Wireless earphones don’t always arrive with an extra, but the Belkin SoundForm Freedom get a dual wireless charger in the box. Are you getting a good pair of earphones, too, or is this just a strange way to get your attention?
You may not normally think of the name “Belkin” when it comes to audio, but the company has been dabbling with sound devices for quite some time. There have been wired earphones, a speaker where the company collaborated with sound specialist Devialet, and even an iPod recorder and mixer from back in the day.
Sound isn’t an area Belkin has played in all that heavily recently, but it’s coming back now that everyone is entering the world of wireless earphones. There are so many choices there, it’s unsurprising to see Belkin decide to dabble, so how has it gone in its first flagship model? Let’s find out.
Design and features
Adopting the commonly used AirPods-style (except ours was in black), the Belkin SoundForm Freedom True Wireless won’t win awards in unique and inspired design, but they’ll at least feel familiar and friendly. The style is simple and the earphone approach is welcome, even if they’re labelled as “earbuds”.
Different from Apple’s proper earbuds, Belkin’s SoundForm truly wireless earbuds use a small silicone tip to hold in your ears, relying on a chipset from Qualcomm with aptX and noise suppression during phone calls, not for throwing yourself into a noise isolated bubble from the outside world.
With a wirelessly charged case not much bigger than the 3rd-gen Apple AirPods, but opening up like a clamshell, the Belkin SoundForm Freedom aren’t super big, but also aren’t super small. Much like the suggested battery life, they’re ordinary, though at least the controls are surprisingly useful.
You’ll find a tap on either the left or right side will turn the volume down or up (respectively), while double tapping the either side pauses and plays, and triple tapping the left or right goes back or forward a track (also respectively), giving you a fair amount of control provided you remember the taps.
Beyond that tapping, there’s not much you really need to consider with the Belkin Freedom earphones. There’s no app for custom sound or control tweaking, and these are about as simple and direct as they get.
But the feeling of average continued into our performance test, which is tested with the Pickr Sound Test, something you can listen to for yourself on Spotify and Apple Music, to name a few.
That starts with the electronic of Tycho and Daft Punk, which starts this review off with an at times squished soundstage, providing a thump of bass that unfortunately distorts a little too easily. The sound is a little on the bright side with emphasised highs amidst a hollow bass, lacking in detail all the way through.
It doesn’t improve much as we go on. In Ariana Grande’s “Into You”, the bottom end lacks the punch and drive heard on good earphones, lacking personality and barely feeling there. It’s bright and bouncy, the same in Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”, but just lacking in the dynamics either song displays on better earphones.
That lack of a discernible drop is patently evident on FKA Twigs, which normally offers a guttural bass built to test and flex headphones, but is missing in action on the Belkin Soundform Freedom. There’s bass here, but it lacks the thrust needed to drive this song properly.
And that’s a consistent feeling, whether we listened to hip-hop, jazz, or rock, with the Soundform sounding ordinary and average, but just not that amazing.
It’s acceptable, but not great, and there’s so much else that’s better out there.
The feeling of average continues to the battery, which isn’t bad, but is also quite average given there aren’t a lot of features here to stand out.
The earphones hold up to 8 hours of battery life with an extra 28 in the case, providing a good 36 hours in total, which isn’t bad, but doesn’t hit the maximum craziness we saw in Ag’s TWS04K capable of hitting nearly 200 hours. Still, Belkin’s battery life here is about average, so not bad all the same.
You can also charge these earphones over the Qi wireless standard, handy given that freebie of the wireless charging pad in the box, but there’s also a Type C USB plug at the back, as well.
Average isn’t always a great thing, though, and despite the middling performance, the value of the Soundform Freedom can seem quite appealing.
After all, you’re getting two products individually wrapped in the same box, with the Freedom truly wireless earphones and a dual wireless charger, all for $199.95. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll see that Belkin’s perceived value may not be all it’s cracked up to be, which is one of the obvious problems of the set.
What needs work?
In Australia, the Belkin Soundform Freedom comes with a wireless dual charger from Belkin valued at around $99.95. That’s nice.
Given the combination of Belkin Freedom earphones and dual charger costs $199.95, it kind of gives you an idea of what the earphones are worth, giving or take a few dollars. Despite this, Belkin lists the earphones by themselves on its Australian website at $189.95, but they don’t sound like they should cost that much.
Rather, you’re effectively getting $100 earbuds in the Soundform Freedom, and my do they sound like it.
They don’t compare to the excellent $119 Jabra Elite 3 earphones, and there’s no hint of noise cancellation like in the $120 EarFun Air Pro or $150 Nothing Ear 1. Instead, your extra prize is literally a wireless charger; whether you need it or not comes down to you.
But the value isn’t there beyond the bundling of an extra accessory. The sound isn’t amazing, there’s no noise cancellation, and no app to tweak or change things. It’s just a mediocre package all around, and one that you could do better with.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Sometimes the bonuses in products can kind of give away what you’re actually getting. If someone offers you something “free” with your purchase, you often have to ask “what’s the catch”. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so what is the catch on a free gadget that would normally cost you extra?
In the case of Belkin’s Soundform Freedom wireless earphones, the catch is that the audio quality just isn’t great, and for the $200 price, there’s no reason to pick what Belkin is offering over more or less anything else. Bundled in wireless charger aside, we’d suggest looking around at the competition for better quality earphones, because that’s the main reason this product exists: sound.
For Belkin’s near-$200 price tag, you could pick up better quality earphones without the wireless charger and your ears would be happier. Sure, you wouldn’t get the extra charger, but who cares? You’d at least be getting better sound overall compared to what these thoroughly ordinarily average earphones can do, and that is largely the point of buying earphones in the first place.