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Review: 3 Bluetooth headphones for travel, work and play

Brian Nadel | March 7, 2016
These headphones from Audio-Technica, Bose and Plantronics offer private listening and calling for a reasonable price.

I connected each to the Galaxy S6, made several business phone calls and left several messages on my office's voice mail system. Afterwards, I listened to the recordings for volume, background noise, static and the vocal tonal quality.

In addition to general listening, I cued up three specific segments for comparison. I started with the Surface Pro 3 playing the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band" from a CD, due to its rich midrange tones and sharp percussion, especially the guiro playing in the background that some sound systems either muffle or miss. Along the way I listened for the headphones' dynamic range and spatial imaging.

Next, I connected to the iPad Pro and fired up the rendition of the Mars movement of Holst's "The Planets" symphony (the James Levine version with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Here, I listened for slow increase in volume at the start, followed by the surging orchestral strings and brass. About two-thirds of the way through, I paid particular attention to the imaging of the kettledrums.

Still using the iPad Pro, I watched the opening 15 minutes of Finding Fela, a film about the Afropop musician Fela Kuti that contains interviews and samples of his music. I watched for sound synchronization with the speakers as well as the tonal qualities of the saxophone playing and the sharp edge of the percussion.

To test the active noise control function, I used a recording of people talking in an office played through a pair of speakers nearby. I then turned the noise reduction circuit on and off to see if it had any effect.

Finally, I timed how long it took to drain the battery of each by playing music continually and making a 10-minute call every hour. I repeated this three times and averaged the results.


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