Not everyone wants to wear earplugs when listening to music on the train or on the walk. Some people simply find it inconvenient to have something that goes into the ear canal. Others think that the significantly larger elements give a much better sound for the money. But you still want the headphones to fit in your bag, and no one can handle wires anymore. Then wireless “street headphones” are perfect for the purpose.
Last year we tested headphones in the mid-price range, which give a really good sound without them being very expensive. But not everyone wants to spend thousands of dollars, or one may be afraid that they will break or be stolen. Therefore, this year we go down in the budget class, where we stay in the area of 500-1000 kroner. You still get the benefits of format and freedom.
What do you not get?
Most of the headphones in the test only support “SBC”, which is the default code for audio over Bluetooth. Better sound quality like AAC is more unusual, and none of them support the even better aptX format.
You can not expect any special features either. Whether it’s noise reduction to make the trip more comfortable, or location tracking that is becoming more common among the more expensive headphones.
It also results in none of them having any smartphone app. There you can otherwise update the software in the headphones. But above all, one should have access to the equalizer to adjust the sound.
The battery life in the test is on average 20 hours, which is no longer so impressive. More expensive headphones now last up to 30 hours, thanks to more power-efficient circuits.
Most of the headphones use micro-USB charging, an old standard that has been replaced by USB-C in modern mobile phones. This means not only that you must have two different chargers, but also that the headphones cannot be quickly charged.
If there are compromises that feel reasonable, this is the test for you.
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When Skullcandy started, there was more attitude than content. But over the years, they have also grown up and produced headphones that even adults dare to be visible in, and which have received significantly better sound. Like the excellent budget headphones Grind, or the rudely cheap noise-reducing headphones Venue. A good example is that we did not like the first Hesh at all, while the sequel is a completely different matter.
Hesh 3.0 Wireless is, as the name suggests, an upgrade of Skullcandy’s slightly more expensive wireless headphones. They have a more oval shape, a less screaming look in sober colors, even better battery life and have become more portable. In fact, they are the only headphones in the test that can be both folded and angled, which is needed, as they are also the largest in the test. How well the complicated joint holds, however, is something that will only become apparent after a long period of use.
The reason for the size is that the bells should sit around the ears, and not on, at least if you normally have large ears. This means that you get better sound insulation, and that they do not pinch your ears in the same way when listening for a long time. On the other hand, they are still tight, and this makes the ears feel warm. The few buttons are easy to understand and feel with your fingers. Very good battery life and fast charging – 10 minutes for another four hours of listening.
The generous bells give the elements a little more space to stretch on, which means that they do not sound strained. The bass goes deep into the register, which is good for electronic dance music. On the other hand, the bass is imprecise and hums, while the treble can sound sharp if you challenge it. In general, the sound feels a bit unrefined and intrusive, which makes the headphones fit more on the go, than sitting at home and listening in peace and quiet.
If you have the previous model and like it, but are annoyed by certain details, Hesh 3.0 Wireless can be a good upgrade. They have in fact got a better shape on the watches, less challenging appearance and even better battery life. They are also foldable so that they take up less space in the luggage. However, they are the biggest headphones in the test, but also the most comfortable. However, the sound does not reach the same level as with our recommended headphones.
Sony not only makes insanely beautiful luxury headphones like the MDR-Z1R, but also the best noise-canceling headphones, and very good mid-range headphones like the Sony WH-H800. But the question is whether they also manage the competition among the really cheap models?
They actually did not have a model in the same price range as the other manufacturers, so for once Sony is the cheapest in the test. Unfortunately, it is noticeable on the design of the headphones. They look ok from a distance, but as soon as you touch them, they feel cheap. It is plastic-like in a bad way, which makes one wonder about the durability. They are very light, but not in an impressive way. It makes us instead wonder what is really in them. Like many of the others, they are available in white or black, but also in blue, which is significantly finer.
The low weight naturally means that they do not weigh much on the head. But they sit quite tight on the ears, and there is not much padding in the ear pads. Strangely enough, the hoop has no padding at all, which makes them press against the skull. In summary, this means that the headphones are actually not as comfortable as first thought.
The buttons that control playback are located on the right clock. The size is significantly better than on the Jays, but they do not protrude sufficiently, and it results in them still being a little difficult to feel with the finger. Close by is the USB connection, which for once is a modern USB-C connector. It also allows the headphones to be quickly charged for 10 minutes for an additional 90 minutes of playing time. Boringly enough, Sony also does not have an app to be able to customize settings and audio profiles.
It would probably have been necessary, because the headphones have the smallest elements in the test, and they sound a bit strained. If you listen to acoustic music, the treble is stark, and if you try orchestra, the instruments drown in the sound mat. Now you may not have such high demands in this price range, and if you want to be kind, it is actually quite ok to listen to pop music on the go.
Sony is good at building expensive headphones, but it is all the more difficult to build good cheap headphones. In this case, they have gone too far with the saving knife, and it has affected both the feeling of quality and the sound. Despite the low weight, they also do not sit comfortably. However, Sony should have plus points for fast charging and excellent battery life.
Several of Urbanista’s headphones have performed very well in our tests. Three years ago we were very excited about the budget headphones Seattle Wireless, and when it comes to cheap noise-canceling headphones, we thought New York was the most affordable. The question is whether Urbanista can repeat the feat with Detroit, the cheapest model in the range.
The design of the headphones is similar to Seattle’s, what we say is that it is a very shelled design without any frills or visible logos. On the other hand, the color scheme is different, where in addition to black you can get them in a matte green or pink color. The construction is plastic-like, and especially the watches feel quite cheap. The headphones are foldable to take up less space in the luggage. But the question is how long the questionable hinge construction lasts.
The pillows are covered with protein leather, which both feels comfortable and is easy to keep clean. On the other hand, they do not have much padding, and of course the hoop is soft, but it has no padding at all. As they also sit relatively tight, they are not comfortable to wear for a long time. Then it does not help that the weight is relatively low.
On the right clock are the three buttons that control playback. They are quite small, but sufficiently elevated, and sit well enough apart that you can easily find them with your finger. The left clock has a connection for cable, for example for the aircraft, while the right has a charging socket. Again, it is a micro-USB connector instead of the modern USB-C connectors. This means that it takes 2.5 hours to charge them, while the battery still only lasts 12 hours.
Boringly enough, there is also no app to fine-tune the sound. It would otherwise have been a good idea, as we are not particularly impressed with the sound quality. Acoustic pieces suffer from the fact that the sound is trapped and dull. It is difficult to distinguish the instruments from each other, and the sound is very intrusive. If you try electronic music instead, it is the flat and rumbling bass that is a disappointment.
Urbanista’s cheapest model is reminiscent in appearance of the Seattle model, which we appreciated earlier. But unfortunately the similarities end there. Detroit feels plastic and cheap, which means you have to question whether they hold up to tough roofs. Despite their low weight, they do not sit comfortably on their heads. 12 hours of battery life is also not something to brag about today. On top of that, they sound intrusive and confusing at the same time.
Norwegian Kygo has repeatedly shown that there is not necessarily anything negative when a DJ puts his name on headphones. Whether for completely wireless plugs such as the E7 / 900, noise-canceling headphones such as the A11 / 800 or street headphones such as the A6 / 500. The latter were excellent, but not entirely cheap. So what happens when they reduce the price by half with the Kygo A3 / 600?
The style will be completely different. Where the former brought to mind Denon and headphones you can see on the business plane, the A3 / 600 is more reminiscent of street headphones like the Urbanista. They are available in black, white or gray. It is also plastic that dominates, more than metal and imitation leather. But it’s not necessarily just negative, because they feel functional and user – friendly. It is of course metal where it is needed, as in the hinges. It is an advantage that the A3 has compared to the A6 that you can fold them before the trip. As well as putting them in the storage bag if they are to be in the bag.
The ear pads are upholstered in imitation leather and padded with memory foam. They thus form after the ears in a comfortable way. On the other hand, they squeeze a lot against the ears. In addition, since the hoop is not padded, only covered with a rubber-like material, they are not particularly comfortable in length. On the right clock are the normal three buttons to control playback and answer the phone. The buttons are large enough and easy to find with your finger. There is also a connection for the audio cable and the USB connector. Unfortunately, there is old micro-USB connector and there is no fast charging. You can also not use the Kygo Sound app to adjust the sound.
When we put on the first songs in our playlist, it is acoustic, and you want naturalness and richness of detail. We are not particularly impressed, as it sounds hard and intrusive. With pop, it gets better, as it makes less demands. But then we go out of the playlist and put on Kygo’s remix of Coldplay’s Midnight, and then suddenly the pieces fall into place. This is of course what the headphones are tuned for. It’s captivating and tough, just the urban sound that the headphones are made for.
The cheapest headphones in Kygo’s range are of course a compromise. They do not have the same premium material as the more expensive headphones, nor are they as sophisticated in sound. On the other hand, the sound fits perfectly for Kygo’s audience. And they are actually collapsible, something the more expensive ones strangely enough are not. They are therefore easy to take with you, and easy to use. The ear pads are soft, but the headphones can be a little uncomfortable in the long run.
Jays are skilled at developing just the right headphones for different needs and price ranges. Like the reference plugs Q-Jays, or the mid-range u-Jays Wireless. Jays x-Five Wireless is in a lower price range, as are the all-new a-Seven Wireless.
However, these are a more compact street headphone that can be folded completely so that they can fit in the jacket pocket in an emergency. For obvious reasons, they do not feel as luxurious as u-Jays as most are made of plastic. However, the feeling of quality is good, and there are no parts in the construction that feel fragile. Both the ear pads and the hoop are covered with artificial leather. They therefore feel soft and comfortable, and are easy to keep clean. The pillows are padded with memory foam that shapes itself to the head. As the headphones are also among the lightest in the test, you almost forget that you are wearing them.
The controls are three small buttons at the bottom of the right clock. It is not entirely successful, as you really have to feel with your thumb and hope that it is the right button. Next to it is the connection for the audio cable if you want to connect them to an audio source that cannot transmit wirelessly. On the second watch is the USB connection for charging. Sadly, there is an old micro-USB connection, and there is therefore no fast charging of the headphones. Jays also does not have an app for multiple settings of the headphones or the audio profile.
By and large, the x-Five Wireless sounds as good as you can expect in the price range. They are not neutral, but have turned up the middle register and treble, which can be good for lifting the song from the mix. If you want to be a little critical, however, the treble tends to become sharp if you push it. The bass goes deep enough, but for once is not exaggerated, something some may miss in a pair of street headphones.
In a way, Jays x-Five Wireless crosses the checklist for a pair of street headphones. They can be folded and become so compact that they are convenient to carry. They are light and well padded, which makes them sit very comfortably on the head. Battery life is more than good enough to last all day. Besides, you do not have to be ashamed of the look. Surprisingly, they do not have a deafening bass, but there are probably many of us who actually prefer that it is the song that is highlighted instead.
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