Category Archives: headphones

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.

 


Audeara Headphones Adapt To You



It doesn’t look like this project needs the publicity given they’ve blown through their AU$100,000 target on Kickstarter but the Audeara headphones have a fairly unique selling point: they give you a hearing test and then adjust sounds levels across the frequency range to compensate for your personal physiology and hearing loss. That’s clever.

Designed by a team of doctors and engineers, the A-01 headphones carry out a simple hearing test the first time they are used via a mobile app. The results are recorded in the headphones themselves and is used to modify the sound signal before it is played in the ear, and each ear can be different too. Once the headphones are programmed, there’s no need for the app and the profile is used whatever the sound source.

Everyone has some degree of hearing loss. Obviously it tends to be worse in older people, but some suffer damage through their occupation or attending too many loud music concerts! The Auderea headphones can compensate for any loss, making the sound better, not simply louder, and they also incorporate active noise-cancellation for noisy environments. As everyone is different, everyone hears differently and every profile is different, but the A-01 headphones gets the sound as close as possible to the original.

For those concerned about hearing loss, the test results are stored in the app as an audiogram. By retesting hearing on a regular basis and looking for changes between the results, early indications of hearing impairment can be spotted and a medical assessment arranged.

It certainly sounds interesting and there are more details over on Kickstarter along with some early bird offers if you get in quick. Deliveries are expected in July 2017 but as with all things Kickstarter, exercise caution. Current offers are around AU$299 which is about U$230 or GB£185.


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.


OnePlus Teasing USB C Headphones?



OnePlus LogoOnePlus are up to their usual tricks of teasing new product announcements but in this case it doesn’t look like there will be long to wait. In tweet linking to a YouTube video, OnePlus says, “We’re preparing something special. Discover what’s next for on August 25.”

The video shows a vinyl record overprinted with what appears to be an earbud and cable, and a large “V2”. As there’s been much discussion lately about the loss of headphone sockets and their replacement by USB C, the speculation is that OnePlus are going to announce a USB C set of headphones. Judge for yourself.

The company has long offered a competitive range of headphones, including the higher end Icons. My money would be on a new version of those, though I’m less confident about the USB C connector. Whatever it is, there’s not long to wait…


3D Sounds Labs Keeps Audio in Place at CES



3D Sound Labs LogoStereo headphones have been around since the middle of the last century and 3D audio in headphones from the 1990s. Impressive as the spatial effect from 3D can be, the sound is still always relative to the listener as the headphones are on the wearer, whereas speakers position the sound relative to the room or other space.

Until now, that is. 3D Sound Labs new headphones keep sounds in their place, even as the wearer moves their head. Scott finds out more from Maxime Sabahec of 3D Sound Labs on how their headphones keep sounds still.

The 3D Sound One headphones use motion sensors to understand the position of the wearer relative to the sound stage. The embedded gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer send information back to the PC via Bluetooth which then adjusts the positions of the sound in real-time as the person moves. This realism increases the immersive experience and while it’s good for movies, it’s great for VR.

The 3D Sound One headphones are available now for US$299 from Amazon and the 3D Sound Labs website.
Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Style and Function with New Philips Headphones at CES



Philips LogoPhilips has a range of new headphones, each addressing different consumer needs, from the runner to the fashionista. Daniele listens in with Steve Punter of Philips to find out more about the latest ‘phones.

First up are the new Wireless Freedom sports earphones, which are Bluetooth wireless headphones so there’s no cables to get tangled in gym equipment or yank out earbuds. Perfect for runners, they’re light with a four and half hour battery life. US$69

Next is the new Everlite range, lightweight “gravity-defying” on-ear headphones, that look great and fold-up neatly for toting around. With a built-in mic, these work well with smartphones, and have colours to match the latest iPhone models. US$49

Finally, the new noise-cancelling headphones have Active Shield Pro which can cancel up to 99% of the outside noise. Along with Bluetooth and a 15 hour battery life, the headphones have a touch sensitive pad on the back of an earcup which controls the playback and volume of the music. US$169

All these headphones will be on sale over the coming months.

Daniele Mendez is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Lola from Blue are Headphones with Nothing to Hide



Blue LogoHeadphones may seem simple enough on the outside. But to discerning ears, a set of headphones’ ability to accurately reproduce sound is crucial to the enjoyment of the material. Sure, a cheap set of earbuds might be fun for consuming audio during a bus or train trip. But when you really want to feel the audio you’re listening to, you go to that trusty set of big headphones that sound great. Many companies have produced high-end headphones over the years and microphone manufacturer Blue is the latest to enter this space.

John Maier from Blue stopped by the booth to talk with Jamie and Nick. John showed off the new Blue Lola headphones. Lola headphones are ergonomically designed to have a great feel. They use a custom 50mm driver to provide full audio performance. The headphones’ physical design was inspired by a Formula One racing car’s suspension so the ear cups stay level regardless of the size/shape of the wearer’s cranium. Blue’s Lola headphones are expected to retail for $249.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly which can be found at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic, and health journalist.

Nick DiMeo is an audio engineer and show host at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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