What you can take away from this Oppo Enco Free2 review is that while these may not compete against the best true wireless earbuds in the world, they do offer a lot for not much money.
Ever since Oppo decided it wanted to be a big noise in the world of smartphones, it’s been producing headphones to act as accessories, and its focus has largely been on competing with the best cheap headphones.
The Enco Free2 certainly fit the bill, on paper at least - they’re extensively specified, feature sonic fettling from Dynaudio, and are deep in the Oppo smartphone ecosystem. And the price is most definitely right, too…
Oppo Enco Free2 review: price and release date
The Oppo Enco Free2 are on sale now, and in the UK they’re priced at £89. You’ll pay $89 in the United States and AU$199 in Australia.
The world’s far from short of true wireless in-ear headphones at this sort of money, but it’s quite a bit shorter of alternatives with quite such an impressive spec-sheet. But then again, we all know the battle isn’t won on paper…
Oppo Enco Free2 review: features and what's new
The Enco Free2 use Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connectivity, which does its bit in a) providing a true 10m connectivity range, and b) delivering an entirely unspectacular battery life of somewhere between 24 and 36 hours. With active noise-cancellation switched on, the earbuds themselves are good for around four hours of playback, and there are another five full charges in the case. Switch ANC off and that number rises to more like six hours.
Despite Bluetooth 5.2’s modernity, though, the Oppo are only compatible with SBC and AAC codecs. Yes, these are affordable earbuds - but some rivals add in aptX or LDAC compatibility, and make themselves truly hi-res in the process.
Once the digital audio information has been streamed aboard, it’s delivered by a couple of 10mm dynamic drivers. These are relatively big drivers, which may explain the rather bulbous nature of the Enco Free2’s business end. Oppo is claiming a full-range frequency response of 20Hz - 20kHz.
Oppo Enco Free2 review: design and fit
There are, it seems, only two ways for true wireless in-ear headphones to look. Oppo has gone with the Apple-inspired ‘dangly stem’ design rather than the ‘lozenge’ alternative, which we always think is the slightly more ostentatious option.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with the way the Enco Free2 are put together. But despite the choice of ‘S’, ‘M’ or ‘L’ eartips in the packaging, it’s difficult to achieve a fit that feels better than ‘a little bit vague’. There’s not quite the ‘open’ sensation of a pair of Apple AirPods, sure, but the way the Oppo feel doesn’t inspire confidence.
The stem area does at least allow for a large capacitive touch-surface on each earbud, and it proves reliable and predictable in operation. The exact functionality of each earbud’s touch-controls can be defined in the third-party ‘Hey Melody’ control app (for iOS and Android) or in the Bluetooth settings of any Oppo smartphone.
The app also has some EQ presets, a battery-status indicator, and the ability to take a hearing test to help the earbuds trim both their sound and their active noise-cancellation to your specific hearing profile. Options for noise-cancellation run to ‘on’ (or ‘personal’), ‘off’ or ‘transparency’.
The touch-surface can also let you wake your source player’s native voice-assistant. The triple-mic array integrated into each earbud proves sharp-eared and responsive, so using a voice-assistant is no hardship whatsoever.
Oppo Enco Free2 review: sound and performance
Yes, as the star-rating at the top of the review indicates, everything is not well with the way the Oppo Enco Free2 sound. But that’s not the same as suggesting they don’t have some areas of genuine sonic expertise.
Almost everything the Oppo do well centres around the midrange. They communicate in absolute torrents where singers are concerned: detail levels are dizzily high, there’s subtlety and nuance at every turn, and if you’re in any doubt as to a vocalist’s intentions after hearing them through the Enco Free2 we’ll have to put that down to your own lack of imagination. If a singer has character, is feeling emotion, or has a discernible attitude, you can rely on these earbuds to inform you of it.
They’re similarly (though not quite as lavishly) adept where soundstaging and dynamics are concerned. The stage the Oppo describe is always sizeable, always coherently laid out and (if the recording allows it) exists in three audio dimensions - so specific elements of a recording have their own space in which to operate. They never sound estranged for the other elements, though, so the sense of unity or performance doesn’t suffer. Dynamically, too, the Enco Free2 are confident and accomplished - they’re alert to harmonic variations just as much as big dynamic shifts.
Well, they are except for in the lower frequencies. The Oppo certainly dig deep, hit hard, and control the attack and decay of low-frequency sounds well - but the nuance and detail that makes their midrange reproduction so thrilling goes missing where bass sounds are concerned. The low end just thumps, with precious little light and shade to bring it to life. So despite its alacrity, it nevertheless sounds both remote from and a hindrance to what’s going on above it.
At the opposite end, things are differently but equally problematic. The Oppo fairly pile into treble sounds, making them absolutely as hard and bright as is acceptable - and given the wrong material to work with, or the wrong source player in the first place, the top end can become painfully spiky. We’re all for attack and verve in our treble sounds, but the way the Enco Free2 reproduce them is borderline feral.
After that remarkable game of three halves, it’s nice to be able to report the active noise-cancellation here is much more of a single piece. It’s a fairly unusual feature on earbuds as affordable as these, and so we shouldn’t really expect a system the equal of more expensive Bose or Sony earbuds - but the Enco Free2 handle external sounds confidently, banishing them to a great extent and no really changing their sonic attitude (for both better and worse) as they do so.
Oppo Enco Free2 review: verdict
Ultimately, the Oppo Enco Free2 are a peculiar product. The specification highlights, the control options, the build quality and, especially, the midrange reproduction all impress.
But they’re undeniably flawed at the frequency extremes, their battery life is nothing special and the way they fit isn’t the most reassuring either. They’re a diverting option, but hard to recommend.
Oppo Enco Free2 review: also consider
For keeping costs down and audio enjoyment levels high, we keep coming back to Cambridge Audio’s exemplary Melomania 1+. No, they’re nothing much to look at and no, they’re not the last word in comfort - but they sound great where the Oppo sound wonky, and their battery life is epic where the Oppo’s is mediocre. On paper, they’re giving specification away to the Enco Free2 - but in practice they’re a cut or two above.
If you're wondering how we test our gadgets and believe us, we do cover an awful lot – then head over to our How We Test page for the full lowdown on our process and ethics.