As part of my job, I have to follow the development of various segments of the consumer electronics market. And the most interesting and dynamic of them at the moment is not smartphones, but True Wireless Stereo – completely wireless headsets for mobile devices.
It so happened that Tronsmart accidentally came into my field of vision and since then I have been following it especially closely. There are reasons for this. 6 TWS models from this brand have already passed through me, and in the context of a fairly long retrospective, I see a steady progress of the manufacturer. Each next product becomes better, deficiencies are eliminated, and quality is increased. A year ago I said that we are witnessing the birth of a new star in the segment of personal audio. And now, I have in my hands (in my ears) the first flagship device of the manufacturer – Tronsmart Apollo Bold with active noise cancellation (ANC) and other top-end features.
The smartphones I used to test the headset and the codecs:
What’s in the box
The headset comes in a heavy, massive box made of thick cardboard. The design is typical for the manufacturer – the main color is white with lilac accents. The box contains a huge amount of various information, photos and detailed diagrams.
I note the unprecedented elegance of the packaging. It opens like a cover, and on the inside of which you can see just how the ANC technology works.
The set is located under a transparent celluloid cover, the case and headphones are in a separate plastic holder.
Under the first layer of the packaging there is a second plastic holder with a manual and warranty, a set of 2 additional pairs of silicone ear pads of various sizes and a USB-C cable for charging.
But there’s a surprise: underneath you can find a cool case made of rubberized fabric for carrying the headset. Nothing on the official product page said about this!
Positioning and price
What makes me especially happy about Tronsmart is that my predictions came true! I have repeatedly stated that it is time for the manufacturer to break out of the lower segment of $20-30 headphones and move on to a higher level. No one forbids them from making cheap products, but you need to expand the range with premium, more expensive models.
Maybe the company finally heard me (I regularly told them this)? This is the rare case when the manufacturer carefully monitors user requests and tries to offer exactly what they want. And this is good news. Keep it up! Right now we can see a real transformation of a brand into something much more serious.
The official price of Tronsmart Apollo Bold is $99, but at the moment the headset is being sold for $106. But don’t fret: a promotion is planned and the price of the product will be reduced to $97.99 soon. So yeah, this might be the most affordable headset on the market. But believe me, this is not the only feature of the product.
Where to buy Tronsmart Apollo Bold:
Specifications and equipment
No need for boring numbers, I’d better comment on all the main features of the product.
Tronsmart Apollo Bold is a very trendy headset. It brings together all the latest advances in the personal consumer audio industry. Judge for yourself: the headset is based on the flagship Qualcomm QCC5124 chip, and, at the time of release, it was the world’s first headset using this chip.
The QCC5124 is a powerful modern audio processor. Thanks to it we get active noise cancellation (ANC) at 35 dB, as well as support for the aptX HD audiophile codec, and TWS+ technology; it allows the headphones to connect to the smartphone not in a sequence, as usual (the first earpiece that you take out of the case becomes the leading one and the second is connected to it), but in parallel! This technology dramatically reduces the audio latency.
Also, again at the time of release, it was the third headset on the market to use an internal microphone. Let me remind you that until recently, apart from Apollo Bold, only Samsung Galaxy Buds+ and Huawei FreeBuds 3i used this technology, and only recently the new Galaxy Buds Live headset joined this trinity. A good company to be a part of, don’t you think?
What does the third microphone give us? Significant (believe me, I’m not exaggerating) improvement in the quality of voice transmission. Since, in addition to the traditional cVc noise cancellation with two microphones (the first listens to your voice, and the second captures noises and the chip cuts them off from the voice programmatically), there is a third microphone located on the inside of the headphones, and it kind of listens to you from the inside (it captures the vibration of your voice). For a simple demonstration of the effect, just cover your ears with your fingers and try to say something. You will hear yourself through the vibration of the vocal cords and the inner ear. The internal microphone does the same. Its use improves the tone of voice transmission. This is a simple, but revolutionary solution, and it’s incomprehensible to me why the manufacturers didn’t think of it earlier and why we endured poor communication quality through TWS headsets for so many years. Undoubtedly, similar solutions from other manufacturers will now begin to appear on the market.
But at the moment, I repeat, there are only 4 headsets on the market which are equipped with six microphones for better voice transmission. And Tronsmart Apollo Bold is one of them.
Another cool feature of the headset is the Ambient Sound. This feature is not entirely new, but it is also not used often. It allows you to activate external microphones at any time in order to hear ambient sounds, and with amplification. Thus, a closed-type in-ear headset acquires the main advantage of open headphones. This feature is useful when you are on a busy street. You will begin to hear sounds around you, such as cars passing by, which is important for safety. Plus, you don’t have to pull the earbuds out of your ears to talk to someone. Just stop the music and activate the function by pressing the touch button.
But that’s not all! Tronsmart Apollo Bold has custom laser (LDS) antennas, which have a wider communication channel (the connection is less susceptible to interference), provide better signal penetration (increase the connection range and reliability of work through obstacles) and, in theory, offers a better connection with smartphone without interruption. We’ll check if it really works.
I consider the proximity sensor to be an integral part of a flagship headset. And it is here in every earphone, providing the auto-pause function when you remove the earbud from your ear. Playback also resumes automatically when you reverse the action.
And let’s not forget 10 mm graphene drivers, which in combination with aptX HD or AAC codecs should provide Hi-Fi sound.
And on top of all this technological splendor is the seemingly banal IP54 standard.
Design, materials, build quality
I’ll start with the charging case. It’s not great. This element looks downright cheap and spoils the first impression of the headset. I could forgive a simple matte plastic, but the lid doesn’t even close properly. It looks so out of place!
Structurally, the cover is a small round puck with a hinged lid. On the top there’s an embossed logo, and in front there is a small recess for opening the lid, with the only indicator light underneath.
At the back is a charging port. Thankfully, USB Type-C, not microUSB. The case does not support wireless charging, which is also not great. I mean it’s there in the cheap $30 Spunky Pro model. The flagship headphones definitely need it.
I got the impression that the case was made in a hurry from the makeshift materials. By a team of designers and constructors who thought they were making a cheap product, like the usual.
The headphones no longer resemble a cheap knockoff and look quite solid – rather restrained and stylish. The body of each earbud consists of two layers – a larger external one with all the electronics and 2 microphones, and an internal one with the sound driver and an internal microphone. All is made of plastic.
On the outside there is a decorative bronze ring that frames the touch button. In the center of the button is a stylized brand logo.
The lower part of the outer casing has a ledge with a built-in LED under the button and the opening of the first microphone at the bottom. The second microphone (which picks up noise) is located at the top.
The inner shell is ergonomically streamlined to fit comfortably in the ear. On the inside there are 4 (!) gold-plated contacts, a proximity sensor, a hole for the third (internal) microphone and a slim tube that comes out of the body at an angle and ends with an oval fitting. The hole is covered with a nylon grille. This is the only obvious disadvantage of this element since it should be metal.
Most of all, I do not understand why there are 4 contacts on each earphone. After all, there are only 2 contact pins in the case. And here I have the hope that this was not done in vain and maybe in the near future an improved version of the case will be released. Not as clumsy as it is now and with wireless charging. And maybe it can be bought separately for older headphones. One can dream.
I’ll start with the case. Once again I have to stress just how flimsy it is. The recess for opening the lid is very shallow and difficult to find, especially in the dark. The case is completely round which makes it hard to say where’s the front; you have to twist the cover in your hands for a relatively long time trying to open it. It is also quite large and bulges ugly in a tight jeans pocket. But at least there’s a decent battery is hidden inside. This is the only (significant) pros of the cover. But more on that later.
Let’s move on to the headphones. They are also large. Huge even, if you compare them with competitors.
But it is not all that bad. In fact, you place the smaller inner shell in your ear. And it fits perfectly, with no discomfort whatsoever. The earbuds do not fall out even with sudden movements. And the outer part just sticks out strongly from the ears.
It would be alright, except that it is impossible to lie on your side with your head on a pillow, and most likely you will not wear a tight hat during winter. Consider this before buying them.
In general, looking ahead, I want to say that the size of the headphones is fully justified by the equipment installed inside.
Connection and controls
Pairing the headset for the first time is straightforward. Everything is usual – take it out of the case and connect it to the smartphone via the Bluetooth. Yes, 2 times, and in the future you will see 2 copies of Tronsmart Apollo Bold in the list, which allows you to use any headphones separately, for example, as a headset in a car.
Touch control of the headphones. Complete, simple and reliable. I want to highlight this point, because the manufacturer previously had problems with control in inexpensive Spunky Beat and Onyx Neo. This time, the sensors work fine.
The control scheme is as follows:
- Triple tapping on the left earphone sequentially switches modes: sound environment, everything is turned off, active noise cancellation.
- Double tap on any earphone – play/pause when listening to music or answer and end a call.
- Single touch of the left or right earphone, respectively – decrease or increase the volume.
- Touching with a delay of 2 seconds – the previous/next track, respectively, on the left or right earphone or rejection of an incoming call.
- Voice assistant – single touch and after a long hold for 3 seconds on any earphone.
Well, do not forget about the proximity sensors. They control the auto pause function. Take out any earphone from your ear, and the music playback will be paused. Put it back in your ear, and it resumes. The sensors work just flawlessly. I am more than satisfied with the controls in this model. Very cool!
There are minor issues though when it comes to sound indication: play/pause, volume change, track switching, they are all happen without any indication. That is, all changes occur without additional sounds. Maybe you’ll find it fine, because the music does not get interrupted. I guess I’m just used to the feedback in other headsets. When turned on, the headphones announce “Power ON” in a female voice. The same lady notifies about switching modes: Ambient ON/OFF/Noice Cancelation ON.
Good sound at a low cost has always been Tronsmart’s calling card. But in this headset, I think the manufacturer has surpassed itself. To be honest, this is probably the best sounding TWS I’ve ever heard. I don’t know how they did it. It’s likely the combination of a great DAC, large graphene drivers, and audiophile aptX HD codec.
The sound is very balanced and deep, without frequency distortions. The bass is excellent. High frequencies are moderately loud and the general detailing is at the highest level even in complex genres, such as heavy rock music.
When testing headphones, I rarely do without fine tuning the sound using the equalizer on the smartphone. But in the case of Tronsmart Apollo Bold you just turn on the music and you realize that it sounds right on the default settings.
It is worth noting here that the sound changes when the sound environment or noise cancellation are turned on. I think that the ANC mode is the main one. And it has the best bass in it. Therefore, I almost always use headphones in noise canceling mode. But the sound is decent in every mode.
By the way, if your smartphone is not on a Snapdragon chip and/or does not support the Qualcomm codec, it doesn’t matter, since there’s support for AAC, which does its job just as well, and maybe even better. Good news for owners of iPhones and most Android devices. But in the worst case scenario, you will have to be content with the standard SBC codec. Which also sounds great.
In order not to be unfounded, I will give a list of headphones that I now have in my hands and with which I compared Apollo Bold directly: Galaxy Buds+, Galaxy Buds Live, Huawei FreeBuds 3i. All these models are more expensive, but in terms of sound quality they are noticeably inferior to the hero of our review in one way or another. All in all, if you are striving for the best sound when buying TWS, then Tronsmart Apollo Bold is a great choice for you.
Microphones and noise canceling
In this section, I can only confirm all the theses given at the beginning of the review. A system of 6 closed-loop microphones significantly improves voice quality. Never once did people complain that I was hard to hear and did not ask again about what was said. And they didn’t even know that I was talking not through a smartphone, but through headphones, they were very surprised when I informed them about this.
During direct comparison tests, I found that the quality of the microphones themselves in Tronsmart Apollo Bold is slightly worse than in Galaxy Buds+ or Huawei FreeBuds 3i. But this is expressed precisely in the timbre of voice transmission. The overall sound is more than fine. The Apollo Bold does a better job of voice communication than most TWS on the market. But the quality of the microphones is worth improving.
As for active noise cancellation, it works fine. Even in the noisiest environments, like the metro. Almost all low-frequency noise and most of the middle ones are cut off. High-frequency noise is heard as if in the distance. The difference in the perception of music with and without a working noise reduction is simply impressive. And yes, I will note again, ANC in this model not only does not spoil the sound of music, but even makes it deeper, allowing you to completely immerse yourself in your favorite tracks. All thanks to the flagship chip.
It’s all good. I do not fully understand what custom LDS antennas (Laser Direct Structuring) are, but I was convinced that they are here for a good reason. And not because I liked the acronym. Tronsmart Apollo Bold did well with the reliability of the connection.
There are almost no interruptions in all standard situations – at home or on the street. Even in places where other headsets drop off, Apollo Bold keeps the connection well. The same goes for long distances. If the standard range of reliable transmission via Bluetooth is up to 10 meters and preferably without obstacles, then our hero can keep the connection for all 15 meters and even through several walls. If you don’t move abruptly, that is.
Again, everything is learned by comparison. I often leave my smartphone on my desktop and go, for example, to the kitchen to make coffee. And now all my headsets support the connection unstable in this scenario. But Apollo Bold continues to stream almost without interruption, even as I move behind a reinforced concrete wall. And if you stand still, then even through 2-3 walls. An excellent indicator, in my opinion, and definitely the best of my current arsenal of TWS headsets.
In the video, both local and online, they are no delays at all. Feels like using wired headphones. In games you get a decent result as well. Yes, there seems to be a tiny delay, but it does not interfere with comfortable gameplay at all. So I can recommend this headset even for gaming use, for the first time in my personal TWS testing history.
Officially, the manufacturer promises about 10 hours of playback on a single charge. And up to 30 hours with the charging case. This means that the case can fully charge the earbuds 2 times. It fact, I can confirm that it does.
But, as for the battery life of the headset, it all depends on the volume of music playback and the mode of operation. Yes, about 10 hours can probably be obtained at 40-50% volume and without active noise cancellation. But as already mentioned, I almost always use headphones either with noise canceling (at home and in transport), or with an active sound environment (outdoors). And in this mode of use at a volume of 50-60%, the battery loses power at a rate of about 20% per hour. As a result, we get about 5 hours of pure autonomy. Sometimes closer to 6. A very decent result.
I reserve this section for the description of the mobile app for Tronsmart Apollo Bold. It is not yet available, but the manufacturer promises to release software for Android and iOS in the near future. Using the application, you can update the headset firmware and control some parameters, for example, adjust the touch control.
Tronsmart never ceases to amaze me with its products this year. Progress is evident and Tronsmart Apollo Bold is a real apogee in the segment of relatively inexpensive TWS. The main features of the headset are simply incredible flagship feature for its price (ANC and microphones), excellent sound, outstanding connection reliability, a proximity sensor and comfortable touch control at the level of expensive flagship products. Any function can be activated using the touch buttons, which is not as common on the market as we would like.
Of course, there were some drawbacks, but all the disadvantages mainly relate to the dimensions of the product and the build quality of the charging case, so it’s not that bad. In general, I highly recommend it!
Where to buy
Subscribe to our accounts: