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Aukey EP-N5 review: Entry-level ANC that gets it (mostly) right

Not so long ago, you would have been right in doubting the quality of genuine active noise-canceling wireless earbuds that sell for less than $ 100. as it once was. These knobs still lack features like microphone quality and water resistance compared to more expensive competition from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Sony, but they are worth checking out if you are looking for good sound and decent ANC above all else.

Note: This review is part of ours summary of wireless and real wireless earbuds. Go there for details on competing products and our test methods.

From a distance, the EP-N5 earbuds look even more expensive than they actually are, in part because the design of both the cover and the knobs draws so heavily from Apple̵

7;s AirPods and AirPods Pro – except that they only come in black. The difference in build quality is clearer when they are actually in your hands, as Aukey made them with a lightweight plastic that does not feel very durable, but which helps them to be comfortable when used for several hours at a time.

The case itself is a steady and pocket-capable little thing, giving around 35 extra hours of play on top of the seven or so hours you get from the buds themselves without the ANC tipping over. With the ANC on, unfortunately, the buds’ battery life drops to about four hours, especially if you like listening to music at high volume. On the bright side, a row of four LED lights on the front of the case keeps you updated on how much juice the case has left, and the USB-C charging port ensures that you can easily find another cord to charge it with if you can not find the short wire that comes in the box.

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Extra lights on the knobs themselves tell you if they are connected.

It’s also easy to pair: I just opened the phone’s Bluetooth menu, pulled out the right button and put it in my ear, heard a British female voice say “Pairing”, and pressed the Aukey EP-N5 message when it appeared. You can also connect them to two devices, though you will need to disconnect them from one device before using the earbuds with another.

Turn it up

But the Aukey EP-N5 really showed its value when I put up my music – not too much, because these things are loud. I usually turn up the volume to maximum levels with most of my other earplugs, but I found myself flirting when I tried it with these. I noticed a few drops, even when I only had the phone in my pocket, but for the most part, the Bluetooth 5.0 technology keeps the music quality fairly consistent. I had to get about 30 meters away and lay two brick walls between me and my phone before the signal started to drop significantly.

The EP-N5 also sounds surprisingly good. The intermediate areas are not as clear as I would like, but these buds handle low areas well and do not slump with the highlights. However, the mileage varies depending on the power of the bass. Billie Eilish’s throbbing track “Bad Guy” sounds good on these buds, for example, but I can barely feel the drums of The Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia” at all. It is good that they sound so good out of the box, as there is no way to customize the equalizer with an app.

The catch? You need to find out which of the three sets of earplugs suits you best as soon as possible, as getting good bass from EP-N5 is very dependent on having a tight seal. Fortunately, the tips stay tight when in place, even to the point that I never worried about them slipping out while jogging through the neighborhood. On that note, the IPX5 waterproofness value makes them useful companions for workouts. Judging by the build quality, though, I would not actively try to expose them to anything wetter than general sweat or the occasional rain shower.

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I was surprised that I did not get much ear fatigue from wearing the EP-N5 after several hours.

You will also experiment with the ear tips to get the most out of the active noise reduction, which is not as powerful as what you get from pricer models. Still, it works well enough for the desk fan to be noticeably quieter when I turn on the ANC, even though it does not mute the sound quite as some earplugs do.

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