Review: Getting sweaty with Crazybaby's Air 1S wireless earbuds
Crazybaby, the Hong Kong-based company responsible for the levitating Mars Bluetooth speaker, has also released a number of wireless earbuds over the last couple of years. The latest offering is the Crazybaby Air 1S earbuds that, with a "sweat-proof design," are being targeted specifically at sportspeople. While I couldn't put myself in that camp, I did manage to work up a sweat to put the earbuds to the test over the course of a few weeks.
As is the case with most earbuds, the Crazybaby 1S' come with three additional, different-sized swappable silicone ear tips, as well as three "sports sleeves" that provide extra all-enveloping protection to the earbuds. There's also the portable charging capsule that is claimed to provide up to 12 hours of battery life – depending on usage – and a short USB-C to USB charging cable. All these come in a nicely made box with instructions and warranty information.
I tested the Crazybaby 1S earbuds with an iPhone 6, both of which support Bluetooth 4.2. The first-time pairing of the earbuds to the phone went off without a hitch – they showed up in the Bluetooth settings straight away after being turned on. After this, the earbuds automatically reconnected with the phone when turned on the vast majority of the time, but on a couple of occasions I did have to reopen the Bluetooth interface and manually connect – don't ask me if the earbuds or the phone were to blame for this, but it didn't happen very often.
The variety of replaceable tips made it easy to find a good fit and the earbuds were very comfortable. The design means the earbuds have to be lodged in the ear pretty firmly to prevent them falling out, but over the few weeks I used them they never became uncomfortable, even on extended listening sessions.
Buttons on both earbuds allow a variety of different inputs – for the right earbud, one press to pause/resume audio playback, a double press to skip tracks and three presses to skip back, while a single click of the left earbud answers or hangs up calls and a double press activates your phone's assistant. Volume can't be controlled via the earbuds, other than by activating Siri/Google Assistant and using voice commands. I found this to be more hassle than it was worth and somewhat embarrassing in public – the earbuds aren't very visible from certain angles so saying "volume down" is likely to get some odd looks in the supermarket. Better to just use the volume controls on the phone.
So how do they sound? The Crazybaby 1S earbuds are definitely on the bassy side compared to the a-Jays Four in-ear wired earphones I'm used to, with a bit of a lack of clarity at the higher end. But this is something Crazybaby is touting as a selling point, highlighting the "bass optimization" of the earbuds that comes courtesy of the onboard digital signal processing (DSP) technology. The company also claims the audio isolation provided by the snug fit in the ear of the earbuds' design also aids the bass performance.
Whether you like your music bass-heavy or not will come down to personal preference, and I actually came to like the sound of the earbuds – but if you don't, all is not lost. Activating Bass Reducer in the iPhone's Music EQ settings brought the audio balance back to what I'm used to. The Crazybaby app also supposedly allows custom EQ settings – I say supposedly because the app crashed every time I tried to open up the Music tab. This was even after the latest update and a couple of reinstalls of the app. While it obviously would have been good to have the app working properly for the sake of this review, it's probably not something I would have even bothered downloading otherwise.
Phone calls also came through loud and clear, and those on the other end reported I was able to be heard clearly – although there was the slight echo you get when someone is on speaker. However, because the microphones are on the earbuds in your ear, ambient noise can be a problem. If you're in a noisy environment you may have to speak up to ensure you can be heard over the surrounding din – either that or find a quiet corner to conduct your conversation.
Cord-free at last
The first time using a pair of wireless earphones is a truly liberating experience for someone who uses their wired earphones every day. So it's not getting in the way of my arms, I generally run the cord under my outermost layer of clothing, so it emerges from the neck hole of my jumper, for example. This means a simple turn of the head can result in a tugging in the ear if there's not enough slack, and pulling the cord to provide some slack is something that has to be done repeatedly. No more! A turn of the head is a free and easy affair. Once you've made the move to truly wireless earbuds, it's hard to go back.
Targeting sportspeople is a smart move too, as cords are an obvious downside when you're moving about. Further enhancing the sporty appeal of the lightweight – each earbud is just 4.g (0.16 oz) – sweat-proof design of the Crazybaby 1S. With an IPX6 rating they should be able to withstand sprays from powerful water jets – for those that really sweat a lot. This doesn't mean they can withstand being submerged in water (don't try swimming with them), but should handle a bit of rain while jogging.
Range from the earbuds to the phone is also good. I was able to maintain a strong connection over 20 m (66 ft) with a direct line of sight, but did experience the occasional dropout with the phone in a front pants pocket when doing a full crouch for example. That's pretty much par for the course for such devices, so you're better off having the phone next to you rather than on your person if your workout (or in my case, high-intensity gardening) involves a bit of bodily contortion.
As for battery life, the earbuds themselves consistently lasted for around two and a half to two and three quarter hours, with the portable charging capsule providing about nine hours of charging all up. This is short of the "up to 12 hours" estimated by Crazybaby, but it does point out that, as always, battery life will depend on usage, and would be more than enough for the majority of users. I would expect my usage, which mainly consisted of listening to music at a reasonable volume and the very occasional phone call, wouldn't be too taxing so I think you'd have to be listening at pretty low volumes to get reach the 12-hour mark.
One plus is the earbuds' fast charging capability, which sees 20 percent of battery life restored in five minutes. Fully recharging the earbuds takes under an hour, while the charging capsule takes a bit over an hour to fully charge.
It should also be noted the design of the charging capsule won't be to everyone's liking. A cylinder isn't exactly the most pocket- or flat surface-friendly shape, but at 132.5 mm (5.22 in) long and 30 mm (1.18 in) in diameter, and weighing 80 g (2.8 oz), the capsule isn't a hassle to cart around – even if it's probably better in a bag than a pocket.
Overall I was largely impressed by the Crazybaby 1S earbuds. On my daily walk I listen to a mix of music and podcasts and the earbuds served admirably for such purposes. If you like to get a little more active they will fit the bill, with a design that is comfortable yet snug in the ear, blocks out the bulk of ambient noise, and is built to withstand things getting sweaty.
In-ear earbuds will never compete with a quality pair of over-the-air headphones, but the sporty types these are aimed at will likely be willing to sacrifice a little audio performance for freedom of movement – and there are plenty of users, including yours truly, who will take comfort and flexibility over audiophile-grade audio any day. Depending on your musical preferences, the bass-heavy sound out of the box may not be to everyone's liking, but can be addressed with some EQ fiddling (but maybe not through the Crazybaby app).
And that brings us to price, which may be the single biggest problem for the Crazybaby 1S. At US$159 they are exactly the same price as Apple's AirPods, which boast much better battery life for both the AirPods themselves and the (more pocket-friendly) charging case – up to five hours, and 24 hours, respectively.
So why would anyone opt for the Crazybaby offering over Apple's? One potential selling point is the stemless design that sits completely in the ear. This, along with their gray/black coloring makes them slightly more low-key than Apple's signature white devices – even though the Crazybaby 1S earbuds do have a slowly pulsing light visible when in use.
But the two biggest factors, and why the targeting of sportspeople is such a wise move on Crazybaby's part, are the secure fit of the 1S earbuds in the ear, and their sweat/water-resistant rating – both things the AirPods lack. So if you like to pump up the jam while pumping iron and don't want to tie yourself in knots on the elliptical trainer, the Crazybaby 1S earpods might be worth a look.
Product page: Crazybaby