After a friend saw me looking at these at the recent Fieldays event, they thought they would be an ideal Christmas gift for me, as I can not normally handle in-ear speaker systems. Normally, I opt for full-ear-cup coverage so that nothing applies any pressure to the ear at all. However, Earshots are quite unique in that they do have an in-ear speaker, but it doesn’t rely on pressing against the ear canal to keep it there. Instead, it uses a magnetic coupling to “clip onto the ear flap” (technically, the auricle or pinna) so that it is your own ear that keeps the unit in place. This turned out to be far less painful for me, and didn’t really interfere with my wearing glasses either, as I could position it a little further ‘out’ to leave a gap for the arms of the glasses to sit as they normally would, yet the ear pod remained stable and secure.
They can be used either in single mode or stereo. If you want to have access to calls or music while still keeping one ear free to pay attention to the outside world – good move for driving or walking around town – then you simply remove one ‘earshot’ from the case – which automatically turns it on and starts the pairing/connection cycle to link it you your device/s – and by the time you have attached it to the side of your noggin, it’s ready to go. However, if you are in a safe environment and want that full surround sound, you place both earshots, and they will automatically pair with each other as well, creating a stereo soundscape for you. Sounds great, huh.
Well, as with all things, if they sound too good to be true, there’s usually a catch. In my case, I found more than one, and even requesting help from the supplier via their website’s live-chat feature brought me no remedy… or even a reply from the agent. SO what were the issues? Let me count the ways…
1 – Volume issues.
Using a single earshot unit at a time – either side, didn’t matter – the maximum volume I could get out of it was less than half of what I am used to. I have a hearing issue, and to really appreciate music I need to pump up the volume a bit. The units themselves have zero volume control, which is fine, and the volume is set by the device. However, if I then unpacked the second unit, as soon as it paired with the device – regardless of whether it was on my ear or not, the volume in the already-on unit suddenly jumped up. Like it was somehow drawing extra strength to yell that bit louder by having its buddy powered up. Wanting to be safe now conflicted with being able to hear the music properly. Be safe, and have horrible sound, have banging tunes but be utterly unable to hear the world around me. There goes 20% of my possible usage time.
2 – Phone calls.
Simply put – that function just didn’t seem to work with any of my phones. Brand new OPPO Find X5, really old Huawei Mate 8, really really old HTC <something>, even my friend’s fairly-new Samsung. They would pair with the devices, take over the call as any Bluetooth earpiece should, but the person on the other end could not hear me at all, and I could hardly hear them. (See Point #1 above) That failure removed 30% of my usage potential in one fell swoop.
3 – PC Compatibility.
My laptop has rubbish speakers, so I channel the audio out through an external Bluetooth speaker that does a really good job. Trying to switch to the Earshots was an exercise in futility. They would pair with the device, but would not connect – meaning no data flowed to them from the PC. All I got was a little voice in my ear telling me that the connection failed. That totally eliminated at least 30% of my usage profile right there. That makes 80%+ and counting.
4 – Comfort over time.
Or lack thereof. While they are much, much more comfortable than anything even remotely similar that I have tried, after about half an hour I could definitely feel my ear starting to ache. By the 1 hour mark my ears were starting to get very upset with me. If I hung on for another half an hour, I started to get headaches. This is a bit of a mixed one for me – most similar devices hit the ‘headache’ milestone within 15 minutes, so this was actually quite impressive to me, however, if it was the only negative I would still rate these very high. But when combined with the three points above, my desire to push through was shrinking faster than a ball of ice-cream in your hand, in the middle of Summer. This was pretty much the final nail for me.
The Good Stuff
Yes! There are actually some good points to the kit though, and if you can find a way to avoid #4, and fix #1-3, then these might actually be the portable audio devices you have been looking for.
A – Charging.
The individual units are very power efficient and will last you for a good while without needing to be recharged. When they do need to be recharged, you simply return them to the carry case. Because of the automatic singleton-mode, if you don’t mind your audio switching ears every now and then, you’ll find that using one unit until it goes flat, swapping it out with the other unit in the case until it goes flat, swapping over again, etc. will give you audio all day with very brief gaps between as you swap over. Why? Because the case is also the charging base! Putting the earshots into the case starts the recharge cycle. The case carries a good dose of sparks, with claims that you can recharge both units fully from 0% about 10-15 times before the case needs to be plugged in for refuelling.
B – Lightweight.
The units themselves weigh about 16 grams each, and the whole case – units and all – weighs a mere 190g. That’s hardly noticeable, and were it a wee bit slimmer you’d be able to slide it all into a pocket in your pants and barely notice it at all. As it is, at 140mm x 75mm x 40mm it slides easily into a jacket pocket or sidepouch of a backpack.
C – Sound Quality.
If you can get past the volume issue noted earlier, then the sound response range of the drivers (speaker core) is impressive for such a tiny, lightweight unit. I was honestly expecting tinny, chipmunk voices and all the bass-beat of a mid-American Polka. What I found instead was a fairly good bit of punch across most of the audible spectrum, though it was understandably a bit light on the bass. To be expected, and less drop-off than I expected. Honestly, it is impressive when you compare it to other, similar-sized devices with a far bigger price point.
Would I pay the asking price of $150+/-? Not likely. For that kind of coin, I know of at least three other wireless/Bluetooth earphones that would suit my needs much better, even without the bonus of on-the-go charging. However, this is only the second iteration of the technology, if what I overheard at the show was accurate. It would definitely be interesting to see how it evolves in the next generation of the design. For now though, I would not bother, personally. There were those at the show who had a test-run and loved them enough to make the buying decision then and there, and I have to admit I was impressed by the test run too. However I have learned long ago not to make snap purchase decisions. Had I known my friend was contemplating this surprise gift, I would have advised them not to.
Disclosure Statement: This unit was purchased, not supplied by Earshots for the purposes of review. No fee was offered or accepted for this impartial review.
- Zero ear canal pressure. Leave your ear canal free to breathe. Unlike traditional earbuds with tips, Earshots won’t create the uncomfortable pressure in your ear canal.
- Layers of cushioning. Earshots will cushion your ears with a 3 layered cushioning system developed over 5 years of research and development.
- Premium high resolution audio. Custom engineered acoustics that deliver your music exactly as the artists intended it. Support for 24bit/96kHz high resolution audio.
- Ambient noise balancing. You will enjoy the safety and awareness with Earshots ambient noise balancing. Our purposely designed non-occluding earbud doesn’t block out important audio cues.
- Crystal clear conversations. Absolute speech clarity. Emphasis toward mid and high frequency that improves the clarity of subtle verbal cues.
- 14.2mm Titanium speaker. A 14.2mm titanium coated speaker delivers the best bass ever heard from a non-occluded earphone design.
- Full Charge in 40min. Your Earshots will recharge in record time with just 15 minutes of charge to get 3 hours of playback.
- 150 hour charge case. 1500mAh battery provides enough power to recharge your Earshots from 0-100% 10 times.
- High performance microphone. Earshots high performance microphone is acoustically tuned to hear you and supported by AI powered voice enhancement.
- AI Powered voice enhancement. Your voice is enhanced so you know you are always heard. Powered by a revolutionary processor designed to filter everything but the voice.
- Choose between both earphones or just one. Capable of dual surround sound mode or a solo ear means you have full control of your audio experience, ensuring a safe listening environment. A full, immersive sound experience that delivers a superb audio experience through both ears or a safe mode is enabled by using just the left or right Earshot by itself to leave the other ear open to hear what’s going on around you.