Here’s a good, albeit far from unique idea – a pair of Bluetooth wireless stereo headphones that sit securely on your ears while jogging or engaged in other active sports, and which do double duty as a regular phone headset too. With a price of only $25 on Amazon, they’re much the same cost as a simple monophonic phone headset, while offering stereo music as well as phone/voice capabilities.
One should keep in mind they are not $250 (or even higher priced) headphones, and in assessing the Aukey headphones, it is appropriate to fairly relate their quality to their price. In absolute terms, where money is no object, they of course are open to criticism; but in value terms, they score highly.
The unit comes packed in a plain brown box, probably reflecting the company’s reliance more with online rather than brick-and-mortar sales. Inside are the headphones, another two sets of earpiece outer pieces (for different ear sizes), and a short (1 ft) USB charging cable. A huge plus is that the headphones use a standard micro-USB connector, so you can use any USB cable and power supply you have, and if you lose the provided cable, it is no big deal.
There is also a manual in five languages and a warranty card. There was a bit of confusion about the warranty term, but after corresponding directly with Bin at Aukey, they clarified that they offer a two year warranty, which will grow to 30 months if you register your product (and presumably end up on their marketing list).
The manual was written in good English, and was moderately comprehensive. For my ever-older eyes, a slightly larger and darker type would be preferable, but I managed to read it, nonetheless.
What the manual lacked however, was an explanation of how to ‘unfold’ the headset and place it on your head. This is – at least for me – a non-trivial thing until it has been explained, and probably should be in the manual. Fortunately there’s an excellent four step graphic on Amazon’s site that explains it, although some of Amazon’s reviewers report they prefer wearing the headphones ‘upside down’ (ie looping under the ear rather than over the ear).
Try it both ways to see which you prefer. The fit was secure either way, but also, both ways, unless one really pressed the ear pieces into one’s ears, there was ‘microphony’ – noise generated by the ear pieces rubbing against one’s ears as one moved about. With these being designated as active sportswear type headphones, that may become an issue if you’re sensitive to occasional extraneous sounds.
A key part of the design is the loop that goes around the back of your head is a tensioned loop, which serves to hold the headset on your head and the earpieces in your ears. This is of course important, particularly for a headset designed to be worn while active.
The headphones were reasonably comfortable to wear, and actually in normal use rather than ‘test/review’ mode, I soon forgot about the microphony as I moved around the place while wearing them.
The headphones use the Bluetooth 4.1 specification. There has been a more recent 4.2 version released, but unlike the enormous improvements in 4.1, the 4.2 update is relatively minor and for headphones like these, you’re not missing out on anything extra.
The headphones support the A2DP protocol (for music playback) and AVRCP (for remote control of your audio player). Because they do have a microphone built in as well as stereo speakers, they can be used both to listen to music and also for phone calls.
They have built-in noise cancellation, over and above the moderate noise blocking caused by the ear pieces. This uses a Qualcomm type off-the-shelf product, cVc 6.0. I’d not use these primarily for noise cancelling, and the noise cancellation they do offer is more from the perspective of being able to take a phone call in a noisy environment rather than for blocking out the noises on an airplane.
Like seemingly all Bluetooth devices, it has a single ‘control button’ that serves multiple purposes, and inscrutable flashing red and blue lights to signify what it is doing. That’s fine if you have your manual in front of you, but if you’ve not used the headset for a while, it is very hard to remember what does what. Fortunately, most controls can be duplicated on your phone or music player as well, so perhaps it doesn’t matter much, as long as you can figure out how to turn the unit on and off.
Aukey quote battery life of up to eight hours in use, or 160 hours in standby mode.
Remembering that the sound quality needs to be measured against other under-$30 devices, rather than those costing ten times as much, the sound could be considered acceptably good, and certainly more than ‘adequate for the purpose’. Depending on the music source, volume levels were good and the headset was very sensitive, needing the volume level on the phone to be dialed back a bit.
Talking about range, the Bluetooth range was great, and (as is commonly the case with many BT devices) appreciably greater than the official 33′ range.
I also tested the headset’s ability as a regular phone headset, and not just for listening to incoming sounds, but its microphone for talking through, too.
You can hear a recording of a test message I sent to myself here. The volume level was low and muffled. When I tried a second test in a noisier environment, the digital noise cancelling/filtering reduced the intelligibility of the voice (as is invariably the case), as you can hear on this sample.
Make your own decision, but clearly this headset, while good at playing back music, isn’t quite so good as a regular phone headset for voice calls.
If you’re looking for a set of headphones so as to conveniently listen to music while exercising or jogging, these might be a good solution. A competitively priced ($25) product from a better-known supplier, and offering reasonable quality and performance. Available (of course) on Amazon.