The Sudio Nio are the latest and cheapest pair of truly wireless earphones from Swedish company Sudio. Sudio is positioning the Nio as “earphones for the people”. The everyman’s earphone. And I’d say the Nio was intentionally designed to look the part, by being visually similar to the most ubiquitous earphones of them all — Apple’s AirPods.

But looking like AirPods and being like AirPods are completely separate equations. Does Sudio manage to succeed in replicating the formula that drove the AirPods’ success? Let’s find out.

Sudio Nio Features

  • 20h playtime
  • Bluetooth 5.0, SBC codec
  • IPX4 water resistant
  • Colours: black, white, green, sand

Design & build

There’s nothing much that I can say about the design of the Nio; these are basically AirPods, but with IPX4 water resistance. That means that these should be able to survive some sweat and a splash of rain, but shouldn’t be submerged in water.

The case is simple. On the front below the Sudio logo is the LED battery indicator, which is white if the case has >25% battery left and orange otherwise. The same battery indicator can be found on each of the earphones. On the right of the case is the USB-C port used for charging. On the bottom there’s a button for factory resetting the Nio.

Build quality of the case is fine. The plastic construction feels solid. The hinge is much improved from the Sudio Ett‘s which I commented was loose and generally unsatisfying to open and close. The Nio’s hinge snaps open and shut satisfyingly. There is a slight wobble to the hinge in my unit though.

The main issue that I have with the case is how hard it is to get the earphones out from it. The earphones are slippery and curved, and there just isn’t much to grip on to when you want to get them out of their case.

Fit

The Nio, like the AirPods, lack eartips and so do not have an in-ear design. Instead they sit loosely outside your ear canal. This means that fit is not as good as what you’d get from other earphones that have in-ear tips.

This has several consequences. The most apparent consequence being that passive noise isolation — the seal — is practically non-existent. You’ll be able to hear everything that’s going on around you almost as though you weren’t wearing earphones in the first place.

Furthermore, the earphones feel “loose” in your ear. I was always afraid that they would fall out of my ear, though in practice this didn’t happen, even as I did sit-ups or went for a quick jog.

Sudio tries to mitigate these issues with the provision of four sets of removable silicone wingtips. One of these sets of wingtips don’t actually have wings at all, and that’s the one that I recommend using because the other wingtips make absolutely no sense.

You see, most earphones have wingtips that slot nicely into the concha cymba of your ear (Google it to see what I mean) — and this allows those earphones to sit more securely and snuggly in your ear. But the wingtips that the Nio provide don’t aim to fit in there at all. In fact, they don’t seem to fit in anywhere. Perhaps they’re meant to provide a snug fit in the concha cavum for larger ears, but for my ears, they just get in the way.

The other (unexpected) consequence of the design is that the fit that you’re able to achieve actually drastically affects the sound signature and audio quality of these earphones. So let’s talk about sound.

Sound

When I first got the Nio, I found the fit of the pre-installed silicone tip to be weird, so I removed it before giving the Nio a listen. I was shocked by how bad the Nio sounded. Bass was ridiculously overpowering and muddy, masking the mids and highs completely. This resulted in an extremely fatiguing listen regardless of the kind of music I played.

Taylor Swift’s ’tis the damn season, which is usually an easy and casual listen, hurt my ears with the amount of bass that was being produced. The vocals, which are usually clear and the main focus of the song, was completely masked by the bass.

The sound was so bad that I stopped listening to the Nio after a couple of minutes and put it away. I was convinced that these were the worst pair of earphones I’ve ever heard, period, and was preparing myself to write a damning review.

But the next day, I put on one of the silicone wingtips and gave it another listen. I was surprised that the Nio sounded not bad. The issues that I had with the overpowering bass was gone, though the bass response still wasn’t as clean as what I’d like. Listening to music was actually a decently enjoyable experience.

It turns out that the frequency response on these earphones greatly depend on the fit you achieve. With the earphones without any wingtips attached, the Nio sits too snuggly in your ear, and this leads to overpowering and reverberating, muddy bass. But put on the silicone wingtips, and the altered fit gets rid of this issue. It’s a night and day difference.

So, if you’re getting these earphones and find yourself disappointed by the sound, experiment with the wingtips. The fit is crucial to a good listening experience.

So with the wingtips attached, how is the sound? It’s pretty good. Sudio seems to have fixed the criticism that I had with the Sudio Ett about bass being non-existent, but perhaps they overcompensated. While not overpowering like it was without the wingtips, bass is still elevated, and depending on the fit that you get, it can be a bit much for some people. The bass response itself is rather muddy, but for the price I’d say it’s fine.

Bass is emphasised, mids are present, while highs seem recessed. These are a very warm-sounding pair of earphones. Sound stage and imaging are slightly better than what I’d expect for earphones of this class. Perhaps it’s the “open” design that adds to the feeling of spaciousness to the sound.

As with all other Sudio products, there is no app for changing equaliser settings. That’s a damn shame, as I think these can be a much better listen by tweaking the bass down and elevating the highs.

Controls & connectivity

There are touch controls on each earbud for playing/pausing, skipping track, and adjusting volume. They are rather finicky since they operate on single, double and triple taps respectively. There are no swipe gestures here. There is also no app for you to change the behaviour of these gestures.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about these touch controls are that they will almost certainly trigger when you’re adjusting the earphones in your ear, or taking them out of your ear.

I initially had issues with pairing and bluetooth connection. The earphones wouldn’t connect, and sometimes audio wouldn’t play even with the earphones connected. These issues appear to have gone away after I unpaired and re-paired the earphones though.

I couldn’t seem to get them to connect to two devices at once, and there’s nothing in the marketing materials that allude to this, so I’d assume that multipoint isn’t a feature.

Pricing & conclusion

Pros

  • IPX4 water resistant
  • Good 20h battery life
  • Sound quality can be good depending on the fit you achieve

Cons

  • No app for updating firmware, adjusting touch controls, or equaliser
  • Muddy bass response
  • Frequency response depends greatly on fit
  • Poor passive noise isolation, wingtips make no sense

For S$119, the Nio are Sudio’s cheapest truly wireless earphones yet, and if you’re able to get a good fit, the sound is pretty decent.

The main issue to consider is the fit and the lack of passive noise isolation. These aren’t earphones that you want to wear during your commute due to their non-isolating nature; you wouldn’t be able to hear your music over the noise of the bus or train. If you want something more isolating, look into in-ear designs like the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ or OnePlus Buds Z (S$99), or even active noise cancelling options like the WF-1000XM3 or the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.

If you’re not a fan of warm sound signatures, you’d probably also want to steer clear of the Nio.

But say you’re specifically looking for non-isolating earphones. Perhaps you want to be able to hear your colleagues speak without removing the earphones from your ear. Or perhaps you want music to be playing while cycling, but still need to be able to hear traffic. Maybe you want non-isolating sweat resistant earphones with elevated bass for the gym. If so, you’d likely be quite pleased with the Nio.

You can purchase the Sudio Nio on Sudio’s website, and use the coupon code TFT15 at checkout for 15% off your purchase. Alternatively, you can also find the Sudio Nio on Lazada via different retailers.


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