Android Bluetooth headsets tested (and a word on music apps!)

Right, time to cut the wires, or some at least. I have not been online much lately, and it’s due to a lot of reasons. Me trying to get in shape, me trying to write more other stuff and me well, simply no having that much to say.

Me trying to get in shape has led me to try to find new headsets for my Samsung Galaxy S7 phone. I like to have music while I run. When I exercise, or gym, I simply have music on the stereo or via a portable speaker. Doing weights and kettlebells etc with headphones etc just is in the way. So, trying to do more running ans “power-walking” made me want to see if there is anything to the Bluetooth bonanza. So I have today two headsets. The Really cheap MacaW T1000, a Chinese headphone and the JBL Reflect Mini BT, which is almost four times as expansive. Can you tell? Yeah, well quite easily.

I will try to take this from the perspective of exercise and moving about with your phone and not so much about just audio qualities.

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Basics: What do you get?

T1000: A Chinese cheap Bluetooth headset. Charge it by connecting a mini USB cable to one of the housings. A small carry pouch. Felt covered cable. Battery times should be 5 hours from 1.5 hours charging. A charging cable  USB to micro USB, no extra ear tips.

Reflect MINI BT: JBL is Harman Kardons more active brand. Making quite a splash with reasonable priced quality items. Rubber covered anti-sweat coated IEM’s with plastic or rubber finish all over. 4 sets of tips, Standard tips in Medium and small as well as the secure fit tips in medium and small. No carry pouch and a charging cable USB to micro USB. Supposedly up to 8 hours of music, no idea how long to charge, but this headsets has a LED blinking that tells you when they are done.

So the most important feature really? How does the IEM fit into your ear and how well does it stay while moving about the place. Are they comfortable or not? This is of course a problem with IEM’s, the little tips will make most of the difference.

T1000: The T100 fits, OK. The tip coming with them are OK. Nothing more nothing less. The housing is big and when running, they tended to get loose and I had to reattach them into my ear now and then. So not too great if you are going to do heavy activities. Also, the T1000 had some issues with sound being carried over from hitting the cord between the earbuds.

Reflect MINI BT: These come with two sized options and two variations. The ones that are normal tips, one medium and one small and also the same for sporting secure fit. A sort of add-on that fits to the ear and secures the headphone in place. These are not very comfortable, but when running, they stay in place. Very well. I prefer the open tip and the housing is more concentrated close to the tips, making these less likely to bounce out of your ear. There is something for most people here and the secure fit is excellent for staying in place! The cord is less likely to transfer sound by being hit.

Ease of us:
How easy is the controller, pairing and how well do they work with Android? Does the skip, previous, answering phone etc work OK?

T1000: The controller is a three button design. The volume up and down and a one centre control button. The headset works pretty well, but may need an alternate app for headset functionality. The skip song with double tap or triple tap is not great and doesn’t register in some apps. The controller itself feels like cheap crap to be honest.
Pairing the item was easy. The contact with your phone is however not great. Putting your phone in chest pocket of jacket, unless the jacket is  a winter jacket should work. Putting in my front pocket, lead to some sound issues, like broken contact and such. Back pocket of jeans was not working well at all. Placing it a bit away to do your gym exercises works OK. Don’t go too far.
The phone register calls and such without a flaw and also have a handy voice telling you when pairing, contacted and battery level.

Reflect MINI BT: Controller is also a three button design, the volume up and down and centre button. The volume up and down works as extra skip/previous song. This headset doesn’t work well with app for controlling it a well, but you don’t need such an app. The skip/previous and play pause etc works really well with most apps I tried. Really good. The controller is in a sturdy material and overall works really well.
Pairing is as easy as it should be and range is better than the T1000. Back-pocket can give some small cracks in noise but front, jacket and placing a few metres away for gym works well. The answering calls etc works flawlessly.

Audio quality: How does the music sound? Talk and also how well are you heard on the receiving end of the microphone?
T1000: OK, sometimes you get what you pay for and sometimes you can be really surprised. Many small IEM’s from no name Chinese companies can really sound great for almost no money at all while huge names and great brands can sound crap for a multitude of the money. This is however no surprise. They sound like shit. Cheap quality with a bass that bleeds well into the mids. The sound stage is crap and it feels like you are having to cans over your ear. Not very nice for enjoying music with. They aren’t better than the earbuds the Samsung S7 comes with, and those are crap! Talking on phone pworks the best for these headphones. Talk is OK, you hear and are heard well.

Reflect MINI BT: This is an all together much more enjoyable affair. Sure, you will find Audio HiFi IEM’s that sound better. Not by the price point much, but these are really looking into the training crowd. Electronic, some rock and hip hop and such works well with these. You get a nice bass that is slightly booming, but not bleeding too much into the mids while not being booming at an artificial level so it keeps from being fatiguing. Bass is enjoyable and while a bass-head might want more, I think it is on the fun side of things with enough detail to enjoy music on a buss trip and not only while out running or training. Voices work nicely and overall these are quite balanced for what they aim for. Good sound for those that wants to exercise. Talk is really OK as well, no problems hearing anyone or being heard that I have experienced.

Final word:

As Bluetooth is starting to mature, I expect that we will soon have a new standard. I really don’t like Bluetooth that much. Pairing items can be wonky, reach is limited and the signal is easily broken by the smallest obstacles. The trade-off of not having a cord weighing down on your ears when you exercise is to have a headphone where the weight is more in the ear. The T1000 doens’t parry this fact well, while the Reflect MINI BT do come with a secure fit tip. Another thing is that some Bluetooth items have had really poor sound. Here the Reflect MINI BT is the clear winner – in all matters except the bare price. Price per quality, it is also a winner in my book, just to clarify. If you are out for a pair of Bluetooth IEM’s that sit securely, feeds you that thumping music to keep you pushing up another hill, beat another obstacle, or simply having something nice to listen to when you walk outside, the JBL Reflect MINI BT might very well be a worthwhile companion. If you are not running, exercising hard, I would however say that you can get better sound with other IEM’s. like the Sennhesier Momentum In Ear’s etc. But they are not Bluetooth.

ANDROID and music players
I have for this test used 4 different apps for music. I use mainly these day the USB Audio Player Pro since it gives a very good sound with the Samsung Phone. It lacks some features, but I have a playlist for music I like to run or gym to and that works well. Also, this one gives great audio quality for FLAC and external DAC’s. I have also tried the popular PowerAmp player which used to be my go to app for Android music. It is a fully fleshed out player, but sound quality isn’t top-notch on the Samsung S7. The latest app is FOOBAR. I use Foobar for my PC setup, and like the simple design and while the app lacks some basic features, it sounds really good and might very well be my go to app for music on Android. I also tried with the Google Music app to try the connectivity etc.

My recommendation would be like this: You buy into Google fauna of apps and connectivity and buy music via Google or use the Google music monthly subscription? Google music.
If you want a good sounding  app that is fully functioning, Power Amp. Plain and simply. Here however the competition s really tough with AIMP and hundred of other players doing a fair to really great job.
Audiophile? Really care about HD and connecting your phone to DAC’s and stuff? The FOOBAR is really something to keep an eye on, but for now the USB AUdio Player Pro will suite your needs very well!

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