Astrotec S80 Plus Review – Combo Breaker
Compact and highly ergonomic design, Excellent isolation, Impressively Natural midrange voicing
Cheap build, Limited codec support, Not the best technical performance
For a meagre sum, the S80 Plus delivers a well-rounded experience and a step up from its predecessor in daily use, but fails to standout in a competitive market.
Astrotec are a pretty slept on company, surprising so given their long history of operation with some critically acclaimed models along the way. If I had to guess, I would attribute to the fact that their most coveted models are often their most expensive. The S80 then, represented a divergence from the premium hybrid IEMs and Lyra earbuds before. This was a TWS offering with Be DD at a low price. I found the earphone appealing, with a natural, warm sound and good battery life, albeit Astrotec’s lack of experience with the form factor was apparent with the ergonomics. The S80 Plus seeks to address these issues. It takes the same biological diaphragm construction from the recently released Volans and puts it inside a completely redesigned shell while further dropping the price.
The S80 Plus is available for $59 USD, you can read more about it and purchase a set for yourself on Astrotec’s website.
I would like to thank Ryan from Astrotec very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the S80 Plus 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.
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 25kHz
- Driver: 6mm Bio-Diaphragm Dynamic Driver
- Impedance: 16 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 105 dB
- BT:5.0 w/ LDS antenna, AAC, SBC
- Playback Time: 5 hrs, 4-5 x additional runs with case
It’s admirable that, even on their most economical models, the unboxing experience does not feel cheap or watered down. There’s an attractive sleeve with the specs, splash art and model name that slides off to reveal a hard box, a fabric pull tab streamlines the process. An instruction card greets the user once opened and beneath lies the earphones and accessories within protective foam. Astrotec include 3 pairs of silicone tips in addition to 2 pairs of shallow fitting tips. A Type-C charging cable is included to charge the case. Altogether, a simple yet effective unboxing.
Obvious cues have been taken from the original that justify the use of the same model name. The new model is immediately more compact and the material choice has slightly changed. As before, the housings are very lightweight with an all-plastic construction. However, they now assume a matte finish, that I personally prefer due to the tactility and lack of oil marks. That said, they do feel quite cheap with differing finishes on the inner and outer shell, clear seams with some visible glue marks, and even some scuffs out of the box.
It is a very affordable in-ear for sure and competitions also falter somewhat under such scrutiny. In addition, most premium competitors still rely on plastic constructions as it is required for wireless transmission so it is important to keep expectations realistic. Still, the in-hand feel is simply not that pleasant and a slight step down from the S80. In return, they are quite an attractive earphone, svelte and low-profile. The new finish holds up over time better than gloss despite not looking quite as nice. In addition, the light weight helps with drop resistance, of course, this is still not advised. They are overall, a perfectly passable experience. Nothing affects comfort or feels prone to breaking, but the quality can definitely be improved in future revisions.
Fit & Isolation –
Where I was not too enthusiastic about the large S80 that came before, the new S80 Plus makes a radical and highly effective redesign. Considerably smaller dimensions combined with a longer, tapered nozzle permit a much deeper and snugger fit than before. In fact, this is easily one of my favourite fitting TWS in-ears despite the lack of any stabilisers. And yet, due to the fit depth, this is hardly necessary. There’s an excellent seal and the lightweight construction permits a perfect stable fit even during active use such as running and skipping.
Isolation is also excellent, which is aided by a total lack of wind noise; the cutout on the faceplate appearing to be for the microphone rather than the driver. In turn, they are an excellent choice for commute and travel, despite the lack of ANC. They passively attenuate very well and do so without the pressure, artefacts and sound quality degradation these models suffer from. The S80 Plus is a great choice for daily use due to its ergonomics alone.
The case too sees similar revisions as per the earbuds themselves. It has the same base design as the S80 case with fabric bottom and plastic lid, however, the silver cover is now a more subdued matte black. As before, it feels a little light and cheap, however, this can also be seen as a positive in the sense that the case is quite unassuming in a pocket for instance. It is a bit lighter and more compact than the OG S80 case. Otherwise, they are functionally identical. There remain 4 status LEDs at the front behind the fabric and Type-C charging port on the right side with no Qi wireless support.
The hinge feels sturdy enough with no wobble, however, it has a strangely stiff action and no reverse magnet or clip to keep it open. Another caveat I’ve experiences is that the earphones aren’t held in very firmly. The magnet often isn’t strong enough to fully seat the earphones in the case, so the earphones remain powered on even when put away and have to be manually pushed in. This is very irksome during daily use and not something that affected the original. Otherwise, I appreciate the aesthetic design and weight, the case is easy to pocket and offers 4-5 charges of the earphones which equated to about a week of use for me. An admirable performance given the dimensions of the case.
Upon removing the earphones from the case, the earphones power on and enter pairing mode just like the majority of competitors. They easily connect and quickly auto-reconnect to previously paired devices, I had no issues there. They also support independent pairing which is handy for mono calls and extending runtimes. Range was also good, I was able to walk across 2 room with double brick walls before the sound became intermittent so above average overall. I didn’t experience dropouts in crowded areas such as public transport or the CBD connected to my Pixel 4. Latency was also acceptable over AAC, lip sync was barely noticeable which makes these a good choice for videos and mobile games as well.
Charging and Battery Life
The S80 Plus is rated at 5hrs of runtime with the case offering an additional 4-5 charges. I was able to meet that 5 hr figure quite comfortably during my weeks of testing at around 40% volume. The case as well I found to offer the rated 4-5 charges, more commonly closer to 4. However, whether due to trickle charging or not, I did find the case to self-discharge over time. Like the MTW, this won’t bother you if it’s your daily set and you’re constantly on top of charge, however, if you use them only from time to time, it is something to consider.
The touch controls make a return from the S80 and now and are noticeably more reliable than those that I complained about on its predecessor. They are still a bit awkward to use and aren’t especially sensitive. You have to hit the centre of the faceplate or they don’t register and there’s no feedback which makes it a little more irksome than some. I generally do not enjoy touch controls but these are above average, perfectly useable once you become accustomed to the position and the cadence of tapping.
This was another shortcoming of the original S80 and key area that Astrotec spent some time refining. The S80 Plus is indeed a better performer, it no longer so distant and muffled though still far from the clearest mic system I’ve used, perhaps due to the positioning. As before, noise cancellation is almost non-existent, so they will pick up wind noise which makes them pretty poor for outdoor calls. They do for a pinch indoors that said, working well with the small form factor day to day.
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