Looking at the box for the iFLYBUDS Nano+, you wouldn’t be able to guess the full functionalities of these futuristic-looking earbuds. Not unless you’re already familiar with other products of manufacturer iFLYTEK.
Housed in a shiny, chrome-like casing that looks right out of a space opera series, these shiny earbuds could easily function as your typical Bluetooth wireless earbuds; they sound great. But to use them only for music is a huge waste for these huiyi erji (会议耳机), or conference earphones, are meant to be so much more.
The sales page on Lazada presents an almost mind-boggling list of features.
- Instant recording “right away” with “98% transcription accuracy.”
- Intelligent encryption protocols for information security.
- 7m recording distance.
- Flash record function.
- Real-time translation.
- VIAIM AI Meeting Assistant
- AI-powered summation of meeting minutes.
- Intelligent analysis and highlighting of meeting minutes.
- AI-assisted organizer.
- 45 dB noise cancellation.
- 40-hour battery life.
- “Concert Hall” sound quality.
- 3 microphones in each earbud for crisp conversations.
- 10 minutes quick charge for two hours of use.
- IP55 rated.
It’s like having a Jarvis in your ears, isn’t it? It took me quite a while just to translate/write this key functions list!
With today’s technology, I’m sure you’d agree too that it’s reasonable to assume the iFLYBUDS Nano+ is indeed capable of all these functions. The pertinent question should instead be, how well do these high-tech earbuds perform in each area? And, how easy is it to use each of these functions?
For easy reading, the main body of this review will be divided into three areas: Sound Quality, Recording and Transcribing, and AI functions. Naturally, I’ll comment on the overall build and price too, as well as examine the iFLYBUDS app.
To highlight, without the iFLYBUDS app, all recordings and AI functions cannot be accessed. You must have this app installed on your phone to enjoy the full magic of the Nano+.
Unboxing and Design
While the word “nano” is in the name, with a + sign, the charging case of the iFLYBUDS Nano+ is far from petite. The rounded square shape measures 6 cm at its widest and is close to 3.0 cm thick.
I’m unsure of the reason for this design direction. The size is also not for the purpose of facilitating recordings. The charging case is only that, all recordings are performed by the earbuds.
Were I to hazard a guess, though, I’d say the bulkier design might be for the purpose of cueing. As in, if you have the shiny case in front of you during a meeting, you’re making it obvious in a non-verbal way that you’re recording dialogue.
On the other hand, a smaller, less visible design would invite criticism of sneakiness.
I strongly recommend using the iFLYBUDS app to control the earbuds. But for the sake of easier discussion, let me just list down the controls found on the earbuds.
Long press on either earbud: Start/stop recording.
Double tap on left earbud: Change noise cancellation setting. (There is a transparent mode)
Double tap on right earbud: Play/stop. Receive/terminate call.
Triple tap on left earbud: Previous track.
Triple tap on right earbud: Next track.
For the record, these controls are exactly similar to those found on other wireless earbuds. The controls are neither harder nor easier to use.
I usually examine sound quality in the latter parts of my audio gear reviews but this time, I’ll start with it since audio quality is not the chief attraction of the iFLYBUDS Nano+. Or should I say, just one of the many key selling points?
To refer to the Lazada sales page again, sound quality is described as “concert hall-like.” I feel this is an apt description for soundstage and imaging precision are the most attractive aspects of these conference earbuds.
The stage is broad and deep without being excessive. We have a spacious chamber here, not an auditorium. Stereo imaging is incredibly precise too, completing that sensation of being within an acoustically superior music venue.
The default sound signature, though indicated as a knoll in the app, sounds bass-heavy to me, with mids/vocals slightly recessed. Trebles are energetic enough too and overall, it feels like a standard v-shape tuning that is heavier on the lower ends. With microdynamics more refined than I expected.
In short, it’s an easy-to-enjoy listening experience. With all that bass, some users might define the audio quality as “fun” too. Anyhow, if you dislike this signature, no problem, the iFLYBUDS app offers an unusually wide selection of EQ presets, some of which with Chinese terms I’ve never even heard of before. (An eating chicken tuning?!?) I’m sure everyone can find a preset that appeals.
Further on the bassy sound signature, it’s thick and could overpower some lower mids. Audiophiles would likely feel it lacks complex texture too. However, I believe most casual listeners wouldn’t mind.
Active Noise Cancellation
iFLYTEK listed the Nano+ earbuds as capable of up to 45 decibels of noise cancellation. Now, I can’t measure this mathematically, but I can tell you the noise cancellation is at least as robust as my Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. Stronger than any of my ANC-equipped earbuds from 2020 and earlier too.
The earbuds also constantly refine the degree of cancellation and this is where things sometimes get a little wonky. A couple of times, I turned my head to look at a source of noise, a fan for example, and one earbud rapidly goes through different levels of cancellation. In the worst instance, I ended up with different degrees of cancellation in both ears—not a pleasant experience.
The easiest way to reset is to then use the app to switch everything off and reactivate. It’s a a slight nuisance, but overall, I’m still impressed by the Nano+’s noise-cancellation abilities.
iFLYBUDS App Installation
Before I move on to recording and AI functions, let me discuss the iFLYBUDS app. To highlight once more, you are unable to use all transcribing and AI functions without this app.
The app needs to be directly downloaded from iFLYTEK’s website too; they provide a QR code on the instruction manual to do so. Once installed on your handphone, you furthermore need to register and use your phone number to receive an activation code.
Upon activation, you can proceed to switch the interface language to English by selecting the Settings (设置) button on the lower right corner, scrolling down the menu to Languages (多语言), and selecting English. Or, you could just leave everything in Chinese.
On the whole, I think the app is easy to use as long as you’re aware of what the “work process” is. Simply put, your earbuds must be connected to your phone via Bluetooth for all functions to be available. All recordings are also NOT accessible by connecting the charging case directly to your comp. They must be downloaded to your phone and accessed via the iFLYBUDS app.
Of note, I was unable to locate the recordings in any of my phone’s folders. (They have to be somewhere but I just couldn’t find them; not even in the created iFLYBUDS folder) However, I suppose it doesn’t matter since the app allows me to export the recordings, with documentation if necessary, as a zip file to my choice of location.
Recording and Transcribing
Recording is a breeze. Double tap on either earbud and it starts or stops, with prompts in Mandarin. A big red button on the app interface does the same but provides three different modes of recording to choose from.
Recording quality is also superior. Environmental din and distance, expectedly, muffles dialogue but otherwise, it’s clear enough for most purposes.
If any, my only “thumbs-down” for the recording capability is that the “7m recording distance” stated in official literature seems somewhat of an exaggeration. At 3.5m, breathier or softer words are not always captured. At a full 7m, reliability drops even more.
In other words, you wouldn’t want to leave the earbuds in a corner of the room if you’re recording a meeting. The safest distance, IMO, is less than 3.5m.
This is where the most impressive magic of the iFLYBUDS Nano+ is. Magic that makes these conference earbuds a wonderful learning tool as well. But before I continue, it’s important to note there are two ways to record.
- By using the big red button found within the app
- By long pressing either of the earbuds
If you’re activating via the app, recordings are directly saved to your phone with transcribing impressively quick and accurate. I read several passages from a Chinese book and with the exception of person names* and parts where I stuttered, everything was correctly captured. The “98 percent” accuracy stated by iFLYTEK is not an exaggeration. The iFLYBUDS app obviously also possesses a vocabulary since it’s able to immediately determine the Chinese characters I spoke.
The earbuds can furthermore record and transcribe in other languages. You simply need to change the language setting in the recording interface; there are 9 languages and 12 Chinese dialects and a Mandarin/English options to choose from.
I tested in English, Cantonese, and Japanese, and overall, the results were less accurate than Mandarin. That said, over 80 percent of my speech was still correctly captured. Since the app allows you to edit the transcript before exporting, I think what’s typically captured is more than useful enough.
Coming to the second method of recording, i.e., by long pressing either of the earbuds, this requires an additional step before recordings can be used. You must transfer the recordings from the earbuds to your phone before transcribing is possible.
I encountered difficulties here. Other than the Bluetooth file transfer requiring time to complete, transcribing occasionally fails after transfers. The app will then prompt me to try again later, but I don’t seem to be able to do so no matter how long I waited.
My conclusion is thus this. Recording should be performed using the iFLYBUDS app; you would have to transfer recordings to your phone before they can be used anyway. Since most people wouldn’t be without their phones when using the earbuds, I don’t think this compromises the overall usefulness of the iFLYBUDS Nano+.
* I’m not surprised that Chinese names pose difficulties. Many Chinese characters used in names share the same pronunciation. There is no standard word. Frankly, I’ll be spooked if the app can correctly guess the characters used in names.
Which Device is Performing Recordings?
In the spirit of review honesty, I must highlight the following.
The recording interface of the iFLYBUD app will not launch without you opening the charging case cover and establishing a Bluetooth link with the earbuds. This strongly implies the earbuds are doing the recording.
However, I get the feeling the app might also be using the recording capabilities of the phone it is installed on. For a start, it seems odd that recording via the app results in near-instantaneous file saving to the phone, whereas transferring a recording from the earbuds to the phone could take over a minute.
But when I perform the silly experiment of leaving the earbuds and charging in one room, and whispering into my phone while in another room, nothing is recorded. The connection breaks after a while too.
Regardless of what it is, it doesn’t affect what I wrote above. Recording via the app is still the easier and faster way.
Translation and AI Functions
Once a Chinese transcription is completed, you can use the app to translate the text into a variety of other languages. Vice versa, recordings in other languages can also be translated into Chinese.
Like any other electronic translator, the quality of translation isn’t perfect. However, I believe what’s provided will at least give a user an idea of what was said.
With the iFLYBUDS Cloud Service activated, you can also upload recordings and enjoy the benefits of VIAIM AI. Provided your recording contains enough information and has been suitably edited (via the app) to clean up wrongly transcribed words, the following AI tasks can be performed.
- Rearrange recorded speech into a bulleted, to-do list.
- Condense an entire recording into easy-to-understand summaries and conclusions.
I did this experiment. I recorded myself reciting the T&Cs of a credit card I’ve just received. I read without pausing between each condition and so the final transcript was one big paragraph.
Once uploaded, VIAIM AI correctly translated my speech and presented a precise to-do list. The summary and conclusion generated were also impressively accurate.
It’s truly magic, an absolute godsend for unbearably long speeches and conferences too, if you ask me.
As a “conference assistant,” I’ll give the iFLYBUDS Nano+, its app, and VIAIM AI a ten out of ten score.
Price and iFLYBUDS Nano+ Review Conclusion
As of this final week of September 2023, the iFLYBUDS Nano+ is sold on Lazada at a (discounted) price of SGD 342.70.
This isn’t a budget price tag, for sure. But it’s also not that far from what you’d have to pay for a superior pair of true wireless earbuds. Considering these conference earbuds allow you to do much, much more than just listening to music, I dare say it’s a worthwhile investment.
In short, it’s especially useful if you:
- Often need to attend long, long meetings and speeches. If you’re allowed to record, VIAIM AI will ensure that you’re informed about every salient point, even if you’ve fallen asleep.
- Need to attend meetings and speeches conducted in a language you’re not entirely proficient in. The iFLYBUDS app doesn’t support every language in the world, but it does support the most commonly used ones. The quality of translation is more or less reliable too.
- It is invaluable if you need to do business in Chinese but are not entirely proficient with the language.
Outside of the above, it’s a good learning tool, yes? Watch a Mandarin programme, record the dialogue, and you have the transcript plus translation. How convenient is that for learning purposes?
Lastly, sound quality of the Nano+ is respectable. It might not be the quality most people would expect for earbuds in this price range, but it’s nowhere near bad too. Personally, I think the bassy signature is quite enjoyable to listen to.
Paired with the superior noise-cancellation function, it can indeed provide a “concert hall” music experience.
- Entertaining sound signature
- Superior noise cancellation
- Easy to record with
- Highly accurate transcripts by iFLYBUDS app
- Supports several languages
- Powerful VIAIM AI conference assistant functions
- Noise cancellation has occasional issues
- Transferring recordings from earbuds to phone has occasional issues too