Well-controlled bass, Natural midrange, Comfortable and well-isolating, Both earpieces support mono mode
Abysmal call quality, Cheap build quality, Unreliable touch controls
At a very conservative price, the S80 provides buyers with reliable connectivity and a natural if bass-focused sound that is clean and impressively controlled.
Astrotec is one of the oldest companies putting the HiFi in ChiFi. Their portfolio spans myriad offerings ranging from entry-level single dynamic earphones to a cutting edge electro-static flagship. Somewhere in between lies the S80, a TWS in-ear featuring a single Beryllium dynamic driver with ultra-thin diaphragm enabling a powerful yet controlled sound. It comes well-equipped from factory and offers the latest Bluetooth standard, all at just $70 USD. With specification parity with market leaders and a rich audiophile heritage, the S80 represents one of the cheapest enthusiast models on the market. You can read more about the S80 here and buy one for yourself here.
I would like to thank Astrotec very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the S80 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The S80 is well packaged as with all Astrotec earphones and also very well equipped for a product of such conservative pricing. Inside the hard box, buyers will find the earphones and charging case alongside a zippered hard case to keep everything protected. In addition, the earphones include two sizes of elongated silicone ear tips not dissimilar to Westone star tips that provide a more reassuring fit. They also provided a slightly brighter sound to my ear as compared to the mushroom style tips included on most TWS earphones and Spinfit CP360’s, a good fit to the S80’s smoother sound. In addition, two sizes of more traditionally shaped silicone tips are provided in addition to a pair of memory foam tips that aid isolation. A USB-C charging cable completes a positive unboxing experience.
The S80 is a medium-sized and lightweight earphone with plastic housings. Though they don’t possess a premium aesthetic or feel like more expensive competitors, their non-frills design is very smooth in all aspects and achieves a solid fit and seal. Thoughtful additions such as a matte inner face that resist oils from the ear alongside a rubber ring that runs the perimeter provides tactility when removing the earphone from the case aids stability in the ear. Meanwhile, gloss faceplates conceal large capacitive touch control panels.
They are uniquely shaped with oblong dimensions, however, tapered nozzles and unique elongated ear tips enable the majority of bulk to sit outside the ear, thereby avoiding hotspots. And during wear, the earphones have a medium depth fit and a strong seal that proved stable during runs and workouts. In addition, isolation is very good, on behalf of their ear-filling design and strong seal, easily adequate for public transport, especially with foam tips. Microphone holes are located on the outer faces but do not impede a respectable IPX5 water resistance rating.
Contrarily, Astrotec’s included carrying case looks quite stunning with chrome lid and linen base. Four LED indicators shine through the fabric but are otherwise concealed for a clean aesthetic. A USB-C charging port is located on the right side of the case. Meanwhile, the hinge is stiff but serviceable with a subtle lockout at end range. The earphones are secured magnetically and charge via 2-pin terminals. The case is a little chunky but is compact in all dimensions and one of the more pocketable I’ve come across.
Upon initial removal from the included case, the earphones instantly enter pairing mode with accompanying spoken audio cues that confirm pairing to the source and between each channel. By disabling BT on the paired source, the earphones will be available to pair to more. In addition, both earpieces can be independently paired by holding the touch control for 5s. They support BT5.0 but do not offer APT-X. Still, AAC is available for both Android and Apple sources. Furthermore, connection was rock solid in my testing with no cut-out between sides or from the source device in close proximity. This impression was reinforced in crowded areas such as Sydney CBD where, paired to my Pixel 4, the earphones didn’t stutter or cut-out.
The S80 also provides very respectable battery life, rated at 5-6hrs with an additional 4 charges from the case totalling 25hrs of playback time. I was able to confidently meet 5hrs of playback time at medium/low volumes. Meanwhile, call quality through the integrated mics is disappointing with callers often reporting that I sounded distant and muffled, in noisy areas, my voice was rendered indiscernible. Astrotec has assured me that this will be an area of focus for their future models, however, those requiring an earphone to handle call and music duties may be disappointed with the S80 in this regard.
To add fuel to the fire, the touch controls were highly unreliable for me. The single tap to play/pause gesture very rarely functioned while the double tap volume control managed a 30% success rate regardless of tap speed or location. That said, the song skip hold gesture was reliable which is arguably the most convenient. Still, as the earphones lack an aware mode, physical controls or more reliable single-taps would have mitigated much frustration. The earphones lack app integration, however, ultimately provide a simple and, with the exceptions of touch controls, reliable user experience.
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