Hands-on review: MyKronoz ZeBuds Lite wireless earbuds
Image credit: MyKronos
Stylish wireless earbuds sporting a familiar-looking design, but at an unfamiliar price.
There's no dressing this up: since Apple first released its wireless earbuds, with their controversial 'stalk' design, scads of imitators have swarmed in with AirPod-alike offerings at a fraction of the price, keenly seeking a piece of that sweet stalk action. It's like the Californian goldrush all over again.
It would be unfair to lump the more established Swiss wearable maker MyKronoz in with all the (mostly) Far East-based generic AirPod wannabes, although its intentions are clear enough regarding its new flagship ZeBuds collection.
MyKronos' ZeBuds range comprises three different models of "stylish and affordable true wireless stereo earphones" (it says). Note MyKronoz's use of "affordable" there: the price of AirPods is frankly ridiculous, so many, many people are looking for alternatives at - or preferably way below - the £100 mark.
There is a lot of competition at this price point. We've already reviewed multiple pairs of wireless earbuds this year - from PaMu, Yevo, Cambridge Audio, Kuaifit and AiPower - and we barely scratched the surface of the market. Don't get us started on wacky hybrids, such as audio-enhanced smart sunglasses.
Accordingly, a new product needs to come correct: be great out of the gate. After spending time with the MyKronoz ZeBuds Lite (the entry-level pair from the range which the company shared with us), our impressions are that ZeBuds are ZeGood choice for cost-conscious consumers. Not cheapskates: just sensible spenders, those of us that want both substance and style, not the latter prioritised over the former at outrageous cost. We can only presume that the next steps up the MyKronoz product range - Premium and Pro - deliver an exponentially heightened ZeBuds experience.
Each of the three lines comes in a choice of six colours (we tested red; white is also available, naturally), with a matching USB-C charging case. For the Lite, the case has a matte feel and is shaped like the classic Zippo lighter. It's pretty cool and has a tactile quality about it: the magnetic snap of the lid is most pleasing.
The Premium case is aluminium, while the Pro case is a glass-finished, Qi-certified wireless charging case, with a shape more akin to a traditional pocket-watch. Even the fanciest Pro only has an RRP of €99, so none of them are exactly pocket-busters. Each ZeBud bud is also magnetised, so they'll satisfyingly click into place when you drop them in for charging. A row of LEDs, inside the case, give you feedback on charging state.
This is actually the second-generation ZeBuds collection. Besides the product line now splitting into three choices, the key improvements are longer battery life and faster recharging: the company claims a playing time of up to 20 hours (four hours per charge) for the Lites. Real-world use is certainly in that ballpark (not that we listened to music for 20 hours continuously) but will, as ever, depend on variables such as volume level (higher means shorter). It's doubtful that you'll ever be left high and dry, especially if you carry a fully charged case with you, as this packs a further four recharges in your pocket. Fully recharging the buds takes around one hour.
The ZeBuds also now work with the MyKronoz app, where users can control basic earbud settings, including an equaliser function. They also support over-the-air (OTA) firmware upgrades. All ZeBuds models support Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity to manage music, calls and voice commands, for iOS and Android devices. You can also wear them in the rain, whilst getting sweaty at the gym, or during a water balloon fight: they're certified IPX4 splashproof.
The buds themselves also respond to touch controls, the sensitive area being located towards the top of the bud, so the familiar ear-tapping routine can be part of your ZeBuds life. Oddly, though, there is no volume option: only audio playback or call-answering controls (play and pause, left earbud; skip tracks, right earbud). You'll have to control the volume from your smartphone or smart watch.
MyKronoz has also released an accompanying line of fashion wearables, including activity trackers, smartwatches, sport smartwatches and hybrids, all of which dovetail nicely with the ZeBuds in one way or another. The company's aim is to create a smart ecosystem to cover all lifestyle bases, priced modestly for the end user.
With this refresh for the ZeBuds (le ZeBuds?) line, MyKronoz has finessed the design into a winning package. They look good, they sound good, they work perfectly well and, whilst they owe an obvious visual debt to their Californian progenitors, they have enough of their own inherent cool to offer some serious appeal.
The price is also absolutely right, so if you're in the market for a quality pair of stylish wireless earbuds, le ZeBuds could be the perfect fit for you.
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