One could get ridiculously carried away in the quest for the perfect headphones, but there are no shortage of options for those of thus for whom money is still very much an object. Among these is Soundpeats' $99 A1 Bluetooth over-ear headphones. We strapped them on to see how the value for money equation stacks up.
The A1's are mid-range headphones with a lightweight, 210 g (7.4 oz) construction that, while not exactly robust, stands up well to everyday use. The padded cups have a 90-degree pivot that allows the phones to stow quickly in the included bag, and they adjust easily for size and comfort.The ear cups are comfortable and cause very little sweating while sealing out a fair degree of ambient noise in moderately busy settings.
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There's has a 3.7 V lithium-ion battery on board that charges using a micro USB port in under two hours and provides up to 12 hours of play time. The 40 mm, 20 mW speakers have a range of 20 to 20,000 Hz and impedance of 32Ω, while the in-built 1.5 mm, 3 V microphone spans 30 to 16,000 Hz.
The headphones link to compatible devices using Bluetooth 4.1 with a very simple pairing setup and a 10 m (30 ft) range. This is rated for an open field, and though we found it to be a very stable link, it didn't do very well in a cluttered flat with walls in between.
The audio quality of the A1 is acceptable, but we wouldn't say it's of the highest caliber. The range could be better with more emphasis on the bass, and both low and high registers are weak, though the middle range is quite good. Meanwhile, sound distortion is minimal, and overall it could be argued that you are still getting a little more than what you paid for.
In phone mode, the A1 does a very good job. Transition from music to calls is easy and, unlike some systems, alert tones don't blow your ears off. The phone audio was very good with little distortion and no discernible echo.
The major drawback is that the control buttons on the A1 headphones need to be more ergonomic. There are next/previous track, power, volume, and play/pause buttons, but none of them are easy to distinguish by touch. This is bad enough when using the phones for entertainment listening, but having to remove them to answer a call is downright annoying.The Soundpeats A1 sell for US$99.99. View gallery - 9 images