Hands-on review: Funcl W1 and AI earbuds
Image credit: Funcl
Startup promises quality wireless audio at a budget price.
“Affordable awesomeness” is a catchy marketing tagline that fits with hardware startup Funcl’s claim that it’s managed to create affordable wireless headphones which provide features and performance at a fraction of the price of equivalent models. How does it stand up to scrutiny though?
The team behind Funcl, who have a pedigree with world-class audio companies, are kicking off their efforts to put high-quality audio in the hands (and ears) of price-conscious consumers with a pair of models available for purchase through Indiegogo at prices starting from just $19.
At that entry level, and boasting features Funcl says can otherwise only be found on brands with a $100 price tag are the W1 earbuds. For the listener who wants a bit more, but is still on the lookout for a bargain, there’s the Funcl AI, currently priced at $54.
That’s aggressive pricing, so what do you get for your money? Both devices connect with Bluetooth 5.0 and come in neat micro-USB charging cases that extend listening time beyond the initial charge. The W1 buds claim 4.5 hours on a full charge, then three subsequent periods the same time to make 18 hours in total. With the AIs you get 6 hours for the first and each subsequent charge to make 24 hours.
We weren’t out and about for long enough while testing to come anywhere near to this. As with any wireless device, it’s annoying when listening is abruptly terminated by the earphones running out of charge then having to wait while they power up again, but for the long-term good of your hearing, even 4.5 hours should be long enough to spend listening without interruption.
So often with wireless earbuds, the deal breaker is how comfortably they fit. After the usual initial trial and error with the different sizes of fitting included we got both set up firmly enough that we were confident about walking around. Funcl W1 and Funcl AI are water and sweat resistant with a rating of IPX5 that makes them suitable for the gym. Although we didn’t try them on a treadmill, we’d be confident about taking them for a gentle jog without worrying about them slipping out like other models we’ve tried.
As far as control is concerned, pairing to a smartphone worked without any problems. The big difference from other devices this reviewer has road-tested is that functions like pausing, skipping and making phone calls are performed by tapping the buds rather than pushing to elicit a button-like click. That ‘tap’ can’t be too quick and is actually more of a press. Until we got used to it, we found ourselves double-clicking when we weren’t sure if the first attempt had registered and repeated it too quickly.
Once you’re used to it though, it’s an elegant mechanism that’s more in line with the smart design of both the AI and W1.
Of course, this was a great opportunity to see what difference shelling out a little bit more makes to sound quality. The W1 AAC uses the Realtek 8763B chipset for high quality sound, while the AIs are claimed to be the most affordable AptX phones on the market.
Assessing that meant loading up more music than would usually constitute our listening on the move, which is often spoken word podcasts and radio downloads. Having done that, though, it’s something we’ll be doing more of because quality on both models was clear as a bell. And yes, you can tell the difference between the two, even if the $19 W1 is pretty impressive for its price.
The other difference, which gives the AI its name, is support for the Funcl app, which we didn’t try but it promises to make your phone’s AI voice assistant more intuitive.
At these prices, both the Funcl W1 and AI are hard to beat. And if you can’t choose between them, in the run up to Christmas the company is offering packages of one each at $72 or two of each for $139. They’re also offering a discount for the first ten E&T readers who buy the AI model using this link, who will pay $49 instead of the usual $59.