Things that are getting more difficult every day (the latest in a series): making a pair of realistically priced true wireless in-ear headphones that are in some way different from the many other realistically priced true wireless in-ear headphones already flooding the market.
A company as intrepid as Oppo has one or two ideas on how to make it happen, of course. Getting Danish loudspeaker company Dynaudio involved in the Enco X is an excellent start. Having some attention-grabbing specifications (such as Bluetooth 5.2, for instance) is a good idea too. And there’s no harm in tying these headphones into the wider Oppo ecosystem, either.
The real question, though, is: can these USPs help the Enco X stand out from the crowd?
In a strange reversal of usual practice, customers in the UK can spend less (£149) on the Oppo Enco X by going straight to oppostore.co.uk (opens in new tab) than by shopping at Amazon (£169). In either case, though, the Enco X are up against some well-regarded alternatives from Cambridge Audio (with its £120 Melomania 1 Plus) as well as the ubiquitous AirPods Pro from Apple (£179).
Customers in Australia should be prepared to part with AU$349, which compares favourably with the UK asking price. Oppo has yet to set a price in the US – in fact, Oppo has yet to confirm the Enco X will make it to the States at all.
At a glance, the Enco X look to be straight from the Apple AirPods school of ‘dangly stem’ true wireless in-ear headphone design, however, the way they fit makes them not so much ‘dangly stem’ as ‘forwards-pointing stem’.
Either way, the ‘stem’ part of the design is a fair bit more discreet than some alternatives, and consequently, you don’t look quite such a Cybernaut when wearing them. And given that they’re a stripling 4.8g each, they’re hardly a chore to wear either.
The earbuds are a fine example of the injection moulder’s art – they’re smoothly made and finished, and look pretty good in either ‘glossy white’ or ‘glossy black’ finishes. The compact, lightweight (43g) charging case looks and feels good too, thanks to its positive lid-hinge and assertive ‘co-created by Dynaudio’ badging.
The case is compatible with Qi charging pads, and they can also be plugged into the mains via its USB-C socket. The battery life of the earbuds is an average four hours with noise-cancelling set to ‘maximum’ and a slightly better five and a half with it switched off.
The case itself can hold another four full charges, so an all-in battery life of somewhere between 20 and 26 hours is achievable. The list of alternative designs that will go for longer than this between charges is comfortably too long to reproduce here.
Oppo provides a pretty wide selection of eartips, of various sizes and different hardnesses, in the Enco X packaging. Combined with the reasonably light weight and carefully ergonomic shape of the business-end of the earbuds themselves, comfort isn't an issue. Certainly the battery life of the earbuds will be exhausted before you are.
An IP56 rating means some short-term moisture isn’t going to affect them, and this, combined with the comfort and relative security of the fit, makes the Enco X a reasonable choice for the more active listener.
The big news here, of course, is the involvement of Danish loudspeaker maestro Dynaudio – and while this is something of a coup for Oppo, it means we again ask ourselves a question we’ve periodically asked for the last couple of years: ‘When will Dynaudio build itself some headphones?’ If this collaboration with Oppo proves successful, the answer might be: ‘Not for a good while yet…’
Drivers 11mm dynamic + 6mm balanced membrane
Frequency response 20Hz - 20kHz
Bluetooth version 5.2
Battery life 110 minutes (with case)
Weight 4.8g (each)
Oppo has given Dynaudio a free hand with the fundamentals of the Enco X and the Danes have opted for an elaborate coaxial dual-driver design, featuring an 11mm triple-layer dynamic driver sitting behind a 6mm balanced membrane driver.
The smaller driver takes care of the upper frequencies, the bigger takes care of all the rest. By the standards of virtually all price-comparable alternatives, it’s a complex and intriguing arrangement.
Wireless connectivity is via Low Latency Bluetooth 5.2, with codec support for SBC, AAC and the seldom-spotted LHDC. Oppo is very keen on LHDC, but owners of third-party smartphones can console themselves in the knowledge that Bluetooth 5.2 is more than capable of getting hi-res audio files on board from all the numerous streaming services that offer it.
As far as interacting with the Enco X goes, there are a few options. Touch control (each earbud has a responsive and reliable touch-surface) is restricted to ‘volume up/down’, ‘skip forwards’, ‘answer/end call’, ‘play/pause’ and adjusting noise-cancellation by cycling through ‘off/on/maximum/transparency’.
Voice control is available, via three mics per earbud that also look after noise-cancellation. But while Oppo smartphone owners can customise their touch controls, and Android owners can do something similar using the free ‘Hey Melody’ app, there’s no iOS equivalent.
There’s nothing worse than tentative-sounding music, so it’s pleasing to report the Oppo Enco X sound far from tentative. With a high-resolution file of Sparks’ Hello Young Lovers on board via Tidal, the Oppo are a confident, assertive listen that gets more engaging the more you listen.
The top of the frequency range here is bright and attacking, but never hard or edgy – the Enco X bite down into the leading edge of treble sounds with real determination, but there’s plenty of control and substance to go along with the shine.
At the opposite end, bass notes are deep and properly shaped, with plenty of information regarding texture and timbre. There’s more than enough punch and variation to make the Oppo an articulate and revealing listen where the lowest frequencies are concerned.
In between these two extremes, the midrange is just as well-realised and just as convincing. Because detail levels are so high, the idiosyncrasies of the vocal (of which there are plenty) are made plain, which only adds to the sensation of an explicit delivery of the recording.
The dual-driver arrangement Dynaudio has specified might suggest tribulations where frequency integration is concerned, but we needn’t have worried. The entirety of the frequency range is integrated smoothly, with no undue emphasis or reticence at any point – the journey from the lowest to the highest frequencies is natural and even.
And ‘confidence’ (of which the Oppo have plenty) is not to be confused with ‘bolshiness’ here. The Enco X like to put themselves about, but there’s always plenty of control and discipline to go along with the positivity.
Switching to 20+ Piano Improvisations by Antiguo Autómata Mexicano allows the Enco X to demonstrate an enjoyable facility with harmonic dynamic expression. There’s no hiding place where a solo piano is concerned, and the Oppo make each key and pedal press an individual event with its own details of sustain and decay. In addition, there is a fine facility with the broader dynamics of quiet and loudness.
If there’s a shortcoming to the performance of the Oppo, it’s where the size of their soundstage is concerned. They organise a recording well and individualise discrete elements of a recording as surely as they unify a recording as a single entity. But the stage on which all this happens is just a little confined and small-scale. If it’s wide-open spaces you like in a recording, the Enco X may leave you wanting.
Equally, if you prefer a blanket of silence to any external sounds, the Oppo will prove just less than ideal. The Enco X can minimise exterior noise, most certainly, but with noise-cancelling set to ‘max’ not only is there a mild suggestion of hiss as the noise-reduction circuitry does its thing, but a little of the top-end positivity goes astray too.
It is better to leave it in the ‘on’ position, which reduces the counter-signal and restores most of the treble shine, even if it doesn’t entirely block out the outside world.
For some people – those who are already big believers in Oppo products, most likely – the Enco X are approaching ‘no brainer’ status. The rest of us will find plenty to admire here too, in particular the beautifully judged boldness of their sound. They’re not without idiosyncrasies, though, and they are hardly short of competition.
- Sound 4
- Comfort 5
- Build 5
Read our guide to the best in-ear headphones
Read our Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
Read our Apple AirPods Pro review