I like using Bluetooth headsets. It is great not to have to worry about cables, and the slight loss in audio quality does not really bother me. With the new generation of Bluetooth headsets – Apple AirPods, Bragi the Headphone, Sol Republic Amps Air, … – I am exploring which one to get. So far, on paper, there does not apear to exist a product without compromises, so I have started to think that I’ll just have to try them.
I have started with the BeatsX headphones, from Beats by Dre. I have been using them for about a week and the experience has been very interesting.
* Stays very well put on my neck
* Fast charging with lightning cable
* Battery life
* Presence of inline controls
* Cable noise (microphonics)
* Bass is hardly present if the earbuds are not perfectly fit
* I have found it hard to get a nice fit, despite the 4 different earbuds
* I am unsure about how they look when wearing them the whole day everyday
Apple gets full points from me when it comes to the user experience. All the daily activities required in managing/using the headphones work very well. Consequently, it makes it very pleasant and hassle-free to use:
1. Charging is done with the lightning cable, which is great as I can then use the same cable for my phone and earbuds.
2. It charges really fast, which is very convenient. Fast fuel is not just a silly marketing term, it does work in practice.
3. Battery life is acceptable for me, and I use it a lot during my workdays. I just charge it in the morning for a moment.
4. They are very easy to pair initially and they connect/disconnect with a simple press of the button.
5. They sit very nicely on the neck and when not in use, the little buds stay together with magnets.
6. The carrying case is minimal, but actually works quite well.
The only thing it has me wanting is that it automatically turns off the audio when I take out the earbuds or link them with the little magnets. I guess that was just a bit too much.
The user experience is very important, but they are headphones, and they should sound well. So how do they fair?
I am no audiophile, but as long as you can get a good seal, the sound is good, rich while still being balanced. Similarly, when the seal is good, the passive noise cancellation is spot on. If the seal is not complete, though, I found the bass to lack quite significantly.
Given the importance of a good seal, I should point out that the earbuds come with 4 different tips. I managed to get a reasonably good fit with one of them. The tips are mostly the regular ones, with nothing fancy. The issue, for me, is that when I found a good seal, I started to hear certain sounds very amplified, such as my own breathing, swallowing, even the blood in my ears, which is not pleasant. Also, they really block you out from the world around you.
Therefore, it seems that with these headphones I have to choose between good sound or a comfortable experience. That is not really a trade-off I would like to make.
Also, there is another important drawback that I would like to point out. The earbuds, while bluetooth, have quite a bit of cable. On the one hand that is very convenient (see my user experience notes above), but when I was wearing button up shirts (or a coat), I would get a lot of microphonics (or cable noise) and movement of the cable would slightly loosen the earbud, causing me to re-adjust the fit a bit too frequently for my liking. With t-shirts this happened a lot less, but it is something worth taking into consideration.
They are in-ear earbuds, so if you don’t like that, you should not even try them. However, for being in-ear, I think they are reasonably comfortable. They did not end up hurting, but I guess like all headphones, fit is very personal. In any case, for me they fit better than the Apple Airpods.
These ear buds have quite a bit going for them: the user experience and the sound quality are good to very good. However, for the price, I am not sure I would like to accept my two major drawbacks: 1. the trade-off between a comfortable listening experience vs good sound and 2. the presence of microphonics.
Like I said, in this segment there are few head phones without compromise, so up next are the Bragi the Headphone.