Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of buzz around the release of the Beats X from Apple.
The Beats X take advantage of Apples W1 chip, which is also found in the Apple Airpods. The W1 chip allows for nearly instant pairing to most Apple products. Open the dental floss case of the Airpods, or turn on the Beats X near your iOS or macOS device and you are immediately prompted to pair. You can also use the aforementioned Apple products with Android device too, but you will not be met with the instantaneous pairing. The Airpods also end up being pretty limited in their use.
I am not an iOS or macOS user, and I am not too concerned with the instant pairing offered by the W1 chip. What I am concerned with is having a quality set of Bluetooth earbuds or headset that work consistently, when I turn them on, each and every time. Something that, unfortunately, most Bluetooth headsets do not offer.
With all of this in mind, I almost pulled the trigger on the $179.99 (CAD) Apple Beats X headphones (sorry the Airpods are not my style). They looked good; they appeared to function well according to most reports in the media, but wow, they are expensive. Being expensive is a Beats tradition. You are paying a Beats/Apple tax when you buy these products because they are just as much a status symbol as other products from Apple. Don't get me wrong, though; Apple hardware is almost always the best quality you will find in the consumer market.
Eventually, I decided not to buy them, at least not yet, and thought, maybe there is an equivalent product on the market that performs just as well (on Android) for a fraction of the cost. My first stopping point was Amazon. I immediately chose to see what Aukey had to offer since I have been every impressed with their other headset options in the past. I recently reviewed a foldable over-the-ear set (https://www.gadgetsyrup.com/home/2016/12/6/review-aukey-foldable-bluetooth-headphones), as well as a behind the head sport-style headset (https://www.gadgetsyrup.com/home/2016/9/14/aukey-water-resistant-sport-bluetooth-headphones) and enjoyed them both very much.
After looking through the different offerings, I found the Aukey EP-B20s which are a neckband style headset more like the LG Tones than the Beats X, but it was the closest available at this moment in time.
The Aukey Neckband Headset will set you back $22.99 (CAD) on Amazon Canada right now, which is nearly $160 cheaper than the Beats X.
Now, obviously you are thinking, a $23 headset will not stand up to a $200 headset, and you are likely right. The question, however, is if they are good enough.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
Inside the box, you will find the familiar packing items found in all Aukey products
- microUSB charging cable
- small and large ear tips
- warranty insert
The first thing I will say about the build quality is to remember that this headset costs only $23.
The makeup of the headset is mostly plastic with some rubberized components as well. These materials provide for a very light headset, making it very comfortable for you to wear around your neck for prolonged periods. The trade-off, however, is that they feel as cheap as they cost. I'm not very confident that this headset will stand up for very long.
The power button is a toggle style switch that feels as though it will break apart at any given moment. Often I have to toggle it a few times to turn the headset on or off. I am pretty sure this will be the first point of failure for this headset.
My next concern with the build is the call and playback controls. Overall, they work fairly well, but they are rather gummy, and on a few occasions the Play/Pause button has gotten stuck, which required some massaging of the button to release it again.
The lightweight build of the neckband should logically lend itself well to exercise and fitness. It is a mixed bag here. For weight lifting, sure, they are fine. However, they can get in the way in some cases when compared to a traditional Bluetooth headset.
Running with the neckbands, however, is not a desirable experience. Regardless of their weight, this style will cause a lot of distraction during a run. I ran for about 30 minutes on the treadmill with them on and while they did stay in my ears no problem, but the band itself was always banging off my collarbone.
The audio output of the neck buds headset was pretty respectable for a budget pair. I have said it many times before, but let me repeat it. I am not an audiophile in any way at all. However, I can discern and appreciate the difference between "good" and "bad" audio output.
Most of my listening is to audio books and podcasts. Not very often do I listen to music through a headset. The Aukey's do offer more bass than most other budget brands found on Amazon such as MPOW. However, it is not a significant improvement.
Never did I experience any issues with the audio levels being too high or low and volume levels can get high enough to be heard in a busy environment.
I think the most impressive aspect of the neckband is the excellent battery life. I have been using the Aukey EP-B20's for about two weeks now, and I have found that the battery just keeps going and going.
On more than one occasion, I have left the band turned on for hours on end with intermittent periods of listening or standby. Not once have I heard the familiar "chirp-chirp, battery low" interruption. I usually plug the band in every 2-3 days and let them charge back up overnight.
SHOULD YOU BUY THESE?
Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised with how positive my experience with the Aukey EP-B20 neckband has been. They are comfortable for extended periods of time, designed fairly well, and have excellent battery life. There are some shortcomings and limitations to their design. However, I feel that the positives outweigh the negatives enough to recommend these to others. Remember, they are only $23, not $200, but they deliver much more than the $23 price tag would lead you to think.
What do you think? Are the Aukey's an acceptable budget alternative the Beats X or would you rather shell out the dough to get the more premium offerings?