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Hands-on review: Belkin SOUNDFORM Rise and SOUNDFORM Freedom True Wireless Earbuds
Wed, 26th Jan 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Having reviewed dozens of pairs of headphones and earbuds over the last five or so years across all price ranges, I was excited to test two of Belkin's latest models. The SOUNDFORM Rise and SOUNDFORM Freedom True Wireless Earbuds, which carry an RRP of $130 and $230, respectively, are somewhat competitively priced in this space.

Both models are available in two colours - black or white - and, included in the box, are the earbuds themselves with their wireless charging case, along with a USB-C cable and three sizes of silicone ear tips - small, medium and large.

Belkin also offers a sub-$100 model - the Belkin SOUNDFORM Move True Wireless Earbuds - for those consumers who aren't looking to break the bank.

Belkin SOUNDFORM Rise True Wireless Earbuds

So then, the Belkin SOUNDFORM Rise True Wireless Earbuds are the mid-price offering from the American electronics company, and they do a pretty good job at competing against some of the more premium options, such as Apple's popular AirPods.

At first glance, I was impressed by the way the SOUNDFORM Rise looked - the case has a matte finish, and the earbuds themselves have a neat, modern design.

Connecting them to your device is as easy as most other Bluetooth devices, and after switching out the ear tips to tailor the device to the shape and size of my ear, I was impressed by how they felt. The only time I felt slightly anxious about the fit was during my evening run, where they did feel like they were occasionally slipping from my ear - although, fortunately, this didn't happen.

For those intending on using the SOUNDFORM Rise earbuds outdoors, you'll have peace of mind knowing that Belkin made them IPX5 sweat and water-resistant - perfect for your post-Christmas gym visits. If you intend on taking them out for longer periods of time, the case has enough juice for 24 hours of listening time, with the earbuds having the capacity for a further seven hours. Caught short? Just a 10-minute charge provides one hour of playtime. Not too bad, eh?

While the sound is by no means groundbreaking, it's rich enough to listen to a wide range of genres or podcasts. However, they do have quite high bass, which could be detrimental to certain types of music. Performance during phone (or Zoom) calls is ample thanks to the 6mm dynamic drivers and quad microphones - Belkin calls this ‘clear-call technology'.

The touch tech to navigate the earbuds leaves a lot to be desired, but more on that when we talk about the SOUNDFORM Freedoms.

For the price, the SOUNDFORM Rise True Wireless Earbuds aren't too bad at all.

Belkin SOUNDFORM Freedom True Wireless Earbuds

Now, the Belkin SOUNDFORM Freedom True Wireless Earbuds come with the aforementioned $230 price tag. But is it worth it?

The more premium model shares many features with its considerably cheaper sibling, such as the water resistance, the good looks and the Clear-call technology.

The battery life is even better, with the 520 mAh case offering 28 hours of power and the earbuds themselves offering a further eight hours - that's a massive 36 hours of listening time. It's also worth mentioning that each model is capable of wireless charging, although it's much quicker to juice up via the USB-C cable that comes in the box.

The Freedoms include Advanced environmental noise cancellation (ENC) for crystal-clear calls, though it's worth noting that this falls way short of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). They are also compatible with Apple's incredibly handy Find My software, should you ever misplace them.

The sound performance is even better than the Rises, but the price may leave potential buyers wondering if they should invest a few more dollars to get a more premium model with features like ANC. In fact, if you have a look around, you'll be able to find cheaper models (albeit made by lesser-known brands) that offer ANC.

About the touch commands - these can become incredibly infuriating. On paper, it works great - the left earbud can turn the volume down and go to the previous song, whereas the right one turns the volume up or skips the song. Often I found myself trying to toggle the volume and inadvertently skipping my favourite song. Overall, it was just too fiddly, so I found myself just using my iPhone to input my commands. What should be a huge selling point for Belkin turned into a negative.

Overall, however, the Belkin SOUNDFORM Freedom True Wireless Earbuds are a good pair of headphones from a reputable brand that has slowly been expanding its range of electronics over the past few years. While they might not quite be up there with the likes of Bose and Sony, they offer devices at more attractive price points.