Ear-buds and headphones, all of us must have at least one of these lying around. Think of all those absolutely awful ear-buds that were once bundled with every phone for a while. iPhone users would still get them, yes they are white, and no they are not great. There are plenty of alternatives ranging from affordable to house mortgage range - Sennheiser, Denon, Bose, Beats just to name a few, but Avantree? This one is new to me so I put my hand up when MobileFun offered to send a set my way. Thanks guys!
Disclosure time, I am not an audiophile. More accurately I am not an audio fanatic. I am surrounded by them all my life and have an appreciation for good gear and pure sound, it is just that instead of spending my money on some serious sound gear at home or in my car, I use the money to travel and indulge in my other just as expensive hobbies. My taste in music is eclectic enough to be a challenge for any headphones to deliver quality sound across the range - from classical to heavy metal depending on my mood.
The Avantree Audition is Bluetooth stereo headset with "noise isolation". Under the hood is Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, micro-USB support, 3.5mm audio jack, integrated microphone and Near Field Communication (NFC). It seems an odd combination to have together but when most modern mobile Operating Systems and devices support NFC (let's not talk about the white elephant in the room), it suddenly make a lot of sense to make it quick and painless to pair your Audition headphones with your NFC enabled smartphones and tablets.
The Audition has a black-matte design with enough red highlights to offset the plain black everywhere, it is soft to touch and feels solid. There is a discreetly embossed R and L to differentiate which side is which, although everything is symmetrical in design. The left side though, is where all the action is - power button, volume rocker, microphone and NFC chip.
The adjustable ear pieces are on a metal track that should ensure a bit of longevity in the life of the Audition. All in all it is an aesthetically pleasant design that is unlikely to offend anyone's taste. It is good to see Avantree has put some thought and material in to make a sturdy design to handle daily use.
Aesthetics aside, how well does the Audition render music to the ears? And how comfortable is it to wear for extended periods?
To begin with, it is important to note the distinction of noise isolation versus noise cancellation. The Audition does not use any electronic means of noise cancelling, so those people who feel nauseated using noise cancelling headphones can rejoice. Noise isolation is achieved by a reasonably tight clamp with full ear coverage. I do not have particularly large ears, and the ear cups will just fit over them. It does not totally cut out background noise but it certainly block out a substantial amounts. Depending on the sensitivity of your hearing, it is probably enough to cut out ambient traffic noise enough to be a safety issue.
NFC pairing did not work for me and the Nexus 6p, but the Bluetooth pairing was painless for both my phone and computer so I was not too fazed about it. One thing I did notice is that my first try to turn on the Audition is never successful, it always needs the second long press to wake it up. Nothing dramatic, just a quirk I have noticed.
I always like to listen to classical music with any new audio kit. Mozart's Symphony No 40 (K550) a favourite with the four movements featuring different tempos, moods and instruments works for me to stretch the legs of the Audition. For a wireless headset it does pretty well for sound quality with crisp clean sound that is distortion free even at levels that is well above my comfort level. The bass can be a little soft with some muted trebles, but overall considering the price point and that the unit is Bluetooth driven, the performance is more than acceptable.
Wiring the Audition in with the provided 3.5mm cable overrides any issues with battery levels which is handy if you find yourself stranded on a low charge. A few times I noticed that if I change over from wireless to wired on the fly, the audio levels becomes very soft while wired. It did not seem to be a problem if I start off in either mode from a cold start.
On the topic of battery levels, Avantree claims a battery life up to 40 hours play time, probably at the lowest volume but I have been using them every chance I have and it is still on my first charge and going strong.
So while the listening side is more than acceptable, how does the built in microphone perform? Sadly the answer is poorly. I was asked if I was in a tunnel a lot, or just could not be heard, amongst other comments. The microphone volume was inconsistent and there was no way to override it. It is not unusable if all the stars are aligned but it was frustrating enough that I had to revert back to my wired microphone while on calls.
There are only three buttons on the Audition, but in combination they control the following functions:
* power on / off
* answering or ending a call
* adjust volume with a total range of sixteen intervals
* pausing or skipping tracks
* putting the Audition into pairing mode
You can connect to two devices concurrently, however you can only get sound one at a time - whichever is the first device playing. If you are listening to music on your computer and hoping to hear the notification from your phone then you have lucked out. Plus the noise isolation will probably prevent you hearing it from the mobile too.
The Bluetooth range is advertised at 9m (30 feet) but building materials will have dramatic impact on that range. Since wireless frequencies and range are heavily regulated, it would be unlikely to find anything that will perform better. I find that I can almost get to my kitchen from my office before it drops out, and that is about 7m.
As noted earlier, the quality of the microphone leaves a lot to be desired. I was looking forward to using the same kit for listening to music and use it for making calls. Alas this was not to be.
The Audition does not come with a case to carry it around. But given the price point, something's got to give?
If you are a hardcore audiophile, you would not be reading this. Certainly not this far anyway. For everyone else, at £49.99, being wireless and all, makes it a compelling for the average person who wants something other than accursed stock earbuds. Or if you are into LAN gaming these would probably not go too far astray.
The Avantree Audition is available at Mobilefun.
* Bluetooth V4.0 with EDR
* Supports profiles: headset, handsfree, A2DP, AVRCP
*Audio Format(s) Supported : aptX, AAC and SBC codec support
* Operation range: Class 2, 10 meters
* Up to 40 hours music time and 20 days standby time
* Headset size: 180mm x 170mm X 80mm
* Ear pad inner diameter:5.5cm(length) * 4cm(width)
* Ear pad Outer diameter:9.5cm(length) * 8.4cm(width)
* Headset weight: 180g