So first I should start by saying that Anker sent me these headphones for free to test out. I am however not endorsed or employed by Anker in any other way. So here goes the legal disclaimer: “I was supplied a sample for test and evaluation, and I promised that my review is fair and honest”
Now that we’ve got that out of the way I can start talking about these headphones.
Contents of the box
The headphones come in a nice minimalistic cardboard box. They come with three sets of rubber earbud sizes, two sets of rubber pads of different lengths, to hold the earphones in if you need them, and a charging cable. Other than that you get the usual manual and other paraphernalia.
These are in-ear headphones. They are slightly larger than regular earphones, and slightly heavier too, but nothing that will make them uncomfortable to wear. There is one flat rubberized cable connecting the left and right earphone which is 48cm long. 5 cm down from the right side, you have a rubberized inline remote with volume plus/previous song, volume minus/next song, and multifunction button. The buttons are all under a rubberized cover so there are no individual buttons to see if that makes any sense.
The earbuds are at slight angle to allow the earphones to remain straight when the earbuds are inserted into your ear canal. Other than that the headphones will protrude a bit more than standard headphones when wearing them.
There is no charging port on the headphone; instead, you have two small contact pads on the right earphone, facing the ear. This is actually much better than having a micro USB plug. Sure, now you have to bring an extra cable on any long trips, but it also means that there is that much extra space for battery, and that counts. Considering the placement of the charging pads, I suspect that Anker have crammed all of the battery and charging circuitry on the right earphone, and the Bluetooth antenna on the left earphone.
Overall the headphones look quite appealing and well made, probably as well made as any midrange headphone you can buy. I do like the flat cable a lot though, I think it adds a bit more to the slightly futuristic design that Anker have gone for.
Wearing the headphones
As I said, these headphones are a bit heavier than standard cabled headphones. Because of that, and the fact that the rubber earbuds aren’t very rough to the touch, I have to use the extra rubber pads. I attach them as shown below. Once the headphones are in with the pad, they’re not coming out though. I haven’t gone for a run with them but I’m pretty certain that they’ll stay in; you’ll also have the additional advantage of not having extremely sweaty ears that you would get with over ear headphones…
Because they are slightly heavier (10-20 grams more maybe) than usual headphones, you do feel them a bit more. That means that if you’re going to wear them for hours on end (and I’m talking a lot here) you might feel some strain on your ears.
Now the cool thing to do with these headphones is to have the cable going behind your neck. Unfortunately I find the cable a smidgens too short for me to be able to have the cable behind my neck, and not feeling a pull on the headphones every time I look around to cross the road. I do have a rather large head though, so it might be fine for other people. Wearing the cable under my chin, these headphones have been great for walking to work and listening to at the office, etc.
That bluetooth thing
One thing I hate, its cables. I work as an aeronautical engineering, and I get my fair share of tangled cables. So if I can avoid having to figure out how to unknot my headphones every time I walk to the office, or have to open my jacket when its -10°C to route my headphone cable to my pocket, I’m happy (I know, first world problems…). That’s why Bluetooth headphones are so practical. You do have the additional requirement of making sure they’re charged, and you have to turn them on and off every time, but otherwise they’re great.
The Anker Bluetooth headphones support the newer APT-X codec; in theory that means that they will support up to 384 kbits/s on 16bit audio. In other words, you will not have any additional loss of quality on most mp3 tracks you listen too. To be fair, I don’t think I would be able to tell the difference between APT-X Bluetooth and cabled.
These also support Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. If you’re lucky enough to have a device which supports this, then you will get even more battery life out of these. I managed to get an estimated 5 hours of life from these on Bluetooth 3.0, but wasn’t able to test them extensively for Bluetooth 4.0. I’d expect that to go up to 6-7 with LE. For android users, lots of the devices from last year onwards support Bluetooth 4.0 in the hardware. Unfortunately google is only coming out with a software stack that supports Bluetooth 4.0 in android 4.3 (released on Nexus devices last Wednesday, but you’ll probably have to wait until the end of the year for a potential update from your manufacturer/provider).
The headphones were able to connect will all of the Bluetooth devices I had at my disposal. These included (I’ve added what the devices support as connection type. I had not obvious way of verifying this though)
- HTC one X (Bluetooth 3.0 apt-x connection)
- Samsung Galaxy S3 (Bluetooth 3.0 apt-x connection)
- Apple Iphone 5 (Bluetooth 4.0 EDIT : no apt-x)
- Sony vaio-z 2011 (I believe Bluetooth 2.1 connection, but don’t quote me on that)
- Google/Samsung nexus 10 (Bluetooth 4.0 apt-x connection)
- Nokia Lumia 900 (unknown, friend’s phone)
All devices worked well and were able to pair easily. You can actually pair up two devices with the headphones, so that’s quite useful if you want to pair to your phone and your tablet for example. The only issue I found with this is that if both paired devices are in range, and have Bluetooth on, the headphones will automatically reconnect to the last device connected; if you want to use the other device you have to manually disconnect you first device from the headphones.
There’s a good chance that most of you will skip here straight away, and so I’ll try to be brief (for once). Any judgment that I make here will be based on the Klipsch Image S4i (my favorite earphone).
The sound from these is well balanced. There is not an extensive amount of bouncy bass, and bass heads will probably be disappointed. Sound clarity is good, although I would prefer a tiny bit more mids and highs. Overall, for their retail price of 39£ here in the UK (at the time of writing this review), I think they would be a good buy even without the Bluetooth.
There is one thing that I didn’t like. There seems to be a low amplitude high pitched tone coming out if the left earphone whenever something is played. You can’t hear it whenever you have music playing, but as soon as you switch to a talk show or an audio book, I find it very audible. This only comes from the left earphone, so I suspect it’s the Bluetooth antenna which hasn’t been shielded off from the speaker and is causing that tone. This isn’t a deal breaker though. To be honest I had 3 other friends verify this and two of them said they wouldn’t have noticed had I not told them.
So I guess what it comes down to is : If I were looking for Bluetooth headphones, and I had to pay for this myself would I do it ?
The answer is a resounding yes; I don’t think you will find anything close to this in this price range. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for some, even more so if the background noise issue gets fixed.
I’d also like to point out that whenever I’ve had to deal with Anker, they’ve been extremely helpful, sending replacement as soon as I had any problems.
The headphones are available in Germany, US and UK at the time of writing the review, at this link http://www.ianker.com/product/99ANHDSET-BDA
Edited by Chluz - 10/24/13 at 11:13am