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The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC sits on a leather surface with one earbud out of the charging case.

Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC review

The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC looks good on paper, but offers a pretty drab experience in practice—and a rather expensive one, at that.
By
February 9, 2022
5.7
Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC
The bottom line
The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC looks good paper, but in practice, it's frankly just not worth the money. The ANC doesn't work very well, the bass response is nearly non-existent, and the fit isn't terribly secure. You could do a whole lot better for the same amount of money (or less).

Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC

The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC looks good paper, but in practice, it's frankly just not worth the money. The ANC doesn't work very well, the bass response is nearly non-existent, and the fit isn't terribly secure. You could do a whole lot better for the same amount of money (or less).
Release date

December 28, 2021

Price

Original: $149.99 USD

Dimensions

40.9 x 21 x 24.2mm (earbuds)

60 x 54.5 x 25.5mm (case)

Weight

6g (per bud)

53g (buds in case)

Model Number

MOTO BUDS-S ANC

Waterproof

IPX5

What we like
Connection is stable
IPX5 rating
Full mono listening
What we don't like
Extremely quiet bass output
Poor fit
Poor noise cancelling
Poor isolation
5.7
SoundGuys Rating
3.1
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
6.2
2.8
3.0
Bass
0.2
2.8
3.0
Midrange
9.5
3.6
4.0
Highs
9.2
3.6
4.0
Isolation / Attenuation
2.8
2.8
3.0
Active Noise Cancelling
4.4
2.8
3.0
Durability / Build Quality
8.0
2.8
3.0
Value
4.0
2.8
3.0
Design
5.0
2.8
3.0
Connectivity
5.0
2.8
3.0
Portability
8.0
5.0
5.0
Battery Life
7.1
2.8
3.0
Feature
5.5
2.8
3.0
Comfort
5.0
2.8
3.0

Motorola’s been quietly putting out audio gear for a while now—or at least letting other companies use its name to do it—and next up is the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC. This pair of true wireless earbuds brings active noise cancelling (ANC), transparency mode, virtual assistant support, and more, all without using an app.

Is the promise of a fuss-free experience enough to justify picking it up?

Who might like the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC?

  • Commuters who want something straightforward with ANC to block out the sounds of the bus.
  • Anyone tired of installing a new app every time they buy a new Bluetooth device.

What’s it like to use Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC?

The Motorola Moto Buds S ANC lay on a leather surface.
The Motorola logo is a touch-sensitive surface on each bud, tapping them brings the only available on-ear control.

From a visual standpoint, the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC looks like it could be basically any other pair of true wireless earbuds. The plastic earbuds feature long stems and rubber tips, slotting into the top of a rectangular plastic charging case. It’s all very standard.

The earbuds themselves feel well constructed, weighing 6g apiece. The stems make it easy to shift or adjust without accidentally grazing the touch-sensitive Motorola logo on each bud, but they’re still on the long side—I consistently have trouble keeping them in my ears when taking off a face mask.

A man sits on a couch wearing the Motorola Moto Buds S ANC.
Even with the largest ear tips in, these buds don’t feel very secure.

However, while adjusting the buds is easy, you may find you have to do a lot of adjusting. Even using the largest ear tip size—the Moto Buds-S ANC includes small, medium, and large ones—these earbuds routinely feel on the verge of falling out of my ears. The lack of a fin or other securing feature feels very noticeable here. The earbuds are IPX5 rated, so at least you won’t have to worry if you’re wearing them out in the rain.

Using the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC is pretty straightforward. There’s no app, so what you see is what you get, and the on-ear controls are pretty standard. You can listen in mono with either earbud simply by putting the one you don’t want to use back in the charging case—it plays a little oddly with the in-ear detection feature, and you may have to switch back to stereo listening, as some controls are tied to specific earbuds, but it still works. With a series of taps, you can control playback, turn on ANC or transparency mode, activate your phone’s virtual assistant, and more. Here’s how to do it all:

FunctionControl
Play/pause
Single tap left or right button
Power On
Hold left or right button 2s
Power Off
Hold left or right button 6s
Skip forward
Double tap right button
Skip back
Triple tap right button
ANC/Transparency toggle
Double tap left button
Virtual Assistant
Hold right button 2s

Does the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC have good noise cancelling?

An ANC chart for the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC, which shows negligible noise cancelling and isolation attenuation.
No, that’s not a typo in the name of the chart. Yes, it bugs me too. Also, the noise cancelling is bad.

The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC noise cancelling performance is, in a word, bad. Part of this attenuation is down to the fact that achieving a decent seal in both ears is rather difficult, but even when it’s adequate, the ANC isn’t. Don’t expect much when turning this feature on—you’ll notice when the ever-so-slight dip in the sound when it turns on, and you’ll probably forget it’s on soon after.

See also: The best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds

The ANC doesn’t keep me from turning up the volume too much (more on that in a bit), and it does me no favors when I want to block out people getting into it over masks on the bus. In short, all the things you want ANC for, this isn’t going to help with.

What Bluetooth codecs does Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC support?

The Motorola Moto Buds S ANC lays on a wooden table with the earbuds next to the case and a Google Pixel 4a running Spotify with Cross Road Blues by Robert Johnson playing.
There’s no app to speak of, so what you see is what you get.

The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC uses Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to your device of choice. It supports the AAC and SBC audio codecs, which means Apple users will have access to a reliably high-quality option, but Android users may be better offer sticking with the standard option.

The Moto Buds-S ANC doesn’t support Bluetooth multipoint. Its lack of an app means firmware updates almost certainly won’t be coming with new features, too.

How long does the battery last on the Moto Buds-S ANC?

The case of the Motorola Moto Buds S ANC lays on its side on a leather surface, showing its USB-C charging port.
If you want to charge with a wire, the case can’t stand up, though USB-C is always nice to see.

Motorola claims that the Moto Buds-S ANC can last up to 6 hours on a single charge, with an additional 12 hours of charging capacity in the case. In our testing, we found it well exceeds that, lasting 8 hours, 18 minutes on a single charge with ANC turned on at a consistent output of ~75dB(SPL). If you turn noise cancelling off, you’ll probably get even better performance than that.

The charging case supports wireless charging with any Qi-compatible charging pad, as well as wired charging via the USB-C port on the bottom. There’s no quick charging, but according to Motorola, it only takes about two hours to fully charge the case.

How does the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC sound?

A frequency response chart for the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC, which shows almost totally absent bass response.
It’s hard to say anything about this other than yikes.

The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC features a frequency response that is pretty far out of whack compared to our house curve. Bass is essentially absent, and midrange sounds up to 1000Hz are massively under emphasized. Ordinarily, this might be explained by an exceptionally poor fit to our acoustic test fixture, although in this case, our listening experiences mirror the chart. High frequencies are present, though still miss our target for the most part. Frankly, there’s very little salvaging performance like this, and most equalizer apps won’t even come close to remedying this situation.

Lows, mids, and highs

Audio output like what the Moto Buds-S ANC offers is poor for most kinds of music. Listening to electronic music like Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim, you may find yourself instinctively turning the volume all the way up to hear even remotely adequate bass—something you will regret the second an errant record scratch stabs you in the eardrum.

Music with little to no low end can sound alright, however. Love Me I’m a Liberal by Phil Ochs lacks any instrument other than a lone acoustic guitar accompanied by Ochs’ reedy voice and actually sounds quite nice, even at moderate volumes. Similarly, podcasts sound largely fine, if only because those kinds of recordings just aren’t busy enough to warrant worrying about anything getting drowned out. However, the poor isolation and ANC mean that auditory masking can definitely exacerbate all this if you happen to be somewhere with even moderate external noise.

Can you use the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC for phone calls?

A hand holds the Motorola Moto Buds S ANC
These buds’ prodigiously long stems could certainly get caught in the straps of a mask.

The Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC features a pretty by-the-numbers microphone for a pair of true wireless earbuds. It’ll work for a quick call, and your voice comes through fairly clearly, but don’t expect anything approaching recording quality, or even something at the level of most gaming headsets. The microphone does an okay job with environmental noise, but it’s not exceptional in this regard either.

Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC microphone demo (Ideal):

Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC microphone demo (Street):

How does the microphone sound to you?

7 votes

Should you buy the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC?

The Motorola Moto Buds S ANC sit in the case on a brown leather surface.
The bud stems are long enough and have enough ridges that it’s impossible to put them in the wrong hole, but they look enough alike that you’ll likely spend time trying to.

On paper, the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC is a compelling product. It’s a straightforward pair of true wireless earbuds, with ANC, mono listening, decent battery life, and a suite of on-ear controls—all without needing an app. In practice, it’s a rather dismal affair—the ANC is not good, nor is the audio output. The lack of a high-quality audio codec Android users can rely on is also a bummer, though the likelihood anyone would benefit from it seems fairly remote.

For $149.99 USD, you could do a whole lot better. That’s especially true given the Moto Buds-S ANC isn’t going to get any better—the lack of an app and the firmware updates it would bring means what you see is what you get.

Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

What should you get instead of the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 noise cancelling true wireless earphones in the open charging case on top of a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone in pink.
The Galaxy Buds 2 is better in just about every way, and often cheaper.

There are tons of excellent options under $200 USD worth looking at instead of the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC. If you’re dead set on not breaking that $150 USD mark, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 routinely runs for less than that, bringing great ANC, excellent software support, and very good sound. It also offers a much more secure fit.

See also: The best true wireless earbuds under $200

Similarly, the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless brings excellent sound and offers decent noise cancelling. It also supports aptX and AAC, so there’s a little something for everyone. At $179 USD, it’s a little steeper than the Moto Buds, but the ANC-less Sennheiser CX True Wireless is otherwise identical and runs for $50 USD less.

Frequently asked questions about the Motorola Moto Buds-S ANC

No, Bluetooth is not dangerous. You can read our detailed article on Bluetooth and its safety here.

To factory reset your Moto Buds-S ANC, you must:

  1. Turn off both buds
  2. Hold both touch panels for 5 seconds.
  3. The indicator will alternate red and blue.
  4. Press the touch panels four times in quick succession.