disclaimer: This is my third product from Dudios having recently reviewed their free mini and Shuttle tws in-ears. I was approached via my facebook and asked if I was interested in trying additional models and quickly agreed. The Tic retails at ~$30 and is available through their amazon store. You may also find them marketed by either Dudios or SoundPeats depending on the market you are in.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The tic arrived packaged very similarly to the previous models in a side opening press board box with the name and photo emblazoned on the front this time in a mottled yellow. Each seems each model gets its own color as previous models were green (shuttle) and aqua (free-mini). 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 an automobile keyfob and about twice as thick.
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 2 parts with an inner shell with nozzle, an outer shell with touch controls. The seam between inner and outer units is visible but uniform without obvious glue or slop. there is a single vent on the inner shell immediately behind the nozzles which exit with a distinct downward and forward rake. This rake is negated when the earpieces are turned so the stems exits via the incisura intertragica. The inner stems have two contacts for charging and an L or R to indicate side. The letters are recessed into the shell and are not colored to distinguish them from their surroundings so may require tilting the earpieces so the light strikes them to be visible. LEDs are present on the exterior stem below the Dudios name and indicate power on, charging, and pairing modes. The faceplates contain a touch sensor in the upper portion, but nothing to delimit the touch sensitive region so some tinkering is necessary to find the boundaries. 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 380mAh while the batteries in the earpieces themselves are not specified.
The tic is listed as supporting Bluetooth 5.0 and connects with either AptX or AAC when paired to my phones and tablets during testing. I was not able to get AptX HD or LDAC to pair so I am not certain if either of those protocols are supported. The tic also support AptX-LL via what it calls game mode that reduces the latency of the connection. I found the game mode did lower latency, but also lowered the power of the connection and limited range considerably. I also initially had some trouble with getting the tic to connect correctly with windows 10 on a Dell laptop. It would see the Tic, and would pair, but did not recognize the device as headphones. I found that after replacing the bluetooth driver on the laptop, the problem resolved itself. If you run into similar problems, you may want to check for updates to drivers on the computer side. 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 4.5 hours for the earpieces and 4 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 3 charges from the case. This is not quite as good as the previously reviewed shuttle, but it is a larger case and a slightly larger earpiece as well and packs a 650mAh battery pack so the tic is more efficient when compared objectively. The case has a micro-USB port at the center rear below the hinge and uses the leds on the earpieces themselves rather than adding an additional LED on the case. 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 but chances are you already have one around the house.
Stereo calling is one of the advantages of the Dudios line as it uses one earpiece to mic the speaker and the other to use for ambient noise cancellation which gives the Dudios models excellent vocal quality compared to those without the dual mic configuration. The Smart touch control is also nice 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.
Sub-bass is the star here with an emphasis centered around 60Hz and roll-off significant below 25Hz. Mid-bass drops rapidly from the sub-bass peak, and continues to drop into the lower-mids. Bass is similar to the Free-mini model and not quite as tight or clean as the Shuttle, but considerably larger. Those looking for more bass than the Shuttle provides, will likely prefer the thump of the Tic, while those looking for a bit less emphasis with a bit tighter control will like the Shuttle. Mid-bass bleed is present and does hide a bit of the lower mids which is regrettable as the lower mids are already considerably behind both the bass and the lower-treble regions.
Mids are the weakest point in the Tic as they are both colored by mid-bass bleed and considerably recessed. Male vocals sound distant at times as a result and guitars can come across a bit that way as well. The upper-mids are also quite recessed compared to the bass and lower treble regions and make female vocals a bit less lively and mildly recessed as well. Female vocals benefit from the lower-treble push so are not quite as far back as their lower counterparts, but are still impacted by the scoop to the mid-section. Again the Tic seems to share a lot with the Free-mini that also had fairly scooped mids and less with the Shuttle that was more linear and better detailed in this region. From the shuttle to the tic was certainly a step backward in the mids.
Lower treble is pushed forward at about 3kHz and then falls back off fairly rapidly to a trough at about 6kHz before rising again with a 2nd push forward at 8kHz before rolling off at roughly 11kHz. While not uncommon to see a lower treble emphasis followed by a drop-off and then a reintroduction of some energy around 10kHz, the Tic seems to have over-stated it a bit and as a result can be quite bright at times. It does deliver good detail in the lower treble and the push back forward at 8kHz does give it a bit of air and sparkle at the top. Unfortunately, it also brings a bit of harshness to the sound as that spike sits firmly in the 9kHz range that typically results in a piercing signature if not tamed a bit. Cymbals are sharp and kind of clicky while snare rattle is a bit dull. I probably shouldn’t expect a ton at this price point, but here again, the tic fails to improve on what the Shuttle delivered.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage is a strong suit for the Tic as it is larger than expected for a nearly completely sealed dynamic driver in a space not much larger than a breath mint. It is wider than deep, but does have some depth and even manages to muster a bit of height at times. Seating the orchestra is straight forward but often 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 are mostly correct as well. Layering is not quite as good as the Shuttle and does suffer as passages get busier as it thickens up and gets a bit muddy at times.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
If you have read this far, you probably already know what I am going to say here. If not, then I can sum it up by saying I think the Shuttle model represents a better value than the tic as its sound signature is more neutral and its battery life a bit better. Those with small ears may prefer the tic as it is a bit smaller and more Airpod-esque, and those looking for a deep V for big bass will fidn the tic more to their liking as it definitely delivers a larger bass. The touch controls are well thought out, and the stereo calling is a great feature particularly at a price tag of sub $30. Its always good to have options and now Dudios has two solid ones in the budget category with the Tic and Shuttle models. If you prefer a big V and are looking for a budget TWS, the Tic may be the one for you.
- Bass - 6/106/10
- Mids - 4.5/104.5/10
- Treble - 5/105/10
- Soundstage - 6/106/10
- Imaging - 6/106/10
Pros: Easy fit, good connectivity, reasonable battery life, good noise cancellation on phone calls
Cons: Big V with scoooped mids. Big peak between 8 and 10kHz can be strident.