QCY T16 Dynamic Armature AptX-Adaptive BT 5.2

General Information

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Latest reviews

regancipher

100+ Head-Fier
QCY's 'Air Bean T16' - their most mature release to date
Pros: Good sound, BT 5.2, AptX-Adaptive, Great call quality, Gaming Mode, 'Quick Charge', Comfort, Good battery life
Cons: No official WR rating, low and high mids could be slightly better tuned to give a fuller sound
RC055

How I review: (See Previous Reviews)

Model
: QCY T16
Price: MSRP $59.99, available on Aliexpress for much less
Website: QCY Store
Review Reference: RC055

Manufacturer Specification:
  • Brand: QCY
  • Model: T16 / TG_W10
  • Driver: 7.2mm Dynamic Armature
  • Chipset: Qualcomm QCC3040
  • Frequency Response Range: 20-20000Hz
  • Mic: 4, cVc 8.0
  • ANC: No
  • Volume Control: Yes (not native - must be configured in the app)
  • Codecs: AptX-Adaptive, SBC
  • Earbud Weight: 4.13g
  • Earbud Dimensions: 11mm nozzle, 22mm height (without nozzle), 27mm (height with nozzle)
  • Case + Earbuds Gross Weight: 40.38g
  • Case Dimensions: 62mm (width) x 45mm (depth) x 30mm (height)
  • Case Charge Capacity: 380mAh
  • Full Charge Time: 120 minutes
  • Quick Charge: Yes - ten minutes for 1 hour juice!
  • Wireless Charging: No
  • Input: 5V 400mA
  • Single Use Playtime: Up to 5.5 hours
  • Playtime with Charge Case: Up to 22 hours
  • App Support: Yes
  • Bluetooth Range: 10m advertised
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 5.2
  • Bluetooth Protocols: HSP/ HFP/ A2DP/ AVRCP
  • Water Resistance: Not listed
Includes:

1 x Pair Wireless Earbuds
1 x Type-C USB Battery charging case
1 x Type-C USB charging cable
3 x Pair Silicone Eartips
1 x User manual (English, Chinese)

Real Life Experience

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Welcome to the Regancipher review of the QCY T16. QCY should need no introduction - they are probably the leading budget brand on the market, certainly in China, with a growing presence in the West. Their products are growing in maturity fast, with better releases coming thick and fast after the success of the T5 and the many OEM versions of it that followed.

More recently, they've been using Qualcomm chips, and this is their second aptX-adaptive-supporting release, which will please Android owners hugely. However, if the buds look a little familiar - well, there's two reasons for that. Firstly, the buds were 'soft launched' in China some time ago as the 'Air Beans' - now we already know here in the West that the word 'Beans' is synonymous with a certain Korean brand, so after road-testing their suitability, they've now hit the mass market, albeit branded as the T16.

The other reason is they bear more than a passing resemblance to the Whizzer E3 (and B6 for that matter), a product I reviewed all the way back in RC013 here. Now that's no bad thing - I loved the E3 other than their somewhat dated specification, so a re-rub of that product would have had me hooked straight away anyway, but despite the initial impressions, there are still some subtle differences, and I'll be touching on those throughout the review.

As always, there is a link to my other reviews from this brand at the bottom, along with a paragraph on the brand.

The Unboxing - 7/10

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As I said in my review of the HT03, the maturity of the unboxing is clearly evident with QCY's brand transition. As always, the key features are listed on the front, with the individual characteristics spelled out on the back in English and in Chinese.

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Once inside you're greeted by the buds and case enclosed in a grey plastic surround, just like their previous recent releases.

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The package includes a USB Type-C charge cable, spare tips (you'll need these), and an instruction manual. The manual, whilst a little flimsy, tells you everything you need to know, and QCY have improved the content by adding more diagrams to it in order to demonstrate their points. Really, we know the TWS vendors want you to use the online manual within the app, but it's one area I feel QCY will need to brush up on if they want to make that jump to the next tier of vendor, in the same way Tronsmart did with their 2020 releases. They've still missed some basic stuff out like what the LED's denote - an area of improvement for sure.

The tips are not especially great quality - although they aren't bad. The problem is, like the KZ SKS, the nozzle only comes half way down the full surface of the tip. This limits the number of aftermarket tips you can use. If you're between-sizes like me (ML would be ideal), this can be a minor quibble if you want to get the very best out of them.

The Case - 8/10

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It is actually quite hard to convey how nicely designed the case is with pictures, because they really don't do it justice. It is a lovely little case that has some very nice details, such as the grooves around the gaps for the buds, hall switch mode, which enables immediate pairing when the case is opened, and an LED button to the front which both resets the pairing status when held down for 10 seconds, and also demonstrates the level of remaining charge. Green shows 70% and above, and it turns to red when 30% and below. If you flip the lid open, the LED will stay on for a few seconds to make sure you are fully aware.

The pogo pins face upwards, so the buds lie flat in the case as per the image above.

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The case is very compact, measuring 61mm at its very longest, 42mm at its very widest, and around 30mm at its very highest - however the rounded design makes it feel much smaller then this. Above you can see the LED button, USB-C socket to the rear, a small but not unsubstantially weighted hinge and a nice lip to the front of the lid that allows easy single-handed use. It is a nice, slow-close hinge that doesn't suddenly snap shut on you while you're trying to use it.

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On top is the new QCY logo in a small circle, whilst the overall shape is asymmetrical. This design makes it feel really nice in your hands, and despite the glossy finish, it has been reasonably durable so far.

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The portability is further enhanced by the weight - just 40g fully loaded - remarkably light, and both pocket and handbag friendly.

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Above shows the likeness with the E3 case design. The Whizzer had an undeniably unique design brief, with a pebble-style outer texture, but absence often makes the heart grow fonder, and comparing the two reminded me of its flaws - whilst it looked spectacular, it was far less portable - much taller, and more of a gimmick than a genuinely usable design. Both cases suffer with it being sometimes not immediately apparent which bud goes in which cavity in the cockpit.

I'm nitpicking - these are very minor flaws in an otherwise excellent case that also adds the bonus of supporting quick charge - 10 minutes connected to USB-C gives you 1 hour of playback - extraordinary at this price point.

Ergonomics - 8/10

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Photographing white buds is a nightmare, especially against a white background, so you'll have to take my word for it when I say the buds are very nicely finished, with an almost-dusted-like effect, and feel much higher quality than the price suggests. Only a join around the centre of the bud shows they are not 'one-piece', but it's straight, not trying to hide and consistent. It doesn't detract from a very comfortable bud that provides reasonable isolation. The 'bean' style is all too apparent, and QCY advise that the buds are worn slightly more upright than pictured here - just like Samsung do.

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The problem is, for me to do that, I need to use smaller eartips than the Large, which drastically changes the sound. So I wear them as is suitable for me - with the large tips, and tilted slightly, and it certainly doesn't look as obvious from the front.

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When you open the case the buds will glow red briefly, then flash intermittently in green to indicate the initiation process to pair. Once paired or connected, the green LED will turn solid, then disappear. Removing them from the case is perfectly weighted, with the magnets not too tight to require you to use force, but strong enough to prevent them rattling around in the case.

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On the inside of the bud there are pogo pins which initiate charge, a circle which denotes the orientation of the bud (L or R). There is a gap just below, where QCY clearly toyed with the idea of smart wear detection, but decided against it.

There are two microphones - one on the inside close to the nozzle, one on the outside - and they do a remarkably good job.

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There have been a wave of mini in-ear style buds recently, with Jabra's new releases, the Soundpeats Mini, the upgraded Redmi Airdots 3, etc. Above shows that the T16 are more like the Redmi or Whizzer in their shape - elongated and thin, as opposed to the fat, yet still fairly discrete Jabra and Soundpeats. The angle of the Nozzle is more akin to the Airdots or even the Tronsmart Onyx Free.

Whilst there is no water resistance rating to the buds, I've worn them outside without any issues.

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Weighing in at 4g, they're comfy, sit nicely in the ears, and can be worn for prolonged periods without any fatigue. Adjustments don't typically trigger the touch controls, which is welcome.

Audio Quality - 8.5/10 (for the price paid), 7.5/10 (raw score)

The T16 are definitely very fit dependent. First impression was - huh, where's the bass?! Then I flipped the tips to the Large....well, there it is!

Second impressions were quite protracted. I had to test a lot of styles to understand what I did and didn't like about them. The dynamic style isn't usually my cup of tea, and yet the T16 are very enjoyable buds that only occasionally leave you wishing for more.

I tried a few bouncier tracks with both sets of tips. 'Gecko' by Oliver Heldens, a simple house track where he modulated the pitch of the attack with a heavy side chain in order to give the bassline more emphasis, is pretty well translated throughout, although at high volumes you will note some distortion. It absolutely blasts through on the on the large tips, sometimes recessing the whole track a little too much. Contrast this to the Soundpeats Mini, which sound good, without ever urging you to get up and dance - relatively flat by comparison.

'Red Roses' by Pep and Rash shows similar traits, although it lacks a little mid-bass presence, sounding punchy but lacking in depth. Instruments are nicely arranged and weighted - the unmistakable Western guitar lick sounds clear, just as the single vocal line 'and then it hit me' does - before the thumping bassline tears through. It's a shame there wasn't slightly more emphasis on depth, so you can tweak this in the EQ to at least round it off a little and eek even more out of the buds. I tried this with Michael Calfan's 'Treasured Soul' - a tough track for TWS despite it's relatively simplistic orchestral arrangement - basic piano chords with mallet hits and kicks, that translate well, giving room for the vocals without disrupting the timbre. So EQ'ing shouldn't spoil the party.

Moving to different styles, 'Photograph' by Ed Sheeran sounded slightly less driven, with a fairly open soundstage sounding slightly odd with such an intimate track that suggests this is slightly artificial, created by the position of the driver in relation to your ear canal. Drums here lacked the punchiness of the house tracks, but this couldn't be said for 'Diamonds' by Rihanna, which offered tremendous presence, clarity and finesse for the price point. 'Happy' by Pharrell revealed some of the flaws - whilst the claps sounded natural enough, the tams and hats sound a little lispy/thin, in the same way Ed Sheeran did.

Overall, it's a huge leap forward from where we were 12 months ago. The dynamic sound which almost became typecast as 'sounding crap' at one stage sounds far more palatable here. I'm not really a dynamic sound signature sort-of-listener, but I occasionally enjoy it for what it is - and that's the case here with the T16.

Call Quality - Indoors - 8/10, Outdoors - 8/10

The big surprise - the call quality is excellent. Usually with buds of this type, it's a real chore getting your voice to sound like anything other than you talking into a pillow. I unfortunately didn't have the facility to record the calls when I did the test, so I rang my mum, a pensioner, who knows the drill. Where to go, when to go...blah blah.

Not only did she catch every word I said, she complemented me on the clarity and tone of my voice. She said that like the Soundpeats Mini the week before, an occasional crackle would come through (this was when motorbikes tore past) otherwise traffic and wind posed no issues whatsoever. The only break in my voice came from passers-by who spoke in a slightly higher frequency.

Despite no AI-based features, 6-mic array, accelerometer, or anything else that could augment the call quality, QCY seem to have done pretty well out of a clever design and cVc 8.0 - something most other vendors find more of a hindrance than a help!

The 'mum test' is not my final word on the T16 - once I am in a position to test again, I will. However changing job over the next few days takes priority!

Connectivity, Controls and other Interactive Features - 7/10

QCY often take a no-frills approach to their releases, limiting the number of needless features in favour of a lower price tag, but the T16 are possibly the exception, with lots of features here in their price bracket.

Firstly, whilst the controls don't allow you to change the volume, this can and will be able to be customised via the QCY app. Out of the box, double taps play/pause and answer/end calls, holding left and right skips track back and forward respectively (and ignores call). Triple left tap hails voice assistant, and right tap gaming mode. The audible beeps which tell you your 'taps' are doing something are less offensive than previous releases, and the touch area is positioned well to minimise accidental touches - I found myself adjusting by pinching the top and bottom and twisting occasionally, only once causing the track to skip.

Gaming mode gave a marginal improvement in latency compared with it off, although it relies on the 'fixed-ish' parameters of AptX-adaptive - still great that they support this more efficient codec.

They support Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, although I didn't find this especially improved their stability. Quick charge is a great feature - 1 hour from 10 minutes of juice. The QCY app is discussed in previous reviews (see the bottom of the review) but a welcome addition at this price point.

Battery Life - 7.5/10

Perfectly respectable around 4.5-5 hours for calls and music. This extends to a less impressive 22 hours with the case, but you can get longer by simply listening at a reasonable volume. The T16 are very loud - you don't need more than 60%.

Final Comments

In my introduction, as with every QCY review, I stress that their approach is not to be the best, most feature-rich set of earbuds on the market, but instead to try to bring premium, high end features into low-cost, high value releases, and the T16 are a sign of their growing maturity, because the rough edges that once tipified QCY releases are being levelled off, and they're getting the fundamentals right - good sound, good calls, good ergonomics and battery life - whilst also adding in some nice bonus features, like quick charge, gaming mode and app support.

If you have been looking for a replacement for the Whizzer or that style of earbud, the T16 are an excellent choice - especially if you like house, R&B and pop. The big bonus is the excellent call quality - nice job QCY!

Price Weighted Score: 86%
Raw Score: 83%

instagram:
regancipher

QCY Review Inventory:


QCY T17
QCY T16
QCY T13
QCY HT03
QCY T12
QCY T11

About QCY:


Whilst not quite a household name outside of China yet, QCY are well-renowned in the budget TWS space for developing extraordinarily low cost earbuds that, whilst perhaps lacking some of the bells and whistles of the more expensive brands, deliver to the segment of the market where 'good enough is good enough', with solid reliability and tremendous value for money.

Part of the Hele Electronics Group, as well as designing their own products, they also OEM product for other vendors (Aukey, for example rebrand the T5), with three of their major customers being brands you will certainly recognise and in the global top 10 of the TWS market in 2019. In 2020, market research indicated they were the 4th biggest TWS vendor worldwide - no mean feat.

Despite a close relationship with SoC manufactuer Zhuhai Jieli, QCY are not afraid to mix and match components to suit their target market. This often sees a number of releases in quick succession - their T11S are an example of this, released subsequent to the T11, and differentiating with the use of the Qualcomm QCC3040 SoC, to support customers who require the added lower latency enabled by the aptX codecs that the Qualcomm chips support. They did a similar thing with the very popular T5, T8 and T9 - nice to see a vendor using an easy to follow naming convention!

The QCY mission seems to be bringing music to the masses at a very affordable price - they are unlikely to top the charts for sound quality or features any time soon, but I think that's how they prefer it - their bang for buck is often unparalleled, with customers knowing they are getting value from a brand they can trust.
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