disclaimer: arrived 6/19 This is my first product from Dudios. I was approached via my facebook and asked if I was interested in trying them out. They retail at $34 (amazon price) and may be marketed as either Dudios or SoundPeats depending on the market you are in.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The free mini arrived packaged in a side opening press board box with the name and photo emblazoned on the front. Inside the box is a small plastic clam shell case resting in a tray. Under the tray is a charging cable, 3 sets of ear tips, and the manual. The packaging belies the size of the earpieces and charging case as it could easily house 6 or 8 of the contents.
The charging case and earpieces share the same design, gray over black with the logo or name printed on the gray portion. A micro-usb port sits just below the hinge on the case and allows the case to fully open even when plugged in. The provided cable is extremely short and will leave the case hanging from a standard height wall outlet. A longer cable might be advantageous here. Earpieces are somewhat egg shaped and can perhaps best be defined as a barrel with rounded ends. Seams run lengthwise between the inner and outer shell. The inner shell has L/R markings behind the charge pads and a series of vents, two stacked one above the other on the nozzle and one on the nose of the shell directly behind the nozzles. The nozzles are fairly short but do take standard tips and have a lip for tip retention. Controls are touch sensors on the outer shell which is nice as it doesn’t require a press that pushes the bud further into your ear in order to activate the functions. It does take a bit of getting used to.
Inside the Free mini, each side has a touch sensor, BT receiver board, a battery, a 7.2mm dynamic driver, and a microphone. That’s a fair amount of technology in a pretty cramped space.
I found battery life of the earpieces to be roughly 3 hours when used at moderate volume. This is a bit less than the stated 4 hours, but they do suggest variance with volume levels and bluetooth source so it may indeed get closer to 4 hours for some combinations. The case provides 2 full charges and most of a 3rd in my experience as well, but takes a couple hours to fully recharge the buds once completely drained. Overall, this is respectable performance, but not outside the norms for this size and type of device.
The Free Mini sports bluetooth 5.0, but does not list support for AptX or other higher-end codecs. I did my testing with a Samsung S9, A Moto Z3 Play, and an I-phone 8. The earpieces go into pairing mode the moment they are removed from the case and quickly and easily paired with all my devices. Once paired, the earpieces were quick to reconnect to the host device as long as it was available, or go into pairing mode to be attached to another device if the original source was off. Once paired the connection was solid as long as no solid barriers were present between source and destination. I was able to move around the office as long as I didnt go beyond the open area. Interior walls are hit or miss, sometimes I still had signal, other times I lost connection. When I did lose connection, as soon as I moved back in range the Free Mini reconnected without having to do anything additional.
When dealing with an in ear with a mic that is designed to be paired to phones, I think it is as important to audition the behavior as a phone as it is for audio. Some handle calls and automatically return you to music, others have to be manually un-paused, and one or two have crashed my music app and I had to reboot the phone. The good news is call quality is good for both the caller and recipient based on test calls in both directions. Audio is maintained in stereo or the right bud can be used as a single for mono calls when you need to hear outside noises. I am a fan of the stereo vocals on inbound calls as it allows for less external distraction. Audio apps were paused when a call came in and some automatically restarted (Hiby) while others required a manual unpause (Neutron). I’ll admit that controlling the call with the touch sensors worked reasonably well but gives no tactile feedback so I wasnt always sure I had hit the right place until the caller announced themselves.
sub-bass on the Free Mini gives it some rumble but bass overall is a bit loose and can get a bit muddy at times when tracks are bass forward anyway. Mid-bass is more pronounced than sub-bass and delivers a healthy thump when called upon. This is very much the focal point of the Free Mini, it is a deep V with a big push of the mid-bass and an equal push of the vocal range around 3kHz.
Mids are pretty scooped on the Free mini with much greater emphasis above and below. Detail in the mids is average at best as this clearly is not the focal point. The upside is no tendency to stridency or harshness was heard and no tendency toward sibilance observed.
Lower treble is pushed forward with a dip in the 7kHz range and final rolloff above about 11kHz. This gives female vocals a big push to the front and slightly less so for their male counterparts. Cymbals are a bit metallic sounding due to the early rolloff, but acceptable considering the price point and target audience. Overall, treble is polite if not particularly extended.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage is larger than expected as I figured with the size of the shells and vents the driver reflections would overwhelm and cause them to feel fairly enclosed. They do show more width than depth with a little height thrown into the mix.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
I’m torn on what to say regarding the Free Mini. It is not an audiophile in ear as the mids are simply too scooped to qualify, but it is a good listen for most consumer oriented applications and many will enjoy using them as they are a well designed product. For those who listen to pop and rock and are interested in call quality as well as music, these are well worth a listen. Those into hip/hop many not find the low end thump to be enough to really do the genre justice, and those into orchestral music will mourn the lack of mids. This is all going to come down to how you use them. I’ll continue to use them paired to a phone for casual listening on the go, which is both their intended market, and what they do best.
- Bass - 5.5/105.5/10
- Mids - 4/104/10
- Treble - 5/105/10
- Soundstage - 5/105/10
- Imaging - 5/105/10
Pros: Good battery life, stereo calling, good controls
Cons: Sound quality is consumer oriented V with scooped mids