Category Archives: hifi

Brainwavz B200 Earphones Review



Headphones are packing in more and more features – Bluetooth connectivity, in-line remotes, microphones, even digital assistants like Alexa and Google. But sometimes you just want to strip it all back and focus on the sound. You want to listen to the music, not just hear it, and that’s what Brainwavz are serving up with the B200 earphones. Sitting in the mid-to-upper end of their audiophile B series, the B200s promise “a balanced and accurate sound signature, with little to no colouring in the mids and a slight focus on the upper mids sound…delivering an overall sound the artist would have intended when producing the song.” That’s a big promise so let’s hear if the B200 earphones deliver.

Based in Hong Kong, Brainwavz have been around since 2008 and have built a range that includes earphones, headphones, Bluetooth ‘phones and accessories including stands. Prices go from US$20 for basic earbuds to $180 for the top of the range B400 earphones

The B200s arrive in an understated black box with red-highlights. Opening it, inside is a zipped pill-shaped travel case, with matching red highlights. Unzipping reveals the earphones neatly wrapped in a velcro band, a shirt clip, and a selection of ear tips. There’s one set of red Comply memory foam tips, plus 10 silicone rubber tips in S, M, L (two pairs of each size in total). It’s a satisfactory package.

Unwrapping the earphones and looking closer, there’s a gold-plated 3.5mm audio jack with the cable coming out at about 30 degrees. The main cable feels like it’s braided and then covered in a soft-touch rubber. The cable then splits to the left and right ears with a cinch slider to keep the wires under control, and suit audiophiles, they’re of equal length. Unlike many earphones, the wires go up and over the back of the ear. The wires have a thin moulding on them to hold the over ear shape. The earphones themselves have almost a coffee-bean shape to them, with slightly curved facets. It’s all plastic, so aficionados of bare metal need look elsewhere. It’s all very understated.

The B200s are very comfortable to wear, even for extended periods. I’m not sure what makes them comfortable because the eartips look like every other eartip. It might be that the wire goes upwards over the ear rather than down. Who knows? There’s a little bit of a knack to getting the buds in and the wire looped over but helpfully L and R are stamped on the inside of the earphone. Sound isolation is good too with very little of the outside world leaking in.

Getting the heart of the matter, what are the B200s like to listen to? Frankly, they’re pretty good and give the listener a lovely balanced sound with excellent clarity and what I feel is just about the right level of bass. They’re particularly rewarding if you can get away from Spotify et al and listen to a uncompressed source – remember those CD things? I’ve been listening to John Legend’s Darkness and Light and it’s just glorious.  No question, Brainwavz deliver on their promise and who needs an inline control when it sounds this good? Less is more.

Taking a quick look at the tech specs…
Drivers : Dual Balanced Armature
Rated Impedance : 30 Ω
Frequency Range : 12 Hz ~ 22 kHz
Sensitivity : 110 dB at 1 mW
Cable : 1.3 m Y-Cord, Over the ear, OFC Copper
Plug : 3.5 mm, Gold plated

Wrapping up, the Brainwavz B200 earphones sound great and will complement almost any music genre. They’re very understated – no-one’s going to be recognised the brand from across the street. tThe B200s were announced for the UK market back in June, but since then Brainwavz have updated the B200 model to version two which includes detachable audio cables and a transparent body. As a result, the pictures of the B200 earphones on the Brainwavz website look different to the ones shown here but I’m sure they sound just as good. The B200s v2 are priced at GB£90 / US$120 and if you get in quick you’ll find a few Christmas discount codes. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Video review below.

Thanks to Brainwavz for supplying the B200 earphones for review.


1More E1001 Triple Driver Earbuds



As I unpacked the box for the 1More E1001 triple driver headphones, I realised that there was good chance that these earbuds might be something a little bit special given both the attention to detail on the packaging and the price at just under GB£100. Was I disappointed? Let’s take a look and find out.

Starting with the E1001’s box, it’s designed to look like a much-loved hardback book, with detailing on three sides to give the impression of pages. Held shut by a magnetic catch, opening the outer cover reveals pencil-drawn draughts of the headphones construction. On the right are the earbuds, and lifting the tray reveals accessories in neat boxes.

The largest box holds additional eartips for the E1001s. In total, there are six sizes of silicon earbuds going from 10 mm up to 14.5 mm, plus three sizes of foam tips at 11, 13 and 14.5 mm sizes. With having a range of sizes, swapping based on use is realistic: one size for listening at home on the sofa and a larger size for walking in the park.

Other boxes contained instructions, a pleather case for the headphones, an aircraft adaptor and a clip for holding the cable in place. The clip does make a big difference when using the E1001s on a call as otherwise the microphone picks up too much background noise. Both the adaptor and the clip are finished in brush gold effect.

Returning to the headphones themselves, the body of the earbud is made entirely from metal; there’s no plastic here.  With two contrasting colours on the earbuds – soft gold and blue grey – the E1001s live up to expectations with a lovely finish. If gold’s not your colour, there’s a silver version to lower the bling level. The earbuds point forwards slightly and I had no problems with comfort and fit.

The cables running from the earbuds are equal length, and the right side has an inline control for volume, next track and taking calls. The control sticks with the grey and gold colouring. 1More keep it simple when it comes to the control – don’t expect to be able to manage two calls or anything fancy, but it does work on both iOS and Android. The lower part of the cable is braided and ends in TRRS 3.5mm jack. The total length is about 1.2 m from jack to earbud.

With the physical review completed, let’s move onto the important bit….what do they sound like? In one word, stunning. Tuned by a Grammy-award winning sound engineer, Luca Bignardi, they deliver an accurate listening experience which is frankly wasted on smartphones and mp3s. I hooked up the E1001s to a Yamaha amp with Pioneer CD source and listened to albums all over again. I particularly enjoyed listening to acoustic tracks, especially R&B like Keb’ Mo’ where you can hear every slap of the guitar, every nuance in the vocals, every thump of the bass. There’s tremendous clarity and detail in the sound coming out of these earbuds and the triple drivers deliver where it’s needed. Unless I’m going to the gym, these are my current favourites for listening.

Priced at GB£99.99 and US$99.99, these aren’t cheap but in terms of bang for buck, the E1001s are great value. If you are interested in buying from the UK, there’s currently a coupon on the website to get 20% off, which is an even better deal. When you consider 1More released its first headphones in 2015, it’s astonishing that it’s now producing earbuds of this quality in 2017: the established players in this market should be concerned.

Thanks to 1More for providing the E1001 triple driver headphones for review. Unboxing video below.


Hooked by iClever Bluetooth Headphones



With the new BTH20, iClever‘s improved both the fit and audio quality for its next generation of Bluetooth wireless earphones. These headphones are a good match for my ears and the soft silicon rubber hooks keep them in place during the most vigorous exercise, so I like them. Let’s take a look a closer look and see what iClever’s done; we might even listen to them too.

Starting with the fit, the new headphones achieve better comfort by maximising the contact surface. Additionally, by using an offset for the inwards leaning hook, it lines up better with the ear folds. The outer part of the earbud is a small cylinder that is half covered in silicon rubber and fills out the ear a little bit more than usual. The thin hook comes out from the far end of the cylinder and the narrowness lets it get into the folds and creases. In my humble opinion, these are the best earbuds at staying in place but obviously people’s ears vary a good deal so YMMV, as they say.

Both the earbud itself and the ear hook part can be switched for different sizes – the BTH20 comes with three of each, say, small, medium and large, meaning that there are nine possible combinations for the best aural fit. The headphones are very light too at only 13g (says the spec sheet). Fitness fans will be pleased to hear that the ‘phones are sweat resistant. Give them a wipe down after a session but don’t dunk them in the sink.

The left and right earphones are connected via a round cable with an inline control close to the right ear. The three buttons on the control manage volume, music and phone calls, though some of button combinations can be challenging to get right. Additionally, the control houses the microUSB port for charging and there’s a very small status LED which can be orange or white depending on activity. There’s a short tangle-free USB to microUSB cable for charging in the box. Battery life is quoted at 8 hours, which seems about right based on the couple of afternoons I listened on the earphones without recharging.

Pairing the headphones with a smartphone was straightforward (as it should be) and I did notice that the BTH20 were quick to establish a connection when turned on. For telephone calls, callers came through to me clear and I didn’t have any complaints from them about hearing me, which you’d expect with noise-cancelling phones. I still always find it a little disconcerting to hear people in both ears….

Finally, let’s take a listen. It’s time for the summer hits and without a doubt, Despacito is the summer hit of 2017, sitting at #1 in the UK and breaking the YouTube streaming record. And it sounds good on the BTH20, which really suits the big summer hits – there’s plenty of bass without overwhelming the vocals and well-defined treble keeps the hi-hats crisp. The BTH20 really delivers on those by-the-pool numbers – One Dance, Cheerleader, Get Lucky – they all sound fantastic.

Finally, the price. It’s GB£19.99 from Amazon.co.uk and US$19.99 from Amazon.com which I think is very good value. Yes, there are cheaper Bluetooth headphones out there but the combination of fit and sound quality is hard to beat.

Any improvements?….colour other than black would be cool as these deserve to be noticed. Apparently there is a silver version but it’s currently unavailable.

Wrapping up, the iClever BTH20 Bluetooth headphones are currently my favourite headphones for “out and about”. The sound is good, the fit is great (for me) and the price is right. Perfect for the summer holidays! Put them in your bag.

Thanks to iClever for providing the BTH20 for review. Unboxing video below.

 


HD Portable Recording with Go Mic Mobile at CES



Smartphone cameras have developed incredibly over the past few years and broadcast quality video can be obtained from even mid-range phones. Audio can still let the side down as the built-in microphones simply can’t hear clearly from six feet away. To solve this problem, Samson Technologies have developed the Go Mic Mobile, a professional wireless microphone for mobile filmmakers, journalists, podcasters and vloggers.

Announced today at CES, the Go Mic Mobile will be available in with three different microphone configurations – dynamic handheld, lavalier and shotgun. The compact unit wirelessly mixes HD digital audio on two channels from up to 30 m away and connected via cable to both iOS and Android devices, the Go Mic can operate for up to six hours on battery power. For convenience, the receiver can be mounted on the back of a smartphone using the supplied bracket or fitted to the shoe mount on a DSLR.

Our goal is to provide passionate creators with a wireless system that delivers superior, clean audio while on-the-go,” says Sean Meagher, Samson’s Director of Marketing. “The Samson Go Mic Mobile continues the evolution of our highly portable microphones as creative consumers like filmmakers and journalists increasingly demand more mobile options.

For the techies, the Go Mic Mobile uses uncompressed, low latency audio and can operate up to 30 m on the 2.4 GHz frequency band. Frequency response is 10 Hz–22 kHz with a bitrate of 48 kHz which is better (in theory) than CD quality sound. The receiver also includes a switchable 1/8” headphone/mic output with volume control for monitoring or connecting to an analogue input.

The Go Mic Mobile is expected to go on-sale in May 2017 for US$199.

Samson are at CES 2017, Booth #21427 in the South Hall.


Syllable D900 mini Totally Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds



Earbuds have evolved significantly from the wired junk that came with early smartphones to quality sound via Bluetooth and AptX codecs (and price tags to match). The apex of totally wireless earbuds has been challenging but in the last few months there have been Kickstarter campaigns and even Apple finally has their AirPods. A couple of weeks ago the team at Syllable sent me the D900 mini, a set of wireless earbuds complete with a cool charging case and blue LEDs. I’m in heaven, I thought. Let’s take a closer look…

Right from the start it’s apparent that the D900 mini is well designed and cleverly made. Take the charging case. There are small pogo pins in the cradle for each earbud. Placing an earbud lightly into the case lights up the blue LEDs to indicate the battery level of the case. It’s only when you close the lid of the case onto the earbuds, pushing them down onto the pogo pins, that the earbuds recharge. The lid is kept shut with magnets. All very smart.

The D900 mini comes with three sizes of eartips, a microUSB charging cable and a small suede-effect pouch. As usual, I needed the largest to fit my ears. All the sizes come with retaining hooks to help stop the earbuds falling out. The D900 mini earpieces do point forward slightly too but overall I found the fit was good and I was able to wear the headphones comfortably for nearly an hour, perhaps a little less.

There is a little weight to them so they never quite disappear from your consciousness. While the D900 mini is bigger than the standard earbud, it’s not so much that anyone really notices. With a woolly hat on, they’re completely invisible and the hat keeps them in too. Perfect for long winter walks. Having said that, I didn’t have any problems with the earbuds falling out once I had them in properly. As ever with earbud fit, YMMV.

The earbuds have only one button and that’s effectively the whole of the top surface. Pressing this turns on the earbuds, confirmed by a few tones, and a long press on the left bud will get them into pairing mode – the left earbud is considered the master. I had no problems getting the D900s connected up. (Syllable was even spelt right this time). Once paired with my OnePlus 2, they worked as any Bluetooth headset. Obviously with only one button per ear, the controls are fairly simple. Short presses on the button stops / starts music playback and accepts calls. Long presses reject calls and turn the earbuds off.

Battery life is somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours, which seems short, but given the tiny size of each D900 mini earbud, it’s pretty good. The charging case keeps the earbuds charged up so the D900s tend to be fully charged when starting to listen to music. The charging case is supposed to recharge the earbuds from four to six times. That seems about right be I didn’t exhaustively test this as I didn’t always run the headphones flat.

In terms of audio quality, the D900 mini is as good as any wireless Bluetooth headset I’ve listened to, especially in a quiet room, with good detail, rich sound and solid base. Yes, you will notice the difference against a pair of wired Sennheisers, but for (relatively) low cost wireless headphones, the sound is really good. The D900s are supposed adjust the frequency response to emphasise the bass even at low volumes, though as an engineer, what impressed me most was that both earbuds remained in step – I never once encountered one earbud playing behind the other. Really clever stuff.

Problems? I encountered a couple of minor problems with the D900 mini. Sometimes, particularly when outside, the bass would disappear resulting in a very thin sound. I never quite figured it out but I have a suspicion that it was noise cancellation or frequency adjustment not quite behaving as intended. The other issue I encountered was that sometimes the audio would drop out between one, other or both earbuds for a few seconds. It would always come back and faded in gently rather than just exploding back in, which was a better experience. I noticed that this tended to happen at the beginning of a listening session, so I’m not sure if this was some part of frequency setting or power level calibration. To be fair these were all minor niggles.

Overall, these earbuds are astonishing especially when the price is GB£40 from Amazon.co.uk (US$50 from Amazon.com). Certainly there are a few flaws but the D900 mini is incredible considering the engineering challenges, the technology and the sound quality. If these are first gen products, I can’t wait for the next iteration.

There’s more in this unboxing video.

Thanks to Syllable for providing the D900 mini for review.


Syllable D700 Wireless Sports Earbuds Review



Syllable logoWireless headphones make a great deal of sense for sports and fitness fans as there’s nothing more irritating than getting caught up in the cables and trashing the headphone jack. As a result, Bluetooth headphones are popular with these people, even before Apple took the decision to ditch the stereo socket. Aiming squarely at this market segment are the Syllable D700-2017 wireless sports earbuds. Let’s take a look.

Syllable D700

The D700s are earbud-style headphones with an over-the-ear hook and a single cable running between the two sides. There’s an in-line remote close to the right side, which does all the usual stuff – on/off, pair, volume up/down, take call and so on.The remote has the microUSB charging port on one side too. Included in the box are additional ear buds for those with small or large earholes and flat ribbon USB charging cable which is far less prone to tangling. The connecting cable is available in three colours; yellow, blue and black, these are the black ones obviously!

Syllable D700 Sports Earbuds

The D700s support Bluetooth 4.1 and a range of profiles like A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP. There’s no need for the details but broadly these acronyms mean that you can play and control stereo music over the headphones. Getting paired with a smartphone or tablet is the usual simplicity; in this case hold down the middle (power) button on the remote to put it in pairing mode, wait for it to pop up as an available device in the Bluetooth config on the phone, tap on it and job done. Syllable might want to improve their quality control as the headphones advertise as “SYLLALBE D700”. Duh!

Syllable Earbud CloseupThe build quality seems good and I had no problems over the few weeks I’ve been testing. For the most part, the D700s are covered in a soft-touch coating and the over-the-ear loops are a pliable plastic, though you can’t bend them to shape. The earbuds are mounted on a tube which goes up and down to allow for different ear canal to top of ear dimensions. On first inspection, it looks like the earbuds point upwards but once you put them D700s on, the angle of the loops on the ears tilts the earbuds Syllable D700 On Earforward. (The picture on the right has been slightly airbrushed). They can be a little fiddly to put on because the earbud can move and swivel on the tube but that’s balanced against a better fit for you ears.

In terms of comfort, I found the D700s a little bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes everything just seemed to line up and the fit was great, really great. Other times, I’d be fiddling away with one ear to get it comfy and sitting right. Regardless, the over ear loops ensured that they stayed in place during exercise. YMMV, as they say.

For audio quality, the D700s are impressive for the price point, though it’s important to ensure that there’s a good fit with the earbuds. If the buds are too small, the sound is thin and weak, but if you get a good seal, the bass is massively improved and overall the music is much richer and well defined. I tried a range of audio sources, across a number of musical genres and the D700s makes a good effort with all of them. Don’t forget that these headphones are to be used during exercise, so audiophile quality is not a prime requirement but they don’t disappoint for the price.

With respect to phone calls, the D700s were able to pick up speech well, even with the remote located round the back of my neck. Sometimes the remote’s microphone would get blocked by clothing and needed to be freed up for the caller to hear me. Generally not an issue while wearing a t-shirt or a vest, but something to remember if you’re in a hoodie.

The manufacturer says battery life should be around four to five hours and around an hour recharging. I wouldn’t disagree.

Overall, the Syllable D700-2017s sound good and stay on the ears, though they can be a little tricky to fit at times. At GB£13.99 on Amazon.co.uk they’re definitely worth considering for the gym.

Thanks to Syllable for providing the D700s for review.


Audio-Technica Shows Off Headphones at CES 2016



Audio-Technica LogoThe headline above will be no surprise to anyone, but Audio-Technica are debuting enough new headsets at CES 2016 to keep any audio junkie happy and with about a week to go, Audio-Technica have revealed what’s in store for CES visitors.

To start with, there’s new SonicPro headphones coming out for turntable and Hi-Res Audio listening plus a new version of the highly-regarded ATH-MSR7 headphones, which won the Reviewed.com and USA TODAY 2015 Best Headphones of the Year award.

Next up, over-ear noise-cancelling headphones at under $100 will be announced at CES, complementing Audio-Technica’s recently introduced Bluetooth QuietPoint active noise-cancelling in ear headphones ATH-ANC40BT.
ATH-ADG1X Gaming Headset

For gamers, Audio-Technica is introducing its best gaming headsets ever, with the closed-back ATH-AG1X and the open back ATH-ADG1X. These are both premium models providing great gaming-centric features and delivering an immersive sonic experience that draws listeners completely into the gaming environment.

ATH-WS1100iS Bass HeadsetFor music lovers on the go, Audio-Technica’s Solid Bass headphones are pretty hard to beat. The six smartphone-compatible models include the recently introduced over-ear ATH-WS99BT and in-ear ATH-CKS55XBT Bluetooth wireless headphones. Making their debut at CES 2016 are the over-ear ATH-WS1100iS and in-ear ATH-CKS1100iS Hi-Res Audio compliant headphones, plus the ATH-CKS990iS and ATH-CKS550iS in-ear models.

ATH-2000Z High Fidelity HeadsetFinally, for the audiophiles, Audio-Technica is introducing no fewer than five(!)  headphones in its High-Fidelity series: the ATH-A2000Z, ATH-A1000Z, ATH-A990Z and ATH-A550Z closed-back headphones and ATH-ESW990H portable wooden on-ear headphones. All incorporate a host of significant upgrades to deliver extraordinary audio performance. Seriously, five new headphones!

For more info, Audio-Technica are at Booth 20656, South Hall Ground Level, Las Vegas Convention Center.


Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth Headphones



Mpow Logo

I’ve been looking at a few Mpow gadgets recently and so far, they’ve all done well, giving great performance for not much money. Next in line are the Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 Sports Headphones to give them their full title. These are sport-oriented headphones, with a neckband to keep them in place. Let’s see if these are worth putting on the Christmas list for the January fitness programme.

Mpow Cheetah BoxThe Cheetah comes in a small grey box that has a curious soft touch finish to it. While it feels pleasant, it’s actually quite hard to see what’s inside the box as black headphones on a grey background doesn’t work well. Getting into the box is another matter too: there’s a hidden magnetic flap which will keep you guessing for a few minutes.

Once inside, the Cheetah headphones are coiled neatly on top. These are the boring black ones though they are available with yellow, pink, blue and green highlights. Taking them out and removing the tray reveals a small instruction booklet, USB charging cable and three sets of silicon earbuds (small, medium and large). Looking at the left and right ear pods, the features are not unexpectedly sparse and the leftside one has nothing. The right pod has all the controls, including volume rocket, multifunction button, mic, indicator light and microUSB charge port. Unlike the Swift, the door over the charge port has a small flap which makes in much easier to get your fingernail under.

Mpow Cheetah In BoxCharging is straightforward and takes about two and half hours from flat. There’s a red light on during charging which changes to green when the battery full. Similarly, the Bluetooth pairing is simple: hold down the multifunction button for five seconds until the Cheetah enters pairing mode and do the usual on the smartphone. Job done.

To get the headphones on, you untwirl them and put them round your neck before popping the earbuds in. To start with, I found the Cheetah headphones very uncomfortable – the earbuds just didn’t fit right. Then I realised I was wearing them the wrong way round. Twit. Once the headphones are in the correct ears, they’re much more comfortable. The neckband is sufficiently strong to keep them in place short of being physically ripped from your head, but it never feels like your head is in a vice. The neckband also keeps them round your neck if you need to take the headphones out for a few moments.

Mpow Cheetah ReversePressing the multifunction button powers up the headphones. A voice announces “Power on” and “Your headset is connected” but doesn’t give battery time. The volume rocker works as expected for sound levels, and long pressing the volume buttons is supposed to skip forwards and backwards. On my phone, it skipped forwards ok, but skipping backwards didn’t work properly – it would only go to the beginning of the track, not the previous track. The multifunction button played and paused the track.

For calls, the Cheetah has various tricks, including double pressing the multifunction button for last number redial, and long pressing the – volume rocker to mute calls. In use, callers came through clearly and people said that they could hear me well. As with the Swift, the Cheetah announces the phone number of the caller.

Mpow Cheetah ControlIn terms of audio quality, Mpow has again proved that it can deliver great sound at low cost. As with the Swift headphones, I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, with reasonable high frequency reproduction and effective bass. I did feel that the Cheetah needed a bit of volume to perform at its best but even with that, these are good headphones. Perhaps not as good as the Swift but considering these are aimed at the sporting activity, they’re outstanding value priced at around US$25 or GB£19.

If you are looking for headphones to wear when working out, running or cycling, the Cheetah headphones are perfect. Sound quality is good, they aren’t going to fall off and at the price, you aren’t going to be too bothered if they get trashed by accident. Just make sure that you put them on the right way round.

Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 sport headphones.


Mpow Swift Bluetooth Headphones Review



Mpow LogoWhen it comes to headphones, I’m a firm believer in that you get what you pay for. Undoubtedly there are diminishing returns above a certain price point but the bundled headphones that used to come with mobile phones were complete rubbish in terms of both their build quality and audio characteristics. Fortunately, those days are past and most respectable manufacturers provide usable headphones.

On review here are the Mpow Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless headphones which are marketed as “sweatproof, jogger, running, sport…earbuds…with AptX mic hands-free calling”. With an RRP of GB£30, they are often found for sale at about half that, say GB£15, which is a fantastic price for Bluetooth wireless earbuds….if they sound good. My daily listeners are Sennheiser CX300s, so the Swift’s have got their work cut out here. Let’s take a look and first up is a short unboxing video.

As can be seen from the video and the pictures, the Swift headphones are of the earbud type, with a loose ribbon cable connecting the two ‘buds. The cable doesn’t grip the neck like some models and the ribbon cable keeps tangles to a minimum. The headphones come in a good range of colours, with a choice of black or white for the body and then a selection of highlight colours, including blue, yellow, magenta, green and pink.

Mpow Swift EarbudsBeing Bluetooth headphones, the Swift earbuds are quite big on the outside of the ear containing the wireless electronics, rechargeable battery and the mic for hands-free calling. On the left headphone there’s a covered microUSB port for charging that comes with a personal warning that fingernails are required to get the port cover off. The coloured flash on this headphone doesn’t do anything, whereas over on the right, it acts as an action button, turning the headphones on and off, play / pausing music and taking calls. There’s also a volume rocker and microphone on the right side. When doing some activities with the action button, there’s a voice confirmation such as “Power on” or “Connected” which can be handy when trying to figure out what state the headphones are in.

Mpow Swift EarbudsWhile all the buttons worked, I disliked using the buttons, partly because I have big fingers and the buttons are small, but mostly because I don’t like the sensation of the earbud moving within the ear when I tried to press the buttons. YMMV, as they say.

Bluetooth pairing was so straightforward, it’s hardly worth mentioning…hold down action button, select Swift on phone in Bluetooth settings, job done.

Standard earbuds are notorious for falling out during the movement and with the extra weight on the headphones, one might think that the Swifts would drop out of the ear at the slightest twitch. Fortunately Mpow has this covered with a couple of retaining options.

Mpow Swift EarhooksFirst, the Swift headphones come with three sizes of earbud for small, medium and large earholes. Second there are three sizes of ear loops that catch on the inner part of the ear and finally there are hooks which lock into parts of the ear for a really firm hold. Both the loops and the hooks easily slip over a round section on the headphones. For retainability, the hooks are impressive, though you do need to spend a little time get them in the right place the first time. Once locked behind a suitable part of the outer ear, they easily keep the Swift headphones in place, even while running. Obviously they’re still going to come out if something catches on the lead (which is a good safety feature) but short of deliberately taking the Swifts out, they’re staying in. For extended listening, I did find the Swifts a little more tiring than other earbuds, possibly simply because of the extra weight.

Mpow Swift Earbud with hookFinally, it brings us to audio quality and Mpow may force me to re-evaluate my initial premise that you get what you pay for as the Swifts are really very good. I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, and while the high frequency wasn’t perfect the bass was effective without being overpowering. Seriously, the Swifts weren’t far off the Sennheiser CX300s, which surprised me.

There’s the additional benefit of being able to take phone calls with the Swifts too.  When a call comes in, the Swifts announce the incoming phone number which is a great feature for when the phone is in the bag or otherwise out of view. Callers generally said that they could hear me clearly but it was obvious that I was hands-free.

Overall, the Mpow Swift headphones are great value. They seem well made, sound great and stay in the ear, even when exercising. At GB£15, they’re not throwaway but you aren’t going cry too much if you damage or lose them during sport. Recommended if you are looking for Bluetooth sport headphones.

Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless sport headphones.

 


Kingston HyperX Cloud II Headset



Kingston LogoKingston Tech followed up their popular HyperX Cloud gaming headset earlier this year with the Cloud II, which brought a newly designed USB sound card audio control box with 7.1 virtual surround sound to the already impressive feature set of the original HyperX Cloud headset. GNC favourably reviewed the first HyperX Cloud back in December.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II Control UnitThe new control box has independent audio and microphone volume control plus a central toggle for the surround sound 7.1. The Cloud II headset generates virtual 7.1 surround sound with distance and depth to enhance the gaming, movie or music experience. Shoot them before they shoot you!

At launch, the Cloud II headset offered choice of two colour finishes, red and gun metal (grey). There’s now a third option, pink, which is presumably intended to appeal to female gamers.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II headsetWhatever your opinion of “pinking”, it’s good to see that Kingston is looking outside of the stereotypical gaming audience.

In other good news, the Cloud II has taken up the price point of the original and is priced at a little under GB£80. The original Cloud still available too but it’s now priced below £50, making the latter a real bargain.