I have had an iPhone for some time now — long enough, that I started by listening to music using traditional wired headphones. The wire often proved to be a hassle like when doing yard work because the cord got tangled in the bushes. So when the wireless Apple AirPods emerged, my children got me a pair for my birthday. The problem with the AirPods is that they don't stay put. They are fine for listening to music while sitting on an airplane, but they fall out of my ears when jogging or doing yard work.
So for this Father's Day, my daughter decided to get me a pair of Bluetooth earphones that have the ear hooks to keep them in place. She did her homework and researched several pairs. She found conflicting customer reviews on the same models, so she got me three different pairs that I can try. Which one is the best? Are consumers foolishly just paying for the Dr. Dre name? In the interest of science, I decided to share my empirical data.
Here are the stats from the manufacturers:
|Attribute||powerbeats3||Taotronics TT-BH10||Soundwhiz Turbo|
|Device Compatability||iPhone / Android||iPhone / Android||iPhone / Android / Windows PC|
|Power On/Off||Large raised button on top of left earpiece with audible tone and LED indicator||Small middle button on right earpiece with audible tone||Large button on side of right earpiece with audible voice message|
|Anchoring||Flexible ear hooks||Flexible ear hooks||Flexible ear hooks|
|Volume Control||Squeezable +/- ends of a dongle on the left side of the cable||Small +/- buttons on right earpiece||Small +/- buttons on right earpiece|
|Battery Life||Up to 12 hours||Up to 7 hours||Up to 9 hours|
|Fully Charged Indicator||red light turns white||red light turns white||red light turns white|
|Low Power Indicator||audible tone and % charged display on phone||audible tone||audible tone|
|Water Resistance||Sweat and water resistant||Sweat-proof covering||IPX 7 Waterproof but not suitable for swimming|
|Bluetooth Type / Range||Class 1 / 300 feet||4.1 / 200 feet||4.1 / 200 feet|
|Speakers||Dual-driver acoustics||Not specified||10mm Dynamic|
|Sound profiles||Not specified||APT-X||HFP; HSP; A2DP; AVRCP; APT-X|
|Phone Call Compatability||Hands-free RemoteTalk||Integrated microphone||Voice commands|
|AI Compatability||Siri||Not specified||Siri / SVOICE|
|Advertised Extra Features||Apple W1 chip technology; 5 minutes of charge = 1 hour of playback; Cable management clip.||Built-in ceramic antenna.||Sound profile specifically designed to provide the maximum boost to rhythm center during sports and activities.|
Historically, when my college friends and I bought floor standing speakers as part of our extensive home stereos, we only considered speakers that with sound ranges of 20 Hz to 22,000 Hz. Today, these 3 headphone manufacturers don't even publish the frequency responses of their devices, so I decided to use audiocheck.net to see for myself.
Given my age and that my hearing is not what it used to be, the page did not identify any deficiencies in any of the earphones.
|Frequency Response 10 Hz >> 200 Hz||bass||On the powerbeats3, I could hear (more like feel) as low as 10 Hz. Taotronics was 30 Hz. Soundwhiz was 20 Hz.|
|Frequency Response 22 kHz >> 8 kHz||treble||powerbeats3: I could only hear as high as 19 kHz. Taotronics was 13 kHz. Soundwhiz was 12 kHz.|
|Perceptual Sweep Spectral Flatness||reproduce all frequencies consistently between the lower and upper limits, without a dip or peak in a particular frequency range||The sound level was consistent throughout the test for the powerbeats3 but there was an oh-so-slight uptick in volume for midrange frequencies for the other 2.|
|Dynamic Range||ratio between the loudest signal and the quietest||I could only hear up to 66 db below full scale.|
|Quality||any rattle whenever loud or deep bass content is played?||The sound was consistent throughout the test without any rattle or buzz.|
|Driver Matching||left and the right drivers respond equally to every frequency in the audible spectrum?||The sound drifted to the right just slightly at the highest frequency on all 3 earphones, so maybe that's just my ears?|
|Wiring Left / Right||route the left channel to the left earpiece, and the right channel to the right?||The left and right channels played as expected.|
|Wiring Center / Twisted||"Center" test signal plays from a well-defined spot between the ears / "Twisted" signal harder to locate in space, sounding like it is being twisted inside the brain?||I could not perceive any difference between the center and twisted sound samples.|
|Binaural Recordings||Recordings made by placing microphones directly in a person's ear, capturing the sound that reaches the pinnae. By playing back the recording through earphones, each of the listener's ears should get the same signal as originally captured.||This test is the sound of someone knocking at one's door. It was so real that it startled me.|
Specs are helpful indicators, but I decided to put each set of headphones to the test, but what music should I use? When shopping for speakers in college, my friends I always used Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again" as a test song. We even dubbed it as "the speaker song." Its arrangement is not overly crowded so listeners can compare the guitar sound to the vocals. But since that's just one type of music, I asked my Facebook friends if they had any suggestions as to what to use as source material when evaluating speakers. Popular AutoCAD book author, Donnie Gladfelter, directed me to:
This was a great article as it described the musical events and song characteristics to "be on the lookout for" when listening to the songs. To make it easy to repeat the listening process once per pair of earphones, I was able to create a Spotify playlist with 9 of the 10 and added 2 songs of my own, so I could claim that my list goes to 11.
Using the test songs as well as my favorite music, I think that the powerbeats3 are the most natural sounding. The Taotronics and Soundwhiz really emphasize the midrange. For example, the vocals in songs are very prominent. It's probably that little extra high-end on the powerbeats3 that makes those earphones stand out.
Since my daughter was the purchaser and gave them to me as a gift, she was the recipient of an email from TaoTronics that did not inspire confidence, but I think these tips could apply to any one of these headphones:
Thank you for your purchase of our headphone TT-BH10! TaoTronics is committed to providing you with quality products and only the best customer service.
While you receive our product, here are some tips that will help optimize your usage and enjoyment of our device.
- There are different sizes of ear tips in the package.
- Please try and choose the most suitable ear tips to see if they fit you.
- Though the ear buds are ergonomically designed, we cannot promise they would fit everyone's ears.
Please try to turn off all other Bluetooth device to avoid any interference and make sure that the Bluetooth connection must be in range.
Please come to us as soon as possible if the headphone stop charging/working after several uses. For better battery protection, we suggest you keep the headphone fully charged if it is not used for long periods of time.
How to pair:
- Fully charge the headset.
- Press & hold the MFB (Power on Button) until it flashes blue and red, which means the earbuds enter pairing mode.
- Turn on the Bluetooth function of your cell phone.
- Choose TT-BH10 and it would pair with your cell phone.
How to reset when the headphones cannot pair with your Bluetooth device suddenly:
- Turn on the Bluetooth headphones and let in enter pairing mode, the headphones should flash red and blue alternatively.
- Press & hold both the volume - & the volume + to reset the headphones.
- The headphones would flash purple 2 times very quickly.
- You can just pair the headphones just like after the factory.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us! You can reply to this email, we are standing by and ready to assist you.
Sunvalleytek Customer Service Team
Even though the powerbeats3 is my first choice, the Taotronics and Soundwhiz are definitely worth their price, but if I am only going to get one pair of these in a lifetime, I am thankful that my daughter splurged.
Thanks, Stephanie. The chills are alive with the sound of music.
Earphones are alive in the lab.