A week ago I was approached by Grace from soundpeatsaudio.com, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a pair of their SoundPEATS Q800 Bluetooth in-ear headphones.
Now, I have to admit I was sceptical at first, a pair of affordable, quite cleverly designed headphones, with accessible controls. What was the sound quality going to be like? Surely can't be all that.
Over the past week I have taken the headphones to a variety of locations, in a number of situations, just to see how well they could actually do. So paired with my trust OnePlus 2 I got started.
Let's start at the beginning. A couple of days after speaking with Grace, a box from Amazon arrived on my doorstep. Inside was a neat little box, nicely packed with the headphones, a few pairs of spare and varying sized ear buds, a USB lead for charging, and of course some instructions.
Unpacking the headphones and switching them on for the first time, with the ear bud in, I was greeted with a voice prompt of "power on" followed by a voice prompt for my battery status too, which was "battery level medium". When switching them on again after you have paired them with a device, the additional prompt of "device connected"
Pairing of course is very simple. Using the instructions supplied, and the simple to follow guide of what flashing light meant what, pairing was done in seconds, partially thanks to the simple pairing process on the OnePlus2. Thankfully that is all the setting up that was needed for me, as the earbuds already on the headphones were perfect for me. I will come back to them later.
Once paired, the headphones were plugged in to the USB lead, and given a full charge.
Design wise, alarm bells were again ringing. I take forever to get used to new things on or around my person. Fitness tracker wristbands, sunglasses, and yes even new headphones, run the risk of not lasting with me for long, by irritating me too much to put up with them, regardless of how good they are. It has taken me years to get used to wearing sunglasses, and only recently found happiness with my Oakley's. So the idea of wearing a band around my neck, like a collar, with small wires running to the earbuds worried me.
That said, from the second I put them on, I instantly realised I could barely feel them there, they are so light and ergonomic for my neck. Having nice little leads that run from the band to the earbuds is a lovely solution. Not one I would have imagined would feel quite this comfortable. But in later tests when doing more active things, it was a godsend not having a trailing wire.
The collar unit also houses the controls / buttons for the headphones. With a physical slider switch for ON/OFF and a neat and discreet micro USB port for charging. Along with six buttons, three on either side.
The buttons on the left side give you control over tracks, skipping back and forth, as well as pausing and playing. To the right are 3 more buttons. A + and - for volume, as well as a phone button for answering and hanging up for phone function, if you are using the headphones with a mobile phone of course. This phone button also doubles as a notification LED, and will flash red or blue, and in sequences depending on what it is trying to tell you.
So on to the actual testing.
First use of the headphones was for a couple of hours, while writing some emails and getting a blog entry completed. So sitting at the desk, with just the noise of my keys on the keyboard to contend with. Sitting stationary and flicking through tracks on Spotify was a good opportunity for me to get to grips with the 6 buttons on the body of the headphones.
Popping the band around my neck and taking my seat at the computer, I put the headphones in and went for the switch to turn them on. First thing I noticed, sitting in the quiet of my office was how the ambient noise from the room almost disappeared as the earbuds went in. Unlike some others I have used, the seal was very good and instant. Flicking the switch and hearing the prompts peel out, it confirmed it was connected to my OnePlus2 . Let the fun begin.
Hitting play, the headphones burst into life, with nice crisp highs, and surprisingly clear mids and highs. With a quick bit of tweaking of the EQ on the phone, and I was in my zone. As I worked at the PC, and Spotify ran through its playlist, I got a chance to put the Q800's through their paces. From regular pop, to violin drum and bass. R&B to trance, the headphones didn't fail to deliver. Even the separation of instruments with classical music was possible when relaxing and immersing myself into the music.
The one big surprise I have to say, was the quality of the bass. With all in-ear headphones, the bass quality comes down to the fitment of the buds in your ears. With the snug fit I have with the standard buds, the bass was wonderfully deep. No distortion to speak of, and clearly able to hear a range of frequencies when listening to dance or trance tracks.
After a couple of hours at the PC, I was done, so flicking the switch to the off position, the voice prompt of "power off" rang out, and that was that. They immediately showed as disconnected on the OnePlus2.
Deciding to give the battery a full workout, I refrained from putting them on to charge, and just put them on the side.
Later that day, going for a long walk, which at points would take me along busy roads, so I decided it would be another great test for the headphones. Wearing a hoodie, I was slightly concious of how the headphone band would sit and look in the wild. However on popping the band around my neck, it slipped effortlessly down and sat nicely within reach, but not too obvious.
For 90 mins at a decent pace, including up and down stairs with some gusto, the ear bugs sat firm. Not needing to be pushed back in or adjusted. Ambient sound from the streets was minimal, although I should add, that as with all in-ear headphones I use, the ability to concentrate and hear road noise when needed was there. Obviously I didn't have the volume cranked right up for safety reason. None the less, when walking even on a busy road, the sound quality was not impaired. A good balance between safety and sound for sure.
By the end of the walking test, the running time was getting close to 4 hours. Half way through the claimed battery life and there was no change in any quality or function of the headphones.
The next day, another chilled out morning was called for, but so was housework. A morning of moving things, cleaning, and everyone's favourite, vacuuming. In went the headphones, on went the music. This mornings choice was ASOT, or A State Of Trance . High energy 2 hour long mix, perfect for the job at hand. Knowing I would be moving around a lot, I decided to leave the phone in one place, to avoid dropping it while doing something. So the phone was placed on a unit in the hallway. This would be a good test for the claimed 10 metre wireless range, especially through walls and doors. I can happily report that they passed with flying colours, and at no point suffered any break-up or loss of quality. From walking out front to put things in the bin and cars, to standing in the rear garden with the dogs, the quality remained solid.
As for the moving around, bending and lifting etc. At no point did an earbud fall out, although I will admit that a couple of adjustments were made. I didn't take note of when these occurred or what caused the movement. Whatever it was, it was not repetitive enough to form a pattern, or cause irritation. So they passed the housework / chores test nicely.
Two hours later the "You've been listening to A State of Trance" came through the headphones (part of the track, not a headphone feature), and that was another 2 hours clocked up on the Q800's.
My final test came the next morning, my return to my workout routine, and time for some higher energy usage. Cross trainer time, or elliptical as it is to some. A close to running pace, for 30 minutes workout awaited them. Flicking the switch on, the "battery level medium" rang out for the first time since starting the test. Or the first I noticed anyway. Possible it did it before the housework at the 4 hour point, but I most likely turned them on before putting them on this time.
So, into the home gym and onto the cross trainer, cranking up the volume to really get in the zone. This was going to be a test again of sound quality, noise pollution and sweat resistance.
With the volume a little higher than I had had it before, just in case there was going to be any whine from the Reebok cross trainer. Picking the running setting on Spotify, and letting it pick the music based on tempo for the duration, the playlist was bound to be mixed, and it was! With a variety across most up tempo genre's. Once again I am happy to report that there was no unwanted outside noise bleeding in. And also that even at higher volume, the sound quality remained solid.
With regards to sweat, heat and comfort while training. I have no negative comments whatsoever. The first concern was that the band / collar, would bounce around and irritate my neck. However they sat nicely, and have to admit at the end of training, I reached up to the sides of my head with the aim to remove my Sony bluetooth over ear headphones. Maybe muscle memory, or possibly just expecting them to be there based on the music which was currently flowing into my ears.
Being able to grab and hold the band while at running pace, to skip a track, change the volume etc is very helpful, especially for such a compact design. Far easier than trying to find in-line controls on other alternatives.
By the end of the session, with sweat pouring, the earbuds still sat tight. No irritating slip of them in the ears, and thanks to their size, not covered in sweat as with my over ears that I usually use on the elliptical.
So, to summarise.
Over all the design vs function is great. Simple but effective design, the as yet unmentioned magnets to hold the ear buds in place when not in use. See how they sit in the pictures when not pulled out. Thanks to handy magnets in the band, they remain in place even when moving the unit around.
Here is a pic of them OUT of their little stowage pods.
Sound quality in general was perfectly acceptable. There were no points while using them where distortion became an issue, not the sound quality became bad. For reference the sound quality on Spotify on my OnePlus2 is set to "extreme" (high quality). The EQ settings on the phone were set to R&B or Dance for the bulk of the time, with no tweaks made by me. Maxx Bass was turned on for a while, but I actually found the bass to be too heavy with this setting on, so off it went.
Battery life. Well in the 7 or 8 hours I have used them for so far, I am yet to get a low battery warning, suffer quality loss, or have them switch off on me. So it seems the 8 hours running time is more than realistic. No complaints from me there. With them easily and quickly recharging via an ultra popular micro USB port, charging is both easy and convenient.
Usability is great for numerous activities, and I have no doubt that I will be packing them for the next trip I take on a plane. Having bought over ear headphones for this purpose previously, it will be interesting to see if the in-ear equivalent can live up to their performance. Having no awkward wires on a plane is a dream. The only negative side I can see in this area, as well as other similar scenarios around the home, is the lack of a manual, wired jack plug. My Sony's have this option, which is helpful when using the in-flight entertainment on a plane, or wanting to plug into an audio device which doesn't support Bluetooth.
But in general, any potential buyer of these headphones would be choosing Bluetooth for a reason, and most likely primarily use Bluetooth devices. So not much of an issue at all.
All in all, I would happily recommend these headphones to anyone looking to buy compact, in-ear Bluetooth headphones. Ideal for using in other activities like cycling, or even maybe on a motorcycle, with the controls remaining accessible on the collar band under any helmet.
Thanks again to Grace from soundpeatsaudio.com, for getting in touch and giving me the opportunity to try these headphones out. If you need anything else reviewing, please feel free to drop me an email.
*All references to sound quality are based on the "bang for buck" scale. With full acceptance that my more expensive headphones deliver a richer sound, but are also in line with what I would expect for my money. The Q800's stand head and shoulders above a lot of headphones I have used around this price, including hard wired ones.