The sub-US$100 Bluetooth headphone market is pretty crowded, but 808 Audio recently unveiled some new budget cans that it hopes will make a splash. The Performer BT Bluetooth headphones boast the firm's new Flex Fit ear cup suspension technology, which promises to make even the longest listening sessions comfortable. Duly intrigued, Gizmag gave them a whirl – read on below to see how they fared.
Out of the box, pairing them to a device is as simple and straightforward as you'd expect from Bluetooth headphones, and throughout the review we didn't have any issues with the connection dropping. However, the notifications which play when turning the headphones on or off are annoyingly loud. Not quite painfully loud, but on the verge of it, and certainly louder than such notifications have any reason to be.
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As far as styling goes, our black and brushed metal review unit is vaguely industrial looking, and not really to our taste, though perhaps you'll like the look – each to their own. The headphones are also available in white, which softens them somewhat.
Sound quality is a mixed bag. The range is pretty good, with decent highs and better bass than we expected. However, when in Bluetooth mode, the headphones have a noticeable digital hiss at lower volume, meaning that on the quieter parts of some songs, it became more annoying (we tried this on multiple devices to be sure). Now, to be clear, such hiss is expected on budget wireless headphones but, in our wholly subjective opinion, it seemed just a little louder than we would have hoped, especially when listening to quieter sections of mellower songs.
Plugging the headphones into a music player with the supplied lead (and therefore not using the Bluetooth connection) proved a much better listening experience, and we couldn't hear the noise any more.
The built-in microphone is not great but serviceable for answering calls. Again though, this is improved when using the supplied lead (which also sports a microphone and button for answering calls). Battery life is good, and while we didn't actually time our use with them to double-check the claimed 15 hours from a charge, this sounds about right. The headphones are charged with a Micro USB lead.
Build quality is also good and the headphones feel solid. The Performer BT headphones sport 90-degree vertical ear cup rotation, meaning that you can rotate each cup upwards, freeing one ear easily (handy for budding DJ's), and adjusting this or the size of the headphones is met with a satisfying click. There are also controls on the side of the ear cups to configure volume, answer calls, and stop or start your music.
The big draw with these headphones is their supposed comfort, owing to 808 Audio's Flex Fit ear cup suspension technology, which is inspired by the mounts found on studio microphones to dampen vibrations. The ear cups are supported by a springy cord that's interwoven into the body of the headphones and allows them to rest on your ears comfortably, even for a long time. Indeed, we reckon these are probably the most comfortable pair of budget headphones we've yet tried, and they don't leave us with the sensation that our head is being slowly squished in a vice after a full day's listening, which some other similarly-priced cans have in the past.
In conclusion, the Performer Headphones offer a somewhat uneven experience and come close to a really good budget product, but fall frustratingly short. They're not bad by any means, and we liked how comfortable they felt, the battery life, and the build quality. Plugged in, they sounded good for the price, but we were ultimately disappointed enough with the level of hiss when the headphones were used in Bluetooth mode that we'd recommend checking out the cheaper non-Bluetooth model instead.
The 808 Audio Performer Headphones are available in two models. There's the lower-priced Performer, which ships without Bluetooth functionality, and will set you back $79.99. Performer BT (our review model), meanwhile, includes Bluetooth and a detachable cable with in-line mic for $99.99.
Availability is currently listed at Spring 2015 (Northern Hemisphere).
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