonoBuds are the latest addition to the cheap and crowded wireless earbud market. Equipped with 12mm dynamic drivers, active noise cancellation (ANC), ambient listening and an intelligible 4-mic array, these buds have the hallmarks of a notable mid-range model, but they have a more accessible MSRP: $69.
So what’s stopping them from being one of the best cheap wireless earbuds? Several things. Unimpressive ANC and the inability to turn it off top the list of BonoBuds cons, followed by the simple design, poor battery life of the charging case, and inconsistent connectivity.
Find out which models rank among the best noise canceling headphones we’ve tested. And for more affordable picks, check out our pick of the best cheap noise canceling 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 are on sale now for $69 via the Phiaton website (opens in a new tab) and is currently discounted to $59 at Walmart (opens in a new tab). It is available in black, blue and white colors. Inside the box are a charging case, a USB-C charging cable, three sets of ear tips of different sizes, a quick guide and a warranty card (12 months).
You don’t have to look for ANC headphones under $100. The Edifier NeoBuds Pro ($99) and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro ($79) are two inexpensive alternatives with effective noise cancellation, fantastic sound, and plenty of features. If you’re aiming for top-end performance, spend more on the Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279) or AirPods Pro ($249).
For all the latest wireless headphones 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 a bit of pop, but that’s about it. Detailing is sparse outside of the laser printed logo on the front. The design is what you’d expect from most oval-shaped wireless headphones. The build quality is sturdy and IPX4 sweat and water resistance protects them from moisture damage, but you still need to be careful not to drop them in large puddles of water.
Much of the same can be said about the charging case. It’s not striking, nor waterproof, but at least you get some value out of it. The compact pill-shaped design is convenient to carry and doesn’t weigh much at 1.23 ounces. Phiaton has also incorporated strong magnets to keep the lid closed and the buds anchored in their charging slots while on the go.
The BonoBuds have an ergonomic fit that nestles in the ear for good stabilization, although I give more credit to the flexible silicone tips for keeping the buds in place. I took short jogs and moved around the house at a brisk pace without worrying about slippages. Angled audio port allowed for seamless insertion.
The comfort was not so pleasant due to the bulky cavity pressed against the shell. Wearing these buds for two hours straight resulted in pain.
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 (track forward/answer call/end call), triple (track back) and long press (digital assist on left earbud/activate listening mode on the right earphone). Swipe gestures also work as well as taps, showcasing the intuitiveness of touchscreens.
I think the BonoBuds could have benefited from volume controls and motion sensors to automatically pause content whenever you remove the buds.
Siri, Bixby and Google Assistant are all compatible, although the latter is buggy and disappointing. There were times when Google’s AI bot would not activate after enabling the feature, and when it did activate, the software would often misinterpret specific words. The other two helpers were more cooperative, capturing words correctly and returning accurate results.
Phiaton BonoBuds review: Sound quality
The BonoBuds don’t give you the ability to adjust the sound; there’s no companion app with an equalizer or customizable presets. Fortunately, their sonic signature is enough for casual, critical listening, feeding your ears deep bass with enough depth to pick up small nuances in complex recordings.
Phiaton’s ‘bespoke’ 12mm dynamic drivers give the bass a punchy resonance, as evidenced by Rudimental’s ‘spoons’. The looping bass drum consistently hit with truth, and the elongated synth patterns were well controlled. But the BonoBuds aren’t just boom. There’s also wonderful mids and highs to enjoy, especially on the same track where things like rattling spoon effects and reverberant vocals are crisp and pronounced.
Channel separation was also impressive on the BonoBuds. On records like Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunshine”, the double bass and piano keys were transmitted entirely through the left channel, while the right channel placed a little more emphasis on the trumpet solo.
Much of my listening time was spent on Apple Music and Spotify. Codec support is limited to SBC and AAC, although the latter works fine when streaming music to my Google Pixel 6 Pro and MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, it was only for music files. Watching Netflix and YouTube videos on my MacBook wasn’t as fun due to lag and poor audio sync.
I would have preferred aptX, aptX HD or LDAC support for better audio quality over Bluetooth, but I’m sure the low price played a part in Phiaton’s decision to exclude these codecs.
Phiaton BonoBuds review: Active noise cancellation
You can get better overall ANC performance than the BonoBuds. Again, I suggest looking at Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro and Edifier NeoBuds Pro. That said, you’ll still get decent noise-cancellation from the BonoBuds.
The buds blocked out mid-frequency sounds better than I expected, so loud family conversations and barking dogs weren’t as distracting. Low frequency sounds such as planes flying overhead and the buzzing sound of my toddler’s bubble machine motor went quiet.
Phiaton’s ambient mode is OK. In short, it increases your awareness of the surroundings to distinctly hear accidental sounds. Don’t rely on it to hear conversations clearly, as the mics struggle to pick up voices well.
High-pitched sounds were completely unavoidable. Hearing my mother-in-law’s iPhone ringtone every 30 minutes became frustrating during work hours. Then I had to worry about my son’s hunger cries, which broke my concentration a few times. Turning the volume up to the maximum level was my only solution to lessen these noises, but I had to be careful to protect my hearing, so this 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 playback. That’s not bad since the AirPods Pro only reach 4.5-5 hours. I had about 3 days of moderate use before recharging.
What about battery life with ANC off? Well, what the company hasn’t mentioned in the ads or press materials is that you can’t turn off the feature. Therefore, the playback time is limited to 6 hours, regardless of the listening mode you activate. High volume can also decrease it by 45 minutes.
More disappointing is the charging case, which only lasts a maximum of 20 hours. It’s less than the industry average time (24 hours) set by the AirPods Pro case, and far less than the rival Nothing Ear(1) case (27-38 hours). A 10-minute quick charge saves you 1 hour of playtime.
Wireless charging didn’t make a difference.
Phiaton BonoBuds review: Call quality and connectivity
BonoBuds can be used for voice and video calls. Taking calls from my wife inside the house led to crisp conversations, provided she mentioned mild choking. Talking outdoors was the same, except when the mics picked up wind or loud background noise. These noises overpowered my voice and made communication difficult.
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 in a room with closed doors. Pairing buds is a breeze. I just wish they had better auto-connect functionality to instantly pair with recognized devices; going through the Bluetooth settings to select the product several times became tedious. One-click Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology (to pair two devices simultaneously) would have been greatly appreciated.
Phiaton BonoBuds Review: Verdict
For $69, the BonoBuds offer adequate playtime (for the buds), bass sound, and some form of noise cancellation, though not the highest level. But cheap wireless headphones aren’t quite as good as their rivals, and the competition is just too good for consumers to seriously consider owning Phiaton’s latest creation.
Not only do the BonoBuds’ greatest strengths work better on the Liberty Air 2 Pro and NeoBuds Pro, but these models offer more features and stronger connectivity. Fans of the brand who have very little to spend might be interested in BonoBuds. However, Anker and Edifier have challengers that give you more bang for your buck and better overall performance.