HHOGene, a new consumer electronics brand founded by the former CEO of Alibaba’s DingTalk Chen Hang, launched its first product GPods, an earbud that can beam lights, and have raised more than $120,000 on an Indiegogo campaign earlier this year. 

The GPods come with innovative light effects that are customizable, a unique selling point. It also has a comfortable wearing experience and decent sound quality in its price range. With a flashy light feature, the product targets fashion followers and music lovers that prefer something different. 

HHOGene GPods will be first available from Nov. 1 in the US, priced at $169. The brand offers four extra earbud casings to allow users to customize its light textures.

Shiny look with customizable light effects

The body design of the earbuds looks plain, but when you turn it on, its eye-catching light effects set it apart from other true wireless stereos (TWS).

The whole outer side of the “handle” parts of both earbuds can glow. The casing on the lights is well-processed to create a foggy effect, making the light look soft and elegant. HHOGene also offers detachable casings to help users switch from different textures. 

A closer look at the texture case through light. Credit: TechNode/Li Yang

The light effects are customizable via a paired app, which has a neat and user-friendly UI and offers a variety of color pattern presets to choose from. Users can also generate customized patterns from photos. There’s even an option to make the earbuds glow with a color that matches one’s clothes.

The earbuds can also glow in sync with the rhythm of the song being played over them, with four modes for users to choose from – Ripple, Pulse, Bright, and Breath.

A demonstration of how the customizable light works. Credit: TechNode/Li Yang

One can adjust brightness. However, the maximum brightness is still not enough, meaning the effect can be lost in bright daylight.

In-ear experience

HHOGene has done a good job in comfort. It’s less noticeable in the ears, thanks to its lightweight design (5.7 g per earbud) and comfortable tips. It remained a comfortable and snug fit after hours of wearing. However, the actual experience could naturally vary due to people’s different ear shapes.

The earbuds also offer controls on the handles. One can set different functions, such as skipping songs, pausing play, and answering phone calls, for gestures including single, double, or triple taps, and long presses for each side separately.

Clear sound with unique tone

GPods surprised us with its sound quality. The buds offers a clear and balanced tone and do a good job of capturing the details of music: high frequency is bright; the bass is solid and strong but not overwhelming. It don’t offer an intense, sometimes tiring listening experience as some of the other mainstream options in the market.

A special point lies in its presentation of the human voice, which feels especially close to our ears.

HHOGene GPods and its pairing app. Credit: TechNode/Ward Zhou

For the hardware specs, HHOGene GPods adopt a processor named BES2500 from Chinese firm Bestechnic, which is also used in Oppo and Huawei’s TWS products. They feature a mainstream Bluetooth 5.2 version, with AAC and SBC supports.

The potential of the earbuds’ sound quality is limited by its audio codec. It’s particularly telling when connecting to an Android device, as most of them have aptX codec, delivering higher-quality sound than the AAC codec, which GPods use. iPhone users don’t have such concerns as the devices only support AAC. 

Noise cancellation and other specs 

HHOGene Pods support active noise cancellation (ANC) and have a transparent mode like rival TWS in a similar price range. However, the feature is lackluster. 

One can tell the difference when turning the ANC feature on, but it’s far from satisfying. Another drawback is the background noise. One can hear weak white noise, like current pulses, when listening at certain low volumes. For people who prioritize ANC features in earbuds, there are better options in the market. 

Given the issues with this feature, it might be a better idea to simply turn it off and save an extra hour of battery life. The buds offer up to five hours with one charge, and 20 hours with the case.

Users can see the battery percentage of both earbuds and the charging case from their app. The app has also been optimized for Apple devices so that you can view the earbuds’ battery status on iOS’s widgets.

The earbuds have a relatively larger charging case in terms of body size. With the largest side facing up, the HHOGene Pods case is almost twice the size of that the Apple Airpods Pro in thickness. For people who are used to putting charging cases in their pockets, this may feel chunky. 

In summary, the HHOGene Pods is an impressive design. There are numerous TWS products that have hit the market in recent years but we rarely see something that introduces new designs while also offering a reasonable price and good sound quality.

Here are our main takeaways:

Pros

  • Innovative light effects
  • Comfortable in-ear experience
  • Competitive price
  • Long battery life 

Cons

  • Oversized charging case
  • Less-satisfying active noise cancellation
  • No support for better audio codecs such as aptX or aptX HD

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said the brightness of the earbuds is unadjustable.

Ward Zhou

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a]technode.com or Twitter @zhounanyu.