The unbox experience is very good. The headphones are presented in a molded carrier inside a nice box. Underneath are the extra eartips, charing cable and the carrying tin. Yes, a carrying “tin” — a metal circular box that is about 1.5 inch tall and 3 inches diameter. This box certainly will protect the headphones, although it is a bit bigger than the typical soft pouch.
The reason I picked this particular model is that it has a claimed battery life of 12 hours! I am looking for a bluetooth headphones that someone can use almost constantly during the day without the need for recharging. With my run down test, after 11 hours of music playing at a normal volume, the battery shows 40% according to the report by the connected iPhone. By playing music at 50% volume I measured 15 hours of playback time before the battery ran out. Now that I have used it under normal condition, the batteries definitely last for an entire day each day.
Design and Fit
The earbuds and the remote control module both are larger than the normal bluetooth earbuds. I assume that’s where the larger batteries are located. The earbuds are not too large to be uncomfortable. It stills sit in the ear unobtrusively. I like memory wire setup, but like most other memory wire, it takes a bit of adjusting to get it right. Once it is bent to the right shape, it helps the earbuds stay in, and fit around my eyeglasses frame easily.
Initially I find the sound quality average. I burnt them in for probably two days, during the battery test. The sound stage is still not very wide. Bass is natural, not overly boosted. The highs are slightly harsh. After the burn in period, I give it a B+ for sound, which is good in terms of earbuds at this price range.
Overall, these are a good buy, especially if you want a long lasting, comfortable pair of in ear headphones.
tl:dr; If you are looking for the best wireless headset for making video calls when working for home, this is the best headset to get. Great sound. Comfortable to wear. Connect to computer and phones seamlessly.
I work from home most of the time. I conduct online video meetings several hours a day. Having tried many different brands and types of headset, these are the top requirements I use to determine which headset is the best:
There are cheaper wired USB headset. But wireless headset let me stand up and walk around, go get a cup of coffee, all without missing anything. And no cord to get tangled. Not all bluetooth connects are the same.
Great Microphone Sound
It is hard enough to talk and listen over a video link. I want to sound good and clear so that people on the other end can hear me. Most high end headset has good sound, including the Jabra evolve and Apple AirPods.
Most smaller headsets, like the AirPods, last only an hour or so with constant use. There is nothing more annoying then having to switch headset during a call. I need something that has at least 4 hours of realistic talk time.
Using a headset several hours a day is not comfortable. Most in ear headsets are out with the exception of the AirPods. Pressure in the ear canal is never good. On ear headset is actually more comfortable than over the ear for someone who wear glasses. Weight and head band design also matters.
Why the Voyager Focus UC
Long Battery Life
The voyager, being a full size headset, has great battery life. It is rated at 12 hours talk time. I have never ran out of battery during a day’s worth of conference call. Because it comes with a easy to use charging stand, charging the headset overnight is easy to do. No trying to figure out the right direction to plug in a micro USB cable. Although you can charge it using USB as well, especially if you are on the go or in a hotel. The headset comes with a soft slightly padded carrying case.
Stable Connection to iPhone and MacBook Pro
The Voyager connects to my iPhone XS using standard bluetooth 4.1, but connect to my MacBook Pro 2017 using a proprietary adapter/dongle. I attach it to a USB-A to USB-C adapter and plug that into my MacBook Pro. Initially I thought this will be a hassle. But the dongle has a useful LED light that tells me the connection and mute status. I grew to like it.
The headset switch seamlessly between my iPhone and my Mac. I find that I need to give the headset a few seconds to get connected. Do not flip the boom mic down until it is connected to both the phone and the computer. It has audio status to tell me that it is connected.
The Earpad and headband design is comfortable
The on-ear earpads are comfortable. The clamping force is very low. The headband is a suspended design that put very little pressure on the top of my head. The elastic suspended design also means the headset will not go out of adjustment.
I conducted two mic sound tests. I record myself talking into the headset, first with music playing from my Amazon Echo on my desk. When I discovered that almost none of the music is recorded, even the full size Echo device is only three feet or so away on my desk, I was amazed. Then I played a coffee shop ambient sound track very loudly on my home stereo, then walk around with the headset recording my voice. Again most of the ambient sound is filtered out. You can listen to a sound test here:
The Voyager Focus has a lot of good design features:
I like the physical on/off and pair switch. It is easy to locate. Easy to use.
The control groupings are intuitive: All media control is on one side, including volume, track next/pre, play and pause. The other side is the mic boom, and the power and answer control. On the boom itself is the mute switch. While there are many physical switches, they are sensibly grouped.
Ambidextrous design: You can actually wear the headset with the mic boom on left or right. The headset can tell and will route the left and right channel accordingly. Smart huh? However it does not switch the volume “Knob” direction. So depending on which side is the volume “knob”, forward can means louder or softer.
The headset has a smart sensor. When you remove the headset from your head, it will pause music playback. It works with all audio app on my iPhone, and native music apps on my Mac, like iTunes. It will not pause a video playing inside a browser.
There is a plantronics app call PLT Hub on iOS, and a Plantronics Hub app for OSX on the Mac. both are free software. They allow customization of various things on the headset and the connection dongle.
The Voyager is the best after I tried several other types and brands. The Apple AirPods win on comfort, sound and compatibility, but fails on battery life. I had to charge one earbud after the other during a call to keep going during the day. I tried the Jabra Evolve 65e neckband style headphones. The mic quality is great, but it is uncomfortable for my ear, and the bluetooth implementation does not work well with the Mac at all. In fact their support document says it is only designed for mobile use.
This headset is not cheap. But for the number of hours I use it each day, it is easily one of the best gadget purchase.
Millican is a small English company that designs and makes highly functional and stylish bags. They name their bags in a very interesting way. This particular line is called the "Smith the Roll" and it comes in several sizes.
More to come...
Muji has a line of pouches that I find very useful. They comes in three sizes, large, medium and small, and in multiple colors: blue, light grey, mustard and black. Here I am reviewing the medium and small case together. The medium case is 5in x 7in, or 13.5cm x 19cm, just slightly smaller than a A5 notebook. The small is 4in x 5in or 10cm x 13.5cm.
Both cases have two compartments — the front one has a mesh front and the back compartment is enclosed. The two zippers have a different zipper pull on them. The front zipper pull has a thumb loop to make opening it easier. I can see replacing the standard pull with a custom pull, although the hole is just a bit too small for a standard size 550 paranoid.
The polyester material is good quality with a tight weave but thin. They are definitely not as rugged as say halcyon or cordura, but are perfectly adequate for normal use.
For the cost, I think these just became my favorite every day pouches.
If you are in EdTech, interested in how technology can be used to make positive contribution to education and creativity in particular, you should read this book. The format of the book makes it very easy to consume. There are interesting real world example in each chapter to illustrate the points being made. As a whole, the book makes a compelling argument for how technology can work hand in hand with the right support from teachers, mentors and peers to engage learners to grow into creative thinkers. Creativity doesn’t come from laughter and fun: It comes from experimenting, taking risks, and testing the boundaries.Using Seymour Papert’s idea of Hard Fun. Technology can help to challenge children and provide a platform for discovery.
I have been involved with the Scratch community from the beginning, almost ten years ago. Most of the content, in isolation, is not new to me. But even with that familiarity, the book as a whole ties all the research and learning together, reinforcing the connections.
One of the important notes I took from the book is how to find the balance when working to create an environment for children. Someone in the teacher position needs to move between a variety of different roles: catalyst to help start an idea, consultant to supply expertise in specific areas, connector to bring peers together to help each other, and collaborator to jump in and work together.
Go pick up this book. You can probably finish it over one weekend. It will change the way you approach the use of technology in education and learning professionally, and personally.
I use this Osprey Pandion pack mostly as a three day travel pack for business. While at 28L it is on the small size, I love the light weight, the mesh back, and the kickstand for travel.
Starting with the main compartment, here is where I put my clothes and toiletries. I use a small packing cube for things that I can roll up like t shirts, and a pack-it folder for shirts. I have a LL Bean small toiletries bag. All these and one or more smaller organizer pouches fits in the main compartment together with my laptop. The laptop compartment is suspended and well padded. There is a document pocket in front of the laptop area, followed by a medium size slightly padded zipper pocket. Maybe a small tablet can fit in there. I seldom use that pocket because my iPad Pro only fits in the document pocket.
The Pandion has a slightly larger brother, the tropos which has a separate laptop compartment. The size of that pack is 32L because the laptop compartment gives maybe another inch of depth. While sometimes I wish I can pull the laptop out easier, I do not want the extra depth and weight. The Tropos and the Pandion also differ in the front of the pack:
The Pandion has a elastic front stash pocket that is extemely useful for travel. I stuff my light weight outer layer in there when I go through TSA Pre or in and out of cars. It probably won’t fit a winter coat, but any light weight puff jacket or hoodie will fit just fine.
The Tropos has a center zipped compartment and I think is less useful.
The Pandion also has two large elastic and mesh water bottle pockets on each side. They are very deep, certainly fits a large 20L bottle. During travel they are more useful as extra dump pockets for things like snacks as well.
Finally there is a slightly padded, sunglasses pocket at the top of the pack that I use for dumping my phone when I go through TSA.
Second large compartment
There is a second compartment in the pack that runs the full height of the pack. The back wall has organizer pockets up top, and a zipper pocket in the bottom half. It is useful when I have random things I want to be able to get to quickly, like my Amazon Basics foldable iPad stand. This compartment is pretty deep (front to back) and I can fit my bond travel gear pouch in there with all my electronics.
Suspended Mesh Back and Kickstand
These are two innovative features of this osprey. I find the mesh back really comfortable for walking around the airport. Often I ended up walking 10, 15 mins or more around the terminals and the suspended mesh definitely makes the walk easier. Together with the load lifters, and the chest strap, the fully loaded feels like nothing during the walk. The pack comes with detachable half inch waist webbing, but I removed them since I don’t find that I need them.
One thing about the mesh back — if I am wearing something smooth like a synthetic hoodie, the mesh tend to move slightly as I walk and I can hear a whoosh-whoosh side is it run against the synthetic materials.
I read some reviews that said they do not like the kickstand and I never can understand that. Especially with the thinner profile Pandion (comparing to the Tropos) I find that the bag will stand on the kickstand 90% of the time. It is really useful when I am waiting in line at the TSA, or working in a conference room. I can just put the bag down anyway.
This is a great travel pack for business. I have used this for 10+ trips in the last few months. My alternative is the Cotopaxi Allpa pack that I also like a lot. I can fit more things in the Allpa but I have to leave it at the hotel once I get to my destination. Whereas the Pandion I take that to work each day at my destination.
Check out my Video Review
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The Katara 16 is a 16L everyday carry backpack that can be converted easily to a left or right single shoulder sling bag. There are a lot of options out there for a 16L day pack. The Katara serves this space well with smart design and nice styling.
While the pack is only available in tactical colors (coyote tan, wolf grey, black, multi cam black) , I find the multi cam black can pass for, must to the dismay of true fans of tactical gear, more of a fashion statement because of the pack’s overall styling. The Katara has a much softer outline. The low profile hypalon MOLLE and the low key Vangquest logo on the front helps as well. Both the front and side profile are much softer. The two external pockets has a wedge shaped side profile that make the pack more distinct and also giving it more capacity.
The use of 500D really make the pack softer and lighter. Note that high wearing areas are still made with 1000D. The inside are all done with 210D high visibility Vanquest orange that I personally really like. There are also several zippered translucent pockets in all of the compartments.
Design and Usage
The compartments in the Katara naturally falls into three categories. The main compartment is the largest one with a hydration or laptop pocket. I can fit my 13 inch MacBook Pro with touch bar and my 10.5 inch iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard attached in there. Note that with a slim profile( 3.5 inch from my measurement although their spec says 4), these electronics will eat into the rest of the available space. This laptop pocket cover is tapered at the top so that you can get to whatever is inside from the sides when you use this pack as a sling. I am not sure this design is needed. If I have a small iPad or kindle in there I can get to it from the side. But with my MBP there is no other way to take it out other than from the top. The front of this pocket is looped covered which is great, but with that tapered top it drastically reduce the usable area for the looped back.
The top of the main compartment, on the front side, has a full wide zippered pocket that is just over 4 inch tall I find I can get to this pocket by zipping open just the top of the pack. The zipper stopping webbing on both sides help with keeping the rest of the pack close. For a EDC pack, it is all about quick access to many items and I find this design very smart.
There front of the main compartment also has a three way opennng pocket. Again this is designed for side access. In this case it works well and let me keep some items separately from the main content and get to them quickly. If you do not want to use this pocket, you can also unzip it completely and roll it down to the bottom, giving you a simpler main compartment.
But there is more! The sides of the main compartment both have a pocket and webbing at the top. If you have narrow longer items, you can put them in there. Flash lights and tools perhaps?
Let’s take a break. As you can see at this point — this pack in typical vanquest fashion, has (too many) many organization features. This is a good thing because while you cannot use all the organization at the same time, you can fit the pack to your particular usage. This is a signature design of Vanquest and I am a huge fan of that.
The two front compartments both have an interesting side profile. The bottom one is deeper at the top, and the top one is deeper at the bottom. Both compartments have open pockets in the back and a zipped pocket in the front. The top compartment’s open pocket also have one row of elastic webbing. I find that with these two compartments, I can sort out my EDC items between them. I put the most frequently accessed items in the top compartment, and secondary items at the bottom compartment. The Katara design is not perfect, I wish there is a pen slot somewhere. I ended up just slotting my pens behind the elastic webbing. I also wish there is a fleece lined eye glasses/phone pocket.
The outside of the top front compartment is completely covered with loop materials so that you can decorate your pack with a lot of patches. The vanquest logo is sewn on discretely. The only problem I have with the loop front is, because of the shape of front and the lighter backing material, it is slightly difficult to make the patch stands out.
The Back and straps
The back panel is very well padded. The last quarter of the back padding is extra thick. This helps this small pad rest on the lower back. The design of the convertible straps to switch from backpack mode to sling mode is very well designed. The pack comes with stowaway waist straps. I don’t think anyone would use the waist straps with such a small pack. At least the straps are small and easily put away.
The shoulder straps have a lot of design feature. The straps are well padded and S shaped. There is a one inch webbing sawn on top, segmented for easy lashing There is a detachable chest strap. The straps can be opened near the bottom, and the buckle is covered by a elastic loop for security.
There is a padded top carry handle on the pack. The padding is great, but there is a small seam that runs along the center underneath. The padding is nicer than the padding on the same handle on the Javalin 3.0.
This is a very well designed small everyday carry pack. It is a good balance of organization feature and weight. Think of this as the other extreme from a Goruck Echo. While I like the sleek look of the Goruck, I always think for smaller packs, well design built in organization is important. For that I really like the Vanquest Katara 16.
I own a lot of different pouches, some no name brand ones, some expansive ones from well known tactical gear companies. As a mobile tech professional, I find this pouch fits my EDC need extremely well. I carry my MacBook Pro charger and cable, my slim rechargeable battery pack, my Anker small charger, several cables, all in this pouch. Adding to that lip balm, pen, and other smaller items.
The key to this pouch is the organization design. It is not just a few rows of elastic loops. I do not find elastic loops useful for office gear. They are good for flash lights and multi-tools, but I am not carry those around. Instead, the different size pockets in the Escapade pouch let me organize my gear inside and keep them separate. As a result, the overall, full packed size of the pouch is still very small and slim. Very space efficient. The elastic loops also have a sticky rubber strip inside of them, which helps hold on to items if they are not fully stretching out the elastic. Great design detail.
I only have two minor complains, one is the material, while rugged, seems to attract lint and other particles. I also wish it has a small strip of webbing in the back so that I can use it as a handle.
Overall, this is a really well design and made in America pouch. With the lay flat opening, I take this with me as I move between offices. Once I am at a desk, I zip this thing open and everything I need is inside, easily accessible. When I am ready to leave the office, or leave for the airport, I just put everything back inside, zip up the pouch, throw it into my bag and I am ready to go.
Helmie of Alpha One Niner continues to design and produce bags that serve his own travel needs. I really like his designs. So when he released the Chio everyday carry bag I have to get one to try out.
Last weekend I took the bag out for a day trip on a family event, where I would mostly be waiting around for the whole day in a conference center. So I took my 10.5 inch iPad Pro, a book, my A5 notebook, and my nockco pen case with me to do some work. I took my Bose noise cancelling headset, iOS device charging pouch, and my mini EDC pouch with me. Add to that a hat, wallet, and mints.
All of these things fit snuggly in the bag. I also installed a Mill Spec Monkey loop panel inside the outside large compartment to hold a few pens. Note that while the bag has 5 outside pockets, they do not offer additional depth to the bag. i.e. any space taking up by these pockets pushes partially back into the main compartment. Or in my case, because the book and my notebook and my iPad with a Smart Keyboard cover together are quite thick, it does not leave a lot of extra rooms for the other pockets to hold anything beyond thiner items.
That is not an issue though — I have my wallet, my pen case, my car keys, and my mint tin placed in the outer pockets. The rest of the items fit perfectly in the main compartment. I like how the bag, once filled, fill out nice and symmetrically and the bottle flattens out. The bag can almost stand on it’s own. This goes to the very careful design of the shape of the bag.
Fully filled and weighted, the 1.5 inch strap feels comfortable either cross body or on one side. The zippers are buttery smooth. The construction of the bag is of very high quality — but then I expect nothing less from Alpha One Niner. The Evade backpack is one of my go to backpack for travel.
I went with the Kryptek typhon material because all black I think will be too boring for a everyday carry bag. I am not a big tactical bag guy but I really like the typhon pattern on this bag. For the average person it just look interesting. My minor complain is that the material feels a bit rough to the touch. My Evade has the two tone ripstop material that is very nice. However in this bag, the Kryptek may offer a bit more structure, especially when the bag is not fully loaded.
In conclusion, the bag works really well for as an every day carry bag. This is going to replace my smaller sling bags, or sometimes my Jack Spade canvas field bag as my EDC bag.
The bluetooth range is very good. Testing connection with my iPhone8, in my semi open ground floor, the slim+ reaches from one corner of the floor to the other, reaching about 40+ feet with no disconnect. Heading upstairs, the connection stayed until I was another 30+ feet away on a different floor. Note that when paired with my 2017 Retina MacBook Pro, the range is less but that’s more a problem with the MacBook Pro’s bluetooth.
One negative about the bluetooth implementation with the Slim+ is that it does not support multi-point. You have to manually (re)connect each device to the Slim+ if you use it with multiple devices. I switch between my iPhone 8, and my iPad Pro. Note that you do NOT have to re pair the devices, just reconnect. Other, usually more expensive headphones, support multi-point and will remember the last two devices and stay connected to them and switch between them as needed without manual intervention.
Battery and Charging
The battery, together with three buttons, one indicator light and the mic, is in the single control “block” on the right side of the cable. It is light enough that it is not pulling the earpiece out of my right ear, even during a jogging test. The charging port is covered with a flexible rubber piece that is not difficult to open because it has a tiny lip. This is good design because there is nothing more annoying then trying and fail to pry open the charging port.
When battery is running low, the slim+ will give an audio signal as well as black the LED red. I did two run down test and both times the battery lasted for just over 6 hours playing music constantly. The charge time from empty to full is just under 2 hours. During charging, the LCD stays steady red until charged. The LED then turned solid blue.
First, the slim+ now supports AptX. I tested it with my MacBook Pro. The codec showed AptX in the bluetooth display. This should provide better playback audio quality. But note that iPhones do not support AptX. For me, this is only useful when I listen to music on my MacBook Pro.
For my sound quality test, I test them with my iPhone8, as that is the most common usage scenario for me. In general I found that I need to burn the headphones in a bit before it started to sound good. After my first two fully charged and discharge test cycle, the Slim+ has accumulated over 12 hours of play and the sound definitely opened up a lot.
The seal of the earbuds affect the sound quality a lot as well. So make sure you pick the right size earbud and have the earbuds seated in your ear, making a good seal. These are the tracks I used to test the sound quality:
Wasted by Brandi Carlile: This track has a steady bass drum and piano chords background throughout. I find the bass responses good without over powering. I almost wish it is more boosted, as with many headphones, to give it more of an unnatural punch for fun, at least for this track. Her raspy vocal sounds clear and warm. Sound stage is good.
Viva La Vida by Coldplay: This is another fun and complex track. With the recording, Chris Martin’s voice is somewhat muffled by all the instruments. The Slim+ managed to surface his voice enough. It may not be as good as the Klipsch X11, but that costs ten times more.
Exit Music (For a Film) by Brad Mehldau: Switching to Jazz, this track pushes any headphones to render the various instruments clearly. For the Slim+ the cymbal attacks are reasonably good. The very deep double base keeps up except for the very low notes. I find that the Slim+ does not boost its treble and bass like many headphones. I prefer this more natural response, especially for Jazz and vocal pieces. I think this track shows off the Slim+ the most — showing what a $30 or so headphone can do.
Fit and Comfort
The Slim+ comes with four set of tips. The medium one that comes fitted works fine for me. I don’t really need the wings to keep the earbuds in my ear. I did a bit of jogging with them and they stay in fine. The cable is not the flat tangle free type, but I don’t find it posing any problem. The entire unit is light enough. The earbuds are made of a nice soft rubber material that put little pressure, and I can comfortable wear it for an hour at a time.
Does the Slim+ sounds better than the Klipsch X11i? No. Is it more convenient than the BeatX in connection management? No. But remember, this is a pair of sub $30 headphones that sounds almost as good as something that is ten times the price. For day to day use, the sound is natural, the earbuds are comfortable, bluetooth range is extremely good when paired with the iPhone. Battery life is good. I recommend it.
We unboxed Jibo this evening. Here are some quick observations:
- The packaging is very nicely done, and it is easy to unbox
- The setup process is friendly, and almost entirely done on Jibo except initially you need to install their iPhone app to setup WIFI on Jibo
- It uses a QR code to send the WIFI info from the iPhone App to Jibo, nice touch
- It rebooted many times before becoming useful
- The built in apps / capability right now is not that great, it cannot play music, make calls, etc
So what does it do well? The movement is definitely well done. It can find and look at the speaker initiating the conversation. It has good programmed personality. I don't think anyone would pay full price for it until more applications are developed. But as an original Kickstarter backer, I am glad it's here, joining our household of multiple Amazon Echos.
Check out this quick video:
Sometimes you found a product that you did not think you need until you tried it. The Enfonie Echo Dot battery pack is such a device. When the manufacturer offer this battery pack at a discounted price for a review, I accepted because I always wonder why anyone would need such a thing. I have a full size Amazon Echo in my office, and the Echo Dot in my bedroom. They are always plugged in.
When I connected this battery pack to my Dot, I realized now I can move the Dot around the house and use it as a portable speaker ! Since I use the Echo a lot to listen to the radio and music, it works really well. The batteries lasted about a full day. It died over night so I think the advertised 10 hours of battery life is accurate. Normally you would plug the pack back in often, so it will never die on you.
I have the original Echo Dot, so this battery pack actually does not fit perfectly with it, whereas the current version will mate with the pack seamlessly.
One cool feature of the battery pack is that it has an additional USB out so you can use it to charge a phone as well. Just for fun, I used it to power my micro:bit, as you can see in the picture. It works, but because the micro:bit draws so little power, the pack shuts off the charging after a minute or too.
If you want a portal Alexa machine, this pack is for you.
Sometimes you know you have a winner if that’s the one pair of headphones that you keep reaching for. I find the MS301 a very easy to use pair of headphones. It is comfortable. It sounds good.
The MS301 comes in an attractive, large box with gold graphics on a matte black background. The inside plastic that carries the headphone is of average quality. A USB cable and a 3.5mm audio cable packed inside another matte black box completes the package. The fact that they enclosed the cables inside another box makes for a much better presentation. Some cheaper Asian branded headphones just leave the accessories randomly flowing in the underside of the plastic container.
This is the best and worst part of this pair of headphones. On the plus side, it supports AptX. I connected my 2017 MacBook Pro to it via bluetooth running AptX. This has to be the connection method of choice. The bad part about the MS301’s bluetooth does not support any sort of multi-point connection. It seems to only pair with one device at a time. I have to re-pair the headphones when I switch between devices. So if you are planning to use it for both say a laptop and a mobile phone, this is not the headphone for you.
Range for this headphone is mediocre. I get 20 feet line of sight maximum.
The MS301 has a reasonable flat response, with a slightly boosted base. This is important for me as I listen mostly to jazz and classical where good vocals are important. I ran it through my standard set of tracks.
Starting with Eric’s Song by Vienna Tang, The Waking Hour: This is a simple track with Vienna’s silky vocal singing along a piano. I can hear all of the nuances of her voice interlaced with the piano. Switching over to Exit Music (For a Film), by Radiohead, OK Computer: Changing from Tang’s female vocal to the booming vocal, with a multi layer supporting vocals and instruments. All the audio tracks are still coming through cleanly. The bass is slightly boosted but not over powering the vocals.
For fun I always then play Exit Music (For a Film) by Brad Mehldau, The Art of the Trio, Vol. 3: — the Jazz original. This is a very different style of course. The piano is front and center with various percussions building up around it. Sound stage is good with this pair of headphones.
Changing style complete I went to Trust by Christina Perry, Head or Heart. The rocking bass line is strong but not overly boosted. A similar track: Viva La Vida by Coldplay plays equally well.
What I love about these full size headphones is that the battery last a very long time — too long to test accurately. I manage to test my pair of MS301 over an entire week before I have to recharge it.
All the controls for the headphone is on the right, with a power button/pause/call near the top, and volume up/forward, volume down/backward button pair down near the bottom. A small multi-color LED near the power button shows you the status of the headphone. I find that occassionally I hit the power button by mistake because it is near the top. One time it initiated a redial on my phone (pressing the power button twice) because I was trying to turn up the volume.
Power Button: long press on/off. Single press: pause/play/answer. Double press: redial
Volume Up: single press up, long press next track
Volume Down: single press down, long press prev track
This pair of headphone is very comfortable. The ear cups have soft foam covered by a soft synthetic leather material. For my medium size ear it covers my ear completely without too much clamping force. The headband is also padded. The entire ear cup swivel 90 degrees to the back (For folding flat) and forward by 45 or so degrees. The hinge construction seems to be mostly metal.
These Asian branded headphone keeps getting better. I have reviewed several pairs of mixcder headphones over the years and each new pair is better. The MS301 sounds good, looks great and is comfortable. The retail prices are getting closer to the $100 mark so it has more competition. The comfort, AptX support, and long battery life gives it a big advantage.
40mm driver, 32 ohms
500mAh battery, 2 hour charging time, 20 hour active use, 2200 hour standby
Note: A free review unit is provided to me by the distributor. All opinions are my own.
The Archeer A225 bluetooth speaker arrived in a stylish brick shape box with the speaker inside. The speaker comes covered in a nice grey fabric and the body is of a soft cream color plastic. The entire device looks stylish and feels like a premium product.
I immediately connected the speaker to my iPhone 7. It pairs easily. The bluetooth range is amazing. First, using my standard line of sight test, the connect stays solidly connected from 40 feet away. Then I started walking around the ground floor of my 800 square foot house and the connection remains solid. I went upstairs and the connection held. This device by far has the best bluetooth connection from everything else I own.
The power button is on the bottom of the speaker unit. This made sense at first, since it is used for turning the speaker on and off, and pairing. Then I realized that play and pause control is also done by the power button. Short pressing the power button will toggle between play and pause. This seems counter intuitive — the fact that I have to pick up the speaker and press the button. This is a two handed operation. If you choose to use the speaker, which has a built in mic, to take phone calls, the answer/hangup/reject call is also controlled by the power button on the bottom.
The A225 advertised that it has touch control on the top. Swiping left and right will skip track forward and backward. It works flawlessly. Looking at the top of the unit (see photo), I also try to swipe circularly to change the volume. I must have tried doing it for a whole minute without success. Finally I realized that the darker grey ring on the outer edge of the top of the unit is the volume control. You turn it to change the volume. This is a electronically controlled volume control. There is a total of 16 steps of volume as you turn the ring.
The volume control works nicely once I figured it out, but it sure was confusing at first. One suggestion to Archeer is to change the graphic on the top of the unit to not suggest that I can swipe to change volume.
According to the specification on the user guide, the unit has dual 45mm speaker with a 5W output. Without any special porting, I did not expect the unit to sound anything other than two 45mm drivers. It would be unfair to compare this unit with other more advanced portable speakers. Instead I compare it to the Anker SoundCore. The SoundCore has a base port, and indeed it’s base is more prominent than the A225. However I find that the A225 is not driven hard even at maximum volume. So there are no overt distortion at maximum volume. The Anker SoundCore cannot be played at maximum volume without it sounding terribly distorted.
Overall, as a portable speaker that I can take outside on the patio, or play music or podcast from my phone around the office, the sound is completely usable. I would never call the sound high fidelity, but I do not expect that from a portable speaker at this price range. I am actually glad that it is not boosted in anyway — which many other systems do, because a boosted bass will make the listening think that it sounds “better”.
The charging time is around 4 hours, matching the specification. Over a few days of testing, I have yet to run down the battery enough to test the claimed 6-7 hours of play time. My guess is that it will match the factory specification.
For the price point, I think this is a very attractive portable bluetooth speaker. It does fulfill the need for a small, reasonably sounding portable speaker for used around the house, the office, or bring it outside during a cookout. It looks good and sounds fair. I recommend it.
Bluetooth 4.1 class II, A2DP V1.2, AVRCP V1.4
Speakers 45mm 4Ohm 5Wx2
Battery: 3.7V 2000mAh Lithium
The Archeer AH07 Bluetooth headphones arrived in a sizable black box. I find the headphones folded inside. The headphones come with a 3.5 audio cable for connecting the headphone directly to a source, a micro USB charging cable, and a short user guide.
Picking up the headphones — it has a nice premium feel. Most of the body is plastic. Part of the body is silver colored plastic. Only the lower headband below the folding mechanism is metal, as well as the hinges. Both earcups fold and unfold with a small click as the metal band click in place.
Padding is soft. The headband and the earcups are covered in synthetic leather that feels nice on the head and on the ear. The earcups are rectangular. With my medium sized ear, the earcups cover my ear completely forming a nice seal. The clamping force is average and I have been wearing them an hour at a time without much discomfort.
All the controls are on the back side of the right ear cup. The power button is used for on, off and pairing. A multi-color LED below the button gives some visual feedback:
Pressing the power button for 2 seconds turn the headphones on. It uses audio beeps to confirm user action. The LED flashes blue 2 times.
- Pressing the power button for 3 seconds turn the headphones off. The LED flashes red two times.
- To put the headphones into bluetooth pairing mode, press and hold the power button for 5 seconds until the LED flashes blue and red.
- When the batteries run low, the LED will flash red two times every two seconds.
- During charging, the LED stays red, and turn to blue when it is fully charged.
Below the power button and the LED are two switches for volume up and down. Short press changes the volume, while long press on down moves back one track, and long press on up moves to the next track. The volume control has 16 clicks across the volume range. An audio beep signals the end of the volume range.
The AH07 remembers multiple paird devices, but can only be actively paired with one source at a time. During testing I have the AH07 paired to both my Rentina Macbook Pro running Sierra, and my iPad Pro running iOS 10.3. To have the AH07 connect to either device, I need to disconnect the other connection from the source first.
Bluetooth range is fair. With line of sight I can go to about 30 feet. Without line of sight in my typical residential house the connection degrades quickly beyond 20 feet or so. This is comparable to many other headphones that I have tested. However, I also tested the A225 bluetooth speaker from the same company, and that speaker has amazing range.
The sound quality of the AH07 is good. The response is fairly flat and not v-shaped like most lower end headphones. The bass is lively without overly boosted. KT Tunstall’s Black horse and the Cherry Tree has a lot of acoustic bass and drums and they all come through cleanly.
Christina Perri’s Trust is a track that is complex, with clear vocal overlaid on rocking bassline. The AH07 balances between the vocal and the instruments easily.
The AH07 good performance made me reach for Dire Straits’ Private Investigation. In the famous middle of the track, the acoustic guitar playing against the marimba and the simple bass drum, I find myself getting lost in enjoying the track instead of writing things down for the review.
Overall I like the AH07. As an affordable Asian branded headphones, the audio quality is very good. It is comfortable to wear. The folding design makes it ideal for portable use, perhaps throwing in your backpack for use during the commute or at the office. The low end Chinese headphone space is getting more and more crowded. Since these brands are not known it is hard to tell them apart. I can definitely recommend these Archeer AH07.
The completely wireless Axgio Dash seems to be a pair of $49 Apple Airpod killer. I was skeptical at first. The Dash arrived in a small, simple no frills box. It looks exactly like the packaging for the Axgio Backfit that I reviewed earlier.
The pairing with my iPhone7 is easily enough. Once I put them on, I was blown away by the feel of freedom from any wires between the ear buds. I use bluetooth earbuds a lot during the day in the office, either my Bose noise canceling QC30 or the Bose Soundsport wireless. Even though those are extremely comfortable, I can still feel the tug of the cable when I turn my head with the Soundsport. With the QC30, sometimes the neckband gets tangled with my shirt collar and need adjustments.
With the Dash I can turn my head, move around, with zero issues. Now I know why these “truly wireless” earbuds are a thing.
In the Box
The Dash comes with a small round carrying case, S/M/L ear tips, and a charging cable. The charging cable is unique because it has a full size USB plug on one end, and two micro USB at the other so that I can charge both earbuds at the same time. Another design problems presented by these “no wires” earbuds.
Quality and Comfort
The first negative I find with the Dash is that the battery compartment is covered by a hard plastic cover. It is hard to open and close. Remember you need to do this with both earbuds.
The earbuds are huge ! You can take a look at the pictures. Comparing them with the Klipsch X11 may not be fair, but with the standard Bose earbud, you can see how large is the body of the earbud. The build material is of all hard matte plastic. The Dash is not going to win any design awards on looks.
Luckily they are not heavy. Even without using the ear hooks I can keep them on my ear in an indoor environment. The position of the ear hook is interesting. I find that I have to angle the unit up to have it fit onto my ear. It fits over my thick rimmed eyeglasses without problem.
Overall the comfort is fine. The ear tip is made from a very soft plastic materials. The appear to be identical to the Axgio Backfit, and I have the same concern with their durability.
Bluetooth and Setup
The setup is very easy. The headphones have voice prompt built in. I followed the sequence as described in the manual. First pair one headset (I picked the right side). Then when I switch on the second headset, both units will automatically find each other.
One interesting operational feature — I can power off both units by just powering off the main unit with a long press of the center multi functional button (MFB). To skip tracks, long press on either the + or the - volume button instead of double / triple press the center button like most Apple compatible headphones.
The user manual says I can use the MFB to activate the camera shutter. I cannot get that to work with my iPhone7 running latest iOS software.
The Dash uses bluetooth 4.2. I am not sure if that is the reason, but the Dash has an incredible range ! Paired with my iPhone7, not only I can walk around the entire first floor of my 900 s.f. first floor, I can go to the opposite end of my second floor, behind several walls, before the Dash intermittently cut out.
How about the linking between the left and right earbuds? They stay connected all the time under normal condition. I find that they will take a second or two to connect at the beginning. One interesting behavior is that I can make them disconnect from each other by covering both earbuds with my hands, over my ears.
If you read my review of the Axgio backfit, you’ll see that I like them in general, but they have boosted highs with a lot of sibilance. I was worry that the Dash will be the same. Fortunately, while the Dash still has boosted highs, the sibilance is not as bad. These are my test tracks:
Record Collector, Catching a Tiger, Lissie, (2010) — This is one track that highlighted the harsh highs of the Axgio Backfit. I am happy to say that the highs are much more manageable with the Axgio Dash. While the highs are still boosted, it is much more enjoyable with this pair of headphone.
Happy Theme Song, Grace Kelly, Mood Changes (2008) - This track is full of interplay between the base and Kelly’s saxophone playing. The base response is good. The sax lacks fine detail if you really push the expectation, but overall it passes for a pair of bluetooth IEM.
Soneto de Separacao, Sensus, Christina Branco (2003) - Fado acoustic guitar and Branco’s emotional voice comes through cleanly with good soundstage, with a hint of sibilance, for some reason it is not as pronounce as the Axgio Backfit.
Viva La Vida, Viva La Vida, Coldplay (2008) - This is a complex track with vocals in front of layers of instruments building up in the song. As the layers get deeper, the clarity is lost. So the Dash is not going to compete with the Klipsch X11 or a $500 pair of Grado.
A Thousand Years, Brand New Day, Sting (1999) - The rumbling base at the beginning of this song shows that the dash can handle base. It is quite fun to crank up the volume and get pulled into Sting’s moody lyrics.
Overall, especially considering the price point, the sound quality is good. The true wireless setup is much more useful that I originally thought. The Dash’s bulk look is not going to win on looks, but it wins on value and usability, not to mention an amazing bluetooth range.
The AudioMX HS-5S arrived in a large box, 11 x 9 x 4 inches. A jet black box with a nice pictures of the headphones printed on top. The headphones is inside on the right, and there is a small box on the other side. LIfting that small plastic box reveals a nice surprise: The HS-5S comes with an extra pair of valor ear pads.
The entire package and the headphones themselves are of high quality. The cable is think and flexible, reminds me a little of the cable of my Grado RS-1. The cable attaches to both left and right ear cups, and joined in a molded stress relief plastic piece. The cable is long, over 8 ft. The jack at the end is a combined 3.5mm and 6.35mm (1/4 inch) Jack. The 6.35 jack is an adaptor. The cable end has a small stress relief spring attached.
The ear cups and headband are reasonably padded with a leatherette material. The top side of the headband is a matte plastic with the audioMX brand tastefully recessed into the material.
The HS-5S is of a open design. The grill on the ear cup is a hard black grid material. While there are metal looking parts on the ear cups, it is all plastic, but of high quality.
The red color used in both sides of the ear cup (see photos) also give the headphones a nice design punch.
Overall, the HS-5S looks and feels like a much more expensive pair of headphones.
I tested these headphones with my iPhone 7, my Macbook Pro, and with a small headphone amp fed by my Macbook Pro via USB. The sound quality is very good. The response is reasonably flat — on some pieces of music the high frequencies are slightly boosted. The bass is clear and strong. Since it is a pair of open design, I was slightly disappointed that the sound stage is not as wide as, say my RS-1. But it is perfectly acceptable, especially considering that the RS-1 costs about ten times more.
Some specific test track that I used:
Holly Cole - If you go away, Night (2012) - The warm vocals separate well from the piano and the deep bass. The sound is intimate with very natural vocals
Radiohead, Exit Music (For a Film), OK Computer - The booming vocal is clear. As the supporting vocals and instruments build up, each layer is clearly separated.
Don’t Know Why, Norah Jones, Come Away with Me — I use this track to see how well the headphones render the piano against the guitar and vocals, and the HS-5S handles this well.
Brad Mehldau, Exit Music (For a Film) - Songs: The Art of the Trio, Vol. 3 — This is the jazz piano version of the Radiohead song. I love how the percussion builds up cleanly as we get into the track. This is one track that I wish the soundstage is wider.
The headband is well padded, as are the ear cups. The ear cups swivel for a good fit. The ear cups are large enough to go completely over my ear. The clamping force is high, together with the large ear cups, it does press down a bit much on my thick rim glasses. So I have to take the headphones off every so often just to relief the pressure. Otherwise it is a very comfortable pair of headphones.
This is a great pair of Asian branded audiophile grade headphones, for a very reasonable price. The specs are great. The extras are nice surprises. The sound quality is good. This is a good pair of budget audiophile open back headphone.
audioMX has made available a special discount coupon:
20% OFF promotion code:
The Axgio Backfit sports bluetooth headphones are a interesting pair of affordable bluetooth headphones. When it arrived I was surprised by the minimal packaging. It came in a very small box, just the size of the included carrying case. I like the eco friendly packaging. It comes with S/M/L ear tips, a carrying case, a short micro USB charging cable, and a small instruction manual.
Charging and Batteries
All the electronic access is on the right ear bud. The micro USB charging port and a tiny multi color LED is there. The LED shows red when charging, and turns blue after charged. It took less than 2 hours to fully charge up the headphone and it lasted just under 6 hours on continuous playing to discharge it, well matching the advertised 6 hours of play time.
The headphones have voice response in its operations. It says “power on, connection successful” on power up. Because the headphones have a 10 minutes automatic power off, you can just hold the center button for 3 seconds to switch it on, or hold the center button for 5 seconds to turn it off. When the battery gets low, the headphone will say “battery low”. I got the warning when it hits 10% battery.
For me, the bluetooth performance is a big deal with there headphones. Initial pairing is simple. Hold down the center button for 5 seconds, and the LED flashes blue and red. I paired it with both my iPhone 7 and my Retina MacBook Pro. The Backfit uses bluetooth 4.1, and will stay paired two devices at the same time. For example, I can be listening to a podcast on my iPhone, stop play, switch to my MacBook Pro, and start a youTube video. The Backfit will switch over automatically from the iPhone to the MacBook Pro.
The bluetooth range is very good. With my iPhone in one corner of the first floor of my house, I can maintain a connection on the entire floor of about one thousand square feet of semi open floor plan.
The instruction manual explains that you can clear the entire paired device list by holding the center button for 5 seconds until it flashes blue and red (which means it is ready for pairing), then release the center button, and hold the + and the - button until the LED flashes blue.
The Backfit has a high noise floor — there is a audible hiss at low or zero input volume. This is slightly annoying but not a deal breaker as the hiss will disappear with most music once started playing. The sound quality is good but with a pronounced boost at the high frequencies.
Brandi Carlile, The Story, Wasted: The track starts with a piano chord passage and Brandi slowly adds her vocal. The hiss is noticeable until the overall volume increased. The base, piano and guitars all comes through clearly with good sound stage.
Vienna Tang, The Waking Hour, Eric’s Song: This is a simple track with Vienna’s silky vocal singing along a piano. I can hear all of the nuances of her voice.
Lissie, Catching a Tiger, Record Collector: This otherwise enjoyable track shows the boosted high frequencies problem with the Backfit. The high hat cymbal at the beginning of the track can be harsh.
Radiohead, OK Computer, Exit Music (For a Film): This dark track with low and booming male vocal sounds wonderful with the Backfit. Thom Yorke’s melancholy voice shines.
Sting, Brand New Day, A Thousand Years: This is another track that shows off the bassy sound of the Backfit, but at the same time the high end boost gives too much sibilance to many parts of Sting’s vocal.
The Backfit is extremely comfortable. This is the first pair of earbuds with a rectangular shape body that I tried. I thought it would be heavy and hard to stay on. Instead it is very light, and stay on my ear firmly even when I am out jogging. I find the headband unnecessary. In fact it is slightly awkward to get the loop to go above my ears. I have to put the ear buds into my ear first, then move the band into place. It does work with me wearing glasses.
The instruction sheet has some bad formatting, missing spaces, and a typo: “until theearphone…” and "Witch between the earphone and phone…”. I hope they will fix these in the next print.
The affordable bluetooth headphone space is going to get crowded now that Apple has killed the headphone jack. I was surprised how good is the Axgio Backfit. It is extremely comfortable with great battery life making it a good pair of workout or commuting headphones. Something that works and you won’t feel really bad if you loose them. The only downside is the sibilance. I am hoping burning the headphone in will reduce it, or you can correct it with equalization. If you are looking for a pair of budget bluetooth headphones with good overall performance, definitely give the Axgio Backfit a try.
The manufacturer has made the following coupon offer:
Short Link: http://amzn.to/2eDOlY4
And the promo information:
Coupon Code: J6QA76WR
Normal Price: $29.99
Valid Date: till 12.31
Unboxing and Packaging
The Bose QuietControl QC30 active noise canceling bluetooth headphones comes in the usual premium Bose packaging. The box folds open left and right revealing the headphones in a molded plastic tray. The headphones come with three sized ear tips, USB charging cable, and a largish semi hard plastic zip case. The zip case reminds me of my old Sony Discman. The lid part of the zip case has a elastic pocket that is perfect to store the charging cable.
Remember that this is a US $299 pair of headphones and I expect nothing but top build quality. The QC30 feels premium. The cable is round, thick and soft. It comes out of the neck band into the ear piece without any sign of possible areas for breakage. The neck band has a matte rubber finish that is pleasant to touch. The back part of the neck band is much thinner than the front and sides. It feels good riding on my neck directly. The cables are quiet short so there are not a lot of slack when wearing the headphones.
The StayHear+ QC ear tips, at least for me, are some of the most comfortable ear tips. There is absolutely no pressure in my ear canal, yet it provides a good seal so that the noise cancelation works extremely well. The neck band is light enough that I forgets it is there after a while.
The neckband has one button, recessed into the band material, on the right side. It is the power button, and also serves as the bluetooth control button. The button is small and somewhat difficult to click. There are two very small, almost pin hole like, color LEDs next to the button. One is for power/charging. The other one is for bluetooth status.
The power LED shows green when on, and yellow then flashing red as the battery level decreases. During charging, the LED will flash amber, and go to solid green when fully charged.
If you hold down the power button for a few seconds, it will enter bluetooth pairing mode, and the LED will blink white. Solid white means the headphones is paired to at least one source.
The right hand side wire also has an inline control. The inline control provide volume up and down, and a center button for play/pause. On the side of the control there are two buttons for stepping the noise cancelation level up or down. I counted 12 steps of control. I wish there is a key press that will immediately take the noise cancelation down to zero. This is available on the Bose QC20i wired noise cancelation headphones.
The bluetooth implementation is one of the best feature of all newer Bose bluetooth headphones, including the soundSport Wireless. The QC30 will stay connected to two devices at the same time. When one of them output audio, the QC30 will switch to that device. I normally have the QC30 paired to both my Macbook Pro and my iPhone7 at the same time.
The impressive feature is that the QC30 actually stores pairing information on up to eight different devices. If the last top two devices are not available, it will go down the list until it finds devices that are available. This means that I can have the QC30 connect automatically to my work laptop plus my iPhone 7 when I am in the office, then automatically switch to my home laptop plus the same iPhone when I get home.
If the QC30 takes too long in looking for a device, you can press the power button with 3 seconds of powering on to force it to go to the next device.
At home, the bluetooth connection holds for about 20 feet in my semi-open house. In the office, the connection holds for over 40 feet in a open plan office. I would expect more interference in the office but that is not the case.
The QuietControl QC30 took just under 2 hours to be fully charged. The battery ran out after one day of hard use, with about 3 hours of conference call and music listening inbetween. I estimated the battery life is around the claimed 6 hours total.
A lot of people, myself included, use to think a bit less of the Bose sound signature. However I find that the QC30 sounds good. With Eric’s Song by Vienna Tang, her calm detailed vocals shine through clearly. On Exit Music (For a Film) by Radiohead, the deep vocals is clear without being over bearing. Yorke’s voice is haunting and you can hear all the details over the simple guitar.
Sting’s A Thousand Years is my go to track for testing out deep electronic base at the beginning of the track. The QC30 performs well for a pair of earbuds style headphones. Listening to Viva La Vida by Coldplay, where Chris Martin add layers upon layers of tracks as the song build up, each instrument tracks can be heard clearly. Sound stage is wide. The sound stage is even better when playing Happy Theme Song by Grace Kelly. Her sax is punchy and warm up front as the rest of her ensemble plays in the back around her. Finally, a fun track to listen to is Black Horse and the Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall. It’s simply enjoyable through the QC30.
Not to forget, the active noise cancelation works extremely well both in a simulated test environment, playing white/brown/pink noise in the background, as well as in my office. The QC30, just like the QC20, completely cuts out ambient noise from the AC and other lower frequency hums. The ear tips have enough passive isolation that I can barely hear regular volume talking 10 feet away.
The one area that the QC30 seems to fall down is the microphone quality. I assume that it is using the noise canceling mics on both ear piece to capture sound. On my conference calls, the receiver on the other end tells me the audio is just ok, and is definitely assuming I am using so sort of bad mic.
Since I bought and used the Bose SoundSports wireless as my primary running and around the house headphone, I have been waiting for the QC30 to come out. The QC20i (wired noise canceling version) has been my travel headphones for a while so I know the noise cancelation is going to be as good on the QC30. Together with the great bluetooth implementation, the QC30 is now my main headphones for everything — office, gym. I only switch to my high end setup when I am sitting down for a true music session. The convenience and the comfort of the QC30 simply is a winning combination for everyday use.