Sure those PowerBeats headphones Apple showed off might look the business but the reality is not everyone can afford the $199. I mean how is it possible that a set of headphones with a fraction of the technology an iPhone contains costs 1/3 the price? Granted a lot goes into speaker technology but still.
So today I’m looking at completely the other end of the spectrum of headphones with a price range that most mere mortals can afford, the SoundPeats Q12. Who knows if due to some dodgy translation it was supposed to be SoundBeats.
Still with an asking price of just £19.95/ $24.99 expectations shouldn’t be too high but then again my last inexpensive wireless set won me over.
Before my review units arrived I raised my eyebrow sceptically after seeing the Amazon listing page.
Yes it comes with 3 different sizes ear hooks and ear tips, weighs in at 15 grams, the magnetic feature letting you “attach the two earpieces together and wear it like a cool necklace” but it all falls down when you see “built in with aptX and Bluetooth 4.3 Technology”. According to wikipedia there is no such thing.
Those of a self or style conscious nature may want to look elsewhere as these headphones protrude noticeably. You could be forgiven for thinking they were designed around an Uhura style Star Trek communicator, but if you stick with them you reap the reward of a comfortable fit and despite its look of bulk, a lightweight design that holds steadfast during physical activities.
In the real world of trail running, three half marathons, cycling and general dog walking duties never once have these fallen out or caused any discomfort even with several hours of usage.
With such a protruding set of earphones things get bleaker with a head wind. Unless both are firmly lodged into the cranium perhaps more than I am comfortable with, wind sheer noise and whistle is amplified.
On a run it’s not that bad unless it’s a humdinger of a headwind but on a cycle you end up having to crank up the volume to compensate. A bandanna or buff helps no end but that creates a whole load of health and safety issues all of its own.
Between each earpiece the cord does a great job of keeping cable noise out. Being slightly stiffer than similarly reviewed units, never once have I noticed distracting cable bounce, either worn with cable down the front or wrapped around the back of my skull.
Button controls are nicely spaced on a flat controller, comprising of volume up & down and power. A firm press between thumb and forefinger is needed to register a press but the generous spacing meant I never accidentally hit the wrong button.
Siri controls are a bit finicky taking some time to master. The gap between a two second press and power off takes some mastering as you don’t get the Siri “ding dink” letting you know it’s ready for your bidding. It’s worth taking the time to read the manual to become acquainted with the controls.
Battery life hits the sweet spot of 4 hours of listening, about a day and a bit on standby and a few hours to charge up fully. A quick plug in and charge for 15 minutes from dead gave me a nice 45 minutes or thereabouts.
Yet.. for the love of god (and or any other deity you may or may not worship) please, please, please, don’t have an annoying voice that comes on every 18 seconds just to announce power low. Please.
Happily I would say “not bad at all”. There’s nothing exactly special about sound quality nor would I expect there to be at this price point of wireless earphones. However, with a vast collection of music from Taylor Swift, Iron Maiden, Dance, Trance plus Podcasts never once have I been unhappy with the sound. Stereo separation is clear and obvious, high ends manage to avoid any sibilance. A bit more booty in the bottom end for bass would be welcomed, but overall a capable set of headphones soundwise.
Support Might Be An Issue.
For months these never missed a beat, coping with runs, cycles and general dog walking across rugged terrain then one day they steadfastly refused to connect to my iPhone.
Pairing is achieved by pressing and holding the power on button, a voice then declares “power on” followed by “pairing”.
This time around no voice was to be heard and despite a flashing blue / red LED light to indicate pairing, nothing was happening. Powering off then back on with a myriad of button presses proved to be futile and left two Labradors wondering what the heck the hold up was on our Saturday afternoon run.
After 15 minutes it was time for the manual. Great for describing the functions and how to use them, but in the realms of a chocolate teapot when troubleshooting. Same for the website and even with a stupid amount of time spent googling for the issue all I could find was a PDF of a different model.
Time ran away and some 30 minutes later (45 minutes since I wanted to go out) after a strange and complex ritual of plugging in the USB cable, whilst pressing and holding buttons (all whilst chanting an ancient and arcane incantation 😉 ) I was suddenly able to connect and listen.
This is always the problem when buying Chinese based electronics. When they work a certain amount of smugness is permitted in the knowledge you bought something that works just as well as higher priced products. The price to pay is if it goes wrong, or you have an issue you’re usually screwed.
At £19.59 / $24.99 at the time of writing for the SoundPEATS Q12 I’d put these in a category of “heavily consider” that’s if you can bear the pokingoutness of this style. Controls are solid, after real world punishment these are still holding together nicely.
It’s a shame about the lack of English support (read: none) from SoundPeats own website. However that’s the price you pay and aside from that one time of pairing hell, they have been flawless.
The carrying case is a nice, practical addition, matching the $99 Jaybirds Sport headphones’ one in terms of quality.
If I had to rate these earphones on a scale of 1 to 10 I would give them a 7.5 and place it in the “heavily consider” category.
SoundPeats Q12 are available via Amazon