disclaimer: This is my second product from Dudios having recently reviewed their free mini tws in-ear. I was approached via my facebook and asked if I was interested in trying additional models and quickly agreed. The Shuttle retails at $40 but is currently on sale at $29 (amazon) and may be marketed as either Dudios or SoundPeats depending on the market you are in.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The shuttle arrived packaged very similarly to the previous model in a side opening press board box with the name and photo emblazoned on the front. Only this time the label is green vs the aqua blue of the previous revision. Inside the box is a small plastic clam shell case resting in a tray that takes up roughly 4/5th of the box and a small box (about the size of a chapstick tube) that takes up the remaining space. The earpieces are in the case while the cable and tips are hiding in the small box above it. The charging case is roughly the size of a box of tic-tac candy and about twice as tall.
Alright, there is no getting around the fact that the stick earbud craze is now in full swing with everyone wanting to have an i-bud knock off. These follow that pattern of circular earpiece at top and stick with mic at the leading end. Shells are 3 parts with an inner shell with nozzle, a mid-shell that contains the driver and electronics, and an outer face plate that buttons the unit up. The faceplate has LEDs high on the rear edge for pairing and charging indicators The charging connectors and microphone are in the stick portion of the mid-shell along with the L/R indicators. The Nozzle is the sole feature of the inner shell and exits from the front most edge with a forward rake. Nozzles themselves are fairly short with a pronounced lip for tip holding and take standard sized (t400) tips. Fit is fairly comfortable comfortable as the portion that sits in ear is on the smaller side but tip selection does make a big difference in comfort and due to the fairly deep insertion, I did switch to a size smaller tip. 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.
Dudios is fairly tight lipped about the technology inside the Shuttle but we were able to find enough to state that each side has a single dynamic driver of roughly 10mm in size, a touch sensor, BT receiver board, a battery & charging circuit, and a microphone. Dudios website claims upgraded drivers and software compared to previous versions to improve sound quality and touch control latency. The case battery is listed at 650mAh while the batteries in the earpieces themselves are not specified.
The Shuttle is listed as supporting Bluetooth 5.0 but no details are listed regarding aptX support. The earpieces automatically go into pairing mode when removed from the case, and will automatically re-pair to the last source used if available when you take them out of the case. Once connected, I found they did well as long as they were kept within about 25 feet of the source in open space. Walls did defeat the signal fairly easily as sometimes a single layer of drywall was enough to cause drops while at other times it took two layers to defeat the signal.
Marketing material lists battery life as 4 hours for the earpieces and 5 charges from the case before needing to plug it in. I found those numbers a bit optimistic as my use gave more like 3.5 hours on the earpieces and 4 charges from the case but in either event, this is substantially above average of 3 charges per and I applaud Dudios on improving the battery of the previously tested model. The case has a micro-USB port at the center rear below the hinge, and a set of 4 indicator LEDs on the front immediately beneath the latch. Earpieces are magnetically held in place and begin charging as soon as connection is established. 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.
I now like the smart touch control of the Dudios models as it doesn’t force me to push the earpiece into my ear in order to answer a call or hang up. a simple touch of the shell answers the call and a 2nd hangs up when finished. Both earpieces are mic’d for better pickup, and while some environmental noise is picked up, it did an admirable job of eliminating some noise that other models have not be able to remove as effectively. To date, this would be my top pick for in-ears for phone use as it simply does all things phone related well and without hassle.
Sub-bass has good thump when called upon but is not exaggerated and has notable roll-off below about 45Hz. Bass is tighter than the delivery seen on the Free Mini model with a bit more mid-bass texture and detail. Mid-bass stays in proportion to the sub-bass and never jumps out in front. Mild mid-bass bleed is present but it gives some warmth to the signature without interfering significantly with the mids. I am a much bigger fan of the tuning of the low end on the shuttle compared to the Free mini as it is much better controlled and more neutral in proportion.
Mids transition smoothly from the mid-bass with good clarity and a slight recess in the lower-mids. Male vocals are well rendered but slightly behind their female counterparts as an upper-mid push brings those more to the front. Here again, detail and clarity in the mids are improved over the previous Free Mini where mids felt like an afterthought. I do wish the push from 2-3kHz were a bit less prevalent in the signature as it pushes vocals a bit too hard for my liking, but an EQ is able to adjust that fairly well so it is an inconvenience rather than a deal breaker. The good news is the Shuttle does guitars well and even strings are reasonably good which is a tough trick for any sub-$100 in-ear.
Lower treble is pushed forward at about 3kHz and then falls back off almost as quickly with a 2nd push forward at 10kHz before rolling off above that. Here, I can’t say that I see the treble as a huge improvement over the previous model, it is different, but I am not sure it is better. Cymbals are still a bit metallic sounding due to the early rolloff, and the treble on the Shuttle is a bit grainy compared to the Free Mini. Both are acceptable considering the price point and target audience but neither is exceptional in extension or clarity. Overall, treble is polite if not particularly extended or overly detailed.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage is average at best as should probably be expected from a closed back in-ear with a fairly small resonance chamber. The Shuttle has more width than depth with a little height thrown into the mix. Seating the orchestra is fairly straight forward with a few places the instruments are more beside than behind due to stage dimensions. Imaging is mostly correct with an occasional sound that should be behind coming more from the side than the rear. Spatial cues coming from the front fare much better and are accurate and easy to track. layering is good within expectations as it does compress some as tracks get more complex.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
I had a tough time recommending the Free mini because its sound signature was just too scooped to really be to my liking. Luckily, I have no such reservation regarding the Shuttle. This is probably my favorite TWS in the sub-$50 bracket to date. I think it does an awful lot very well as it is comfortable, fairly neutral, EQ correctable where it isnt, and has good battery life and reasonable connectivity to boot. If you are in the market for a TWS in-ear on the cheap, this one should get serious consideration. I know I am thinking about picking these up for my office mates as Christmas presents this year as I think they would be equally impressed.
- Bass - 7/107/10
- Mids - 7/107/10
- Treble - 6/106/10
- Soundstage - 6/106/10
- Imaging - 6/106/10
Pros: Near neutral signature, EQ correctable lower treble spike, good battery life
Cons: early roll-off on both ends, connectivity only average with no aptX-HD or LDAC