"All the cool kids carabiner-carry their gadgets to the gym."
True wireless ear-buds are more or less the smallest form fac-tor earphones can get without breaking the laws of physics. This makes them ideal not only for the modern commuter always on the move, but also for gym junkies who will appreciate the true freedom from cables and wires.
The latter demo-graphic is not one that has seen a lot of action. With a few ex-ceptions like the Jabra Elite Active 75t, true wire-less earbuds that are engineered (or marketed) specifically for sporty consum-ers are few and far between.
The ST-XS2 are IPX7 rated, which is a bump up from the IPX4 ratings that we typically see in most of today’s true wire-less earbuds. Tech-nically speaking, the IPX7 rating means the ST-XS2 can be sub-merged up to 1 metre in water for up to 30 minutes. It’s unlikely anyone is going to be wading into a pool with this but it’s good to know that it can withstand sweat and even heavy rain.
The ST-XS2 has a case that doesn’t look particularly out of the ordinary for a pair of true wireless earbuds, but I like the little ny-lon loop around the edge that lets you clip it easily to a gym bag by way of a carabiner that Soul very kindly included in the box.
The design of the earbuds themselves are also surprising-ly well-thought out. They have a unique boxy look lets it sit flat against your ear, with the silicone tips sticking out at an angle to pump music deeper into your ears.
Combined with the included wing tips, they sat very snugly and securely in my ear and did not budge even with the most vigorous of move-ments during my stay-home body com-bat class. It is also very lightweight, and I felt no discomfort even on a longer run of around an hour.
It even has a trans-parency mode, a feature present only in a handful of oth-er models. This is extremely important for outdoor sports, so you can be aware of traffic and other potential hazards around you. Sounds of wind blowing and leaves rustling were tinnier and more ar-tificial than what they would have sounded in real life, but they did come through loud and clear, so it served its purpose well.
The earbuds have just one button on each side along with simple LED lights to tell you when they’re charging or connecting. Physical buttons are a breath of fresh air after all the touch-enabled models I’ve tested recently. An actual button is miles better than touch controls when you’re playing sports. Battery life lasts up to 5 hours on a single charge, and up to 25 hours with the case; more than good enough for the typical commute, gym session, or urban run.
Soul promises “amazing” sound quality with clear mids and highs and deep low bass. That sounds like the entire package we need from a pair of ear-buds, so does it live up to the hype?
My go-to genres during a workout are typically rock, elec-tropop, and a dash of trance. Across all three genres, the ST-XS2 performed very well especially for a gadget at its price point.
On a track like Clos-er by POWERS, for example, the bass was heart-thumpingly good and yet did not overpower the vocals or the accompany-ing instrumentals. Everything came across loud and clear and helped me push through the mental barrier between 11km and 12km during a particularly unmoti-vated run.
Fast-paced EDM tracks such as AWAL and Space Race’s Lightspeed per-formed even better, and the ST-XS2 could handle rock music with aplomb too, pro-ducing a reasonably balanced rendition of The Killer’s Mr. Bright-side.
However, pieces with more nuance and complexity such as classical music will sound muddled and unpleasant through the ST-XS2.
Overall, the build of the ST-XS2 is cer-tainly not something to shout about. It’s made largely with flimsy plastic that feels cheap, and it’s evident that the fit and finish isn’t as fine as a more premium brand like Apple or Sony.
But Soul makes no pretensions to the fact. At just $169.90 – and frequently on sale these days – this is a pair of mid-range earbuds that seeks to fill just one sin-gle niche and sound great doing so.
AT A GLANCE
5 hours earbuds + 20 hours case
Boxy design for the earbuds, but surprisingly comfortable to wear.