These SPBEAT9 Active Wrap Headphones kicking around on the stack social website for a tempting $24 plus shipping. It might seem like a no-brainer to get a set of wireless headphones given the price points but before you spend your money read on. Updated. Avoid these at all costs. You can now purchase these for just $5 from AliExpress and since publishing TRNDLabs have removed the SPBEAT9 branding. In short they've purchased these cheap, written some copy, taken a few pictures and watched the cash roll in.
Reviewing headphones at this point presents a unique challenge, it's unfair to be overly critical at any set of headphones at this price point especially if they are wireless Bluetooth ones however that doesn't mean they can't be judged in terms of construction, comfort, sound quality and how practical they are to use.
Construction is an all plastic affair with at least some attempt to make things at least a little more rounded for the sake of comfort. The actual feel of the headphones is much less tackier than you would think and I can say from first-hand experience these things are incredibly durable surviving many car trips where they have slid off of the passenger seat into the foot well and crash landings onto the floor from wearing them over the top of a hat.
Unfortunately on my set of headphones the left-hand earpiece is tilted slightly more inwards than the right-hand one and whilst the plastic used does allow for some slight flexing and bending into place ultimately this always means that one earpiece fits better and is way more comfortable than the other.
And of course this also means that audio is going to be annoyingly louder in one ear than it is the other.I would have tried swapping the earbuds for a smaller size to see if that would compensate for this but the active wrap headphones don't come with any. The $24 or you really are getting is the headphones and the plastic packaging they come in.
Active Wrap Headphones Comfort.
On the rarest of days when the moon and the stars have magically aligned these headphones could almost be described as passable in terms of comfort. Almost.
The problem is that these headphones really aren't accommodating in terms of dependability or give. Of course headphones of these type have to grip the sides of your cranium to be useful but these tend to pinch right around the earlobe area just a little too much to be comfortable for any decent amount of time.
I've taken these running and whilst I was thankful for the grip I found myself constantly adjusting and fiddling with the position of the headphones trying to make them more bearable for my run. Will not fiddling with the headphones to try and get the optimum amount of comfort possible I then distracted by the audio being louder in my left ear than my right.
I've tried being creative or like wearing a beanie hat and then chucking the headphones underneath to relieve some of the pressure of the pinching above my ears but that has the knock-on effect of rendering the microphone and phone calls completely useless.
Even after spending way more time than I would have liked to get these headphones comfortable it was then I discovered that they headphones are off-balance in terms of sound level anyway. Even after bending the ear piece the left driver is still noticeably louder than the right one.
If you're going to use headphones on the commute then you're going to be better off using those Apple headphones rather than these. Purely because you can't wean your head back onto the back of the seat without pushing down on the headphones which in turn means they press even harder into your ear canal or they press up against the top of your ears. Either which way it's just bloodier uncomfortable and frustrating.
Despite being mono only and the specifications being less than that of the white Apple earbuds, sound quality is perfectly acceptable. As you might imagine everything comes true as okay if nothing spectacular.
Even at maximum volume of these things certainly aren't going to give you any concerns, sound leakage is good enough to disguise the fact you might be listening to some godforsaken boy band.
System sounds such as notifications or any feedback provided from Siri is highly compressed but as you're doubtfully going to be engaging much with those sounds it is neither here nor there.
And whilst our old friend Bluetooth audio compression is evident it's not overbearing.
So in terms of sound quality the active wrap headphones aren't too bad at all actually.
Phones Calls, Dictation & Siri
It's when you start to make a phone call that things start to rapidly fall apart. For some reason no matter how hard I tried any phone call I made sounded like I was talking to someone from the opposite side of a room and underneath a wet blanket. Even holding the headphones in front of me and talking directly into the microphone square Ron have the same effect.
So as you might imagine this rendered interactions with Siri almost pointless and the reason I say almost pointless is because it was fun to try and guess what Siri was going to predict despite my best pronunciation attempts. There did seem to be a little bit more activity on the squiggly line during the voice recognition attempts in my car so I left mystified why such a simple command as "call Emma" managed to get completely screwed up.
Is hard to tell if this any active noise cancelling at all as I was coming across so muffled to the other party on my test phone calls.
I would send these back and trying get a refund by don't think I will bother. It's obvious that these are mass produced so I'm not confident that any replacement sets wouldn't have the same or similar defects of one side being slightly more inverted than the other.
I could quite happily put up and listen to podcasts and movies with these headphones with somewhat diminished same quality if only these things just weren't so darn uncomfortable.
If you fancy chancing your luck and seeing if a set feels comfortable to you and hopefully you will get lucky with the microphone as well then there's no reason that if you don't have the money to give them a try.
Just set your expectations in line with what you're going to pay for a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones at this price point.
Active Wrap Headphones available from the StackSocial website for $24 + shipping