Dotbuds IP10: Initial Impressions

Earlier this month, I ordered Dotbuds IP10 after seeing a Facebook ad for them and reading (mostly) positive Facebook comments. Dotbuds are sold by a company in France, but manufactured in China (what isn’t?), perhaps as a white label version of something else manufactured under other names. I’ve seen several similar things on eBay in prices ranging from around $20 to around $50, but I don’t know if they’re the same, similar, rebadged versions of this same set, or what, and, well, sometimes, you pays your money, you takes your chances. I bought the actual set labeled as Dotbuds from the Dotbuds site.

Anyway, their 4-8 day postage timeline is a bit optimistic, but in my case, I got them fairly quickly, considering they ship via China Post with no real rush. But hey, it’s free shipping, so I’m not very worried about that.

So what are they?

While they may not exactly call them this in so many words, Dotbuds IP10 are billed as something like a poor man’s Earpods. At less than 1/3 the cost of the Apple product, well, it’s sort of a bold comparison. Sure, you don’t get the super easy almost instantaneous and effortless pairing, pairing to multiple devices across iCloud, automatic stereo to mono switching, or any of those things, but really, what do you want for $50?

Dotbuds IP10 are a pair of small, wireless earbuds. The package comes with the two earbuds, sets of earbud tips in three sizes, a short micro USB charging cable, and a really tiny user guide, also available online. The USB cable might be a foot long, which is better than some micro USB cables I’ve gotten. The instructions can be found on the Dotbuds website, here,. As instructions go, these are brief and straightforward, if not 100% complete, i.e. little to no mention of voice and audio prompts.

Melanie and her aid both say these things look like hearing aids. That may or may not be a good thing, but they’re not terribly huge, and they fit in my ears well enough.

While the instructions say something about lights flashing to indicate pairing status, there are plenty of audio cues to alert you to this as well. The pairing process takes some time initially, as you first have to pair the Dotbuds to each other, then to your device. For the best flexibility, I paired them twice; I’ll explain why in a minute. But the process goes like this:

  • Stick the Dotbuds in your ears.
  • Press both multifunction buttons at once, one on each ear, and hold them down through the power on and pairing announcements. Note the voice of Allison.
  • You’ll hear tones confirming that the Dobuds have paired to each other.
  • Press and hold the button(s) again to get the “Power off” message.
  • Power one bud on by holding the button to get the “Power on”, then the “Pairing” message. Then hold the other button down just to the “Power on” message.
  • Pair from your phone or computer settings as you would do for any other set of bluetooth headphones.
  • Power off again, and repeat the last two steps, but reverse the ears you turn on and pair. This will mean that your Dotbuds will show up twice as “Tws Earbuds”. Don’t worry, this is normal.
  • To use them, turn one on, then the other, by holding down the button until you get the “Power on” message. Holding either button will turn both buds off.

OK, so why pair them twice, once for each ear, when they’re connected to each other?

It’s a fair question. Here’s the answer. When listening to most audio, these earbuds play in stereo. However, when using the phone app, or for that matter, apparently, any VOIP application or anything that uses the microphone, only mono audio is supported. That means that only the first bud powered up will get audio during your call. Thus, if you’re listening to some tunage with both buds and get a phone call, you’ll only hear your call out of one side. If you turned on the right Dotbud first, that’s the one that gets your VOIP audio. If it’s left first, you’ll get VOIP audio from only your left ear. The good news about this is that the audio is really quite clear, and you don’t get the degradation that sometimes occurs with other headphones, so your voice over LTE calls, Skype calls, FB Messenger, and the like, will come in without the lovely limited frequency response and just general phone sound you get from some headphones, if that makes sense.

These are traditional earbud design, which means they stick in your ears. That means your hearing will be blocked. If you want to use these while walking, for goodness sake, just use one of them and keep the other in reserve. Their outside noise blocking is quite good, which is definitely not compatible with walking. Especially in traffic. Be careful out there, guys

Charging is claimed to take one hour. I’m unclear whether that means for the Dotbuds in the charging box, or for the charging box itself. The manufacturer claims up to four hours running time for the Dotbuds, with another three (or maybe four?) charges in the charging box. Sorry I don’t recall which, but it’s pretty respectable in either case. I haven’t run down either the Dotbuds or the box yet, so I can’t tell you what actual run time looks like.

As for sound, it’s surprisingly good, at least to my non-audiophile ear. You likely aren’t going to get room thumping kidney pounding bass, but it’s well enough defined for my ear, with crisp enough highs and mids, again, to my ear and with the brief time I’ve played with them. In any case, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, especially not at the price. Voice quality is good as well, if, again, only in mono for applications that also use the microphone.

Mic audio might be another matter. The one phone call I had, my friend told me that the right ear sounded muffled, while the left ear sounded fine. I need to investigate further; this could be just something funny about my face and ears, or who knows? I’ll need more time to nail this particular report down, and maybe get some more calls in to check out what’s going on.

What about Siri? There’s no way to access Siri from the multifunction button. That only turns the Dotbuds on and off, play/pause, skips to the next track, answers and hangs up calls, and rejects calls. However, “Hey Siri” works just fine, noting the same mono behavior as with other apps that use the microphone.

Fitting the Dotbuds into the charger box was straightforward, as the box has defined cutouts shaped just like the Dotbuds, and they only fit in properly one way. The lid closes and has a magnet to keep it shut. Easily fits in a pocket, too.

One final thing. Yes, you can use them one at a time if you like, which is why I recommend pairing both of them to your phone. Doing this effectively doubles their useful running time of course.

Over all, I like them, and better yet, I like that I didn’t pay $160 for them. Sure, they don’t have all the Apple frills, but for a decent set of small wireless earbuds with a basic feature set, they’re good enough and sound fine to my ear. I can’t speak to latency and am not sure how one would measure that, sorry.