AudioReputation https://www.audioreputation.com Your Audio Electronics Guide Mon, 15 Apr 2019 23:31:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 https://www.audioreputation.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/cropped-AUDIOREPUTATION-32x32.png AudioReputation https://www.audioreputation.com 32 32 What is True Wireless Stereo Technology (TWS)? https://www.audioreputation.com/true-wireless-stereo-technology/ https://www.audioreputation.com/true-wireless-stereo-technology/#respond Mon, 15 Apr 2019 23:31:19 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4721 When you look at the audio department of any store, you can’t help yourself but think that there is nothing else to invent, that we have seen it all. However, the real fans of audio equipment are looking forward to the full development of the newest wireless technology that takes the entire listening experience to […]

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When you look at the audio department of any store, you can’t help yourself but think that there is nothing else to invent, that we have seen it all. However, the real fans of audio equipment are looking forward to the full development of the newest wireless technology that takes the entire listening experience to the next level. We say “the entire listening experience” because it’s not only about the performance and sound quality of your headphones and wireless speakers but also about the entire experience including the comfort at all levels.

The technology is called “true wireless technology” (or TWS) and, in this article, we are going to try to introduce it to you and show you the world of untangled and uncluttered satisfaction filled with nothing but pure music. This technology hasn’t been perfected yet, but even in its current stage of development, it delivers more than satisfying performance. It offers more freedom, more opportunity for interaction with the objects and people around us.

What Is True Wireless Stereo Technology?

In order to understand the true wireless stereo technology, we have to explain to you the terms “true wireless” and “stereo” because the combination of these two technologies has resulted in TWS technology.

True Wireless Stereo Technology (TWS)

Stereophonic sound

Stereophonic sound or, as it will definitely be more familiar to you, stereo sound is one of the most common sounds you can hear today but it didn’t become so popular overnight. This type of recording was first used in the early 1900s and one of the first companies that used it in theaters was Disney but the real expansion happened during the 50s and 60s when it became truly popular.

Stereophonic sound

Its popularity comes from the fact that stereo sound is more pleasant and more natural for human ears than monophonic music because, as its creators said, people have two ears and this is the main reason why any type of stereo recording consists of two recordings played at the same time. Therefore, if you have two recordings, it means you have two channels, the left for your left ear and the right for your right ear.

True wireless technology

True wireless technology is the ‘’art’’ of transferring sound wirelessly through Bluetooth. The wireless transmission is enabled by a small chip built into the source and into the receiving device (devices). The true wireless devices (headphones/earbuds and speakers) have many positive characteristics but the most important one is that there are no cables of any kind. This means not only that you won’t have to connect two or more of these devices into a system and to the source of sound with cables but also that you won’t have to use the cable to supply it/them with power. They come in all shapes and sizes and have different types of rechargeable batteries that can last up to 12 or 15 hours, depending on the price and quality. The cheapest speakers/headphones have shorter battery life (from 4 or 5 to 8 hours per charge).

True wireless devices can be used alone or in the form of a system of the same matching devices paired one to the other. They are highly portable and can be used in different parts of your house/apartment, or even outdoors in case their build quality allows it.

True wireless headphones/earbuds

True wireless earbuds are small, light and simple-to-use type of headphones that can be found at very reasonable prices. They are rechargeable and portable, and they enable you to use them in pairs or only one of them while performing different activities such as doing house chores, walking, running, or even driving. True wireless earbuds/headphones enable greater mobility due to the lack of cables.

True wireless headphones/earbuds

True wireless speakers

True wireless speakers are the speakers that come with built-in rechargeable batteries as the only power source, which means that you will be able to use them all over the house or outdoors without the necessity to set up and take care of the cables lying all over the place. They can be paired with smartphones, players, computers and even TVs, while their sound quality remains quite satisfying.

True wireless speakers

True wireless devices can be used as single devices or in pairs. When used in pair, one device will be the left channel, while the other will play the right channel creating that pleasing stereo sound experience. For example, if you have two Bluetooth speakers of the same kind that support pairing/linking, you can link them together, pair them with the sound source and use as a stereo speaker system. Of course, this usually requires the use of a certain app or a simple remote controller that will allow you to control the music, play, pause or skip tracks.

How True Wireless Technology Works?

We have mentioned some of the details related to this subject previously but we should probably explain the process of connecting true wireless devices in more detail. It is quite simple and you can definitely do it on your own, but it won’t hurt if we to go through it together.

If you have a pair of true wireless earbuds or a pair of true wireless speakers, which are supposed to be connected into a true wireless stereo system, the first thing to do is to turn the Bluetooth on and pair one of these devices (the user manual usually indicates which one shall be used first) that can be called the master device to the selected audio source (smartphone, player, PC, TV, etc.). After successfully pairing the first device with the audio source, you will want to pair the second device (the so-called “slave”) to the master device, not the source. This way, you’ll get your stereo system, which plays separate left and right channels, making the music more pleasing and real to your ears.

The technology is actually based on chips. Every Bluetooth device has a built-in chip responsible for sending and receiving audio signals wirelessly. The main speaker receives them from the source device and it remains mono in case the connection finishes there. In case the main speaker is paired with another speaker, it starts sending the signals towards its “slave” and the signal is split into two channels – left and right.

The Main Advantages of True Wireless TechnologyAdvantages

Simple setup

True wireless stereo technology has not been perfected yet, but it’s not the latest thing on the market and it’s been very popular lately. Although it may sound complicated when you pronounce the name, TWS is actually quite simple. The devices you use must feature Bluetooth connectivity and be able to pair with each other. Apart from this, you may have to download an app in order to enable pairing or control the performance but there’s nothing too complicated or confusing. The devices are simple and most of them manage to pair in just a few seconds. In case you need some help, you can always consult the user manual that will explain the process to you in a few simple steps.

Free of cables

It’s maybe a bit difficult to believe but these devices and systems really don’t have any cables. The connection is established via Bluetooth and the rechargeable battery is the power source. This characteristic is probably the most important advantage of such a device because it actually enables you to move freely wherever you want.

For example, if you use a pair of truly wireless earbuds, you will notice that you won’t be able to feel them in your ears all the time – this is how light they are. Also, they enable you to move around freely without any cable dangling around or tangling in your pocket or bag. On the other hand, if you own a pair of true wireless stereo speakers, you will notice how easy it is to move them around the house or yard without the necessity to drag their cables all the way.

Good quality audio

Although Bluetooth technology is not perfect, the audio quality is not bad. The old Bluetooth versions were much more limited when it comes to data transfer, but the new versions are much more capable and they can deliver pretty good audio quality (even Hi-Res audio in some cases). The new devices that support one of the latest Bluetooth versions combined with aptX HD or LDAC support can deliver an impressive sound quality.

Reasonable prices

The price depends on many things – build quality, durability, size, battery life, driver quality, etc. It also depends on the manufacturer and, in some cases, you’ll be paying an additional price for the brand. Still, true wireless stereo devices don’t cost a fortune. If you have enough money to spend on Bose speakers/headphones or similar products, go for it, but if you don’t, you can always find something cheaper. The market is so big and you will definitely find a reasonably priced device for you.

The Main Disadvantages of True Wireless TechnologyDisadvantages

Limited battery life

No matter how long it can last, rechargeable batteries always have limited lifetime and by every charging cycle, they are getting closer to their end. No matter how good your battery life is, it is always possible to run out of juice, which can be annoying, especially if you are not able to recharge them. Even if you are, you can be annoyed by the fact that you will have to wait until the charging is over in order to use your device again.

True wireless earbuds are easy to lose

One of the disadvantages, when you’re using something so small, is that it can be easily lost. These earbuds are so small and so light that you won’t be aware that they are in your ears and when you are not aware of something like that, you can easily lose them.

Control buttons may be difficult to use

Most of the true wireless devices are small and portable, which leads to the conclusion that there is not enough space to place all the necessary control buttons. Also, considering the new trends and features that our devices have, there should be much more buttons. However, when there is not enough space, the manufacturers simply have to save it by installing multifunctional buttons. This means that your already small earbuds will be turned on and off by pressing a single button, that the music will be played or paused by pressing another button, or that the volume controls can be used for skipping tracks. The situation with the speakers is not much different except for the fact that they have much more space. However, the buttons on the earbuds might be too confusing or too small for your fingers, while the buttons on the speakers might be too confusing to use.  

The sound quality is not on par with wired devices

Bluetooth is getting better every day but the files are still compressed and you can’t really compare wired and wireless speakers/headphones when it comes to sound quality. Also, one of the problems related to the sound quality is the maximum volume of true wireless earbuds. They are simply very quiet. The fact that can cause even greater problems is that many models of true wireless earbuds are sold as single devices. This means they are even quieter this way than when sold and used in pairs because two are always louder than one. After all, it is more difficult for you to hear the ambient noise when the earbuds are in both of your ears.

All in all, we have to admit that wired devices are still much better, but the introduction of certain Bluetooth codecs (LDAC, aptX HD) improved the quality of Bluetooth audio and even enabled Hi-Res audio reproduction.

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Best Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones & Earbuds In 2019 https://www.audioreputation.com/bluetooth-5-0-headphones-earbuds/ https://www.audioreputation.com/bluetooth-5-0-headphones-earbuds/#respond Tue, 09 Apr 2019 00:19:03 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4914 Bluetooth 5.0 is finally here and everybody wants to try those new earbuds and headphones featuring the latest Bluetooth version. Bluetooth 5.0 is supposed to improve sound quality, range, connectivity, and reliability and we were anxious to find out if all the stories about the latest Bluetooth version were true. The article in front of […]

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Bluetooth 5.0 is finally here and everybody wants to try those new earbuds and headphones featuring the latest Bluetooth version. Bluetooth 5.0 is supposed to improve sound quality, range, connectivity, and reliability and we were anxious to find out if all the stories about the latest Bluetooth version were true. The article in front of you and our list of the best Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and headphones are the results of our testing of more than 20 latest earbud and headphone models. We have considered this topic important and we had to give our contribution and try to present all the benefits (and issues) of the latest Bluetooth 5.0 and give you our opinion on the currently available earbud and headphone models.

Bluetooth 5.0

If somebody would ask you to list the things that characterize the modern era, what would you say? We bet that wireless/Bluetooth connectivity would be one of the things. Bluetooth was first introduced in 1999 as Bluetooth 1.0 and it’s been developed ever since in order to reach today’s level. The first devices with built-in Bluetooth entered the market in 2001 and their number significantly increased during the initial 3-year period. Later, the Bluetooth 3.0 was introduced in 2008, while the Bluetooth 4.0, 4.1 and 4.2 were introduced after 2010. Basically, after every year or two, they were introducing a new version of Bluetooth, and every version offered greater speeds, longer range, and reduced level of data compression. For some time, we were stuck with V4.2, until the newest and, so far, the best Bluetooth version appeared in 2016. This was the fresh release that showed certain improvements in terms of Bluetooth performance and made the use of Bluetooth more interesting and easier. Even its name is different and simpler because you can simply call it Bluetooth 5.

For this article, we have prepared two separate lists – 5 best Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and 5 best Bluetooth 5.0 headphones. On these two lists, you will find all the most popular models of earbuds and headphones currently available on the market. We have tried to find the best options for different users which is the main reason why you should be able to find something that suits your taste. All the models are truly great investments since they all offer great performance at a reasonable price.

5 Best Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds – Comparison Table

Best Bluetooth 5.0 EarbudsRatingPriceReview
Anker Soundcore Spirit X4.2Check PriceRead Review
TBI Pro4.2Check PriceRead Review
iHarbort C34.4Check PriceRead Review
MEE Audio M6B3.9Check PriceRead Review
TaoTronics TT-BH0703.8Check PriceRead Review

5 Best Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones – Comparison Table

Best Bluetooth 5.0 HeadphonesRatingPriceReview
TaoTronics TT-BH0604.4Check PriceRead Review
Paww WaveSound 34.2Check PriceRead Review
Cowin SE74.3Check PriceRead Review
Bluedio TM4.1Check PriceRead Review
MKay 8164.6Check PriceRead Review

When you click on “Check Price” you will be redirected to Amazon.com.

What is Bluetooth 5.0 and What Makes It So Different from the Previous Versions?

Bluetooth is one of the most developed and omnipresent modern technologies. Once in a few years, we get the new improved version that manages to amaze us with its performance and capabilities. The creators manage to surprise us every single time with the improvements in terms of speed, data compression reduction, wireless range, etc. However, the users always manage to expand the list of their needs and requests and the necessity for the upgraded version appears again.

Bluetooth 5.0 has been introduced a few years ago as the latest version of Bluetooth communication. It hasn’t been built into all the new devices but the number of headphones and smartphones supporting this version is increased every day. This Bluetooth version has been released due to continuous user demands for IoT-based devices. As IoT development demands more powerful Bluetooth features, the developers had to find a way to satisfy the needs and requirements of their users. So far, Bluetooth 5.0 has been the best solution thanks to its enhanced features regarding connection stability, connection speed, wireless range, message capacity, etc.

Bluetooth 5.0 is definitely not perfect and there are still some things that have to be improved but it truly represents a great improvement in comparison to the previous 4.2 version. The most important and the most obvious improvements are: 4x longer wireless range, 2x faster connecting and even 8x bigger broadcasting message capacity. Along with the ability to coexist and work with other technologies and other Bluetooth versions, the latest 5.0 version becomes really amazing.

Faster connectivity, greater responsiveness, and better performance have made a great contribution to the use of IoT. The everyday use of Bluetooth-enabled devices and communication has become much easier and more reliable thanks to Bluetooth 5.0. We can only imagine what will happen once this technology gets upgraded again.

Now that you know a few basic things about Bluetooth 5.0, let’s go through our list (or lists) of the best Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and headphones. Each review consists of three parts – unboxing, upsides, and downsides. We have tried to list all the good and bad things about these earbuds/headphones and give you our opinion on what to expect from each Bluetooth 5.0 earbud/headphone model (in terms of connection quality, reliability, battery life, and sound quality).

The List of 5 Best Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds


1. Anker Soundcore Spirit X

Anker Soundcore Spirit X

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The first pair of earbuds on our list is the model made by the well-known manufacturer Anker, famous for its quality products and their affordable prices. The model we decided to present to you is called Soundcore Spirit X and it is one of the best representatives of the brand. The earbuds come with 10mm drivers with composite diaphragms, Bluetooth 5.0, the battery that can last up to 12 hours (at 60% volume), and a sweat-proof coating. Spirit X also supports AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs and they are advertised as noise isolating earbuds.

The earbuds come in black color only and, on the right side, you will find a small in-line control pad with the play/pause button, volume controls, built-in mic, and USB port for charging. Spirit X buds weigh 0.05 pounds and their charging time is 1.5h.

What’s in the box?

The earbuds come in a very simple white and blue cardboard box that hides a small zippered hard-shell carrying case. Inside the case, you will find the earbuds with one pair of ear tips. Apart from that, you get four pairs of spare tips in different sizes and two pairs of ear tips with wings, also in different sizes. The manufacturer additionally sends one USB charging cable, one shirt, and two cable clips.

Things we like

Anker Soundcore Spirit X are nice-looking sport earbuds that can be used in all everyday situations. They are very light and highly portable – you can wear them around your neck or in your pocket. In case you want to keep them safe when they are not in use, you can put them in their travel case that can be attached to a bike or a backpack thanks to its carabineer or you can simply put it in the pocket.

The earbuds are quite comfy. They are incredibly light and there’s a wide range of differently sized and shaped tips as well as semi-flexible ear hooks that help the buds stay in your ears during your workouts. The earbuds come with one shirt and two cable clips that enable you to shorten the cable and attach it in order to prevent it from dangling.

When it comes to sound quality, we were quite impressed considering the price. You will hardly find a better sounding pair of Bluetooth earbuds in this price range, especially considering the fact that they support the latest Bluetooth version with an excellent wireless range and stable connection. These are bass-oriented earbuds – the lows are slightly more emphasized than the rest of the audio spectrum. However, the vocals are clear and crisp and the treble is not bad at all.

Things we don’t like

First of all, we would like to see the earbuds in some other colors. Also, they are a bit bulkier than the average earbuds due to the ear hooks that cannot be detached.

Second of all, Spirit X aren’t the most durable earbuds on the market and you should be very careful with the cable which is, at least in our opinion, thin and kind of flimsy.

The soundstage is quite poor and the highs can get quite painful at high volumes, which can ruin the overall listening impression.

Finally, we have to warn you about the in-line remote. Many customers complained about its weight and position. When you adjust the cable with the clips, the remote somehow gets behind your head, making it more difficult to use. Also, due to its weight, the right earbud tends to fall out more often than the left one.

Comparison Table


2. TBI Pro Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds

TBI Pro Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds

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TBI Pro Bluetooth earbuds are affordable truly wireless earbuds featuring Bluetooth 5.0 technology with a standard 33ft wireless range and a built-in Qualcomm CSR 64110 chip. The earbuds come in black/red color combination. They are packed inside their carrying box that is also their charger. Once charged, the charging case can offer up to 5 charging cycles, while you get 4-5 hours of battery life per single charge.

The earbuds have a built-in mic and they have touch-sensitive controls. They are completely cable-free and completely waterproof and sweat proof (IPX7 rating).

What’s in the box?

The earbuds come in a small black cardboard box that contains user manual, the charging case with the earbuds, a set of two spare pairs of silicone tips in different sizes, two pairs of foam tips in different sizes, and two ear tips with ear wings for additional stability. Along with the earbuds, you get a USB charging cable that you use to charge the charging box.

Things we like

TBI Pro are the truly wireless earbuds with a decent number of features. The best thing is that they really don’t cost a fortune. They are nicely designed and quite small, which makes them hardly noticeable. The charging case has built-in magnets, which make it easier to set the buds correctly for the charging process and the light indicator tells you whether the charging is in progress or not. The case can also be used for transporting the buds, especially because it’s so small.

The earbuds are quite comfortable thanks to their small dimensions and small weight. They will stay put in your ears longer than many other earbuds because of the variety of spare tips that improve the overall stability. Also, the earbuds have a built-in mic that enables you to answer calls. The pairing with different kinds of devices is very simple and quite fast. The first pairing takes a few seconds more but every next pairing is automatic.

The earbuds deliver nice and pleasant sound with a slightly emphasized bass, clean mids, and pleasant treble. Listening to any music genre on these earbuds will be quite a pleasure for any ordinary user.

Things we don’t like

TBI Pro true wireless earbuds can’t really compare (in terms of sound quality) to any of the high-profile earbuds or headphones. Also, some customers find them too quiet for their needs.

The earbuds don’t have volume controls so you will have to reach for your device every time you want to turn the volume up or down. You can use the controls on the buds to play/pause the music, answer/end call or skip tracks. The only problem is that these controls are separated – some things are controlled with the left and the other things with the right earbud, which can be confusing for some users.

Some customers also reported problems with the connection between the two buds.

Comparison Table


3. iHarbort C3 Bluetooth 5.0 In-Ear Headphones

iHarbort C3 Bluetooth 5.0 In-Ear Headphones

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The third model on the list of 10 best Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and headphones is iHarbourt C3 that comes in an elegant black and white box and it’s more than affordable. The earbuds weigh approximately 0.10 ounces, they have a rechargeable battery that offers up to 9 hours of playback time after only 1.5 hours of charging, their max range is 33 feet, and they have IPX5 water resistant rating.

On the right side, there’s a control pad with a USB charging port, volume controls (also used for skipping tracks), Bluetooth indicator light, multifunction button (play/pause/pair), and a small built-in mic.

What’s in the box?

The earbuds come in a very simple but sleek cardboard box with the user manual, 18-month warranty card, USB charging cable, and a pair of ear tips with ear wings.

Things we like

Let’s start with the first thing you will notice when you see them – physical appearance and design. We must confess that we really like them – the earbuds are simple yet elegant and they have all the important features that most people would need.

C3 are pretty weightless. Combine that kind of lightness with a shape of the housings that lays nicely in ears without causing any fatigue, and you will get a very comfortable pair of earbuds. Most of the customers agree the earbuds are stable in ears but if you need some extra stability for certain types of workouts, you can try using the provided tips with wings that should do the job. We also must note that, unlike most of the Bluetooth earbuds, C3 have the pads/reinforcements on both sides, which adds some balance and prevents the buds from falling out. In addition, they have metal housings with magnetic ends so you can wear the earbuds around your neck when not in use, without worrying about losing them.

When it comes to sound quality, you will probably be satisfied if your expectations aren’t too high. After all, these are relatively cheap earbuds. They deliver nice and pleasant bass and they sound good no matter what kind of music is played. The Bluetooth connection is stable, the pairing is fast and easy, and the battery life is long enough to cover most of your daily activities.

Things we don’t like

C3 are advertised as noise-isolating earbuds but most of the customers claim they don’t do that part of the job well. Also, some users complained about the magnets not being powerful enough.

In addition, you should know that the multifunction button does not enable you to resume your activity after you pause it. If you want to keep listening to a song after ending an incoming call, you will have to reach for your phone, which can sometimes be annoying.

Comparison Table


4. MEE Audio M6B Bluetooth Earbuds

MEE Audio M6B Bluetooth Earbuds

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M6B are very popular and very affordable Bluetooth 5.0 in-ear headphones made by the MEE. The earbuds are designed for active people and they are available in many colors (black, clear, mint, coral, grey/black, etc.). M6B have 10mm drivers, they weigh 0.5 ounces, they are also IPX5 certified, and the frequency response spans from 20 to 20,000 Hz. They feature Bluetooth 5.0 with a 30ft wireless range. The supported profiles are A2DP, HSE, HFP, and AVRCP. Charging takes 2 hours and it will provide you with up to 9 hours of playback/talk time.

What’s in the box?

The earbuds come in a simple package with one USB charging cable, 4 pairs of spare ear tips in different sizes, and user manual. A nice zippered carrying case and a cable clip are also included.

Things we like

M6B are nicely designed earbuds. It’s the kind of design that will be appreciated by the active people and those who need their earbuds to stay stable in ears even during the longest and hardest workouts. These earbuds have a simple but efficient design. They are light and their housings are shaped in a way that enables the user to wear them around his ear. This, along with a slightly angled ergonomic tip design makes the earbuds very comfortable and stable even if you move a lot. However, in order to achieve the perfect fit, you will have to try out all the provided tips and find the right size for your ears.

MEE M6B earbuds have the pads on both sides of your head, which means you won’t feel any extra weight or disbalance while wearing them. The inline remote is on the right side and it’s quite easy to use. In case you find the cable too long, you can shorten it by using the provided clip and prevent it from dangling and bouncing. In order to keep your earbuds safe during transport, you can use the zippered carrying bag, which is so small that it won’t add any additional weight to your bag.

Things we don’t like

We have to be honest with you – the sound quality is not perfect. We can’t say that they sound bad but we would like more bass and wider soundstage. However, if your expectations are reasonable, you may even like them. These are not bass-heavy earbuds like many others on the market. The bass is there but it’s kind of tiny.

Considering the price, you can’t really expect the earbuds to last forever and stay in the same condition they were the day you bought them. For this reason, using the carrying case is a must because the cable is prone to tangling, which subsequently leads to its breaking and damaging (especially at joint).

Comparison Table


5. TaoTronics TT-BH070

TaoTronics TT-BH070

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TT-BH070 is one of many TaoTronics models that have been highly praised by the customers. They weigh 0.6 ounces, they come only in black color, and have inline remote that enables you to play/pause the music, pair the earbuds to your device, adjust volume or skip tracks, answer calls, and charge the earbuds. The charging process takes 2 hours and the battery can last up to 9 hours. The earbuds feature Bluetooth 5.0. They support APTX audio codec, as well as A2DP/AVRCP/HSP/HFP profiles. The earbuds are also IPX6 certified.

What’s in the box?

TT-BH070 earbuds come in a simple cardboard box with their user manual, soft carrying pouch, short USB charging cable, two spare pairs of silicone tips, two spare pairs of ear hooks, and one shirt clip.

Things we like

TT-BH070 are reasonably-priced Bluetooth in-ear headphones that look attractive. They are great for workouts but also for all kinds of everyday activities (working in an office, walking, commuting, etc.). They have a nice ergonomic design that enables secure fit, especially because of the provided ear wings. The important thing is to find the right size that fits best your ears and the earbuds should stay in your ears no matter what you do.

We really like that fact that they are light and easy to transport in a pocket, even if you use the included carrying bag. In case you prefer to have them around your neck, you can wear them like a necklace because of the magnetic housings. They also have a built-in mic, which makes it easier to stay in touch with other people no matter where you are. We also like the flat cable – it’s less prone to tangling and it seems relatively durable. In addition, the earbuds have IPX6 rating, which makes them even more durable – they won’t be damaged by sweat, rain or even splashes of water.

As far as the sound quality is concerned, these earbuds sound decent for the price. We must admit they can’t compete with some high-end headphones but they do an excellent job for the price. The bass is present and enjoyable, while the mids and highs are balanced and pleasant for listening. Also, the tips provide a pretty good seal – the earbuds manage to isolate a great part of the ambient noise. The battery life is long enough – you can work out several times a week before you need to recharge them again.

Things we don’t like

BH070 earbuds come with 3 pairs of S, M, and L ear tips but it seems that this is not enough for some people, especially for people with really small ears. Including an extra pair of ear tips in XS size would be a smart move.

Comparison Table


The List of 5 Best Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones

6. TaoTronics TT-BH060 ANC Headphones

TaoTronics TT-BH060 ANC Headphones

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Here’s the second part of our list of the best Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and headphones where we are going to focus on the over-ear headphones.

TT-BH060 are full-size over-ear headphones that come in matte black color and weigh 7.7 ounces. These ANC headphones use Bluetooth 5.0 and they can be used as both wired or wireless. On the right cup, you will find power on/off button, ANC switch, Bluetooth indicator light, mic, audio cable port, and volume controls. On the left side, you will find a USB charging port.

What’s in the box?

TT-BH060 come in a nice and simple silver box with TaoTronics logo on the front side. Inside the box, you will find a relatively small zippered carrying case. All the items are packed inside the case. There are the headphones, user manual, detachable audio cable, and one short USB charging cable.

Things we like

Although the design of TT-BH060 is quite simple, we really like it. They are big and comfortable but not too bulky or too heavy. They have thick and soft cushions and a nicely-padded adjustable headband. The controls are easy to use and the pairing process is quite simple and fast thanks to the latest Bluetooth version. This also contributes to latency reduction.

The headphones can be used as wireless or wired. Their long-lasting battery will amaze you – they can deliver up to 30 hours without ANC. If the ANC is enabled, the number reduces to 24 hours which is also pretty impressive. In case you want to save battery or you run out of juice, you can simply plug in the detachable cable and keep listening to your favorite music. They are also foldable and the earcups can swivel, which makes their adjustment and transport much easier.

TT-BH060 aren’t the most expensive headphones on the market but they do sound very nice and pleasant for the price. They have slightly emphasized bass, warm mids, and clear but slightly brighter highs. Apart from that, ANC technology really manages to cut out most of the ambient noise so you can enjoy your music without interruptions.

Things we don’t like

We are aware of the fact that these are affordable headphones and that we can’t expect too much of them but we should point out that they are completely made of plastic. Some customers reported problems with the plastic joints snapping after a short period of time, so we recommend you to be careful with the headphones and transport them only in their carrying case.

Sadly, we also have to complain about the sound. Although ANC helps you run away from the outside world and from the noise, it significantly changes the way your music sounds. ANC basically cuts off the bass and a part of the low midrange. Some people say that the headphones actually sound better with the ANC turned on – we guess it all depends on your music taste.

Comparison Table


7. Paww WaveSound 3

Paww WaveSound 3

Check Price on Amazon

Paww WaveSound 3 are Bluetooth over-ear ANC headphones that come in black, blue, and white colors with many interesting and useful features at a very reasonable price. The headphones have 40mm drivers and they weigh approximately 12.8 ounces. They support APTX low latency and their battery can last up to 16 hours with ANC off while charging takes approximately 4 hours. On the right cup, you will find track and volume controls, Bluetooth multifunction button, mic, Bluetooth indicator light, and aux jack. On the left cup, you will find a USB charging port, ANC switch, and ANC indicator light.

What’s in the box?

The headphones come in a nice branded cardboard box along with a sturdy zippered carrying case, detachable 3.5mm audio cable, short USB charging cable, user manual, 1-year warranty card, and one airline adapter.

Things we like

WaveSound 3 are large and comfortable headphones that have an interesting design and come in three colors. Their controls are easy to use and they can be both wireless or wired depending on your needs. The battery life is quite decent but the fact that you can simply plug the cable in, makes you feel more comfortable and confident about their use.  

These headphones offer many useful features – there’s a built-in mic, wired/wireless mode, and the ANC feature that can be turned on or off depending on the situation. The pairing is easy and fast, especially if you’re pairing the headphones with some of the latest smartphone models that support Bluetooth 5.0 themselves.

Paww WaveSound 3 seem quite durable and reliable due to their metal headband. The headband and the cups are nicely and thickly padded, which makes the headphones very comfortable. Also, we can’t complain about the sound quality, especially considering the price. The bass is punchy and present, while the mids/vocals and the highs are very clear and pleasant for listening. The important thing is that the overall sound quality is not affected by the ANC feature (the difference in sound signatures when the ANC is enabled or disabled is barely noticeable).

Things we don’t like

The headphones aren’t made for people who like bass-heavy sound. You won’t hear that kind of bass if you decide to buy WaveSound 3. The bass is audible but not too emphasized.

Although the battery life is great, we must note that it is significantly shorter than the battery life of some cheaper ANC headphones.

Also, this model of Paww headphones is heavier than some other headphones and it can look a bit bulky on the user’s head.

Comparison Table


8. Cowin SE7 ANC Headphones

Cowin SE7 ANC Headphones

Check Price on Amazon

Cowin SE7 are Bluetooth 5.0 headphones that support ANC and Apt-X low latency technology. They are not too expensive and you can choose between black, purple, dark green, red and gold colors. The headphones weigh 0.6 pounds and they can be used as wired or wireless. It is advertised that the battery can last up to 30 hours. The recharge takes up to 3 hours. Also, the manufacturer claims that 10min of charge can get you 1 whole hour of playtime.

On the right cup, you will see al the controls and ports. There are ANC switch, volume controls, multifunctional button, aux port, USB charging port, and ANC and BT indicator lights.

What’s in the box?

The headphones come in an elegant branded black box with 4.2ft detachable cable, USB charging cable, strong carrying case, airplane adapter, 6.3mm headphone adapter, and user manual. A small pouch that you can use to store the adapters and cables is also provided.

Things we like

SE7 are smaller and more discrete than the other Cowin models. They are light, nicely padded and cushioned, and the headband’s length is adjustable, which makes the headphones very comfortable and pleasant for long sessions. The Bluetooth 5.0 enables you to pair them with your device quickly and easily and the connection remains stable within the 47ft range.

Although the headphones are made from plastic, they seem stable, strong and durable because they don’t have that familiar flimsy feel than many plastic headphones have. They are foldable, and the cups can swivel and rotate, which makes them easy to transport. Also, they can be used as wired (3.5mm or 6.3mm jacks) or wireless (Bluetooth 5.0). ANC feature can be turned on or off depending on your needs.

Having in mind that these aren’t audiophile headphones, we have to say they sound very good. They produce powerful bass which makes them suitable for listening to bass-heavy music. ANC feature works nicely and the headphones don’t leak too much sound. The mic is useful and it enables you to make/receive important calls but it is not made for recording.

Things we don’t like

The headphone cups/cushions can be a bit tight and small for people with bigger ears.

Be careful with the ANC – this feature needs a battery in order to work (even if you use headphones in wired mode).

SE7 headphones have a great battery but the problem is that the advertised 30 hours is much longer than the achieved 15 hours. Of course, 15h playtime was achieved with the ANC on. If you disable the ANC feature, you will get a few hours more but still less than 30 hours.

The sound could be better – the bass tends to get boomy at high volumes and it overpowers the mids. Turning the ANC on will reduce the bass and bring more balance to your music.

Comparison Table


9. Bluedio TM Bluetooth Headphones

Bluedio TM Bluetooth Headphones

Check Price on Amazon

Bluedio TM are also Bluetooth 5.0 headphones. They come in yellow, black and red colors. They can only be used in Bluetooth mode (no wired mode) and they have a very reasonable price considering the features they have. These headphones weigh 7.7 ounces, they have 47mm drivers and the battery can deliver up to 30 hours after being fully charged. The recharge process takes 2 hours. 10-minute charging ensures full 2.5 hours of playback time. The manufacturer has also provided Bluedio app that enables you to use Alexa or Baidu, check the forecast, listen to music, etc.

On the right cup, you will see the charging port, volume controls, Bluetooth indicator light, and power on/off button.

What’s in the box?

The headphones come in a nice black cardboard box along with the user manual and a USB-C charging cable.

Things we like

Bluedio TM are great affordable headphones. They have an interesting design, and they are available in many attractive colors. The headphones are very light and the cups are nicely cushioned, which means the headphones shall be quite comfortable for most of the users. Thanks to a slightly tighter fit, they remain absolutely stable on your head no matter how much you move. Also, the headband is easily adjustable.

In spite of their price and our expectations, these headphones sound great. They have enough bass, the mids and the highs are there, and if you don’t like the current sound signature, you can press the volume controls together for a few seconds and change it. This double press activates EQ presets, which allows you to choose between three sound signatures. Apart from this, the headphones are quite loud.

Things we don’t like

Although some other headphones in this price range are equipped with detachable audio cable, ANC or NFC technologies, you won’t get any of these features if you buy Bluedio TM. The manufacturer wanted these headphones to be used as simple Bluetooth headphones but in case you want to make them wired, try buying a USB-C to 3.5mm audio cable and you should be able to use them in wired mode.

The headphones are light and adjustable but they can still be a bit tight and the cups can be too small for people with larger ears and larger heads. In addition, the headband could have been thicker and softer.

Also, the headphones can’t be folded and the cups don’t swivel. The manufacturer doesn’t provide a carrying case, which also makes them more difficult to transport.

Comparison Table


10. MKay 816

MKay 816

Check Price on Amazon

The last pair on our list of the best Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and headphones are Mkay 816. These are quite affordable headphones with many interesting features. They come in rose-gold color and they are mostly made for young people, even children. There’s a black model, too but it is slightly different in terms of design and features.

MKay 816 are full-size headphones that can be used as both wireless and wired. They have a 30ft range and their battery can last up to 14 hours while recharge takes 2.5 hours. On the right cup, you will see the multifunction button, volume controls, the button that enables you to switch between BT, MP3 and FM modes, power on/off button, micro SD card slot, USB charging port, aux port, mic, and the Bluetooth indicator light.

What’s in the box?

The headphones come with a nice zippered hard-shell case, user manual, charging cable, and a detachable audio cable.

Things we like

MKay headphones are amazing headphones with an amazing price. They look very attractive and elegant. They support the latest version of Bluetooth that ensures easy and fast pairing and more stable connection. They can also be used as both wireless and wired, which is great in case you run out of battery.

One of the greatest things about these headphones is that you can use them with any of your devices, no matter if they are Bluetooth-enabled or not, but you can also play the music directly from your SD card (up to 32GB) or simply switch to built-in FM radio. The headphones have an adjustable headband and foldable cups, they are very light and don’t cause any pain in your ears or head. The cups are nicely padded and the shape of the cushions follows the shape of human ears for a better fit.

The sound quality is more than satisfying considering the price and the volume of these headphones is surprisingly high, which is great if you’re working out in a crowded gym or riding on a crowded bus.

Things we don’t like

First of all, it would be nice if there were more color choices. Something more neutral (black or white) would be a nice improvement.

Second of all, we want to warn you about the mic – you can’t use it when the headphones are in wired mode.

Additionally, these headphones are advertised as children headphones but they are quite large and can look a bit bulky on a child’s head.

Also, the padding on the headband could be thicker and better filled. It seems that the current one doesn’t have enough stuffing and it feels a bit empty. The headphones are completely made of plastic and seem quite fragile so we would recommend you to use them carefully and transport them only in their carrying case.

Last of all, the headphones don’t have ANC and they leak a great amount of sound, especially at high volumes.

Comparison Table


The Advantages of Bluetooth 5.0

Low power consumption

Bluetooth Low Energy was designed at the same time as Bluetooth 4.0 and they were introduced at the same time. In fact, it was planned to enable Bluetooth Low Energy to work with 4.0 version. Unfortunately, technology has encountered many problems and they haven’t been completely solved until the Bluetooth 5.0 was introduced.

The basic purpose of this technology is to reduce the amount of energy that Bluetooth devices use in order to transfer files/data. Subsequently, this enables extended battery life and longer playtime as Bluetooth devices have rechargeable batteries with limited longevity.

The developers have managed to solve all the issues and enabled us to use two or more Bluetooth 5.0 devices that communicate with each other while using the minimum power.  

Dual audio

Dual audio is a very interesting and useful feature that allows the users to play audio content on two different devices simultaneously. For example, you can take one phone and pair it to two different Bluetooth speakers and play the same music at the same time. Great for parties, isn’t it?

Also, you can connect your phone to two different pairs of Bluetooth 5.0 headphones and listen to the same music with your friend or family member without the annoying necessity to share one pair of headphones or earbuds. In fact, there is also the possibility to stream two different contents to two different devices from the same source device. This way, you and your friend don’t have to bother each other with content that annoys the other party.

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The feature is pretty simple to activate. You can enable it by turning on the Dual Audio feature on your phone. This will do all the work. However, the only smartphone manufacturer that’s been using it is Samsung and you can find it only on the latest devices (starting from Samsung Galaxy S8). Hopefully, we will see many other phones and tablets with this feature in the future.

Improved connection quality

When Bluetooth 5.0 was introduced, the manufacturers announced that it enables 2x faster data transfer, four times longer wireless range, and eight times larger message broadcasting capacity (compared to the V4.2). For example, Bluetooth 5.0 delivers up to 2 Mbps data transfer speeds, which is actually 2x faster than the previous version. This significantly improves the overall connection quality and enables the users to use this technology freely. It also reduces the risk of connection interruption or any kind of interference.

Also, Bluetooth 5.0 devices are much better than the older devices (those with older Bluetooth versions) when it comes to video content, especially when watching videos on your smartphone. This means that the latency is reduced to the minimum.

Extended wireless range

Bluetooth 5.0 delivers a much longer wireless range than any of the previous Bluetooth versions. It may never go to the advertised 800 feet but, based on our experience, we can confirm that the range is much longer. Remember just one rule – you have to use two Bluetooth 5.0 devices in order to achieve the maximum possible range.

The interesting fact is that these devices can actually choose whether they want to go for the speed or for the range. Focusing on faster data transfer is more useful when two devices are close to each other. On the other hand, focusing on providing a stable connection at a larger distance is more useful when the devices have to exchange a small amount of data and when the transfer speed is not the main concern. If you consider the fact that these devices do all this by using Bluetooth Low Energy protocol, you will realize how much battery life this new Bluetooth version saves.

Backward compatibility

Being backward compatible means that Bluetooth 5.0 devices aren’t limited to communicate to other 5.0 devices and we have mentioned this in the text above. They are completely capable of communicating with all the devices that support any Bluetooth version and enable you to listen to music, podcasts, answer calls, etc. Bluetooth 5.0 devices are able to connect to all kinds of smartphones, speakers, players, etc.

The Disadvantages of Bluetooth 5.0

It may seem odd but there is only one disadvantage of the latest Bluetooth upgrade and it’s not an actual disadvantage (it’s not directly related to the Bluetooth 5.0). Despite the fact that your Bluetooth 5.0 device will work normally when paired with some other Bluetooth-enabled device, you won’t be able to completely enjoy all the previously mentioned advantages of Bluetooth 5.0. The number of available features/advantages is limited by the older Bluetooth version. In other words, when used in combination with an older Bluetooth-enabled device, you won’t get the max speeds, range, or the kind of reliability and connection quality you would get when two Bluetooth 5.0 devices are paired together.

Currently, there are a few smartphone models featuring the latest Bluetooth version (iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8 and other newer models) but the number of older Bluetooth-enabled devices is still much larger. The situation will certainly get better in the years to come and, at some point, we will all be able to enjoy the benefits of Bluetooth 5.0 without any limitations.

In the end, we sincerely hope that our list of 10 best Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds and headphones was useful to you and that it helped you learn some new facts about these great devices and this great new technology. If you have any questions about certain earbud/headphone model or if you want to share your experience, feel free to comment.


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Sound Signatures – The Beginner’s Guide https://www.audioreputation.com/sound-signatures/ https://www.audioreputation.com/sound-signatures/#respond Tue, 02 Apr 2019 23:44:52 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4678 What are Sound Signatures? Whenever buying an audio device, we are not only hoping that it will last long but also that it will sound just the way we like it. No matter if we are buying headphones or speakers, if they are expensive or cheap, our hopes remain the same. We are constantly buying […]

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What are Sound Signatures?

Whenever buying an audio device, we are not only hoping that it will last long but also that it will sound just the way we like it. No matter if we are buying headphones or speakers, if they are expensive or cheap, our hopes remain the same. We are constantly buying new devices different from the previous ones trying to find the one that will suit our needs and taste perfectly.

Unfortunately, there’s one “small” problem – we don’t always know what we are searching for and this makes our search even more difficult. The perfect sound that we are trying to find is actually a specific sound signature and every pair of headphones and every speaker have their own. Whether we are going to like it or not depends on our subjective feeling. The headphones and speakers can be tested and characterized based on their accuracy, frequency response, SNR, distortion or some other features but, in the end, the main factor that affects their quality is the personal taste of every user. When you say that a certain pair of headphones doesn’t sound good, that doesn’t have to mean that the headphones are poorly manufactured and tuned. In some cases, it only means that they don’t suit your taste.

What are Sound Signatures

If you walk into an audio store and try several different but similarly priced headphone models, you will notice that all of them sound completely different. This happens because the manufacturers are constantly trying to satisfy everyone’s taste by tuning their headphones in all different ways. Some devices sound quite flat and neutral while the others have a certain level of sound coloration and manufacturers do this because they want to satisfy different tastes and build the perfect headphones/speaker for every music genre. Yes, music genre actually matters because rock or hip-hop music sound better when played by headphones or speakers with exposed bass.

Due to all these reasons, we have decided to write this beginner’s guide to sound signatures and try to introduce you to different signatures in order to help you find the one that suits you best. So, stay with us and find the way towards your perfect device.

Types of Sound Signatures

As you probably know, there are many ways to classify audio devices, especially headphones and speakers. They are classified by their shape, height, placement type, etc. but they can also be classified by the type of sound signature. We have said that every pair of speakers and headphones sound different but, generally speaking, there are only six basic sound signatures and, subsequently, six headphone/speaker categories.

Basic Types of Sound Signatures

In order to help you find the right sound for you, we are going to describe all the six types in the text below.

Extra bass

As the name implies, this sound signature is special because of the extra punchy and emphasized bass. The low frequencies are very exposed, louder than the others, and they cause the music to sound energetic and intoxicating. The sounds that focus the most on the low frequencies are mostly used for making hip-hop songs and they are also an inseparable part of electronic music. If you are a fan of bass headphones and bassy signature, you should look for a pair of Beats but V-Moda and some of Sony’s and Sennheiser’s models are not bad as well. When it comes to speakers, we advise you to get good subwoofers and find the right placement for them in order to improve bass quality and quantity.

Just one more thing – be careful about boosting bass frequencies. If you exaggerate, it may result in boomy sound which is unpleasant for listening, and also cause the loss of all the fine details in the songs, especially all the details in the low-midrange region.

V-shaped

The name itself may sound a bit strange but it’s actually quite easy to understand. When the frequency response is shown in one line (frequency response curve), the line looks like the letter V. As the low frequencies are at the beginning of the line and the high frequencies at the end, this leads to the conclusion that the most important characteristics of V-shaped sound signature are very exposed bass and treble. While the bass is quite elevated and the treble is highly audible and easy to locate, the mid-range frequencies are placed somehow behind the previous two ranges. What we are trying to say is that V-shaped music brings quite neutral vocals that are overwhelmed by the bass and treble.

frequency response curve

Audiophiles don’t like this V-Shaped frequency response but this kind of signatures actually works for most of the users and many of them find it very pleasant, especially when they hear it for the first time. This happens because the booming bass and strong sparkling highs are the great formula for making exciting music that makes the songs brighter. This sound signature is perfect for reproducing hip-hop, rock, and pop songs while it can’t be recommended for listening to classical music and vocal-oriented or mid-centric music.

As the sound is quite exciting and lively (also called the “fun sound”), the headphone users love it and this is the reason why headphones that have this sound signature are so popular. It is simply very pleasing for the human brain.

However, you should be aware that headphones/speakers with this kind of signature may sound a bit unnatural to some people and that the vocals tend to sound hollow in some cases.

In case you want to try a pair of headphones with this kind of sound signature, choose some of V-Moda models and you won’t regret it.

Flat

Although it doesn’t sound like that, flat sound signature is very popular, especially among audiophiles. The word flat maybe doesn’t describe it well (it sounds more like a disadvantage than a positive characteristic) but, the flat sound actually means something good. This sound signature is called flat because the low, mid and high frequencies placed in one line are basically at the same level all the time. None of them is significantly more exposed or emphasized in comparison to the others and this is why it looks like the flat line (aka flat frequency response).

Flat sound signature is characterized as natural sounding and, since the natural sound is very popular in the modern world, more and more famous manufacturers are trying to make the headphones and speakers that will sound just like the original studio recording. This is why Audio Technica, Beyerdynamic, AKG and many others are trying to produce the perfect natural headphones.

Sadly, this is not possible, at least not completely because every speaker and every headphone model have their own special characteristic that can’t be completely eliminated. This is why they all sound different. Well, the truth is you can do something with speakers in order to make them sound more neutral – you can use differently shaped and sized speakers and place them in accordance with your room acoustics. However, you can’t do much about the headphone sound signature.

Apart from being characterized as boring by some bass enthusiast, the greatest disadvantage of this sound signature is that it can’t be completely achieved with the current audio devices.

Bright

Devices with this sound signature are appreciated among professionals because bright headphones are great at revealing all the imperfections in a recording. This means that if you want to hear every detail and every imperfection, these headphones are great for you but it also means that you can’t really use them for listening to poorly recorded music because it won’t be so pleasant.

Bright sound signature means boosted high frequencies and higher than usual mid-range frequencies. The treble can be sharp but not too sharp to cause problems. In fact, boosting higher frequencies usually leads to clearer and less warm sound.

You should be careful with these headphones because listening to this kind of audio content for extended periods of time can be tiring, unpleasant, and it could cause fatigue, which you definitely don’t want to experience. This happens because the human ear is more tolerant to lower frequencies while it is more sensitive to higher ones. This is why high frequencies that are listened at high volumes for long periods of time can cause health and hearing issues.

If you’re searching for a pair of bright headphones, you should go for Beyerdynamic or Grado.

Warm

Considering that we have previously described bright sound signature, if we wanted to describe the warm signature in short, we could say that it is the opposite of bright. If boosting the mid and high ranges adds brightness to your audio content, then boosting the mid and low frequencies adds a lot of warmth and smoothness. If you have a device with this sound signature, your bass will be emphasized just like the vocals, which makes saxophone or cello recordings extremely pleasant.

Warm and smooth sound is one of the new tendencies in the music industry and more and more manufacturers are trying to tune their headphones/speakers to sound warm. Warm sound is commonly associated with comfort and relaxation, which is the main reason people love it (apart from the fact that this sound signature probably emphasizes vocals more than any other). However, be careful with this signature as it can bring too much bass into the song.

If you’re searching for the manufacturer that produces warm-sounding headphones, try Beyerdynamic, Jabra, AKG, or Bose. This is probably the area where you have the greatest opportunity to choose and you can’t go wrong with any of the mentioned manufacturers.

Balanced

The last signature on the list is everything but the least. In fact, this is one of the things that all the headphone/speaker manufacturers tend to achieve. This sound signature is associated with perfectly balanced frequencies from the lowest to the highest, where all of them are naturally reproduced and balanced but still not enhanced and not too flat. They have some color but nothing too extraordinary.

Actually, balanced sound signature is somewhere in the middle between bass and bright signatures. When you have a speaker or a pair of headphones with this kind of sound signature, you can hear everything perfectly. The sound is vivid and balanced, like a perfect mixture of instruments and vocals, of lows, mids, and highs.

The problem is – this goal is hardly achievable and we can’t really say that we can think of a pair of perfectly balanced dynamic headphones. However, if you want to give it a shot, you should consider buying some Audio-Technica’s, Sennheiser’s or Beyerdynamic’s balanced models with dynamic drivers. They may not be perfectly balanced but they are certainly close. On the other hand, you can always try more expensive planar magnetic headphones which are famous for their balanced and extended frequency response. The go-to brands are HIFIMAN, MrSpeakers, Audeze, and OPPO.

What Do People Want?

There is no definite and perfectly accurate answer to this question but we will try to conclude this story with a few clever ideas.

In theory, users (and manufacturers, of course) of headphones and speakers tend to get/make a device, which is perfectly clear and reproduces all the details as naturally as possible. We are always complaining about too much or not enough loudness, about the lack of bass, boomy sound, hissing highs, muddy vocals, etc.

The truth is – you won’t find a device that gathers all the positive characteristics because nothing is perfect and, finally, it doesn’t all depend on the device itself. The recording quality, speaker placement, room acoustics – all these things significantly affect the final product – the sound you hear coming from your headphones or your speakers.

The best thing you can do is to find something that can handle the conditions it is used in and the type of music you are playing because not all the headphones are made for every type of music and not every speaker system can deliver the same performance in every room and with every music genre. Human ear (especially an average ear) and brain can’t really detect that many differences and nuances, and our brain is excellent at adjusting to different sound signatures and audio styles so we can trick it easily.

The real sensitivity to these differences is developed through experience, which you can get only if you experiment a lot. You can’t really tell if your headphones are bright if you didn’t hear the warm ones. So, try as many as you can, learn to tell the difference and, after that, you will know what you want and need, and you’ll be one step closer to your perfect headphones/speakers.

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MrSpeakers Ether 2 Review https://www.audioreputation.com/mrspeakers-ether-2-review/ https://www.audioreputation.com/mrspeakers-ether-2-review/#respond Thu, 28 Mar 2019 21:32:17 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4883 A few months ago, MrSpeakers introduced their latest flagship planar magnetic headphone model – Ether 2. If you are familiar with MrSpeakers headphones, you could assume that Ether 2 is just an upgrade of the previous Ether model but MrSpeakers Ether 2 is much more than a simple upgrade. The manufacturer completely changed the design, […]

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Audio Reputation AwardsA few months ago, MrSpeakers introduced their latest flagship planar magnetic headphone model – Ether 2. If you are familiar with MrSpeakers headphones, you could assume that Ether 2 is just an upgrade of the previous Ether model but MrSpeakers Ether 2 is much more than a simple upgrade. The manufacturer completely changed the design, made a few important technical improvements, and tuned them in a way that’s not exactly typical for MrSpeakers headphones, but it’s very much pleasing. Ether 2 is a fusion of all the previous headphones made by MrSpeakers. Read our review if you want to find out more.

Ether 2 it the latest headphone model from the Ether series. Ether Open (or Ether 1) headphones were introduced in 2015 and they were so fun to listen to. They delivered such a nice sense of musicality with a pleasant warmth in sound signature due to a subtle bump in the upper-bass and low-midrange regions. Ether 1 featured V-Planar drivers but didn’t feature True Flow technology. The upgraded version called Ether Flow featured True Flow technology which improved the resolution and extended the frequency response. Then, the new Ether Flow 1.1 appeared. This was basically Ether Flow with a tuning kit (a set of decals similar to those that come with AEON Flow headphones) and VIVO cable instead of previously used DUM cable. At the same time, MrSpeakers introduced completely redesigned Ether 2.

The evolution of the Ether headphone line

The evolution of the Ether headphone line

Ether 2 doesn’t look like any of the previous Ether headphones. In terms of design, MrSpeakers Ether 2 resembles VOCE headphones, which are MrSpeakers flagship electrostatic headphones and the most expensive headphone model made by this manufacturer.

Along with the aesthetics, the manufacturer improved the comfort and durability. Ether 2 are extremely light (the lightest planar magnetic headphones on the market) and very comfortable. There are practically no plastic parts – it’s all aluminum alloy combined with carbon fiber.

The headphones feature a few interesting technical enhancements and technologies developed by MrSpeakers. Some of them are used on some previous MrSpeakers headphones (like V-Planar diaphragm, True Flow, HIROSE connectors, Nitinol memory metal headband) and some of them are completely new and upgraded (like VOCE cable). We will discuss all these technical details in the Features section.

In terms of sonic performance, Ether 2 headphones are one of the best we’ve ever heard. They deliver an incredibly linear, balanced, and neutral response. They don’t emphasize any frequency range and reproduce the music the way it was supposed to sound. They sound honest and dynamic. The bass extension is unbelievable, the midrange is clear and layered, the highs are a little bit laid back but very detailed and smooth.

MrSpeakers Ether 2

UPSIDES

  • Impressive build quality (metal alloy and carbon fiber)
  • Lightweight
  • Great comfort
  • VIVO cable with HIROSE connectors is available in many versions (¼-inch, 2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4-pin XLR, 4.4mm)
  • Relatively easy to drive (16Ω)
  • Neutral sound signature with extreme bass and treble extensions, great dynamics, and no distortion

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Expensive
  • Clamping force could be too strong for people with large heads

 
VERDICT

MrSpeakers Ether 2 headphones deliver reference-grade balance and neutrality. The sound they produce is rich and detailed. It’s perfectly natural without any emphasis or coloration. Ether 2 is, without any doubt, an impressive performer – it delivers clear, extremely deep, and perfectly controlled bass response, impressive midrange clarity and detail, and refined laid-back treble. Combine this kind of stellar performance with an impressive build quality and above-average comfort (for a pair of planar magnetic headphones), and you will understand why this is a flagship model. The only real downside is the price. If you compare them to flagship models made by other manufacturers (Audeze and HIFIMAN, for example), you will realize that $2,000 price tag is completely justified but that doesn’t make them less expensive. Still, if you want to experience the music in its purest form, you must try Ether 2 headphones.

What’s in the box?

Ether 2 headphones come in a stylish black box with Ether 2 label on the top. It’s maybe not as premium as OPPO PM-1 box or HIFIMAN HE1000 V2, but it looks nice and attractive. Inside the box, you will find a semi-hard carrying case with MrSpeakers logo (which is pretty much standard accessory that comes with all the Ether headphones). Inside the carrying case, you will find your headphones, detachable VOCE audio cable with HIROSE connectors, short user manual, cleaning cloth, and a 2-year warranty (parts and labor).

The best thing is that you can order the cable you find the most appropriate for your equipment (headphone amp/DACA or DAP). There are VOCE cables with different connectors and in different sizes (6ft long with ¼-inch connector, 10ft long with ¼-inch connector, 3.6ft long with 2.5mm adapter, 3.6ft long with 3.5mm adapter, 6ft long with 4-pin XLR (balanced), 10ft long with 4-pin XLR (balanced), 3.6ft long with 4.4mm connector).

MrSpeakers Ether 2 box contents

Box contents

MrSpeakers Ether 2 Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Weight290g/10.2oz
Cable type¼-inch

2.5mm

4-pin XLR

4.4mm
Cable length3.6ft/6ft/10ft
TYPEPlanar magnetic, over-ear, open-back
MATERIALHeadband - metal

Earcups and joints – metal/carbon fiber (not plastic)

Earpads – synthetic protein
DRIVERSPlanar magnetic x2
DRIVER SIZE71x45mm
CONNECTIONSYou can choose between ¼-inch, 2.5mm, 4-pin XLR, and 4.4mm
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency responseN\A (MrSpeakers doesn’t publish freq. response)
Impedance16Ω
ADDITIONAL FEATURESHard carrying case

VOCE detachable cables

Design

MrSpeakers basically copied the design of their VOCE electrostatic headphones and made it better just by selecting the matte black finish for the earcups instead of anodized silver you can find on VOCE headphones.

Design similarities – Ether 2 VS VOCE headphones

Design similarities – Ether 2 VS VOCE headphones

Ether 2 headphones are simple but quite stylish and visually-pleasing. The headband consists of two memory metal wires and a simple and thin head strap made of pleather. On the outer ends of the earcups, you will see spider web patterns/grilles made of aluminum. The cups and yokes are entirely made of metal alloy and the driver baffles are made of carbon fiber. You won’t find any plastic parts here. Each earcup features the good old proprietary HIROSE connector you can find on many previous MrSpeakers headphones.

Simple but very attractive and eye-catching design

 

Simple but very attractive and eye-catching design

Features

We have absolutely no complaints regarding the build quality. It may look like some parts are made of plastic on pictures, but it’s actually all metal and carbon fiber. There are no plastic parts. As you probably know, plastic would also affect the sound quality making it less accurate and less natural, but we’ve had no idea what kind of effect carbon fiber has on sound and we’ve been eager to find out.

Metal combined with carbon fiber – this combination ensures durability, reduces weight, and significantly improves comfort

Metal combined with carbon fiber – this combination ensures durability, reduces weight, and significantly improves comfort

Compared to the original Ether headphones, Ether 2 also have improved headband. It’s the same Nitinol headband you can find on VOCE electrostatic headphones. This is the second thing that significantly decreases weight and improves comfort. It’s much lighter than the aluminum arch you can find on Audeze or HIFIMAN headphones. The head strap is made of pleather and it has a bunch of perforations. The intention was to make it more breathable and comfier.

All these design enhancements made the Ether 2 headphones so light. In fact, they made them lighter than any other pair of planar magnetic headphones on the market. Ether 2 headphones weigh only 290g (10.2oz)

The earpads are made of synthetic protein with a fake leather finish. They are circular with relatively small ear-shaped cavities. The cavities will fit regular ears, but if you have larger ears, you might find them too small and you will experience some discomfort. The earpads are not the thickest or the softest on the market but they still offer above-average comfort, especially when compared to other planar magnetic headphones.

Soft synthetic protein earpads with ear-shaped cavities

Soft synthetic protein earpads with ear-shaped cavities

There are certain proprietary technologies developed by the MrSpeakers team in order to enhance the frequency response, resolution, clarity, and other sound-related characteristics. The most noticeable technological enhancements are V-Planar diaphragms, True Flow technology, and proprietary VIVO cable with HIROSE connectors.

V-Planar technology

The founder of MrSpeakers, Dan Clarke, had some doubts about flat planar magnetic drivers. He considered them not elastic enough and unable to vibrate uniformly (especially when they need to make large excursions during bass-heavy passages). The solution he came up with was a serrated driver (V-Planar driver). This small enhancement made the driver more elastic and enabled large excursions without too much strain to the material. This resulted in more dynamic reproduction, extended frequency response (extended bass and treble), and significantly lower distortion.

V-Planar technology has been used since 2015 (since the Alpha Prime headphones) and you can find it on many MrSpeakers headphones (AEON and Ether line).

True Flow technology

True Flow is a more recent technology. It was developed for VOCE headphones and then applied to Ether and AEON upgraded versions (Ether Flow, Ether 2, and AEON Flow). As you probably know planar magnetic drivers consist of a flat diaphragm and an array of magnets on one or on both sides of the diaphragm. Those magnets interfere with the airflow and cause sound reflections and diffractions, which result in distortion and lower resolution. In order to solve this issue, MrSpeakers team came up with the True Flow technology. They basically made an array of waveguides on those magnets in order to direct the airflow and reduce the reflections and diffractions. This enhancement resulted in a better resolution, cleaner reproduction, lower distortion, and extended frequency response.

VIVO cable and HIROSE connectors

The previous Ether models were shipped with the OFHC DUM cable with HIROSE connectors, while the latest model comes with a thicker VIVO silver-plated OFHC cable. VIVO cable is lighter, it reduces microphonics, and improves sound clarity. MrSpeakers kept the HIROSE connectors, which are, in our opinion, one of the best and most secure proprietary connectors we have ever used (it would be stupid to change something that’s been working great on all the previous models).

Performance and Sound Quality

Ether 2 have 16Ω impedance. The manufacturer didn’t offer info on the sensitivity and efficiency, but they are relatively easy to drive and you can use them with your phone without any additional equipment and get a satisfying performance.

Naturally, using some portable headphone amp or DAP will make your listening experience much better. We’ve used Ether 2 with FiiO Q5 (which is FiiO’s latest high-end amp/DAC), Sony’s DAP Walkman WM1A, FiiO’s X7II DAP, and Chord Electronics Mojo portable amp. They all sounded great, but both DAPs (WM1A and X7II) delivered slightly less dynamic reproduction than the Q5 and Electronics Mojo. Out of all four, Mojo-Ether 2 combo delivered the best experience with impressive dynamic range, great 3D soundstage, and refined audio output.

When it comes to desktop amps, we have only used it with the SCHIIT Jotunheim amp/DAC in combination with our desktop computer and Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK turntable.

Ether 2 headphones deliver reference-grade balance. The frequency ranges are perfectly balanced without any warmth, brightness, coloration or emphasis. The headphones will deliver the music exactly the way it was recorded and without hiding any detail.

One thing that could be considered Ether 2’s trademark is laid-back treble response without any harshness or brightness. Still, the most impressive thing about these headphones, at least in our opinion, is the low-end. It’s not about quantity of bass – it’s about quality and extension. The bass blends nicely with the low midrange, but it’s perfectly transparent and very present.

Ether 2 delivers the most subtle details with such neutrality. That kind of balance and honest representation is very rare nowadays. Even planar magnetic headphones, which are famous for their relatively flat frequency response, are tuned in a way that puts a slight emphasis on some frequencies (usually mid-bass or upper-treble) in order to make a contrast between different ranges and improve musicality and dynamics.

The bass response is truly astonishing. It’s literally brought to the point of perfection. Unlike many other headphones (even planar magnetic ones), Ether 2 headphones don’t have any elevation at 100-200Hz. The beauty of their bass comes from a huge bass extension and almost nonexistent distortion.

The bass is pleasant, transparent, and very controlled. You won’t hear any muddiness in the lower midrange or any warmth. Even though it’s not emphasized, it is very much present and recognizable, even in the most complicated mixes.

If you are more into bass-heavy sound, you won’t find this kind of bass response suiting, but if you are into pure quality, Ether 2 will amaze you.

The midrange is nicely balanced against the bass. It’s very dynamic and detailed. There’s a small dip around 3kHz (up to 4kHz) which doesn’t make sound signature less balanced – it only makes some female vocals and some instruments a bit more distant (less forward). In that kind of mix, male vocals sound slightly livelier than high-pitched female vocals. The midrange is maybe not perfectly vibrant but it adapts nicely and complements the bass foundation. Besides small dip around 3kHz, there’s no noticeable emphasis in the midrange. This kind of midrange response doesn’t draw any attention to a specific range – it allows you to hear the music as a whole and recognize the smallest details in the background. Just like the bass, the mids are realistic and clear.

When it comes to treble, MrSpeakers avoided putting a subtle emphasis on upper-treble to make a contrast. Instead, they opted for more natural-sounding treble. Most of us will define this as laid-back treble because we are so used to emphasized and bright treble. It takes some time to adapt to this kind of treble response but, after some time, you will realize how transparent and natural it is.

Control, attack, and dynamics are almost perfect without any awkwardness or incoherence. The soundstage is wide and airy but not exaggerated. It’s like you are in a concert hall. The separation between the instruments is very good and the imaging is quite precise. It’s easy to pinpoint every instrument in a mix.

The Competition

Our only option here is to compare Ether 2 with other flagship planar magnetic headphones made by other manufacturers. They all deliver great accuracy and extended frequency response, but there are always certain tonal nuances (subtle dips and peaks at different frequencies) that make them special.


Audeze LCD-3Audeze LCD-3

Ether 2 and LCD-3 are within the same price range (priced around $2,000) and they both look quite luxurious. Some people might find LCD-3 more sophisticated because of the wooden rings around the earcups.

There’s a huge difference between the two models when it comes to comfort. Ether 2 headphones are much lighter than LCD-3 (10.2oz VS 1.2lb). LCD-3 headphones have thicker earpad paddings and a great headband but that’s not enough to compensate the weight issue. Ether 2 headphones are definitely comfier for long listening sessions than the LCD-3.

LCD-3 headphones are also much harder to drive (110Ω VS 16Ω) and they really need some kind of headphone amp to shine.

LCD-3 headphones deliver refined sound with a great bass extension, detailed and dynamic midrange, and a bit brighter treble. If you are into mid-centric and vocal-oriented music, you might prefer the LCD-3 headphones, but we still think that Ether 2 delivers better overall performance and better balance.


HIFIMAN HE1000 V2HIFIMAN HE1000 V2

HE1000 V2 headphones are the HIFIMAN’s flagship planar magnetic headphones. At the moment, they are significantly pricier than the Ether 2 headphones (approx. $700 price difference).

In terms of build quality, HIFIMAN is pretty much on par with Ether 2. All the parts are made of metal and everything looks very solid. They are 4.6oz heavier than the Ether 2 which is not a small difference but the paddings are very thick and the headband is really nice.

HE1000 V2 are also harder to drive than Ether 2 and require amp/DAC to show their full potential. They deliver refined sound with impressive bass and treble extensions, clear and well-bodied bass, perfectly balanced and detailed midrange, and sparkling highs. There’s a small and very subtle bump in the upper-treble region which adds a bit more sparkle and makes the sound livelier. There is no doubt that HE1000 V2 headphones deliver very likable sound signature. Whether you are going to like them more than Ether 2 headphones or not depends mostly on your treble preference. HE1000 V2 is a bit brighter while Ether 2 headphones deliver more laid-back treble.


Audeze LCD-XAudeze LCD-X

Audeze LCD-X is another Audeze flagship model. It’s cheaper than the Ether 2 (priced under $1,700) and if you are trying to save some money, LCD-X is a viable alternative.

LCD-X headphones are entirely made of metal which makes them very durable but also incredibly heavy and bulky. They weigh 1.35lb, and they are one of the heaviest on the market. The paddings are soft and the weight is nicely distributed but they are still less comfortable than the Ether 2.

Just like Ether 2, LCD-X headphones are pretty easy to drive. You will get great performance even with some cheaper headphone amp.

LCD-X headphones have a very likable sound signature. Like Ether 2, they have nice bass and treble extensions, but they are not as capable and neutral as Ether 2. The greatest difference is in the upper bass and lower midrange. LCD-X headphones have slightly emphasized upper bass. This emphasis transfers to the lower midrange and makes it punchier and warmer. The emphasis is followed by a slight dip around 1kHz. The majority of users find this kind of tuning and coloration very pleasant. Technically speaking, Ether 2 delivers more neutral bass and midrange and avoids any sound coloration.


Comparison Table

HeadphonesFrequency responseImpedance
MrSpeakers Ether 2N/A16Ω
Audeze LCD-310Hz to 50kHz110Ω
HIFIMAN HE1000 V28Hz to 65kHz35Ω
Audeze LCD-X10Hz to 50kHz20Ω

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for the most natural-sounding headphones under $2,000, Ether 2 could easily be the best choice. They deliver unpretentious, uncolored, perfectly neutral frequency response with great bass and treble extensions. Some people may not like that laid-back treble (especially those who like more sparkle in the high end), but that doesn’t change the fact that these headphones offer reference-grade balance. That’s their biggest highlight but it’s not their only strong suit. Ether 2 headphones are also very solid, very durable, super-comfortable (the lightest planars on the market), and incredibly versatile thanks to numerous VIVO cables with different connectors (the cables are sold separately).

The only question is – are they worth the money? Well, compared to other flagship headphones made by other manufacturers (some of them are much pricier), their overall performance most definitely justifies the price.

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Vanatoo Transparent Zero Powered Speakers Review https://www.audioreputation.com/vanatoo-transparent-zero/ https://www.audioreputation.com/vanatoo-transparent-zero/#respond Tue, 26 Mar 2019 10:01:38 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4853 Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers are one of the best small powered speakers on the market. We were quite impressed by the performance, sound quality, versatility, and overall price/quality ratio. If you are in the market looking for a pair of bookshelf/desktop speakers under $400, Vanatoo Transparent Zero must be on your shortlist. Read our in-depth […]

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Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers are one of the best small powered speakers on the market. We were quite impressed by the performance, sound quality, versatility, and overall price/quality ratio. If you are in the market looking for a pair of bookshelf/desktop speakers under $400, Vanatoo Transparent Zero must be on your shortlist. Read our in-depth review if you want to find out more.


Audio Reputation AwardsTransparent Zero comes from a small company called Vanatoo. Vanatoo was founded by two audio enthusiasts, Rick Kerner and Garry Gesellchen. Their first speaker, Vanatoo One, was a huge success and it was highly praised by the audiophile community. The only problem with Transparent One was the price. This speaker set was priced at $600, which doesn’t make it the most expensive on the market, but it’s still pricey. The next step was very reasonable – after the initial success, the founders wanted a greater share and decided to make something smaller and a bit more affordable. The result of their effort is Transparent Zero. This is a pair of quite small but very capable powered speakers. Before we start, let’s make a short overview and list all the things we liked and didn’t like about Vanatoo Transparent Zero.

Vanatoo Transparent Zero is an oddly shaped pair of speakers. Their unusual design enables high versatility in terms of placement options, orientation, and purpose. Transparent Zero speakers can be hooked up to your computer and used as desktop speakers or gaming speakers, they can be connected to your TV and used as TV speakers, you can use them as bookshelf speakers (only in small rooms). Thanks to the unusual design, they can be angled upward or you can choose the ‘’90-degree’’ orientation (with a down-firing or up-firing passive bass radiator). With all these different placement and orientation options, you will get different sound signatures and you can make different software adjustments to get the best performance for each orientation. This is a very customizable speaker set.

The speakers are quite versatile in terms of connectivity. You can connect analog audio sources through 3.5mm AUX port. There are three digital connections – USB Type-B, digital optical (TOSLINK), and Bluetooth with aptX support. There’s also a subwoofer output so you can add an external subwoofer to this 2.0 system and get a much better low end.  

The thing that impressed us the most was the audio performance. That kind of balance, clarity, and detail is not something you expect from a pair of small speakers. To be completely honest, we were quite surprised. We have some small complaints regarding sound reproduction but all of them are actually solvable.

When it comes to downsides, the only thing we didn’t like was the speaker customization. We like the fact that you can customize many things (speaker placement and orientation, DSP settings, sleep mode settings, stereo/mono output) but the procedure you have to go through to adjust these settings is quite complicated and requires using volume knob, V-T-B switch, and Pair-Prog button. You have everything explained in the manual but it’s still really strange and it’s hard to remember all those button combos. We also didn’t like the fact that the volume knob is located on the top panel and that it’s not easily reachable. Placing it on the front panel of the active speaker seems like a better idea.

Vanatoo Transparent Zero

Check Price on Amazon

UPSIDES

  • Unusual speaker geometry – you may not like the truncated pyramid shape but it enables so much versatility in terms of placement and orientation
  • Solid build
  • Great connection versatility – AUX, TOSLINK, USB Type-B, Bluetooth, SUB OUT
  • Custom-made drivers – 4in aluminum cone woofer, 1in soft dome tweeter
  • High-quality built-in amp (four 48W channels)
  • High-quality DAC (enables 96K/24bit sample rate through optical input)
  • Almost perfectly balanced and very pleasant sound signature
  • Great bass extension without any noticeable distortion
  • Adjustable bass and treble

 
DOWNSIDES

  • The volume knob is hard to reach
  • Adjusting and customizing the speaker can be confusing
  • The remote buttons are not backlit and they all look the same (except for the volume buttons)

 
VERDICT

We don’t think that you can find a better-sounding speaker at this price point. They are small and don’t occupy too much space, they can be placed and oriented in different ways, they enable you to connect up to four audio sources (1 analog + 3 digital) and, most importantly, they sound amazing. The kind of depth, clarity, and detail you will get from Vanatoo Transparent Zero is hard to find at this price point and it is almost impossible to get from some other pair of speakers of this size. They absolutely deserve our recommendation.

What’s in the box?

Inside a white box with Vanatoo logo, you will find your speakers (with removable handles/kickstands), power cable (with power adapter), a set of cables (3.5 to 3.5mm AUX cable, 3.5mm to RCA  cable, USB Type-B to USB Type-A, and RJ-50 cable for connecting the speakers), 2.5mm Allen wrench (for removing/repositioning the handle/kickstand), 2 isolation pads, 2 removable magnetic grilles, remote, user manual, and 3-year warranty. TOSLINK cable is not included in the package and you should buy it separately. You can also buy the speaker stands (ISO-130 stands) if you want to.

At this point, we would like to emphasize one thing – Vanatoo offers a 3-year warranty which shows that they really believe in their product and are prepared to stand behind it. The majority of manufacturers offer only 1 or 2-year warranty. Kudos to Vanatoo.

Vanatoo Transparent Zero box contents

Box contents

Vanatoo Transparent Zero Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Width4.75in
Height7.5in
Depth7.75in
WeightActive – 4.5 pounds

Passive – 4 pounds
DRIVERS
Woofer4in x2, aluminum cone
Tweeter1in x2, soft dome
Bass4in passive bass radiator x2
ENCLOSURE TYPESealed with passive bass radiator
POWERING OPTIONSAC power cable
ANALOG CONNECTIONS3.5mm input x1

Subwoofer output x1
DIGITAL CONNECTIONSDigital optical (TOSLINK) x1

USB Type-B

Bluetooth with aptX
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency responseShelf Mode - 56Hz to 20K Hz (+/-3dB)

Flat Mode - 52Hz to 20K Hz (+/- 3dB)
Crossover frequency2.2kHz
Amplifier typeClass D
Output power (Peak)4x48W
ADDITIONAL FEATURESRemote

Cables included in the package

Adjustable bass and treble

Sleep mode

Customizable speaker orientation and placement

Design

Vanatoo Transparent Zero powered speakers feature odd geometry. The exact name of this kind of shape is truncated pyramid. The speakers are small but quite hefty. Their dimensions (WxHxD) are 4.75×7.5×7.75in. The active speaker weighs 4.5lb while the passive one weighs 4lb. There are a few interesting things about the speakers.

First – there are no left and right speakers (only passive and active). You can place either speaker on either side and then simply change the software settings. By default, the active speaker is supposed to be your right channel, but you can place it on the left side and then adjust the settings. Second – the speakers can be oriented in different ways (upward angled baffle, 90-degree orientation with a down-firing or up-firing passive bass radiator). We will discuss all these features in more detail in the next two sections (Features and Performance).

The drivers are located on the front panel. You have two custom-made drivers – 4in aluminum cone woofer and 1in soft dome tweeter. The active speaker also has an LED status indicator and IR receiver located right next to the tweeter. The speakers come with two very strong removable magnetic grilles. The grilles are black with a small Vanatoo logo on the bottom. In our opinion, these speakers look kind of raw and industrial without grilles. They look a bit more stylish with the grilles.  

Front panels with and without magnetic grilles

Front panels with and without magnetic grilles

Each speaker features one passive bass radiator on the top panel (or bottom panel – it all depends on how the speaker and handle/kickstand are oriented). On the top/bottom panel of the active speaker, you will also find the volume knob, which is, actually, the multifunction knob. You can use it to adjust the volume, bass, treble, or to change some software settings.

Both speakers have handles/kickstands preinstalled on the rear panel (the manufacturer calls them supports). Depending on your personal preferences and the orientation you want to achieve, you can remove them, or install them on the top or bottom end of the rear panel.

Rear and top/bottom panels

Rear and top/bottom panels

All the inputs/outputs are located on the rear panels. The passive speaker features only one RJ-50 input (for connecting the active speaker).

The active speaker features DC input, RJ-50 port, 3.5mm AUX input, USB Type-B port, TOSLINK input, SUB output (for connecting an external subwoofer). You will also see the pairing/prog button and V-T-B (volume-bass-treble) switch.

Rear panel inputs – active speaker

Rear panel inputs – active speaker

Features

Vanatoo Transparent Zero is one of the most versatile and feature-rich small speakers on the market.

First of all, we will discuss the placement. Most powered 2.0 speaker sets have predefined left and right speakers. You will find L mark on one speaker and R mark on the other and you can’t place them differently. Well, you can, but you will get the wrong imaging. There’s no such thing with Transparent Zero. Either speaker can be placed on the left or right side. The active speaker is, by default, set to be the right channel, but you can place it on the left side if you want to or have to (for example, if your wall outlet is located on the left side). After placing the active speaker on the left side, you just have to change some software settings (by selecting the right V-T-B/Pair-Prog/Volume knob combo) and you are good to go. We will explain how to do this in the next section.

Also, thanks to those handles/kickstands you can orient the speakers in different ways. You can remove the handle or leave it and use them with upward angled baffles and up-firing bass reflex port. Or, you can flip them over and get 90-degree orientation (with a down-firing or up-firing bass reflex port depending on the kickstand position). When used in 90-degree orientation, the speakers are supposed to be at your ear level (placed on a stand).

You can orient the speakers in different ways

You can orient the speakers in different ways

Depending on the placement and orientation, you are supposed to choose one of two available DSP settings (2 different tunings) – shelved and flat. Shelved is used when the speakers are placed close to a wall. Flat is used when the speaker is placed 2ft or further away from a wall. These two DSP settings have crossovers to the external subwoofers set at different frequencies (125Hz in shelved mode; 80Hz in flat mode).

Each speaker has two drivers and one passive bass radiator. Both drivers are custom-made for this specific set of speakers – these are not generic drivers you can find on other speakers made by other manufacturers. One thing that kind of surprised us was the 1in tweeter. The majority of speakers of this size use smaller (.75in or even smaller) tweeters. The crossover between the woofer and tweeter is set at 2,200Hz.

The cabinets are made of 0.35in thick MDF with a rubber coating. They look quite sturdy and durable.

Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers can play in mono or stereo mode. Switching between the two modes is done by selecting the right button combo (V-T-B/Pair-Prog/Volume knob) on the active speaker. It’s not like you absolutely need mono sound but there are some scenarios in which that could be useful. For example. if you want to grab the active speaker and take it with you to the garage, you will have to switch to mono sound to get a normal performance (instead of only one channel).

The speakers also feature sleep mode (not auto turn-off mode). If there is no audio signal for 20min, the speaker will go to sleep. Sleep mode reduces power consumption (from 6W to 0.5W). In case you don’t like the sleep mode, you can always turn it off by selecting the right button/switch/knob combo.

The IR remote that comes with the speakers is small, it looks sturdy, and it’s very responsive. You can use the remote to select the source, adjust or mute the volume, initiate Bluetooth pairing, and adjust bass and treble.

There are two interesting buttons on the remote – Auto button and Enable button. When you press the Auto button, the audio source will be selected automatically in accordance with the input hierarchy. The input hierarchy goes like this – 1. AUX, 2. USB, 3. Optical, 4. Bluetooth. We will discuss the way this automatic input selection works in the next section.

Enable button has an odd function – in order to adjust the bass, treble, or initiate pairing, you have to press the Enable button first, and then press the treble – or treble +. There is no way to turn this annoying thing off and avoid using the Enable button.

Simple and very useful IR remote

Simple and very useful IR remote

Performance and Sound Quality

Installing Vanatoo Transparent Zero is a relatively easy task. Position the speakers, select the orientation (you can play with different orientations to find the type of sound you like more), connect the audio sources, plug the power cable into the wall outlet, and turn them on.

By default, the speakers will play audio in stereo mode, the active speaker is the right channel, and the sleep mode and shelved DSP settings are enabled. You can change all these default settings (play audio in mono, place the active speaker on your left side and use it as your left channel, select flat DSP mode, or disable sleep mode). This is where the things get tricky – changing the software settings is the only thing we don’t really like about this speaker set. If you want to change any software settings, you can’t use the remote. Instead, you have to use the buttons on the active speaker. Enabling or disabling any function requires using the volume knob, V-T-B switch, and Pair-Prog button. You have to select the right volume knob and V-T-B switch positions and then use the Pair-Prog button.

You have to use the volume knob, pair-prog button, and V-T-B switch to change the default settings

You have to use the volume knob, pair-prog button, and V-T-B switch to change the default settings

It sounds confusing but you just have to follow the instructions from the manual and you will figure it out.

Let’s assume that you want to use the active speaker as your left channel for some reason. This speaker is, by default, your right channel so, after you connect everything, you will have to make some changes. It goes like this:

  1. Unplug the power cable
  2. Look for the right combo in the user manual (in our case, we are looking for the combo that allows us to use the active speaker as our left channel). The instruction says – set the volume knob halfway between two and three dots, and then set the V-T-B switch to B (Bass).
  3. After setting the volume knob and V-T-B switch, you should press the Pair-Prog button and plug in the power cable while holding the Pair-Prog button.
  4. After you release the Pair-Prog button, the new settings will be applied.

 

So, it can be confusing but it’s not that hard. The only problem is that there’s no way to figure out the volume knob and V-T-B switch positions for different settings without the manual.

Adjusting the settings can be confusing – don't lose the manual

Adjusting the settings can be confusing – don’t lose the manual

One more performance-related thing we want to discuss is the automatic input selection. When automatic input selection is enabled, the speaker will check the active sources and, if two sources are playing, the source/input with a higher priority will be active.

As we have said, the analog input has the priority over USB, optical, and Bluetooth connection. So, if you have your TV connected to the speakers via TOSLINK cable and some analog source (your phone, for example) connected via AUX cable, and if both devices are sending audio signals, the speaker will play the analog source. If you want to activate some lower-priority source, you will have to do that manually (in this case, press the Optical button on the remote).

Also, there’s one more thing you should be aware of – when two sources are sending audio signals and the source with a higher priority stops sending the signal, the speaker is not going to play the lower-priority source immediately. There will be a 7s delay and if the higher-priority source remains silent, the speaker will start playing the audio from the other audio source.

Recommended Reading :

 
Now that we have covered some installation and setup tricks and tips, let’s discuss the most important thing. We’ve been truly amazed by the audio performance and sound quality this speaker set can deliver.

Considering the size of these speakers, the bass extension is surprisingly deep. The bass doesn’t reach crazy low frequencies, but anything above 60Hz sounds impressive. The bass is punchy, impactful, and well-textured. Transparent Zero speakers deliver substantially lower bass than any other small speaker set.

There’s a very small bump around 200Hz (in shelved mode) which makes the sound a bit warmer.

The midrange is perfectly balanced, dynamic and very detailed. The treble is also clear, almost sparkling. There are no peaks and no noticeable harshness in the treble region.

There’s no distortion, even at high volumes. Also, the bass, even though is very deep, stays very controlled and never puts any shadow on the low midrange frequencies.

The issue we’ve had with this 2.0 system is the vibration transferring. The speakers don’t have a rubberized bottom and rubberized handles/kickstands, and when some bass-heavy music is played the vibrations get transferred to the surface and cause the speakers to move. You can easily solve this by using the isolation pads – just place the speakers on the pads and you will eliminate all the vibrations. Still, covering some surfaces with rubber sounds like a better idea than using isolation pads.

The speakers are quite loud for their size but that’s hardly enough to fill up a large room (15x15ft or 20x20ft) with sound. You will get much better results if you add a subwoofer, but it’s still not going to be enough for large rooms.

We would definitely recommend adding a subwoofer to this set. Adding a nice sub will give you a much more dynamic audio reproduction since the speakers won’t have to deal with really low frequencies.

Imaging and soundstage are phenomenal. The imaging is very accurate – you can pinpoint the exact position of the instrument, even if some orchestral music is being played. Soundstage is wide and very lifelike.

This kind of performance makes Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers perfect for many purposes. They can be used as desktop PC speakers or gaming speakers, TV speakers or even as bookshelf speakers in smaller rooms.

The Competition


AudioEngine A5+ WirelessAudioEngine A5+ Wireless

AudioEngine A5+ wireless speakers are $150 pricier and a bit larger than the Vanatoo Transparent Zero.

AudioEngine A5+ speakers offer pretty good versatility but don’t have any physical digital inputs. On the other hand, Transparent Zero speakers have TOSLINK and USB Type-B inputs.

A5+ speakers deliver slightly better Bluetooth performance but they are both pretty good.

When it comes to audio reproduction, A5+ speakers deliver even better sound quality (more dynamic and more detailed sound) and deeper bass.

A5+ speakers offer slightly better audio performance but they have their own downsides and if you need physical digital connections, Transparent Zero speakers should be your choice.

If you want to find out more about A5+ speakers, you should read our detailed AudioEngine A5+ review.


Peachtree Audio M25Peachtree Audio M25

Peachtree Audio M25 are basically priced the same as Vanatoo Transparent Zero (+/- $10 price difference). M25 speakers feature more ordinary design compared to Transparent Zero. Some of you might like the M25 speakers more.

In terms of connectivity, both speaker systems offer the same kind of versatility. They both have analog, digital optical (TOSLINK) and USB Type-B inputs. They both have Bluetooth, but Peachtree Audio M25 doesn’t feature support for aptX. In other words, Transparent Zero speakers deliver slightly better audio quality in Bluetooth mode.

When it comes to sound quality in other modes, we prefer Transparent Zero. M25 speakers deliver quite clear and flat response but Transparent Zero delivers more detailed and richer audio. M25 is a little bit punchier but Transparent zero delivers sweeter midrange and clearer highs.

If you want to find out more about Peachtree Audio M25, you should read our detailed Peachtree Audio M25 review.


Audioengine HD3 Wireless SpeakersAudioengine HD3 Wireless Speakers

AudioEngine HD3 is a little bit cheaper and smaller than the previously mentioned A5+. HD3 speaker set is priced the same as Transparent Zero but doesn’t offer the same kind of versatility and performance.

HD3 features RCA analog inputs, USB audio input, headphone output, and Bluetooth with aptX support. Transparent Zero speakers have an additional TOSLINK input which gives them the edge over HD3 when it comes to connectivity. Transparent Zero is also more versatile when it comes to placement and orientation.

When it comes to sound quality, Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers are clear winners. We like the HD3 speakers and the sound they deliver, but there’s no doubt that Transparent Zero speakers deliver deeper, more detailed, cleaner, and louder sound than the HD3.

The only thing we like more about HD3 is the design but that’s just a matter of taste.  


Comparison Table

SpeakerFrequency responseOutput power
Vanatoo Transparent ZeroShelved mode - 56Hz to 20K Hz +/-3dB

Flat mode - 52Hz to 20K Hz +/- 3dB
192W
AudioEngine A5+ Wireless50Hz to 22kHz (+/- 1.5dB)150W
Peachtree Audio M2550Hz to 20kHz100W
Audioengine HD3N/A60W

Final Thoughts

In case you haven’t noticed, Vanatoo Transparent Zero speakers are really good. There’s a lot of things to like about this set – placement and orientation versatility, connection versatility (AUX + TOSLINK + USB + Bluetooth with aptX + SUB output), customization options, and most of all, remarkable sound quality. There are some minor downsides but most of them (at least the most important ones) are easily solvable (for example, it’s easy to eliminate vibrations by placing the speakers on isolation pads). If you are looking for a pair of speakers under $400, this oddly shaped speaker set deserves your attention.


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Creative Outlier ONE Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones Review https://www.audioreputation.com/creative-outlier-one/ https://www.audioreputation.com/creative-outlier-one/#comments Sat, 23 Mar 2019 00:53:17 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4812 Looking for a cheap pair of sports Bluetooth in-ear headphones for your workout sessions? Take a few minutes to read our review of Creative Outlier ONE Bluetooth in-ear headphones. These simple Bluetooth earbuds could be the right thing for you. Founded in 1981, Creative has more than 30 years of experience in making very good […]

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Looking for a cheap pair of sports Bluetooth in-ear headphones for your workout sessions? Take a few minutes to read our review of Creative Outlier ONE Bluetooth in-ear headphones. These simple Bluetooth earbuds could be the right thing for you.


Founded in 1981, Creative has more than 30 years of experience in making very good and very affordable digital entertainment equipment (PC and gaming equipment, speakers, headphones, etc.). Creative Outlier ONE in-ear headphones are one of the latest Creative’s products and one of the cheapest Bluetooth headphones ever made by Creative. Don’t let the price fool you – they are cheap but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Bluetooth earbuds were much more expensive a decade ago but you can now find a pretty decent and quite durable pair of in-ear headphones for less than $30.

Creative Outlier ONE earbuds feature very common behind-the-neck design. They are light and comfortable for long listening sessions. They feature IPX4 splash-proof/sweatproof rating which is good enough for any kind of sports activity (gym workout, running, cycling, climbing).  Creative Outlier ONE headphones deliver an impressive playtime (more than 9 hours at 50% volume) and provide pretty reliable Bluetooth connection. We were not amazed by the sound, but you could never get a perfect clarity and an impressive amount of detail from a pair of cheap in-ear headphones. You will get good clarity at low volumes. There’s a clear emphasis on the bass frequencies (around 100Hz). The sound becomes a bit bassier at higher volumes, but it’s not too heavy and it doesn’t put too much shadow on the low midrange.

When it comes to downsides, the only thing that we didn’t like was the mic performance. It’s below the average. You can hear the person talking to you loud and clear but your voice will sound a bit muffled and echoey. It’s good enough if you have to answer/make a call and say a few words but it’s not good enough for long conversations.

Creative Outlier ONE

Check Price on Amazon

UPSIDES

  • Inexpensive
  • Simple behind-the-neck design with inline controls
  • Decent build quality and IPX4 rating
  • Great comfort and stability
  • Very good battery life – up to 9.5 hours at 50% volume
  • Stable Bluetooth connection
  • Decent sound quality for the price

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Some people might find them a bit too ordinary
  • Foam tips are not included in the package
  • Below-average mic performance

 
VERDICT

For the price, Creative Outlier ONE in-ear headphones deliver very good performance. Are they great-sounding earbuds? No, they most definitely are not. Are they incredibly durable? We don’t think so. Creative Outlier ONE are simple and easy-to-use in-ear headphones. They are solidly built and are IPX4 certified (splash-proof and sweatproof) which makes them suitable for workouts. Like many other sports earbuds, their sound signature is on a bassy side (but not too heavy). Creative Outlier ONE headphones deliver above-average playtime and have a reliable Bluetooth connection. All in all, finding better performance at $25 price tag will be a difficult task.

Official video – Creative Outlier ONE Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones

What’s in the box?

Creative Outlier ONE in-ear headphones come in a surprisingly good-looking box (considering the price). It’s not premium, but the presentation is really nice. Inside the box, you will find your in-ear headphones, 3 pairs of silicone tips in S, M, and L sizes, 2 pairs of secure tips (in-ear wings) for better stability, one carrying pouch, micro USB charging cable, one shirt clip, user manual, and 1-year warranty.

Creative Outlier ONE Box contents

Box contents

Creative Outlier ONE Specifications 
TYPEIn-ear, behind the neck
DIMENSIONS
Weight0.53oz
Cable length1.64ft
DRIVERS
Size6mm x2
TypeNeodymium drivers
MATERIALPlastic earpieces, silicone cable
BATTERY
TypeLi-ion, rechargeable
Capacity150mAh
PlaytimeUp to 9.5h (at 50% volume)
Recharge time2-3 hours
CONNECTIONSBluetooth
BLUETOOTH DETAILS
Bluetooth version4.1
Supported Bluetooth profilesA2DP, AVRCP, HFP
NFCNo
Multipoint pairingNo
Bluetooth range33ft (within the line of sight)
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response20Hz to 20kHz
ADDITIONAL FEATURESIn-line controls

Built-in mic

IPX4 splash-proof/sweatproof

Silicone ear tips in 3 sizes

2 pairs of secure tips (in-ear wings)

Design

Creative Outlier ONE in-ear headphones have the same kind of behind-the-neck design like many other sports Bluetooth earbuds. There’s a flat tangle-free 1.64ft long cable connecting two plastic earpieces. There are three-button inline controls with a built-in mic on the right end of the cable, 4in away from the right earbud.

The earbuds feature a familiar angled design which is supposed to provide better comfort and seal (and, consequently, better bass response).

The cable is rubberized and feels sturdy.  The earpieces are mostly made of plastic and then wrapped in silicone for additional protection.

Some people might find this kind of design a bit boring. There’s nothing flashy or really noticeable that would make these earphones distinctive, but if you are a simple person looking for a simple pair of earphones, you will actually like this kind of design.

Features

Our expectations were pretty low, mostly because of the price but, Creative Outlier ONE in-ear headphones proved to be quite feature-rich. You have a very good battery, pretty good build quality and IPX4 rating, reliable Bluetooth connection, inline controls, and a built-in mic. Not bad for a cheap pair of headphones.

Feature overview

Feature overview

Creative Outlier ONE are super-light. They weigh only 0.53 ounces. The earpieces look a bit bulky but they don’t put any noticeable weight on your ears. This is one of the most important things when it comes to comfort.

The second and third important things affecting comfort are fit and stability. More expensive earbuds come with more different pairs of tips and wings. With these headphones, you will get 3 pairs of silicone tips and two pairs of in-ear wings. That should be enough for most people. If you want something even more comfortable, you can buy a set of foam tips separately (they are not included in the package).

The earbuds are compact and feel quite sturdy. They are made of plastic don’t look that cheap or flimsy. Creative Outlier ONE headphones are IPX4 certified which means they are splash proof and can withstand heavy sweating. That kind of IPX rating should be enough for any kind of sports activity.

One of the greatest highlights is the battery. It has the capacity of 150mAh and the advertised playtime is 9.5 at 50% volume.

Creative Outlier ONE headphones feature Bluetooth 4.1 with a standard 33ft range. There are no advanced Bluetooth features and you shouldn’t expect them at this price point. So, there is no NFC quick pairing and no multipoint pairing (you can’t pair two smartphones with these headphones simultaneously).

There’s a built-in mic on the back side of the control pad. The mic features ClearSpeech technology which is supposed to enhance voice clarity but we were not impressed by the mic performance (read the next section to find out more).

Built-in controls are quite simple and easy to use. You have three buttons and they are all multifunctional. Also, you have one LED status indicator right next to the Volume Down button. Volume Up button is also used to skip forward (long press) and Volume Down is used to skip backward (long press) or to mute the microphone. The middle button is used to play/pause songs and answer/end calls.

Performance

We’ve had no issues when it comes to durability. Outlier ONE can really withstand heavy sweating. They didn’t show any weaknesses during our testing period (which is usually 5-7 days). They are not super-rugged and we don’t expect them to last for years but, based on our experience, they do feel capable and solid enough to survive one year or everyday use. That’s basically all you should expect from any cheap pair of headphones.

The earpieces and silicone tips look a bit bulky but they are actually very comfortable and we didn’t have problems finding the right pair. Still, we have tried them with our own set of comply foam tips and they did feel better (more natural and better isolation). Both silicone and foam tips combined with silicone in-ear wings provided great stability. One slightly annoying thing was the cable. It’s really long and it dangles up and down when you’re running or jumping. You can use the included clip to attach it to your shirt and prevent it from dangling.

Use the included clip to prevent the cable from dangling

Use the included clip to prevent the cable from dangling

The controls are simple. All the buttons are responsive and easy to reach. They are maybe not raised/tactile as much as we would like them to be but that wasn’t a big issue.

The battery delivers 9 hours of playtime (on average). It’s pretty close to the advertised 9.5 hours and we don’t have any major complaints. You will get approx. 3 hours at full blast. The recharge takes up to 3 hours.

Recommended Reading :

 
Bluetooth connection delivers decent performance. It’s not above average, but it’s satisfying. You will get a standard 30ft range (within the line of sight) or 15-20ft indoors. There was no any dropout or signal loss within the 15ft range.

One thing we are not happy about is the microphone performance. The microphone is not awful and it’s not completely unusable but it’s also not great. You can hear the person you’re talking with perfectly, but there is some kind of echo on the other end. The mic tends to muffle your voice from time to time and make it less intelligible.

Sound Quality

The sound quality exceeded our expectations. This is not an audiophile gear in any way – it only sounds pretty good considering the price. We always have the prejudice against cheap earbuds and that’s not completely unfounded but they are really becoming better.  

The lows are emphasized, especially the frequencies around 100Hz. At low volumes, the bass is punchy and impactful but doesn’t affect the low midrange and doesn’t put any shadow on vocals. The situation changes at high volumes. The bass kind of gets out of control and it overpowers the midrange and muffles the vocals. The bass is not super-heavy but it’s safe to say that Outlier ONE are bassy earphones. The highs are clear and detailed at low volumes but become a bit intense (not harsh or ear-piercing) at high volumes.

When it comes to other sound-related characteristics, everything is pretty much on par with the price. The soundstage is narrow and the imaging is not very accurate. Whenever some complicated orchestral music was playing, everything sounded jumbled up.

The Competition

The number of cheap sports Bluetooth earphones under $30 is surprisingly high but they are not all great. There’s a lot of generic and crappy brands, but there are also some trusted choices. Here are three viable alternatives.


Anker SoundBuds Slim+Anker SoundBuds Slim+

We have previously reviewed Anker SoundBuds Slim+, and if you want to find out more about these earphones, you should read our detailed review.

Soundbuds Slim+ feature the same kind of around-the-neck design with 3-button inline controls. They are just a few bucks pricier than the Creative Outlier ONE. They are both priced under $30.

Soundbuds Slim+ earphones come with more accessories (3 pairs of in-ear wings, 4 pairs of silicone tips, and hard zippered case).

In terms of performance, the difference between the two models is not huge. Anker features higher IPX rating (IPX5 VS IPX4 = water resistant VS splash-proof). They both provide great comfort and stability.

When it comes to battery life, Outlier ONE earphones have the advantage (9 hours VS 7 hours).

Both models have a bassy sound signature. SoundBuds Slim+ earphones deliver a little bit clearer mids and vocals.


Phaiser BHS-730Phaiser BHS-730

Phaiser BHS-730 in-ear headphones also feature the same kind of design. They are a few bucks pricier than the Outlier ONE but the price difference is not significant.

BHS-730 earphones, just like SoundBuds Slim+, come with more accessories (3 pairs of in-ear wings, 3 pairs of silicone tips, 1 pair of foam tips).

They both provide great stability, but we don’t like those in-ear wings that come with BHS-730. They feel less comfortable than the Outlier ONE wings.

BHS-730 in-ear headphones are sweatproof but they are not IPX certified. On the other hand, Outlier ONE earphones are IPX4 certified.

Outlier ONE in-ear headphones have a larger battery and deliver longer playtime than BHS-730 (9 hours VS 8 hours).

BHS-730 are also bassy earbuds. They deliver a little bit cleaner sound than the Creative Outlier ONE.


Mpow FlameMpow Flame

If you don’t like in-ear wings, you might like Mpow Flame earbuds. They also have the same behind-the-neck design but they have over-ear hooks instead of in-ear wings. Mpow Flame earbuds are a priced under $20 (cheaper than the Creative Outlier ONE).

Mpow Flame earbuds come with 3 pairs of silicone tips, 1 pair of foam tips. Those over-ear hooks are undetachable and they are supposed to fit all ears (that doesn’t seem right).

We are not fans of hooks and don’t find them as stable as in-ear wings but they might fit you. In our experience, you will get better stability and fit with in-ear wings.

Mpow Flame earbuds are fully waterproof (IPX7 certified) while the Outlier ONE earbuds are splash-proof (IPX4 certified).

Creative Outlier ONE earbuds have a larger battery (150mAh VS 110mAh) and deliver longer playtime (9h VS 8h).

Mpow Flame earbuds deliver bass-heavy sound just like Outlier ONE. They are not as loud as Outlier ONE.


Comparison Table

EarbudsPlaytime (at 50% vol.)IPX rating
Creative Outlier ONEUp to 9.5 hoursIPX4
Anker SoundBuds Slim+Up to 7 hoursIPX5
Phaiser BHS-730Up to 8 hoursSweatproof (no IPX rating)
Mpow FlameUp to 8 hoursIPX7

Final Thoughts

Creative Outlier ONE Bluetooth in-ear headphones deliver pretty good value for the price. They deliver longer playtime than most of the other earbuds within the same price range, they feel solid and can withstand heavy sweating (IPX4 certified). If you are on a budget and looking for a cheap pair of sports Bluetooth earbuds with bassy sound signature, Creative Outlier ONE could be just the thing you need.


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9 Best Golf Cart Bluetooth Speakers In 2019 https://www.audioreputation.com/golf-cart-bluetooth-speakers/ https://www.audioreputation.com/golf-cart-bluetooth-speakers/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2019 08:46:53 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4740 Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth headphones/earbuds have infiltrated almost every area of our life. We like having them in our homes, offices, backyards. We also like taking them outdoors and bringing them to picnics, parties, sporting events, etc. The golf course was one of the rare areas where speakers and headphones (basically, any kind of music) […]

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Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth headphones/earbuds have infiltrated almost every area of our life. We like having them in our homes, offices, backyards. We also like taking them outdoors and bringing them to picnics, parties, sporting events, etc. The golf course was one of the rare areas where speakers and headphones (basically, any kind of music) were absolutely forbidden, but even there, the rules are getting softer. Listening to music in order to eliminate distractions, especially during the official game, is still forbidden, but there are some cases and certain situations when you can play some quiet background music on the course or during the practice on the golf range.

Best Golf Cart Bluetooth Speakers

If you are looking for the best golf cart Bluetooth speaker for your golfing sessions, this is a great place to start your search. In this article, we will discuss some of the rules regulating the use of audio and video equipment on golf courses, talk about the most important characteristics of golf cart Bluetooth speakers, and offer you some nice choices. We’ve made an interesting selection of 9 best golf cart Bluetooth speakers. Some of them are portable and battery-powered while others have to be plugged into the 12V car charger, but they are all quite rugged and durable (designed for outdoor use) and they all sound good.

9 Best Golf Cart Bluetooth Speakers – Comparison Table

Golf Cart Bluetooth SpeakersRatingPriceReview
NOAM NUTV44.3Check PriceRead Review
Celtic Blu4.2Check PriceRead Review
FUGOO Tough XL4.3Check PriceRead Review
UE BOOM 24.3Check PriceRead Review
JBL Xtreme4.3Check PriceRead Review
Bose SoundLink4.7Check PriceRead Review
NYNE Boost4.4Check PriceRead Review
Golfjams5.0Check PriceRead Review
PUMA Soundchuck4.0Check PriceRead Review

When you click on “Check Price” you will be redirected to Amazon.com.

Bringing the Bluetooth Speaker to The Golf Course

Bringing any kind of music to the golf course was considered blasphemy in the past. It was like breaking the rules of nature or breaking the law. Just remember the scene from that 80s comedy Caddyshack when Al Czervik opens a secret compartment on his golf bag, turns on the radio, and starts dancing.

Caddyshack – Music on the golf course scene

All that music made Judge Elihu Smails (aka Ted Knight) so angry. He considered it a violation of his personal privacy. Almost 40 years after, the situation is not much different. The majority of golfers will tell you that bringing the Bluetooth speaker to the golf course is a violation of the rules. It’s like insulting the gods of golf. Still, there are more and more people breaking and bending these rules, especially the younger population. Based on a Golf Digest survey made in 2013 and 2014, more than 20% of golfers under 35 was listening to music while playing. The older population (55+) was much stricter when it comes to ‘’no music’’ rule. We can only imagine the situation today. These percentages are definitely much higher. The rules are still in force and they apply to official games and tournaments but there are certain scenarios when playing some quiet background music on your golf cart Bluetooth speaker is perfectly acceptable.

Rules Regulating the Use of Audio Equipment on the Golf Course

You can check different sets of golfing rules issued by different golfing organizations and associations, and you will find at least one rule that deals with the use of audio equipment on the golf course. We’ve checked the Rules of Golf section on the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) website and we have found the section on Allowed and Prohibited Equipment (4.3a). Based on this rule, the background music is allowed but only if it doesn’t distract other players and if it’s not used to eliminate distractions and help you with your swing tempo. You have to admit that this sounds vague (who can tell if the music is helping you or not). One thing is certain – you should always ask other golfers if they are ok with the music. If someone doesn’t want you to play it, even if it’s just background music, you should turn off the speaker.  

The Rules of Golf

The Rules of Golf – Section 4.3a Allowed And Prohibited Equipment (source – randa.org)

There is also the rule 14-3 issued by the US Golfing Association. This rule deals with the use of headphones and ‘’any other artificial device” that could help you with your play. This rule is a bit more rigorous and it doesn’t allow you to play your Bluetooth speaker during a stipulated round and during an official game. On the other hand, you can use it during practice (on the golf range or on the golf course) if it’s not against the Club’s rules.

Rule 14-3

Rule 14-3 – The usage of headphones/earplugs during stipulated round (Source – USGA)

So, to conclude, the use of golf cart Bluetooth speakers (and other audio equipment) is allowed in some cases (mostly during the practice) but it’s not allowed during the official game.

Now that you know when and where to use your golf cart Bluetooth speaker, we can start with the reviews. This is our selection of 9 best golf cart Bluetooth speakers.


1. NOAM NUTV4 Golf Cart Bluetooth Speaker / Stereo System

NOAM NUTV4 - Marine Bluetooth ATV/Golf Cart/UTV Speakers Stereo System

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Noam Audio is specialized in making speakers for motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, and golf carts. Their NOAM NUTV4 speakers come in pair (priced around $220) or you can buy two pairs (NUTV4 QUAD) for less than $300. NUTV speakers are Bluetooth-enabled but they are not battery powered and have to be installed properly and connected to your cart’s battery. This procedure is definitely a bit complicated and requires some drilling. If you are not a techie person, you are going to need some help. Also, if you don’t have your own golf cart, this is not the system for you. Instead, you can buy a simple portable Bluetooth speaker (you can find those on our list, too).

What’s in the box

Inside the packaging, you will find your 2 NUTV 2-way speakers, one 4-channel amplifier, one backlit controller with a built-in Bluetooth module, all the necessary connection cables, rubber pads, speaker brackets, user manual, and 1-year warranty.

The speakers look quite interesting. They are shaped like mini airplane turbines. The enclosures are made of black shiny plastic. Each speaker features one 4in poly injection cone woofer and one 1in neodymium tweeter. Also, there are two speaker brackets for attaching the speakers to the golf cart bars (supported bar size 1.5in-2in).

The amplifier supports up to 4 channels (4x100W), which means that you can buy additional 2 speakers and add them to the existing system. The amp has all the cables connected to it and they all have watertight plugs. The amp also features inline on/off switch.

The controller is simple and it’s supposed to be installed next to your steering wheel. There are 6 buttons – input/power button, play/pause, two track buttons, and two volume buttons. All the buttons are backlit.

Things we like

NUTV4 speakers look quite interesting. They are shaped like airplane turbines which is more appropriate for UTVs and ATVs but they look good on golf carts, too.

Build quality is quite impressive. The speakers are made of hard plastic and look quite compact. Both speakers and amplifier are IPX6 certified (water resistant). All the cable connections are also watertight. It would have been better if they are all fully waterproof and dustproof, but some protection is better than no protection at all.

The controller features Bluetooth 3.0 and an additional AUX input. Bluetooth connection delivers pretty much standard performance with a 30ft range (no obstacles) and continuous playback within this range. We haven’t experienced any compatibility issues – the speakers work fine with Android and iOS devices.

Sound quality is pretty good when Bluetooth is used, but it’s much better when the phone is connected through the AUX cable. Those two coaxial drivers deliver solid and nicely defined midrange and perfectly clear highs. The bass is a bit tiny but you can hardly expect more from these small speakers. If you prefer something bassier, you can go for something like NOAM NUTV5-S with an additional 8-inch subwoofer, but you don’t really need anything stronger than NUTV4 for your golf carts. The speakers can also get really loud which is also something you’re not going to need on a golf course.

Things we don’t like

This is not a hassle-free speaker set. It requires some technical knowledge and you will need to drill and cut some holes and install it properly in order to make it work. Connecting the wires is the easiest part, but you have to perform all the preparations first.

The system can’t be used for answering phone calls which is a standard feature on most of today’s portable Bluetooth speakers.

Comparison Table


2. Celtic Blu Tallboy Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Celtic Blu Tallboy Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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Celtic Blu Tallboy is a small and very portable and very capable little speaker. The thing that makes it great for golf is the mount (cage) that comes with it. This mount is primarily designed for bikes but it works just fine with golf carts.

What’s in the box

Inside a nice-looking box, you will find your speaker and many accessories. Besides the speaker, there’s a very strong mount (looks like a standard water bottle cage), metal carabiner, a few rubber straps, AUX cable, micro USB charging cable, Allen wrench and two screws (for mounting), simple 3-button remote (can be attached to any surface like bike handlebar or any golf cart bar), user manual, and 1-year warranty.

The speaker is shaped like a water bottle with a square base. It’s 7in tall, 2.6in deep, 2.6in wide, and weighs 1.3lb. The whole speaker is wrapped in aluminum grille and then additionally protected with rubber. There’s a comprehensive control panel on the top – you have the track, volume, and play/pause/call buttons as well as 3 additional buttons (mode, charging, and power button). The microphone is also located on the top. All the inputs are at the bottom and they are all protected with rubber flaps One flap protects AUX input and micro SD card slot while the other protects micro USB charging port and a USB power bank port.  

Tallboy features two 8W drivers. The driver arrangement enables omnidirectional 360-sound.

Things we like

There’s nothing new or revolutionary when it comes to design. Tallboy is similar to those popular JBL and UE portable speakers. It looks quite durable and rugged. The drivers are wrapped in aluminum and the aluminum grille is additionally reinforced with rubber. The speaker is shockproof and it’s IPX4 certified (splash proof).

The control buttons located on the top are simple and intuitive. You’ll know how to use them the moment you take the speaker. Another great thing is that you can attach that 3-button remote to your steering wheel and that you don’t have to use the controls on the speaker while driving.

The battery is quite large (6,000mAh) and it can deliver up to 30 hours of playback per one charge (at 50% volume) which is more than enough, even for the longest golfing practice. The recharge takes 6-8h.

Tallboy features Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR. We’ve had no issues with the Bluetooth connection. The range is larger than 100ft (when there are no obstacles). If you don’t want to use the Bluetooth, you have some other options available – you can use a standard 3.5mm AUX input or you can insert your micro SD card (up to 32Gb) and play the music from it.

Tallboy also has a built in FM antenna and allows you to listen to available FM stations.

Powerbank is another great feature. It’s not absolutely necessary but it gives you more freedom and it allows you to stay on the course as long as you want – you don’t have to be afraid that you’re going to run out of juice.

Thanks to a built-in microphone, Tallboy allows you to answer or make calls.

The speaker comes with two mounting options – carabiner and a rubberized cage. Installing the cage on your golf cart requires some drilling but it’s not complicated and it takes less than 5 minutes to install it.

The sound quality is pretty good. When compared to some more popular speakers, Celtic Blu Tallboy is very similar to JBL’s Flip 4 (the same kind of loudness and just a little bit clearer and less bassy sound).

Things we don’t like

There’s not much to complain about, especially when you consider the price. It would have been better if the speaker is fully waterproof (IPX7 certified), but that’s not absolutely necessary if you are only going to use it on a golf course.

Comparison Table


3. FUGOO Tough XL

FUGOO Tough XL

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FUGOO XL is one of the best small portable speakers on the market. The greatest advantages of this speaker are ruggedness (especially with the Tough XL jacket), great sound quality and surprising loudness, impressive battery life, and stable Bluetooth connection. One thing we don’t like about this speaker is the price. It’s priced around $200 and it’s one of the most expensive small portable speakers on the market.

What’s really interesting about FUGOO is that you can change its look by changing the jacket. You can choose between Style, Sport, and Tough jackets. Tough is, obviously, the strongest one and it’s the most suitable for outdoor use.  

What’s in the box

Inside a nice-looking illustrated box, you will find your speaker (speaker core + one jacket), AC power/charging adapter, micro USB cable (for updates, not for charging), 3.5mm AUX cable, thumbscrews, hex wrench, user manual, and a one-year warranty.

Additional jackets (Style and Sport) are sold separately. Also, if you want to mount the speaker on your golf cart, you are going to need the FUGOO Mounting Kit (also sold separately) and if you want more convenient controls, you are going to need FUGOO remote.

FUGOO XL consists of two parts – speaker core and jacket. The core will work without any jacket but it’s not recommended to use it like that and it looks kind of naked without the jacket. The dimensions depend on the jacket and when the Tough XL jacket is used, the speaker is 13.2in wide, 4.65in tall, 4.37in deep, and weighs 4.65lb.

FUGOO XL features 8 drivers arranged symmetrically on the front and rear panel. There are 4 1.1-inch tweeters, 2 2.5-inch midrange woofers, and two 4×2.6in passive bass radiators. Their combined power output is 38W. Frequency response spans from 50Hz to 20kHz.

The controls buttons are located on the top. You have 6 buttons – 2 volume buttons, 2 track buttons, play/pause/call button, and action button (for activating Siri or Google Assistant). Right in the middle, there’s a built-in omnidirectional microphone.

All the other buttons and inputs are on the left and right panels. On one side, you have a DC charging port, USB powerbank port (for charging other devices like phones and tablets), and micro USB port (for updates). On the other side, you have a power button, AUX input, Bluetooth/pairing button, and a small LED indicator.

Things we like

The design of the FUGOO XL speaker depends on the jacket. The core is simple, plastic, and completely black. Adding a jacket could give the speaker sporty, stylish, or robust design. We recommend Tough XL jacket because it looks more appropriate for outdoor use than others. FUGOO XL combined with Tough jacket is shockproof, dustproof, and fully waterproof (IP67 certified).

Controls are easily accessible, simple, and responsive. The remote is not included but you can buy it separately and wrap it around your wrist or around your steering wheel so you don’t have to approach the speaker to control the playback.  

The speaker also features Siri and Google Now support. You just have to press the action button on the speaker or on the remote and activate Siri or Google Now.

FUGOO XL features Bluetooth 4.0 with a standard 33ft range. Bluetooth supports aptX, SBC, and AAC codecs. Pairing is quick and easy. NFC is not supported. The connection is stable within the advertised range. If you don’t want to use the Bluetooth connection, you can use the included AUX cable (wired connection).

The battery is one of the greatest highlights. It delivers up to 35h of playback at 50% volume. It can be charged very fast thanks to 19V DC charging adapter. The speaker also features one USB powerbank port. You can use it to charge other devices while playing music.

The speaker also has the auto shut down feature. It will turn off automatically after 15min of inactivity (if not connected to audio source and not plugged into the power source).

FUGOO XL features a built-in omnidirectional microphone. You can use it to answer calls, to talk to Siri or Google Assistant, and to make calls.

The sound is quite impressive and surprisingly loud for the size.  The speaker is equipped with 8 symmetrically arranged drivers (actually 6 drivers + 2 passive bass radiators). That kind of arrangement enables 360-degree sound which is always better than directional sound when it comes to outdoor use. The speaker also has two sound modes (EQ presets) – normal and outdoor mode. The normal mode is a bit more balanced while the outdoor mode puts an emphasis on the midrange. The speaker delivers clear mids and sparkling highs, but the bass lacks some impact.

Another awesome thing about this speaker is the mount kit. The kit includes all kinds of mounts and straps but it’s not included in the package (and you have to buy it separately). Luckily, it’s not that expensive.

Things we don’t like

One thing that’s not so attractive about this speaker is the price. There’s a lot of competition at this price point. All the UE portable speakers and many JBL and Harman Kardon speakers are cheaper than the FUGOO XL and they all offer pretty good performance and are very durable.

Considering the price, we have expected some of the advanced connectivity options. Unfortunately, FUGOO XL lacks NFC quick pairing feature, it doesn’t support daisy chaining (you can’t pair two for stereo sound), and doesn’t support multipoint pairing (can’t pair two or more devices with the speaker simultaneously).

Comparison Table


4. Ultimate Ears BOOM 2

Ultimate Ears BOOM 2

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If you are looking for something really good, portable, relatively affordable, and powerful, BOOM 2 is a great choice. In fact, you might want to check out the whole UE speaker line (BOOM, MEGABOOM, BLAST, MEGABLAST) – they are all awesome. BOOM 2 is available for less than $100 (depending on the model, the price goes up to $180), and it delivers really great performance for the price.

What’s in the box

Inside a premium box, you will find your BOOM 2 speaker, micro USB charging cable, power adapter, removable D ring (covers the tripod mount), weather door (rubber flap) protecting the AUX port and micro USB charging port, user manual, and 2-year warranty.

Like all the other UE speakers, BOOM 2 features cylindrical design. The base diameter is 2.64in and the height is 7.1in. The speaker weighs 1.2 pounds. There are two 1.75-inch drivers and two passive bass radiators.

The whole speaker is wrapped in a recognizable waterproof/shockproof fabric. On the back of the speaker, there’s a silicone strip with two huge volume buttons. On the top, you will find two control buttons – power and Bluetooth/pairing button (+ LED indicator). On the bottom, there’s a rubber flap with D ring holding the flap in place and covering the tripod mount. When you remove the flap, you will see the AUX port and micro USB charging port.

Things we like

BOOM 2 features very familiar cylindrical design but what makes this speaker really interesting are those waterproof fabric grilles in different colors. There are so many versions and they are all so vivid and so fun (BrainFreeze, Cherrybomb, Green Machine, Marina, Urban Explorer, etc.).

The speaker doesn’t look very rugged at first, but once you feel the grille fabric and see that the top and bottom panels are covered with silicone, you will realize that this is a durable product. BOOM  2 is fully waterproof (IPX7 certified). It’s also shockproof and dustproof. It can be used literally anywhere (including the golf course).

Controls are really simple and quite innovative. You won’t find many buttons on the speaker – there are only two buttons on the top (power and Bluetooth) and two large volume buttons on the speaker body. Some people might not like the tap controls. If you want to play/pause you have to tap the top panel (not to press the button) and if you want to skip forward, you have to tap it twice. There’s no skip backward button.

The battery delivers up to 15h at 50% volume which is more than enough for any golfing session. The recharge takes less than 3 hours (up to 5 hours when using a USB port on your PC). There’s also the auto shut down feature – the speaker is going to turn off after 15 min of inactivity.

The Bluetooth connection on BOOM 2 is really capable. There’s no info on the Bluetooth version but we were impressed by the performance. The range is close to 100ft and the connection is very reliable. The speaker can memorize up to 8 devices (it will try to reconnect to the last paired). The BOOM 2 also supports multipoint pairing (you can pair two devices simultaneously with the speaker). It also supports daisy chaining – you can pair up to 150 speakers together for a great party sound. The best thing is that you can pair it with any speaker from the UE line (not only two or multiple BOOM 2 speakers). Before pairing two or multiple speakers together, make sure that all the speakers have updated firmware.

BOOM 2 comes with the app (BOOM and MEGABOOM app). The app is available for Android and iOS devices. You can use this app to adjust the EQ settings (5 adjustable bands), set the alarm, pair (double up) two or multiple speakers together, etc.

BOOM 2 has a built-in mic. You can answer calls by pressing the Bluetooth button. Also, if you want to activate Siri/Google Now, you can simply press the Bluetooth button.

The speaker sounds great. It’s a little bit on a bassy side, but it’s still really good. The mids are nicely pronounced and perfectly clear at low and medium volumes (tend to get muffled at high volumes because of the bass).

When it comes to mounting options, BOOM 2 has only one tripod mount on the bottom but you can always buy some universal golf cart mount if you want to mount it on a golf cart.

Things we don’t like

Some people might not like the controls. There are no dedicated track and play/pause/call buttons. You have to tap the top of the speaker to play/pause, press the Bluetooth button to answer calls or tap three times to skip forward. If you like having separate playback controls, this is not the speaker for you.

You can pair two speakers together in Bluetooth mode but you can’t play them in stereo mode. There’s only party mode. You won’t get better stereo separation when two speakers are paired together.

Comparison Table


5. JBL Xtreme Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

JBL Xtreme Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

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JBL portable Bluetooth speakers are, along with the UE speakers, the most popular on the market. They are pricier than some generic brands but they also offer better performance, they are more durable and have longer lasting batteries.

JBL Xtreme is priced under $200 (some versions are priced under $150), which is quite reasonable considering the performance. The biggest highlights are huge rechargeable battery, recognizable JBL’s build quality and design, great connectivity, and pretty big sound considering the size of the speaker.

What’s in the box

Inside the familiar JBL box, you will find your speaker, DC charging adapter, one shoulder strap, user manual, and 2-year warranty card. You won’t find any mounting gear inside and if you want to mount the speaker, you should buy some kind of mounting kit separately.

Like all the other JBL speakers and many other speakers on the market, JBL Xtreme features familiar cylindrical design. It’s a bit larger than the Flip 4 or JBL Charge and it’s hefty but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Xtreme is 11.1in wide, 5in tall, 4.8in deep, and it weighs 4.66lb.

The controls are configured in a familiar way. You can find a similar control button layout on any JBL speaker. On top of the speaker, there are two metal clips on each end (for connecting the shoulder strap) and an array of control buttons (there are Bluetooth button, 2 volume buttons, power, JBL Connect button, and play/pause/call button).

On the bottom, there are two rubberized feet and a simple zipper. The zipper covers and protects the compartment with all the inputs. You have one micro USB port for updates (not for charging), 3.5mm AUX input (AUX cable is not included), 2 USB charge out (powerbank) port, and DC charging input.

Xtreme features two 2.5in woofers, two 1.4in tweeters, and 2 passive bass radiators. Combined power output is rated at 40W and frequency response spans from 70Hz to 20kHz.

Things we like

There’s nothing new when it comes to design. It’s a standard cylindrical speaker and you can choose between blue, black, camouflage, and red. In our opinion, the UE speakers have better-looking jackets/grilles (that doesn’t mean that JBL speakers look bad). All the JBL speakers have the same kind of waterproof fabric grille and they all look rugged. Based on JBL’s advertisement, Xtreme is splash proof but there’s no IPX rating to confirm that. The thing that prevents it from being fully waterproof is probably the zipper protecting the inputs. The upgraded version (Xtreme 2) features silicone flap instead of a zipper and it’s fully waterproof (IPX7 certified).

The controls are pretty much standard and if you have ever used any JBL portable speaker, you won’t be having any problems with the Xtreme. The buttons are responsive and easy to use.

Xtreme features Bluetooth 4.1. The pairing is quick (no NFC). The speaker supports daisy chaining. You can pair two or multiple JBL speakers together for stereo or louder sound (you can only pair JBL Connect compatible speakers). Xtreme also supports multipoint pairing and allows you to pair up to 3 phones simultaneously with the speaker.

The battery is one of the best things about this speaker. It’s huge. The capacity is rated at 10,000Ah. The speaker also has power saving feature (auto shut down) and it also has 2 powerbank ports (allows you to charge two devices simultaneously).

Xtreme has a built-in mic. You can answer calls by pressing the play/pause buttons. Siri and Google Now are also supported.

If you want to activate stereo pairing, upgrade the speaker, or activate the voice assistant, you can use the JBL Connect app (available for Android and iOS). If you want your two Xtreme speakers to play in stereo, you have to use the app. You can pair them together without the app, but they will play the same audio (not left and right channels).

The sound is quite bassy and can be really loud.  The mids are clear and dynamic at low and moderate volumes. Unfortunately, they get overpowered by the bass at high volumes. The highs are crisp and clear. The driver arrangement enables 360-degree sound which is a great thing, especially if you are going to use the speaker outdoors.

Things we don’t like

Xtreme lacks dedicated track buttons (forward/backward). You have to press the play/pause button twice to skip forward.

Xtreme is not fully waterproof. The manufacturer decided to use the zipper instead of a protective flap and that basically made it only splash proof.

The app doesn’t allow you to adjust the EQ settings and it’s very limited (it has only basic features).

Comparison Table


6. Bose SoundLink Micro Bluetooth Speaker

Bose SoundLink Micro Bluetooth Speaker

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Bose is another reputable manufacturer and SoundLink Micro is their smallest portable Bluetooth speaker. This speaker comes with a strap that you can attach to any bar on your golf cart in a second. This is a simple, hassle-free, and affordable solution. Bose SoundLink Micro is priced under $80. The greatest highlights of this speaker are high portability and IPX7 waterproof rating.

What’s in the box

Inside a nice little box, you will only find your Bose SoundLink Micro speaker, micro USB charging cable (without power adapter), user manual, and 1-year warranty. The rubber strap for mounting the speaker on your bike’s handlebar or any other bar is attached to the back panel of the speaker.

Volume buttons and a multifunction control button are located on the front panel. You can use the multifunction button to play or pause the music, skip forward/backward, answer calls, and activate Siri or Google Now. On top of the speaker, you will see the power button on the left side, Bluetooth button on the right side, and a micro USB charging port in the middle. Right under the charging port, you will see 5 LED battery status indicators and 1 LED Bluetooth status indicator.

Things we like

SoundLink Micro is supper small and squarish. All the edges are rounded and the whole enclosure is wrapped in silicone. Micro is IPX7 certified which means that it is fully waterproof (submersible in water of up to 3ft depth).

Controls are super simple and easy to use. There are some advanced features (like daisy chaining two speakers in party or stereo mode) that you can activate by pressing two buttons simultaneously. This can be confusing but you have everything nicely explained in the manual. The buttons are rubberized and responsive.

The only available connection option is Bluetooth. Bose never publishes specs so there’s no info on the Bluetooth version. Based on our testing, Bluetooth connection delivers average performance. The connection is stable within the 30ft range. The speaker can memorize 8 devices and two devices can be simultaneously paired with the speaker (multipoint pairing). You can also daisy chain two Micro speakers and play the music in stereo or party mode (party mode is the default mode). Micro can also be paired with SoundLink Color II, Revolve or Revolve+. The distance between the two speakers should not be longer than 10ft. In order to pair two speakers together, you can use the Bose connect app (easier way) or you can follow the instruction given in the user manual for pairing without the app.

The battery can deliver up to 6h of playtime (50% volume) which is slightly below the average for speakers of this size. The recharge takes 4 hours. You will only get micro USB charging cable (no power adapter) and you will have to connect it to your laptop or PC to charge it. There’s also the power saving feature. The speaker will automatically turn off after 20 minutes of inactivity.

Micro has a built-in mic – you can answer and make calls or you can use the multifunction button on the front side to activate Siri or Google Now. The speaker is also compatible with Amazon Alexa.

Bose Connect app allows you to pair two speakers in stereo or party mode, rename the speakers, change the voice prompt language or turn off the voice prompts, and to adjust or turn off the auto-off feature.

SoundLink Micro delivers pretty clear and undistorted sound with a slight emphasis on the midrange. The bass is tiny and the highs are nice and detailed.  

Silicone strap on the back of the speaker is the only mounting option.

Things we don’t like

The speaker is waterproof but it doesn’t float so be careful around pools.

Most Bluetooth speakers have at least one additional connection besides the Bluetooth (usually AUX input). SoundLink Micro supports only Bluetooth. There’s no alternative connection.

Comparison Table


7. NYNE Boost Portable Bluetooth Speakers

NYNE Boost Portable Bluetooth Speakers

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NYNE Boost is one of the cheapest portable Bluetooth speakers on this list. If you don’t want to spend more than $50, this could be the speaker for you. It’s quite small and very portable, it delivers an impressive playtime, it’s very rugged and entirely waterproof and dustproof.

What’s in the box

NYNE Boost comes in a simple cardboard box along with the user manual and 1-year warranty. Micro USB charging cable is not included in the package which is surprising and kind of stupid. This is probably the first ever portable Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t come with a charging cable. Also, there’s no mounting gear included and if you want to mount the speaker, you will have to buy some kind of mount kit separately.

The speaker is shaped like a pentagonal prism. It’s similar to JBL and UE speakers but not the same. There are two drivers on the front panel protected with a metal grille. Passive bass radiator is located on the bottom.

The controls are located on the right panel. You have 6 buttons – power, Bluetooth/call button, play/pause button, 2 volume buttons, and a pairing button (for pairing two speakers together).

All the inputs/outputs are on the back side, right next to the control panel. There are 3 ports – micro USB port for charging, USB powerbank port, and a 3.5mm AUX input. They are all protected with a rubber flap.

The speaker can be placed either horizontally or vertically but it sounds better when placed horizontally.

NYNE Boost is 8.5in wide, 3.5in deep, 3.5in tall, and it weighs 1.9 pounds. Those two full-range drivers have a combined output power of 12W (2x6W).

Things we like

The speaker features an interesting and distinctive pentagonal prism design. The grille is made of aluminum and it’s hard and inflexible. The rest of the speaker is rubberized and looks solid. The speaker is compact, durable, and it’s dustproof and waterproof (IP67 certified).

All the controls are located in one place (on the right panel). The buttons are rubberized and responsive. Everything is pretty much self-explanatory and you won’t be having any difficulties understanding the controls.

NYNE Boost features Bluetooth 4.2 with up to 100ft range (line of sight). You can achieve more than 50ft in any situation. The connection quality is satisfying and remains stable without signal loss within the 50ft range. The pairing is simple (there is no NFC – you have to go through standard pairing procedure). You can pair two speakers together (daisy chain) and get a louder sound. You don’t need an app to pair them together – you just have to press the pairing button on both speakers.  When paired, two speakers will deliver stereo sound (left and right channels). Party mode is not available. If you don’t want to use the Bluetooth, there’s a 3.5mm AUX input (AUX cable is not included).

The battery inside the speaker is not huge (2,200mAh) but due to small power consumption, you will get up to 20h of playback at 50% volume. NYNE Boost also has a powerbank port – you can charge your phone/tablet while listening to music which is a useful thing to have.

The built-in mic allows you to answer calls and use Siri and Google Now. The microphone is not perfect and it will muffle your voice but it’s still usable and the voice is still intelligible.

Sound quality is not the greatest highlight. It’s clearer and louder than you would assume, but you can’t expect the same kind of performance you would get from some $150 JBL or UE speaker. The bass lacks some real punch but that’s not a bad thing when it comes to small speakers. In our opinion, the lack of bass is a much better thing than overpowering and distorted bass. There’s a lot of speakers on the market tuned to produce more bass and to go lower than they actually can and that could lead to huge distortion and very unpleasant sound. NYNE Boost doesn’t deliver huge bass but it has smooth and clear mids and pleasant highs.

Things we don’t like

We were quite surprised to see that there is no charging cable in the box. That was a stupid decision and something we haven’t seen before.

NYNE Boost has only two drivers located on the front panel which means that it can’t deliver 360-sound.

Comparison Table


8. Golfjams Bluetooth Speaker

Golfjams Bluetooth Speaker

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Golfjams is the only speaker that we know about that’s made specifically for golf carts. Well, there’s actually one more called Ampcaddy but we were not impressed enough to include it in the list. Golfjams is small, portable, very easy to mount and unmount, it delivers an impressive playtime, and it sounds pretty good for its size. It’s the only speaker that comes with patented golf cart clips (1in and 1.25in clips). Golfjams is priced under $200 but, if you are patient enough, you can find it for less than $150.

What’s in the box

Inside a premium looking green and black box, you will find your Golfjams speaker with a loop Velcro bottom and a lot of accessories. Basically, you will get everything you need for mounting the speaker – 2 golf cart clips (1inch and 1.25inch), universal device holder (so you can attach your phone to the clip), two 2x7in pieces of loop Velcro, 2 poker chips (ball markers), simple carrying bag, micro USB charging cable with a charging adapter, and a short AUX cable. You will also get a simple user manual and 1-year warranty.

Golfjams is quite small and compact. It’s 7.5in wide, 2.75in deep, and 2.4in tall. It features 2 small 5W drivers on the front and one passive bass radiator on the back side.

The front panel is covered with a black grille. Most of the control buttons are located on the top. There are 7 buttons – mode button (for switching between AUX and Bluetooth), call button, track buttons (forward/backward), play/pause button, and two volume buttons. Between the M (mode) and call button, there’s an infrared thermal sensor which illuminates the control buttons in the dark. In the left corner of the top panel, you will see the NFC logo and a built-in mic.

On the right panel, you will find the power button, AUX input, headphone output, and micro USB charging port.

Things we like

Golfjams is small and simple. What impressed us about this speaker is the loop Velcro bottom which is supposed to be attached to the golf cart clip (which has a Velcro hook). Velcro doesn’t seem like something that could hold the speaker in place but it actually does a great job and provides great stability. The speaker will be perfectly secured – you don’t have to worry about that.

Build quality is not the most impressive feature of the Golfjams speaker. It’s almost entirely made of plastic and doesn’t look rugged enough for outdoor use but it’s IPX5 certified (water resistant).

Controls are very simple and very easy to use. We like the fact that there are no multifunction buttons, which eliminates the possibility of making a mistake (changing the song while trying to adjust the volume, for example).

The battery is quite impressive. It has the capacity of 4,400mAh and it can deliver more than 15 hours of playtime. The speaker doesn’t have a USB charge out (powerbank) port which is something that would make this speaker even better.

Golfjams features Bluetooth 4.0 with a standard 33ft range (within the line of sight). The connection delivers a satisfying performance. It’s stable and reliable. Instead of standard pairing process, you can tap the NFC logo on top of the speaker and you’ll be paired in three seconds.

There’s also a built-in mic so you can answer/make calls and you can activate Siri or Google Now.

You should have reasonable expectations when it comes to sound quality. Two 2in drivers can’t deliver deep and punchy bass and that’s the only issue. The reproduction is balanced and very pleasant. The mids are smooth and detailed. The highs are clear – they are not too emphasized or harsh. You can get better sound for the same amount of money but you will hardly find a better mounting system.

The most important thing about this speaker is the mounting kit specially designed for the golf carts. If you need something that can be easily attached to your golf cart, Golfjams speaker is a perfect option. This kit can also be bought separately – you can buy it and mount some other speaker instead of Golfjams but there’s no guarantee that you will get the same kind of stability.

Things we don’t like

Golfjams is not fully waterproof. It’s only water resistant (IPX5 certified) and it doesn’t look very rugged.

Daisy chaining is not supported. You can’t pair two Golfjams speakers for stereo sound.

Comparison Table


9. PUMA Mini Soundchuck

PUMA Mini Soundchuck

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Puma is a famous sports brand. The speakers have never been their thing – they are much more into sneakers. Their Mini Soundchuck can be considered a piece of sports equipment. The manufacturer claims that it’s made for golf but it’s not as good and elegant solution as Golfjams, especially when it comes to mounting. Mini Soundchuck is priced under $70 which puts in the same price category as Bose SoundLink Mini or Flip 4. Our overall impression is that you can get better sound and more convenient mounting solution for the same kind of money, but it’s not all that bad.

What’s in the box

Soundchuck mini comes in a simple box along with a micro USB charging cable, short user manual with some basic explanations, and 1-year warranty.

The speaker itself is cylindrical and entirely wrapped in silicone. On top of the speaker, there’s a silicone cord which ends with a metal clip that you can attach to any bar.

The speaker is 4.3in tall and has 2.4in in diameter. It’s one of the smallest speakers on the list and it’s very compact and portable.

There are only three control buttons on the speaker body – 2 volume buttons and power button. They are all multifunction buttons, which is not something we like. Volume + button is used for Bluetooth pairing, the power button is used for answering calls, and volume down is used for ending/rejecting calls.

Things we like

The design is definitely distinctive. We can’t really say that we like it but it’s very recognizable. It’s basically a small cylinder with a silicone cord on top and a metal clip. We are not fans of this mounting solution because it dangles too much. Dangling is not an issue when you are not moving but the moment you start your golf cart, you will be really annoyed by it.

Build quality is not amazing. Soundchuck is entirely wrapped in silicone and it is shockproof and weatherproof but it’s not IPX certified.

The battery delivers below-average performance. You will get 5-6 hours at 50% volume. You can get a much longer playtime for the same price (Flip 4, for example).

Bluetooth connection delivers average performance. There’s no info on the Bluetooth version, but it’s all pretty much standard. Pairing takes a few seconds and the range is approx. 30ft (within the line of sight). We have experienced some issues with obstacles (signal cutting out when there’s a wall between the speaker and phone). Bluetooth streaming is flawless when there are no walls and when the distance between the speaker and the phone is less than 20ft.

Sound quality could be described as ‘’good for the size’’ but we were not impressed, especially when you know that you can get a much better sound for that kind of money. This speaker is trying to produce some bass but it’s not really capable of doing that. At low to moderate volumes, Mini Soundchuck delivers pretty clear and detailed mids and highs but the sound gets really distorted at high volumes.

Things we don’t like

It’s never good when you have too many multifunction buttons. This speaker has only three buttons and they are all multifunction buttons. There are no separate track buttons and there’s no play/pause button.

The sound is really tiny. You can get a much better sound for the same price.

This is the end of our list of 9 best golf cart Bluetooth speakers, but we have also prepared a short buyer’s guide. Before you go, let’s discuss some important features you should be looking for in a golf cart Bluetooth speaker.

Comparison Table


Important Things to Look for In a Golf Cart Bluetooth Speaker

Design – Mounting System (carabiners, straps, clips, etc.)

When it comes to design, it’s important to pay attention to the mounting mechanism (especially if you want to mount it on your golf cart). Many speakers come with some kind of carabiner, strap, and some speakers come with a whole mount pack with different types of mounts. If there is no other mounting option, you can always buy a portable speaker mount for a golf cart. It’s relatively cheap and it fits many portable Bluetooth speakers.

Build quality – Rugged, Waterproof, Dustproof

Your new golf cart Bluetooth speaker is going to be used outdoors so it’s important to find something really durable. Rugged exterior is highly desirable. Also, some kind of waterproof/dustproof rating is considered an advantage. Ideally, your new speaker should be IP67 certified (fully dustproof and waterproof) and the body should be reinforced with silicone, metal, or some kind of rubbery fabric.

Bluetooth Connection – Bluetooth range, Connection Quality

The number of different obstacles is smaller when the speaker is used outdoors (compared to indoor use) and you will get greater Bluetooth range but, that doesn’t mean that you should care less about the Bluetooth version. Latest Bluetooth versions (4.1 to 5.0) offer better range, greater speeds, better connection quality and reliability, and better sound quality. Some Bluetooth speakers featuring Bluetooth 5.0 allow more than 100ft range.

Battery Life

As you’ve seen, some of the speakers on our list are powered and are supposed to be plugged into the 12V car charger (NOAM NUTV4). These speakers are specially made for golf carts, ATVs, UTVs, etc. but if your golf cart doesn’t have a 12V socket, you should probably buy some regular portable (battery-operated) Bluetooth speaker. You should also consider the average duration of your golfing sessions when buying this kind of speakers. Some speakers can deliver more than 20h of playtime per one charge which is more than enough for any kind of activity.

Directional VS Omnidirectional (360-degrees) Speakers

When you are outdoors, the sound can’t bounce off the walls and that’s why it’s better to get a speaker that can deliver 360-degree sound. It’s not absolutely necessary if you are going to use your speakers only while riding in your golf cart, but if you are going to use it in other outdoor scenarios, it’s probably smarter to buy a 360-speaker.

Sound Quality

This one is not a surprise. After all, we are all looking for the sound that suits our taste. If you are only going to use it on a golf course, you should be looking for something with well-defined and balanced sound at low volumes (you don’t want to disturb other golfers with loud music). This kind of sound is not easy to find since many speakers need some volume to shine.

A Few Pieces of Advice You Should Follow When Playing Music on A Golf Course

As you already know, playing music during the official game is forbidden but you can play it on a golf range or while practicing on the golf course. Even then, you are supposed to play it quietly and not to disturb others. It’s probably smart to play music only while riding in your golf cart. When on the green and when the situation requires precision and silence, don’t play it.

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Dancing and frequent track skipping are also not recommended and are considered inappropriate. In the end, certain genres seem more appropriate than others. Playing rap, hip-hop, or heavy metal songs on a golf course doesn’t sound like a good idea.

To conclude, the number of occasions when you can use your golf cart Bluetooth speaker is very limited but there’s still some space to spice up your golfing experience with a little bit of music.


The post 9 Best Golf Cart Bluetooth Speakers In 2019 appeared first on AudioReputation.

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Fluance Ai40 Powered Bookshelf Speakers Review https://www.audioreputation.com/fluance-ai40/ https://www.audioreputation.com/fluance-ai40/#respond Sat, 16 Mar 2019 01:22:02 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4562 Finding a good-sounding pair of speakers under $200 is not such an easy task as you might think. $200 is not a small amount of money but you would be surprised by how limited the number of viable choices is, even if all you are looking for is accurate and balanced sound. That’s why we […]

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Finding a good-sounding pair of speakers under $200 is not such an easy task as you might think. $200 is not a small amount of money but you would be surprised by how limited the number of viable choices is, even if all you are looking for is accurate and balanced sound. That’s why we wanted to introduce you to this amazing pair of Fluance Ai40 powered bookshelf speakers.

Fluance Ai40 stereo speakers are all about the music and sound. Fluance has built 20 years of experience into these speakers and if you know anything about Fluance audio equipment, you know that they use high-performing drivers, refined crossovers, and high-quality wooden cabinets. The only result they are looking for is perfectly balanced and accurate sound with minimum distortion.

That’s the exact thing you can expect from the Fluance Ai40 powered speakers and that’s their biggest highlight.

The biggest downside is pretty much expected. Fluance Ai40 is very limited when it comes to inputs. There is only one RCA input and Bluetooth connection. That’s the compromises you’ll have to make. If you can live with only two inputs and the only thing you care about is the sound, Fluance Ai40 is the stereo system for you. So, let’s dig deeper and find out more.

Fluance Ai40

Check Price on Amazon

UPSIDES

  • Stylish design
  • Great build quality
  • Bluetooth connectivity with aptX support
  • Balanced and accurate audio reproduction with impeccable midrange
  • Adjustable bass and treble

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Lacks phono preamp (you can’t connect your turntable to the speakers without one)
  • Lacks subwoofer output
  • No digital inputs

 
VERDICT

At $200 price tag, making compromises is inevitable. The question is – do you need more inputs or better sound? Fluance decided not to make compromises when it comes to sound but that resulted in a lack of input versatility. The lack of digital inputs may be a deal breaker for some people, but if you are only interested in sound quality and perfect sonic balance and you are perfectly happy with one RCA input and Bluetooth connectivity, there’s no better choice under $200 than the Fluance Ai40.

Official video – Fluance Ai40 Powered Bookshelf Speakers

What’s in the box?

The package includes 2 Ai40 powered bookshelf speakers, remote (batteries included), power adapter (100V-240V), 8ft-long 18-gauge speaker wire, 3ft-long AUX to RCA cable, user manual, and 2-year warranty. Speaker stands are not included and you will have to buy them separately.

Fluance Ai40 box contents

Box contents

Fluance Ai40 Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Width6.5in
Height10.9in
Depth7.6in
Weight15.1lb
DRIVERS
Woofer5in x1, woven glass fiber composite
Tweeters1in x1, silk soft dome with ferrofluid cooling
ENCLOSURE TYPESealed/Acoustic suspension
POWERING OPTIONSDC input (100V-240V power adapter)
INPUTSRCA Left/Right x1
OUTPUTSSpeaker outputs ()
OTHER CONNECTION OPTIONSBluetooth (with aptX support)
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response40Hz-20kHz (40Hz-10)
Output power70W
THDLess than 0.3
ADDITIONAL FEATURESRemote

Adjustable bass and treble

Design

Ai40 speakers are compact and boxy with a vinyl finish in three different colors – lucky bamboo, natural walnut, and black ash. The cabinets are sealed. Each speaker is 10.9in tall, 6.5in wide, and 7.6in deep.

Available in three versions

Available in three versions

The speakers don’t look exactly the same. The right one is the main/active speaker and the left one is passive.  

On the front panel of the right speaker, you will see two drivers (1in soft dome tweeter made of silk and 5in woven glass fiber composite woofer). You will also see the volume/power/input knob (you can rotate it to set the volume or press it to change the input source) and IR sensor. Right next to the volume/power/input knob, there’s an LED status indicator (blue in Bluetooth mode, yellow in RCA mode, red in standby mode). On the front panel of the left/passive speaker, there are only two drivers and no buttons.  

Right/main speaker – front panel

Right/main speaker – front panel

The rear panels are also different. On the left speaker, you will see only two speaker inputs (binding posts compatible with banana plugs). The right one has all the connections. You have one Bluetooth button (for pairing and resetting the Bluetooth connection), RCA left and right inputs, left speaker outputs, and DC input. As you can see, you won’t be having any problems understanding the connections.

Rear panels – left (passive) speaker and right (active/main) speaker

Rear panels – left (passive) speaker and right (active/main) speaker

Features

While the Ai40 isn’t actually packed with features and connections, the manufacturer really paid attention to sonic performance and choice of materials. The cabinets are made of wood and they feature the acoustic suspension design (in other words, they are sealed).

The woofers are made of woven glass fibers (the mixture of plastic and glass fibers). The manufacturer didn’t use the cheapest materials (paper) like many others. Woven glass fiber composite ensures accurate midrange reproduction and improves the resistance and durability of the speaker. This material also improves flexibility, responsiveness, and dynamics.

The dome-type tweeter is made of silk which smoothens the treble reproduction and makes the sound warm and more refined.

You won’t be impressed by the number of connections. You’ll get only two inputs – RCA and Bluetooth and some of you may consider that insufficient. The only type of device you can connect directly to the speakers are devices with analog outputs (AUX or RCA). In case you want to connect some audio source with digital outputs, you would have to buy a DAC device and use it to convert the signal from digital to analog. That’s simply inconvenient, especially when you know that there are powered speakers with digital inputs and with built-in DACs. Unfortunately, there’s always a catch and, in this case, the catch is the price. More versatile speakers are simply more expensive. If you don’t mind spending $100 more and you like the aesthetics and the sound of the Fluance Ai40, you should check out the upgraded version called Ai60 (it has an additional digital optical input, USB input, and a subwoofer output).

In case you want to connect your turntable to the Ai40, you will have to buy an external phono preamp.

Ai40 also features Bluetooth with aptX support. Pairing is easy and takes a few seconds and the speakers will pair automatically with the last paired device whenever you select the Bluetooth input.

Official video –  Basic features and functions 

Controlling the system is pretty simple. You can use that one knob/button on the right channel speaker to power on/off the unit, adjust volume, or change the input. The remote that comes with the speakers is a much more convenient option for controlling every aspect of the audio reproduction. You can use it to power on/off the speakers, adjust or mute the volume, select source, control the playback, and adjust the treble and bass levels. We were particularly happy with the treble and bass controls.

Fluance Ai40 remote

Fluance Ai40 remote

Performance and Sound Quality

Setting up the speakers is a hassle-free procedure. It took us less than two minutes to place them and connect them to our PC via AUX to RCA cable. Depending on the source you want to connect, you will use either AUX to RCA or RCA to RCA cable. As we have already said, if you want to connect some digital audio source or your turntable, you will need additional equipment (DAC or phono preamp).

Listening to Fluance Ai40 was quite an interesting experience. The first thing that captured our attention was the midrange reproduction, especially the vocals. Both male and female vocals were crispy and perfectly clear, even at high volumes. The midrange is detailed and very dynamic. We have tested the system with all kinds of genres and the one thing that we really loved with all these genres is the midrange.

Most of the treble sounds clear and accurate. It’s not fatiguing or painful. It’s just a little bit recessed (there’s a small roll-off after 10kHz).

If you are into heavy bass, you won’t be impressed by the Ai40. It’s present and very controlled but it won’t blow your mind. Even if you crank the bass up, it will stay controlled and it won’t muffle the mids.

There’s a nice balance between the lows, mids, and highs, but we wouldn’t mind if the speakers were punchier. Still, you have to be aware of some limitations caused by the size and design of the speakers.

Unlike the majority of manufacturers, Fluance publishes frequency response graphs for all their speakers. You can see the graph for Ai40 in the picture below.

Frequency response graph

Frequency response graph (source – Fluance website)

The Competition

You can hardly find a better-sounding powered speaker system for less than $200 but you can probably find some stereo systems with more connections (including digital). If you are prepared to pay more, you can get more versatile connectivity and equally good or even better sound. Here are some alternatives.


AudioEngine A5+ Wireless Powered SpeakersAudioEngine A5+ Wireless Powered Speakers

We have previously tested AudioEngine A5+ and if you want to know more you can read our in-depth review.

You should be aware that A5+ and Ai40 are not exactly in the same league. A5+ is almost $300 more expensive.

In terms of size and design, the difference between the two systems is not huge. They are both boxy and simple but elegant.

A5+ speakers are a little bit more versatile – they have RCA input, AUX input, and RCA output. There are no digital inputs but there’s Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX support. Ai40 also has Bluetooth with aptX support, but it works better on A5+ (the connection is more stable, the range is longer, and the reproduction is more detailed).

A5+ and Ai40 are both more about the sound than about connectivity. A5+ delivers a bit more detailed and just a little bit punchier sound, but we can’t really say that it’s worth the additional $300.


Peachtree Audio M25Peachtree Audio M25

We have also tested Peachtree Audio M25, and you can read our detailed review here.

Just like the Ai40 and A5+, Peachtree Audio M25 is boxy and it’s sized similarly. In terms of price, M25 is halfway between Ai40 and A5+.

What really makes M25 different is its versatility. It has all kinds of connections including RCA input, sub output, digital optical input, and a USB Type-B input. You can also connect your turntable to the M25 without any additional equipment (built-in phono preamp). Both speakers feature Bluetooth connectivity but M25 doesn’t support aptX Bluetooth codec (Ai40 is more capable when it comes to wireless streaming).

Both M25 and Ai40 deliver enjoyable sound with very detailed midrange and clear highs. They both lack some serious bass impact and that’s where M25 has some advantage over Ai40 because of the subwoofer output. M25 allows you to connect an additional subwoofer and significantly improve the bass response. That’s not an option with Ai40.


Edifier R2000DBEdifier R2000DB

Edifier is one of the most popular brands when it comes to cheap and affordable powered speakers.

Their R2000DB powered stereo system is some $50 pricier than Ai40. It’s also slightly larger than the Ai40 and it features a distinctive design with an angled front baffle and wooden side panels.

R2000DB is more versatile than the Ai40. It has 2 RCA inputs and one digital optical input. It also features Bluetooth connectivity (Bluetooth 4.0) but without aptX support. Ai40 delivers better performance in Bluetooth mode.

When it comes to sound, Ai40 delivers more detailed and clearer sound (especially the midrange), but the Edifier R2000DB is punchier and louder.


Comparison Table

SpeakerFrequency responseOutput power (RMS)
Fluance Ai4040Hz to 20kHz70W
AudioEngine A5+ Wireless50Hz to 22kHz (+/- 1.5dB)100W
Peachtree Audio M2550Hz to 20kHz100W
Edifier R2000DB55Hz to 20KHz (+/- 3dB)120W

Final Thoughts

Ai40 is a mixture of really good sound quality and limited connectivity. Is it the right choice for you? Well, if the sound is your most important concern, this stereo system is one of the best choices under $200. If you want to connect digital audio sources to your new stereo system, you will need something different. And you will have to invest more. The thing is – most powered stereo speakers under $200 are not that versatile and, even if they are, they don’t sound as good as Fluance Ai40. If you want more connections and you are willing to pay more, you can check out the Fluance Ai60 which is the Ai40’s big brother or you can try one of the three other alternatives we’ve mentioned.


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What Are Powered Speakers? https://www.audioreputation.com/what-are-powered-speakers/ https://www.audioreputation.com/what-are-powered-speakers/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2019 11:18:25 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4587 If you’re planning to enrich your home with a new audio system, you must’ve come across the term powered speakers. As this term always comes along with the term unpowered (or passive) speakers and as the understanding of powered speaker working principles significantly depends on the understanding of the working principles of the unpowered/passive speakers, […]

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If you’re planning to enrich your home with a new audio system, you must’ve come across the term powered speakers. As this term always comes along with the term unpowered (or passive) speakers and as the understanding of powered speaker working principles significantly depends on the understanding of the working principles of the unpowered/passive speakers, we will try to explain both types, and then focus our attention to the powered ones.

Basically, it all starts with the necessity to connect the speakers to the audio source (player, streamer, computer, etc.) and make them work. Speakers produce the sound which is the consequence of driver movements (sound vibrations), you must power the speaker in order to make the driver move and deliver the sound you want to listen to. The speakers can be connected to an amplifier, receiver or they can be powered by the built-in amplifier installed inside the speaker. This is the point where we start to distinguish two types of speakers.

The speakers that come with pre-installed/built-in amplifiers are called powered or active speakers, while the others (which are externally connected to their amplifier) are called unpowered or passive speakers. The confusion starts right here, at the speaker names. As the terms active/powered and passive/unpowered are commonly used together, people started to think that they are actually equal. However, this is not the case and, if you stay with us, we will try to explain the difference in a very simple way.

Let’s first see what are unpowered speakers so that we could easily understand the powered speakers. Later on, we will discuss the main differences as well as the main advantages and disadvantages of powered speakers. Of course, we won’t forget to mention their connection options and help you understand if these are the right choice for you.

What Are Unpowered/Passive Speakers?

Unpowered/Passive SpeakersWhen people talk about unpowered/passive speakers, they usually refer to the speakers that don’t have built-in amplifiers. These speakers have to be externally connected to an amplifier which drives the speakers enabling them to make the sound. Unpowered speakers are bought independently from their amplifiers and, in this case, the user has the freedom to experiment and find the right amplifier for his speakers.

The low-level audio signal coming from an audio source first comes to the external amplifier and it is amplified by it before it is sent to the speaker. When the amplified signal comes to the speaker, it is received by a passive crossover that splits it into appropriate frequency ranges and sends the signals to the matching drivers. As the crossovers inside the unpowered speakers are always passive, we can also call these speakers “passive”.

With unpowered speakers, you have the opportunity to choose the amplifier and the final product (sound) according to your taste and preferences. However, finding the right amplifier can sometimes be quite tricky, especially for ordinary people without any previous knowledge and understanding of the audio gear. The main rule that you should obey is to use an amplifier that has twice the wattage needed to power your speakers. For example, if you have a 300W speaker, your power amplifier shall be rated at 600W per channel.

Generally speaking, unpowered speakers may finally deliver betters sound (to your taste) but these speakers are quite pricey (because you have to buy the amplifier separately) and they require greater user’s engagement.

After introducing you briefly to the unpowered speakers, let’s skip to our main topic and see how the powered speakers are different and what are their positive and negative sides.

What Are Powered Speakers?

Powered SpeakersThe first powered speakers that were used as monitor speakers were made by JBL and the normal use of active monitor speakers started in the late ‘60s. Powered speakers became common during the late ‘70s where even some companies in the film industry started using them. As you can see the two words that are most commonly used are “powered” and “active”. These terms have been confused over years so let’s explain their meaning to you.

Powered speakers have this name because they are self-powered as they have their own built-in amplifier. Actually, powered speakers are those that have all the electric parts placed in one cabinet and the only thing left for you to do is to connect them to the power source and to some audio source. The manufacturer sends you the device with all the important parts (mixers, equalizers, pre-amps, and amps) pre-installed.

When it comes to active speakers, we must say that their classification depends on the type of crossover they have. As you probably know, crossovers can be passive (a component or a group of components installed between the speaker and the external amplifier) or active (a component that modifies the audio signal before the amplifier). Active crossovers combine pre-amps, resistors, and capacitors in one component and they receive the signal coming from the audio source, split it to frequency ranges and sends the split signals to the amplifier/amplifiers that forward it to the matching drivers. If the speaker is designed as the two-way system consisting of one tweeter and one woofer, the crossover will split the signal into high and low-frequency range. This system is called a bi-amplified system while the tri-amplified system would consist of three different drivers (tweeter, woofer, and mid-range driver).

Whenever a powered speaker has an active crossover, it can be called an active speaker. Basically, every active speaker is powered because it has a built-in amplifier. However, powered speakers can also have passive crossovers, although this is very rare, so we can’t really say that every powered speaker is active.

How Do Powered Speakers Work and Where Are They Commonly Used?

As we have said, powered speakers come with the built-in amplifiers and the only thing you should do is to plug them into a wall socket and connect them to the audio source. These speakers can be directly connected to any low-level source without an external amplifier. This low-level signal is sent from the source to the crossover that splits it into the smaller frequency bands and sends the signals to the amplifiers that will guide it to the drivers. All the active powered speakers have an amplifier for every driver.

This kind of speakers is widely used and they are actually considered better-sounding than the unpowered speakers, which could be discussed. However, powered speakers can be used with all kinds of devices, from your computer to the large systems used at live concerts. They can be used as both monitor speakers and the speakers pointed towards the audience, they can be parts of DJ equipment, etc. They can also be used in offices or apartments, or they can be parts of a home theater system. The smaller and more portable speakers are usually used with computers or smartphones, and they are less expensive (from $10 to $100) while the larger ones can cost up to several thousand (surround speaker systems made for gaming or watching movies).

Ways to Connect Powered Speakers to an Audio Source

If you think that you can connect your mixer and your powered speaker by using a speaker out jack, you are wrong. These jacks enable a flow of great amount of energy, which your powered speakers won’t be able to handle. There are certain ways to connect your devices to your powered speakers and we will discuss them now in detail.

Connect Powered Speakers to an Audio Source

Balanced/unbalanced lines

Balanced and unbalanced line connections are the most common type of connection when it comes to powered speakers. Instead of traditional cables that are used to connect a passive speaker to an audio source, powered speakers use these line inputs (red and white or left and right cables) to connect to your device (players, TV, etc.). The balanced lines are the more common type and they manage to reduce the noise even when you are using a cable that is longer than it is supposed to be (you know that powered speakers use shorter cables than unpowered ones). Most powered speakers have balanced TRS or XLR jacks. It sometimes happens that your mixer has only unbalanced outputs, which complicates things a bit because these lines are more prone to picking up noise.

Also, in case you want to connect your PC to your powered speaker but the PC doesn’t have line-in jacks, we advise you to try using some adapter cables that will interconnect the red and white cables on the speaker and the jack that your PC has (usually headphone mini jack).

Digital inputs

Newer powered speakers have digital inputs. This also means that they have a built-in DAC (digital to analog converter) that converts the digital signals coming from your CD player (for example) to analog because only after the conversion, the signal can be sent to the speaker’s crossover.

Wireless/Bluetooth connection

The most popular connection types nowadays are wireless and Bluetooth connections. More and more powered speakers feature these technologies which enable them to connect to different audio sources in an easy and clean way. This type of connection doesn’t only eliminate all the cables but also provides pretty good sound quality.

If you get wireless powered speakers, you will be using a transmitter/receiver combo instead of a cable. The receiver is built inside the speaker. It receives the signals from the audio source (which has a built-in transmitter) and sends it to the built-in DAC, then to the built-in amp, and then to the drivers that produce the sound. This is basically the technology that Bluetooth-enabled powered speakers use to connect to your portable electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Powered Speaker Advantages

Simpler design and setupAdvantages

As you have already understood, powered speakers have everything installed inside the cabinet: driver(s), amplifier(s), crossover, equalizers, etc. and this is what makes them simpler to set up than unpowered speakers. The great thing is that you won’t have to worry about finding the right amplifier because the right model is already built into the speaker. The only thing you have to do is to provide a power supply and connect the speaker to your audio source.

Reliability/fidelity

Having all electronic parts/components in one box increases the fidelity and reliability of these devices. Active crossovers and multiple amplifiers completely eliminate the necessity for every amplifier channel to work in the entire bandpass. This leads to a perfect impedance match to the amp’s capabilities and expands dynamic and output range of the speaker. In addition, these speakers usually use very short cables, which means that only a small amount of voltage and control can be lost.

Portability

Combining all the components in one enclosure means that you have to transport only one box in case you have to move the speaker.

Price

Buying one instead of two devices is always cheaper and the same rule applies to this situation. If you buy an unpowered speaker, you will have additional costs, because you will also have to buy an amplifier separately and these are not cheap, trust us. However, be careful when buying powered speaker systems for home use. High-end equipment in this situation can be much more expensive than a set of unpowered speakers and their amplifier.

Powered Speaker Disadvantages

WeightDisadvantages

In spite of all their good sides, we have to be honest with you – powered speakers are heavy and difficult to transport. Of course, there are some lighter and more portable versions but they are generally heavier than the unpowered speakers due to the added amplifier’s weight.

What you hear is what you get

Once you buy a powered speaker, you are stuck (more or less) with the sound you hear. Of course, you can try to equalize the sound but there is less space to experiment than with unpowered speakers.

Maintenance

We advise you to be careful with powered speakers and use them wisely because their amplifiers can overheat due to the fact that all the components are placed in one box. Also, if one of the components breaks down and you can’t repair it, you will have to replace the whole speaker, which can never happen with unpowered speakers. In addition, you may need professional assistance not only to maintain but also to upgrade your powered system as this can be quite tricky.

Are Powered Speakers the Right Choice for You?

We have given you all the info but the final decision is yours. We can’t really tell you whether powered speakers are the right choice for you or not because it depends on so many things. The only advice we can give you is to think carefully about room acoustics, room size, type of player, etc. and then try to figure out whether you would be more satisfied with powered or unpowered speakers. Just remember one thing, finding the perfect sound requires a lot of experimenting, searching, moving, and patience. It is not an easy task but once you find the perfect speakers for your house or live performance, you will see that it was worth it.

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LucidSound LS41 Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset Review https://www.audioreputation.com/lucidsound-ls41/ https://www.audioreputation.com/lucidsound-ls41/#comments Sat, 09 Mar 2019 22:20:58 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4699 If you are looking for a highly versatile wireless gaming headset that you can use with all your gaming consoles, you should definitely try the LS41 wireless surround sound gaming headset. It’s the latest flagship model made by a young but reputable company called LucidSound. LS41 deserves your attention because of many things but mainly […]

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If you are looking for a highly versatile wireless gaming headset that you can use with all your gaming consoles, you should definitely try the LS41 wireless surround sound gaming headset. It’s the latest flagship model made by a young but reputable company called LucidSound. LS41 deserves your attention because of many things but mainly because of its wireless and surround sound capabilities, and because of great sonic performance. In this review, we are going to list and explain all the upsides, downsides, and potential issues and give you our honest opinion on whether you should buy this headset or not. So, let’s get started.


LucidSound is a young headset manufacturer with an ambitious goal to bring change to the gaming industry. Their LS line of gaming headsets is not big but they are all highly praised for their design, comfort, ease of use, and performance.

LS41 is the latest headset model from the LS line. It’s supposed to be an upgraded version of the previous LS40 model. To be completely honest, the difference between the two models is minimal.

In terms of design, the only difference is the white stitching around the edges of the earpads and on the headband. All the other details on both headsets are absolutely the same. LS41 headphones also have a slightly improved audio output and just a little bit clearer sound. If you already have a pair of LS40 and thinking of upgrading to LS41, we can’t really recommend it. The improvement in sound quality is simply not that significant. On the other hand, if you are thinking of buying a new pair of gaming headphones and you are willing to spend up to $200, you should most definitely consider LS41.

LS41 headset is primarily designed for PS4, but it will work with many gaming consoles including Xbox One, Nintendo SWITCH, and PS4 Slim. It will also work with your PC or Mac and it can even be connected to your phone for casual listening. Versatility is one the most important upsides but it’s not the only one. LS41 is great in so many other aspects. It’s not too heavy and feels quite comfy, it is also solidly built and durable, the battery is quite capable, and it delivers an immersive surround sound experience.

The most noticeable downside is the lack of Bluetooth connectivity. LS41 is wireless but it uses a proprietary 2.4GHz network (not Bluetooth) to communicate with the USB dongle connected to your gaming console. The other noticeable downside is that it’s only partially wireless when used in combination with Xbox One. The game audio is transferred wirelessly, but you will need to connect your Xbox One controller to the headset (via 3.5mm audio cable) if you want to enable chat audio.

LucidSound LS41

Check Price on Amazon

UPSIDES

  • Stylish and elegant design
  • Interesting and intuitive game and chat volume wheels on the left and right earcups
  • Can be used as wired or wireless
  • Quite robust and durable
  • Comfortable enough for long gaming sessions
  • Pretty impressive battery life (up to 16 hours)
  • Quite versatile – compatible with PS4, PC, Mac, Xbox, and other gaming consoles
  • Very clear, balanced, and loud audio
  • Immersive surround sound performance
  • Clear mic

 
DOWNSIDES

  • It lacks Bluetooth
  • Not completely wireless when used with Xbox

 
VERDICT

Although it’s primarily designed for PS4, LucidSound LS41 is compatible with other gaming consoles as well as PCs and Macs. Because of its immersive surround sound experience, powerful audio output, and impressive mic performance, this gaming headset definitely deserves our recommendation, especially if you are going to use it with your PS4. Xbox fans might be better off with the previous LS35x version, which is also a few bucks cheaper. Speaking about the price, LS41 headset is quite expensive (priced around $200) and that could be a deal breaker for some of you. If you have that kind of money but you are still not sure if LS41 is the right choice, let us reassure you that its performance definitely justifies the price tag. It’s one of the best PS4/PC/Mac/Xbox wireless gaming headsets under $200 on the market.

What’s in the box?

LS41 headset comes in a nice box. The most important features are already listed on the box (DTS Headphone X, volume wheels on the earcups, supported devices, etc.).

Inside the box, you will find a large black carrying pouch. All the equipment is packed inside this pouch. You will get your LS41 headset, detachable boom mic, USB base station (which enables wireless connectivity), 3.5mm audio cable (for connecting the headset to your Xbox controller or for connecting the headphones to your phone for mobile use), optical cable (for connecting the dongle to the gaming console or PC), micro USB charging cable, mic port cover (when using the headphones on the go and when the boom mic is not attached, you can use this cover to protect the mic port and get cleaner look), and all the standard paperwork (user manual, warranty, etc.). The packaging doesn’t include hard carrying case but you can buy it separately.

Box contents

Box contents

LucidSound LS41 Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Weight12.5oz
TYPEOver-ear, closed-back
MATERIALPlastic and aluminum for the frame and headband

Memory foam and pleather for the padding
DRIVERS
TypeDynamic
Driver size50mm
BATTERY
Battery capacityN/A
PlaytimeUp to 20h
Charging timeUp to 5 hours
CONNECTIONSPS4, PC, Mac – fully wireless (via USB Base station)

Xbox – wireless (game audio), 3.5mm (chat audio)
CONNECTION TO THE GAMING CONSOLEOptical cable
WIRELESS CONNECTION RANGE30ft
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response20Hz-20kHz
Impedance32Ω
SPL97 +/-3dB
ADDITIONAL FEATURESDTS Headphone X 7.1 surround sound

5 sound modes (2 surround sound + 3 stereo presets)

Design

Unlike some other popular gaming equipment manufacturers (Razer, Turtle Beach), LucidSound prefers to keep things simple. You won’t see many flashy and fluorescent details or green LED lights on the cups. Their headsets are sleek, stylish, and clean.

The whole frame (headband and joints) look like they are made of one piece of aluminum. The earcups are plastic. The paddings on the earcups are really thick and make the headphones look a bit bulky. The headband is also padded. Like the LS40 version, LS41 has stitching around the edges of the earpads and across the headband padding. It’s a nice little cosmetic detail but.

Recognizable LucidSound design

Recognizable LucidSound design – a bit ordinary compared to Razer or Turtle Beach gear

The caps on both earcups are actually volume controls. You can rotate these wheels to adjust game volume (left earcup) or chat volume (right earcup). You can also mute the volume by pressing the LucidSound logos on the earcups.

On the bottom of the left earcup, you will see the oval mic input port, 3.5mm input, micro USB charging port, and power/pairing button. On the other earcup, you will find the EQ button which allows you to shift between different stereo/surround sound EQ presets.

Features

Volume controls are one of the first things you are going to notice about LS41 headset. That’s one of the trademarks of the LucidSound and they use them on all the headphones. You can rotate the caps to increase/decrease the volume or press the LS logo in the middle to completely mute the sound. Right earcup controls the chat volume while the left one controls the game volume.

Rotating volume wheels on the earcups

Rotating volume wheels on the earcups

The earpad cushions are thick and soft. The finish is a combination of fake leather and some cloth material (some kind of hybrid pads). The padding itself consists of cooling gel and memory foam. The headband is also nicely padded and soft. The earcups can swivel and rotate and the headband is adjustable and it will fit all kinds of heads.

Memory foam padding

Memory foam padding

The overall build quality is quite impressive. The headset looks sturdy and very solid. We like to treat our equipment with care but we’ve seen some other people bending and stretching this headset like crazy.

Now that we’ve covered the basic stuff, we can move onto some more important things.

First of all, let’s discuss the compatibility. LS41 was primarily designed for PS4 and it will deliver the best wireless performance with PS4. Still, LS41 is much more versatile than that and it can be connected to PS3, Xbox one, or to your PC or Mac. Unfortunately, it won’t offer the same level of performance with all these devices. Also, performing the initial setup with different consoles/devices won’t be equally easy. It’s much easier to connect and set it up on PS4 and Xbox One than on PC or Mac. LS41 will deliver great stereo sound when connected to any device, but it won’t deliver the same kind of surround sound with all of them. We will discuss all these performance-related stuff in the next section.

One more additional thing – LS41 can also be connected to your phone and used on the go. Unfortunately, you will have to use the included AUX cable since the headset doesn’t have a Bluetooth module. When used as a regular pair of headphones, you don’t have to keep the boom mic attached to the left earcup. There’s an additional built-in microphone which allows you to answer or make calls. It’s not as good as the boom mic, but it’s pretty usable.

LS41 is incredibly versatile and it’s compatible with many devices

LS41 is incredibly versatile and it’s compatible with many devices

The feature that really makes this headset special is the DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound. When used with PS4, Xbox One, and PC, LS41 will deliver surround sound experience and improve your situational awareness. It’s so much different than playing games in stereo.

DTS Headphone X surround sound

DTS Headphone X surround sound

When playing 5.1 or 7.1 sources, you can choose between gaming surround sound and boosted surround sound. The first one is more balanced and the second boosts high and low frequencies and makes the gaming experience even more immersive. In our opinion, boosted mode is better for gaming.

If you prefer stereo sound for gaming you can choose the stereo mode (3rd EQ preset) which is going to mix any 5.1 or 7.1 content into two channels.

There are two additional stereo modes – super stereo wide and super stereo front. Stereo wide mode widens the soundstage and stereo front offers the same kind of experience you would get with two stereo speakers placed on the left and right side of your screen.

When it comes to battery, the manufacturer claims that you can get even more than 20h of continuous gaming. In reality, the playtime is a bit shorter but still very impressive.

Setup and Performance

The initial setup depends on the gaming console or PC you want to use with these headphones. In some cases, it’s easy and fast. In other cases, it’s a bit more complicated.

Since LS41 is primarily designed for PS4, connecting it to your PS4 is the easiest thing to do and it will give the best results and completely wireless environment. You just have to connect the USB dongle to the USB port and then use the included optical cable to connect the optical port on your PS4 to the port on the USB dongle (base station), and then pair the headphones with the dongle and adjust audio output settings. You can see the whole step-by-step tutorial here. Once you are done with all the settings, you will get a completely wireless surround sound gaming experience (wireless game audio and wireless chat audio).

Connecting the headset to your PC is a bit more complicated and the procedure depends on your soundcard. In some cases, you will only get stereo instead of surround sound. With more capable soundcards, you have to change some Windows settings (setting up the default mic and speaker) and some soundcard settings (number of audio channels and SPDIF output). In the ideal case, you will get a completely wireless surround sound experience (wireless game audio + wireless chat audio). You can see the full tutorial here.

When it comes to Xbox One, you will get only partially wireless audio. The setup procedure is pretty much the same as with PS4 (connect the dongle, adjust audio output settings, pair the dongle with the headset). You will get a great surround sound experience but there’s one problem. You will only get wireless game audio (you won’t get wireless chat audio). If you want to communicate with other players, you will have to use the included AUX cable and connect your Xbox controller to the headset. If you have an older controller version, you will have to buy a headset adapter (or a new controller). You can find the full tutorial on LucidSound’s webpage.  

USB dongle cannot be directly connected to the PS4 Slim because Slim doesn’t have optical inputs but there are a few workarounds. Depending on the option you choose, you will get a different kind of audio (stereo or surround sound) but you can’t get the same kind of functionality you would get with PS4.

As you already know, the advertised battery life is 20+ hours. In reality, you will get up to 16 hours at moderate volumes (up to 70%) which is more than enough.

The advertised range is 30ft but, in reality, it’s less than 20ft. On the other hand, the connection is perfectly stable within the 20ft range – no connection loss, no cutting out.

Sound and Mic Quality

LS41 truly brings your gaming experience to a whole new level. It enables you to hear everything around you and, more importantly, to pinpoint accurately where the sound is coming from. You can hear someone sneaking up on you from behind, feel the bullets flying around you, experience the cannon fire and explosions the way you have never experienced them before.

Depending on the EQ preset you choose, you will get a different kind of experience but they all sound great. LS41 headset can reproduce everything accurately and vividly and reacts well to EQ adjustments. Out of two surround modes, boosted surround offers better (more immersive) gaming experience.

You should be aware that headsets simulating surround sound will never be as good as true surround sound systems with dedicated speakers for each channel but, compared to other headsets supporting surround sound, LS41 delivers an impressive surround sound simulation. If you prefer stereo sound for gaming, you will be happy to know that there are 3 presets and that you can always play with EQ settings and boost a certain frequency range.  

When used on the go with your phone, LS41 headset has to be connected through AUX cable. LS41 doesn’t have Bluetooth and wireless connection is not impossible in this scenario. Aside from this connection inconvenience, LS41 delivers pretty impressive listening experience when used for music listening. The audio is nicely balanced and detailed. If you prefer something bassier, you can always play with the equalizer and adjust the sound to your taste. The headphones will react really good to moderate boosting (+3dB) and we don’t recommend making any drastic changes. There’s a small and barely noticeable distortion at high volumes but it’s not distracting. One small note – when the headset is connected to your phone, digital audio player, or any other source with a 3.5mm output, you are supposed to turn off the headphones.

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LS41 features not one but two mics – there’s one built-in mic in the left earcup and there’s a detachable boom mic. You can use both for gaming but you will get much better results with the boom mic. It’s much clearer and it delivers absolutely flawless performance. If you like hearing your voice, you will be happy to know that mic monitoring works great and that mic monitoring volume adapts to the game volume. You can easily control the mic/chat volume by rotating the volume wheel on the right earcup or you can mute it by pressing the LS logo on the earcup. When you mute the mic, the LED indicator on the very end of the boom mic will light up and it will glow until you unmute it.

The other mic (the built-in one) is usable but doesn’t deliver the same kind of performance. This mic is just an additional feature that allows you to answer and make calls when using the headphones with your phone and when the boom mic is not attached. The built-in mic delivers a bit more noise but your voice will still be intelligible on the other end.

The Competition

There’s a lot of competition at $200 price point but not all the headsets offer the same kind of performance. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly headset with a similar set of features and similar performance, our suggestion would be SteelSeries Arctis 7. If you are looking for some much cheaper wireless headset for your Xbox One, Turtle Beach Stealth 600 would a nice choice.


SteelSeries Arctis 7SteelSeries Arctis 7

SteelSeries Arctis 7 is cheaper than LS41 and can be found for $120 (the price goes up to $180 depending on the seller). At $120 price point, Arctis 7 offers an impressive value for the money and it’s even a better choice than LS41.

Arctis 7 is, just like LS41, primarily designed for wireless use with PS4 and PC, but can be used with Xbox One (wireless game audio and wired chat audio).

Arctis 7 also supports DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound.

In terms of design, Arctis 7 looks more like a gaming headset while the LS41 is more ordinary-looking pair of headphones.

Both headsets have separate game and chat volume controls and detachable boom mics. They can both be used in wired mode and can be connected to a phone.

They both offer great surround sound experience but LS41 delivers a bit clearer, louder, and less distorted sound.

Arctis 7 has a stronger battery and can deliver up to 24 hours of wireless use.

Both headsets lack Bluetooth connectivity.


Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Wireless Gaming HeadsetTurtle Beach Stealth 600 Wireless Gaming Headset

If you are looking for a wireless headset for your Xbox One and you don’t have enough money for LucidSound’s LS35X (which would our go-to headset for Xbox), Turtle Beach Stealth 600 is a great option. It’s one of the best wireless surround sound headsets for Xbox under $100.

Stealth 600 uses Xbox wireless technology to communicate with your Xbox gaming console and supports Windows Sonic Surround Sound. The headset can also be connected to PCs featuring Xbox wireless (or you can use Xbox wireless adapter for PCs that don’t feature this technology). The headset won’t work with PS4 which makes LS41 more versatile.

In terms of design, LS41 is sleeker and more stylish.  Also, LS41 is more rugged and feels more durable. Stealth 600 is a bit lighter and a bit more comfortable.

Stealth 600 has a non-detachable flip-up mic, separate chat and game volume controls, it features mic monitoring, and it has multiple EQ presets.

Both headsets deliver similar wireless playtime.


Razer ManO’WarRazer ManO'War

Razer ManO’War is a bit pricier than LS41, but you can always find a used one for less than $150.

Razer ManO’War is compatible with PC, Mac, and PS4 but it won’t deliver the same kind of performance with all these devices. It supports 7.1 surround sound when connected to PC or Mac. When connected to PS4, it will deliver only stereo sound and you won’t be able to use all the control buttons. In other words, headset’s capabilities are very limited when used with PS4. In order to enable 7.1 surround on your PC/Mac, you have to install Razer Surround Software. So, LS41 is a clear winner when it comes to versatility/compatibility.

Razer ManO’War features recognizable Razer design with a glowing Razer logo (Chroma lighting) on the earcups. In terms of build quality, LS41 looks more rugged and more durable.

Razer ManO’War has a retractable (not detachable) microphone. Both headsets feature separated game volume and chat volume controls (they don’t work when ManO’War is connected to PS4).

ManO’War delivers up to 20 hours of playtime if the Chroma lighting is disabled (less than 16 with Chroma lighting).


Comparison Table

Gaming headsetFrequency responseBattery
LucidSound LS4120Hz-20kHzUp to 16 hours
SteelSeries Arctis 720Hz-20kHz24+ hours
Turtle Beach Stealth 60020Hz-20kHzUp to 15 hours
Razer ManO'War20Hz-20kHzUp to 20 hours

Final Thoughts

We can’t deny that LS41 is a bit pricey but when you think about the performance, versatility, and compatibility, and when you compare it to other headsets, you will realize that LS41 is worth every cent. You don’t have to buy two or three separate headsets and use each wireless headset on a different device. Instead, you can now buy one headset that works with PS4, PC, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PS4 Slim. It won’t deliver the same kind of wireless environment with Xbox as it does with PS4, PC, or Mac, but it will still sound great. If your limit is set at $200 and you want to spend that kind of money on a gaming headset, you won’t regret buying LS41.


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