Defunc‘s latest Bluetooth gaming headphones hit the criteria for some competent true-wireless earbuds, but misses the mark in delivering a dedicated one for mobile players.
Its quality is also bogged down by a jack-of-all trades optimization that makes sounds flat (even with its surround Gaming mode on). This is also held back by a control scheme that feels too complicated than it does unique. It’s easy to see Defunc’s wireless earbuds as another pair saturating the market, and has little justification for its $99 price tag.
The True Gaming Headphones are Defunc’s attempt to appeal for mobile gamers, which take a significant amount of the market. Fortnite, PUBG and Call of Duty Mobile are predominantly a basis for some immersive gaming on the go, when there’s a convenient time. This becomes the first challenge for Defunc in designing a product that caters to gamers on and off the online grind. Off gaming, the True Gaming Headphones deliver a surprisingly flat sound that felt like a beefed-up mono quality. Its lack of a strong driver within the buds turn music into a muddled delivery, carried by vocals over treble. As a result, users will notice a lack of bass and vocals that echo.
In slightly audiophile comparisons, Defunc failed the stress test of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust by a longshot. As a bass heavy song, the True Gaming Headphones didn’t bring the song’s depth. Freddie Mercury’s vocal croon added a weird echo that overpowered the bass, while guitars flattened the sound further. The outcome was a butchered, low-quality version of a classic that was under powered by its drivers. An eight-minute trial of Justin Timberlake’s Pusher Love Girl showed Defunc’s same optimization muddling the quality. As a treble and symphony heavy track, the True Gaming Headphones managed to undersell on the bass which felt incredibly soft. The lack of heavy bass took was also caused by a lack of surround sound, while Timberlake’s vocals were the same as its guitar and beats. Instead of easy listening, I was overwhelmed by a lack of clearly distinctive sounds and unreasonably low bass punch.
This is where the gaming mode made the quality much worse, with its surround sound effect relying on echoes from every vocal, treble and bass in a song. Defunc hoped the echoes would wrap around listeners for immersion, but doesn’t work as it’s supposed to. This further complicates how in-game music would play out, especially with the headphones taking on gunfire, menu blips and other sound effects. Defunc’s True Gaming Buds also feature low latency, though gamers can still notice a millisecond of delay on select devices. In simple games such as Hitman Sniper, Subway Surfers and Fortnite, I was disappointed to hear sounds happen after my thumbs lifted off actions. For fully-tuned mobile gamers including myself, the delay is enough to distract. Precise shooters that rely on shot recognition will also be affected by the delay as hit sounds came to my ears way too late.
I will give it to Defunc for giving low-quality sounds a boost with its optimizations. Subway Surfers poured a lively soundtrack to my head and crisp coin effects thanks to the True Gaming Buds’ ability to suppress buffering noise from low-quality effects. Hitman Sniper‘s suppressed gunshots sounded more tactical from the blending of effects and ambiance. In Gaming Mode, this is where the audio shines for smaller titles when it adds a natural sound to things that are normally compressed for mobile.
It’s worth noting that Defunc redeems itself on fit and comfort, with the medium sized buds creating an almost vacuum-like seal. But early users might need some time in balancing out the tight fit, which can accidentally plug your ears shut from audio. The tight seal is also a benefit for staying secure, especially during workouts where ears can shift. But there’s just enough plug in the ears to keep them locked in for good. The True Gaming Buds are also waterproof through IPX4, while its five-to-six hour playtime is on the dot. Users can charge the buds in its carrying case, while a USB-C cable handles the case itself. For charging, I counted about half-an-hour before the buds were at 2.5 hour capacity. But this is on an empty charge, while I never ran out of juice from constantly putting them away for an automatic top-up. As advertised, the cradle does offer 30 hours of extra charging. This lasted me about an impressive four days before I needed to put the cradle into charging.
Depending on volume levels and how often you use them, the buds will last longer or shorter before recharging. I was impressed with the amount of attention Defunc put into their charging case, which comes with its own four-dot power indicator and highly magnetic snap. The headphone molds are also snug, with no rattles whatsoever when closed. Whenever you open them, the buds emit a loud chime and a “device paired” line for extra satisfaction. There’s a slight compromise with the Airpods-style stem from each bud, as it makes the charging case much bigger. Next to my Galaxy Buds’ charging case, the True Gaming buds are double the size. They’re better to carry in a jacket pocket, while the case feels like a rock in jeans and sweatpants (with a significant bulge).
Defunc’s True Gaming buds also contain a few surprises, including microphones on each side for mobile communication. During games and Zoom calls, I found the headphones worked decent enough to get my messages through. But they were far from clear, as my voice was over-accelerated whenever I raised it. That notorious echo also applied to my voice, which meant new words were muffled by the echoes of my last one. This feedback kept my friends from a top-notch experience I had hoped for, but expected for medium-grade earbuds.
The buds also come with horrendously complicated touch controls which made me more accustomed to Samsung and Apple’s one-two-three-hold style actions. There’s also no exact marker or area for me to press with my finger. The experience was smoothing over the matte bud, hoping something happens. For some reason, pausing needs two taps. Most of the time, my gesture was a hit-or-miss. I lost trust in the True Gaming Buds as they ignored my attempt. It took a learning curve to find the “sweet spot” on my right bud, until I started struggling to master the left side all over again. This is made worse with fast-forwarding, which needed me to hold the right side for two seconds straight. Volume controls are just as odd, requiring you to press once on each side, then waiting a second until you can do it again to avoid a double-press. Compared to pressing and holding down, Defunc had made the process way harder by being different. Gaming mode requires three taps, which was pretty effective. It also activates a high-pitched ring and blue LED lights which tell users it’s on. Another three taps lets out a soft ring for normal mode.
I questioned Defunc’s decision to make such a weird control scheme over something that feels like it’s missing controls. The lack of a panel also makes it worse, while the buds’ slope means fingers will slip and miss a tap – requiring you to do it all over again just to pause. In short, I found it easier to pull out my phone and run music commands. Despite memorizing the combinations, it was still easy to make the wrong gestures which forced me to undo a mess of volume or accidental pauses. Its $99 price tag makes it very hard in justifying a product that offers more problems than solutions.