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Old September 5th, 2013, 12:11 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Reviewing headphones is a lot more trickier than speakers. With speakers you have an acoustics of surround space in the open room which reflects the sound, thus giving you a better impression of how it arrives at your ears (easier to judge good from bad even without a/b comparison). With headphones sitting right in your ear canal with air-tight noise isolation tips you get in-your-face sound which might be good by itself but pales when you do A/B comparison with other set of headphones. That is why often I have a positive review of new set of headphones, but when start to compare it to others - find faults.

When it comes to wireless sport earbuds, JayBird Blue Buds X used to be a golden standard. With a design of two lightweight earbuds connected by a tangle-free flat cable, in-line remote, and sweat-proof coating, those became very popular although it came with a hefty price tag. Recently Anker ventured into bluetooth accessories and introduced their re-branded version of bluetooth headphones with a very similar design. I didn't have a chance to review original BackBeat Go earbuds, only their recently introduced version 2, but from everything I read it was a significant improvement over the original one and considering similarity of design with other two - I wanted to show it side by side.

Everything looks good in the picture, until you start using it and compare one to the other. First of all, all 3 are in a different price categories where BlueBuds X are now about $149 on amazon, Anker BT4.0 goes for $59 on amazon, and BackBeat Go 2 is $79 (+$20 rechargeable storage bag which is a must!). When it comes to build quality, all three are pretty good and look durable, although only BlueBuds and BackBeat have sweatproof coating. Also, BlueBuds and BackBeat support direct micro-usb connection, while Anker uses proprietary usb clip - not as convenient since you can't rely on standard micro-usb chargers/cables you can find anywhere. Although you are stuck with a custom charging clip and have to make sure you don't loose it or break it, Anker's 18-months warranty should cover that. All 3 have in-line remote, but BlueBuds and BackBeat buttons are more defined and easier to feel since remote will be behind your neck where you can't see it and have to rely on feeling it. I also found BlueBuds and BackBeat to have a much better bluetooth range in comparison to Anker. When it comes to batteries of the actual earphones, BlueBuds and Anker are at about 7-8hr while BackBeat is at 4.5hr although with an included charging pouch you can add 10 more hours. But you have to keep in mind that once battery gets low or dies, you will have to keep BackBeat on a charger for about 20min to give you a rapid boost of another hour.

Where these really differentiate is a sound quality. Although Anker uses bluetooth 4.0 with apt-x, in comparison to BackBeat and Bluebuds with their bluetooth 2.1 and proprietary sound enhancement mechanism it didn't sound as good. This is a case where listening to Anker headphones by itself for awhile is enjoyable until you switch to BlueBuds to discover a much better lower end (bass) response, although with some decrease in high frequencies in comparison to Anker. But when you switch to BackBeat Go 2 - game is over because you get a lot richer and more natural sounding bass (BlueBuds low end sounds muddy in comparison to BackBeat) and regain back crisp and clarity of mids and highs which sound even more impressive than Anker. Keep in mind, judgment of sound quality is always subjective matter of personal opinion and has to do a lot with a proper ear-tip sealing of your ear canal.

So in my opinion based on comparison of these three, I found Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 to be the best overall value taking into account design, sound quality, price, and performance. I just wish BackBeat Go 2 would have the same 7-8hr battery life, but as I mentioned in my original review - charging case compensates for that.
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Last edited by twister6; September 5th, 2013 at 11:28 PM.
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