Pros: Amazing Durability, Overall Good-Looking, Reasonably Priced, Extremely Portable and Good Battery Life
Cons: A Bit Leaky, Audio Quality Is Good But Not Amazing
Wow. There doesn’t seem to be a more appropriate way to word the beginning of this review, than to simply express my genuine surprise, and indeed – to a certain extent – admiration of the UMi Voix Blu headphone, which I’ve had the honor to test the prototype for during the last month, at UMi’s request. I would actually go so far as to say that the Voix Blu headset has the potential to disrupt the headphone community more than any headphone has done for the last few years. However, whether it will or not is something I strongly encourage you to read on in order to arrive at your own conclusion about.
Design & Build
Audiophile or not, the first thing that’s going to strike you about the UMi Voix Blu is that, boy, is this headphone gracefully clean or what. The matte snow-white design of the Blu’s headband together with the matte pitch-black style of the cushioned ear-pad speakers creates a nice distinct ”Stormtrooper look”. This simplistic design continues with a nice shade of industrial grey on the rubberized inside of the headband, and is really shown in the minimalistic remote control hub positioned on the right driver capsule, at the end of the headband.
Once you get the headphone out of it’s simple, cheap *cough*, and sadly not particularly exciting packaging, you are going to feel that whatever quality the packing may lack, it is more than compensated by the genuine premium feel of the headphone itself. While the Voix Blu feels sturdy and solid, – primarily due to the rubberized inside of the headband and qualitative polycarbonate-fiber frame for it’s outside -, the headphone is astonishingly light for a stereo headset, coming in at just 125 grams – which means the entire headphone unit weighs in at less than the iPhone 5C!
The remote control hub is surprisingly elegant and straightforward for a Chinese headset priced below $50. It is dominated by a central circular play/pause button, which also doubles as a power/connect button. This button is in turn surrounded by a thin transparent plastic ring, through which an integrated LED flashes to inform the wearer of the headset’s status, e.g. powered on, ready to pair to device, powered off, charging or connected. Around this LED circle, there’s an upper portion of two controls, in charge of lowering/raising the volume, and a lower portion of two controls for rewinding/skipping songs. The buttons feel durable, and have a satisfying ”click” – supposed you actually press down right on the ”-”, ”+”, ”<” or ”>” symbol, since the headset – understandably – seems to struggle with registering clicks on the fringe of the controls.
One surprising, albeit welcome, feature of the UMi Voix Blu is that the entire polycarbonate fiber frame is designed to allow an active, portable lifestyle. This is partly why the headset is so light, but this unique way in which the fiber frame is composed also makes the headset ultra-flexible, besides just being light – which simply means that this headphone can flex about as much as you can twist or bend it. I think it’s impossible to snap the headband by mistake, and you can simply forget about accidentally breaking this headphone by sitting on it. Ain’t gonna happen.
(However, I must add, that if you happen to be stupid tech journalist who has got to test exactly how much pressure the Voix Blu can withstand without snapping, you might end up with a small crack right at the apex of the white plastic headband. This happened to me just as I was finishing up this review, and I want to clearly state that although you can obviously damage this headset, it took an excessive amount of force. It was also not in any way UMi’s fault, as they could not possibly had expected someone to be foolish enough to see where the headband objected.)
The UMi Voix Blu utilizes a Bluetooth 4.0 connection to pair to your preferred device, which means that this wireless connection can handle pretty much whatever you throw at it. I’ve also tried to pair it to older devices that use Bluetooth 2.0, and this works like a charm. The Bluetooth 4.0 connection is also surprisingly stable – the marketing for the UMi Voix Blu touts that it’s got a 10 meter wireless range, and I would actually daresay the real world performance is even better. I can move around the entire lower floor of my house without losing the connection, even if my phone is sitting, charging, in the far corner of my closed room. The unit also supports NFC, for those Android owners who prefer to connect that way. Basically, the wireless technology in this headphone is excellent.
However, a wireless headset is only as good as it’s battery capacity, as anyone who’s ever tries a pair of Bluetooth headphones will know, and this is frequently an area of concern when making the move to wireless drivers. The Voix Blu, though, continue to pleasantly surprise, delivering audio for one or two hours over the advertised capacity of 10 hours, totaling at around 12 hours. Charging the Voix Blu, when the internal rechargeable battery is finally depleted, is also hassle free. There’s an USB to Mini-USB charging cable included, and the Voix Blu manages a full charge in about 2.5 hours.
The Voix Blu also uses passive noise cancellation, which means that you’ll still hear some background sound, but still be immersed in the music – without becoming completely isolated from surrounding audial imputs.
I am going to be brief on this topic, as I know audio can be an area where personal preferences greatly affect your attitude. However, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way – the actual audio in this headset is not breathtaking, staggering, or revolutionary in any way. The audio is certainly clear enough, features adequate mids, high and lows, and can even throw in some somewhat booming bass time to time. Most of the time though, the audio is quite ”cold”, so to speak – it never gets warm, emotional or distracting, which can be both good and bad. The headset is also a bit prone to audio leakage, and although it never gets that bad at a medium volume, people around you definitely hear what your playing if you raise the volume quite a bit. It should although be noted that despite this the audio projected into your ears remains very clear, and can easily bring out all of the intricate parts of a song that cheap handsets traditionally struggle with. And perhaps I am being a bit too harsh on the UMi Voix Blu – this is after all headphones for about $50, and I’m simply stating that it doesn’t have the same quality as a $100, or even $200 headset – it is still an amazing bargain at $49.
In conclusion then, if I’m perfectly honest I’d say the audio is just about average – it is not in anyway outright bad, but an audiophile is going to want more than the Voix Blu can offer. However, this is where it get’s interesting – because even if the Blu does not have a sound quality that caters to the audiophile segment of the market, neither does any other Bluetooth headphones on the market. If you choose the portability of a pair of wireless headphones, you are clearly not in it for remarkable audio quality.
If you keep this in mind, the UMi Voix Blu quickly becomes a more and more attractive offer. To reiterate, audiophiles are not the market for the Voix Blu, so sound quality is less of an issue. Sure, a normal guy could spend a lot more money on a couple of Bluetooth earphones that might sound better, but they would not sound a lot better, as the real limitations on wireless devices’ sound quality come from the Bluetooth connection. This makes the cheaper, but very capable Voix Blu look even better by comparison. The more I think about this, the more I see the elegant logic behind how UMi is positioning the Blu.
If we think about it, Bluetooth headphones should be all about portability – that is after all, at the core of it, why they are wireless to begin with. However, a lot of Bluetooth headsets try to pack a lot of features, cutting-edge technologies and premium materials in the same enclose, which is also designed to look good (aka expensive). While they typically manage these parts quite well, this also means that the headphones usually become fragile – which means you have got to be careful with them.
Now if we reflect over this for a minute, we see that it makes very little sense. If a device is supposed to be all about portability, it is a severely limiting and counterproductive move to manufacture portable products that are so delicate as today’s flagship headsets. The Voix Blu, however, stays true to this original thought about portability – and therefore the Voix Blu is designed to be twisted, dropped, sat on, thrown, and generally abused without quitting, or even complaining. The Voix Blu is also compatible with a huge array of devices – virtually anything with Bluetooth capabilities is able to connect to it. Hell, I bet my old laptop from the early 2000s could connect to this sucker.
Besides featuring both great durability and connectivity, it is very affordably priced. I don’t know whether UMi is trying to build up a loyal fanbase by offering such a versatile headset at this low price-point, or if they simply don’t have very competent people in charge of pricing – but whatever the reason, I’m loving it.
The Blu is about the perfect device for someone who is just trying out their first Bluetooth headset, and being so easy to use as well as so affordable, it has all the makings of a product that could very well see widespread general adoption. Actually come to think of it, a lot of things about the UMi Voix Blu is reminding me about a pair of cheaply priced IEMs I reviewed a couple of years ago on Head-Fi – the Xiaomi Pistons 2. After this, they exploded in popularity, and with more and more smartwatches coming out that are more and more competent (I’m especially thinking of the Apple Watch, but also the upcoming 2015 Moto 360), the popularity of wireless Bluetooth headsets is about to rocket. Whether or not the UMi Voix Blu is the cataclysm that will trigger this, I don’t know. All I know is that I certainly wouldn’t mind if it was.
The UMi Voix Blu is available to purchase on Amazon, at “http://www.amazon.com/dp/B010N4Y288″, or on Coolicool at “http://www.coolicool.com/umi-voix-blu-wireless-bluetooth-headset-support-hands-free-with-mic-for-smartphones-computer-and-tab-g-40810″.
Pros: Affordable Price, Good Features, Decent Sound Quality
Cons: Finicky Driver Capsule
Me: I am an amateur musician & avid admirer of music from India. I would like to call myself a music enthusiast, rather than an audiophile. I was inspired by music since childhood, and as the time passed, the passion of music grew in me, and that subsequently led me to join Head-Fi. I usually like to listen to Indian Classical Music along with Bollywood songs. My main listening genres include classical, vocal, instrumental, jazz and sometimes pop. With time, my sonic preferences have very much grown. I avidly admire transparency, accuracy along with neutrality, I mostly listen to full sized open back headphones and my all-time favorite headphones are Sennheiser HD800 & AKG K812, which I run from solid state amplifiers. I prefer & admire transparent solid state headphone amplifiers simply because they provide best possible accuracy, transparency & reliability.
I am an average consumer & a humble enthusiast, I like to pen down my thoughts, & I love to express my feelings. I do not receive for any sort financial benefits through this review. My articles are a purely honest writeup aimed for fellow enthusiasts here at Head-Fi community. My profound thanks to UMI Corp.for arranging a sample unit of ‘Blu‘for my evaluation. Now, I am not a huge fan of bluetooth headphones, but I understand the vital wireless and portable feature they offer, which are integral part in today's modern lifestyle. Intro: UMI is a Chinese brand mainly dealing with cellphones & smartphones. Recently they happened to introduce their first low-cost headphones & earphones. VOIX BLU is their first Bluetooth/wireless headphone offering priced economically around 50$. It is also rumoured that Blu is a rebranded LeTV LeME headphones.
Let’s proceed to the review,
Packaging and Accessories: The BLU headphones arrived packed inside a thin plastic box & can be damaged easily, as there are no protective foams. Just a single thin plastic sheet protecting the headphones. Really mediocre packaging method, I did not quite like it. Packing part has to improve. It is the question of safety of headphones here.
List of accessories in the box, which include the following:
USB Cable: A generic USB – micro USB type for charging purpose.
User Manual: Contains information about using these headphones. Design & Build: The Blu has a sturdy overall build. Feels rubberized & looks very modern headphone. Build is steady everywhere except where the headband meets driver assembly, where driver swings around a little more than necessary. It has a grippy matt colour scheme, utilising fibre, steel & rubber as physical materials.
Blu is an on-ear type closed back headphone with passive noise cancellation. These are light in weight. Left and Right markings are a little hard to see, but are clearly indicated. Headband & earpads cushioning have soft rubbery finish. The length slider is made up of polished steel, which ensures this area, which is under tension, does not break off. The Blu is already nimble, easy to handle, wear on and power requirement is very low. Along with all these are easy to carry around. Since the Blu is a Bluetooth headphone it has internal rechargeable battery, and recharging point is a micro USB, & is expected to be charged from a 5V USB line. The Blu supports Bluetooth V4, NFC connection. Battery life is expected at around 10 hours. The Blu headphone has controls on the right driver capsule. It has play/pause, forward, backward and volume keys on lower side of the headphones.
Points awarded 8/10
Comfort: Blu is very comfortable to wear, and is light in weight. Its yoke is long enough and hence comfortable for almost any-sized heads. Matrix2 is ergonomically designed. But since the earpads are madeup of pleather, ventilation will be less, thereby causing sweating; especially in tropical climate. But it can be continuously worn over an hour without any discomfort issues. Since Blu is a closed back headphone, It will isolate the listener from outside noise. This level of isolation is good enough for a traveller. Going by weight factor, these feel light and go easy on head. Clamping force is relaxed and not at all imposing and pressing against ears.
Sound: The Blu sounds good for casual listener, but does not have an audiophile grade accuracy. Though on casual listen on the move, it is very enjoyable. I guess we always use wireless headphones when on move or when working etc: which means we will not have fully quiet environment or full attention towards sound quality & utmost precision of headphones. So Compromise here is accepted here in this regard.
It connected well with my old and outdated Nokia 5230 having Bluetooth 2.0 support. So I suppose the Blu will hook up with almost all of the bluetooth supporting smartphones as well. The primary use of wireless cans is to pair them with our smartphones. The Blu hasa clean transmission, no audible noise or signals. Signal range is pretty good, I moved around the home away from my phone about 5 meters away.
Lows are slightly loose, are elevated and Bass boosted. Mids are clean, but recessed, not revealing Highs have slightly smooth treble, but not detailed. Blu’s soundstage is good (for a wireless can) with nearly circular soundstage. Width & Depth are balanced, decent. Instrument separation is good for a BT headphone at this price. Detail retrieval & accuracy is not upto mark, but this factor is again ignorable as Blu is a wireless headphone under a budget price point.
Overall there is nothing special or appreciable in sound quality, and we all know that wireless headphones do sacrifice or trade in sound quality in return for portability and wireless option.
Points awarded 6/10
Comparision: I would like to compare the Blu to MeElectronic s Matrix2 wireless headphone which is priced at 90$.
Compared to the Matrix2, Blu has no chance, in any field let it be sound quality, design, function. The Matrix2 simply has mind blowing features, quality, functions: you name it, you have it. Such amazingly performing kind of wireless headphone & outruns any wireless headphone under 100$. Sound quality is clearly preferable in Matrix2, along with superior build quality and better features. Also a good quality portable headphone case is included. Blu headphone is available around 50-60$, but the Matrix2 headphone is a simply amazing wireless headphone. If one can afford to put additional 30$ over, then It is definitely better to buy the Matrix2. It is well worth the additional 30$. But again Blu too has a very good value aspect, and punches features for 50$ price tag.
Conclusion: The UMI Voix Blu is a good wireless headphone under a budget of 50$, It offers a decently performance & affordable price regarding wireless cans. Feasible option for music enthusiasts who wish to listen to music on move & don’t want to invest more than 50$ on a wireless headphone.
Overall conclusive Points awarded: 7/10 : Good to go for!