Onkyo announced this year at CES that they will be launching their new Trainer ES-BT1 Bluetooth headphones and were kind enough to provide us with a model so that we could bring you a sneak peak of things to come.
The new ES-BT1’s will come in a selection of color options and retail for about $99 when they hit the shelves. They are sleek, light weight and fit very comfortably around the ears (we have yet to discover any discomfort in long-term use).
They hug your head very well and don’t feel like they want to slip off while you are active. Given, when we threw in a little added activity (ie, jumping up and down and flailing our heads around like we were at a rock concert), they did begin to slip off since the material around the ears doesn’t exactly grab onto the skin. If your type of activity involves walking, jogging, biking or a day at the gym…you should be just fine.
What you find in the box is a pair of headphones, instructions/warranty and a small micro-USB to USB charging cable. You don’t need anything else as operation is very straight forward. We did feel that the cable could use a little more length to it. Hopefully they will consider that before they officially launch.
The right ear muff contains the typical buttons on the back giving you control of volume, play/pause and previous/next track. Underneath these, on the bottom of that part of the muff) you also will find the micro-USB charging port. The buttons blend very well into the headband, and although it took a little getting used to since the button labels aren’t exactly easy to read, we found that they became more of a reflex adjustment than anything else and they do look good cosmetically.
There is also a built-in mic so that you can use it like any other hand-free Bluetooth device to make and take incoming calls as well as make use of your voice recognition support.
Like any pair of earphones, you can adjust the size at each muff location to compensate for the size of the user’s head and distance to the ears. The under-side of the band isn’t exactly “incredibly” soft. It’s more like a soft rubber coating. Due to the weight of the headphones however, this works out to be just fine as you don’t need any crazy padding to compensate for anything.
You will get up to 8 hours of use out of a single charge which should be perfect for most users. Unlike some Bluetooth solutions, they don’t offer a wired solution due to their focus of keeping it light weight and small profile. So they will only function with devices that are Bluetooth compatible, and as long as the battery has a charge.
The sound quality is slightly above average for the smaller size of drivers inside, which isn’t bad at all. They obviously won’t compare to headphones that fully cup over the ears and contain massive/heavy drivers, but they easily compete against Bluetooth ear-bud solutions and other light-weight bands within their niche. The bass performs pretty well for their size and the mids/highs are very clean (making acoustic tracks highly enjoyable).
Sound could be better, but given the price range, they do just fine. The price is competitive and so is the sound. If it were any better, the price will probably increase and there could be a sacrifice in weight. We seem to be content with it.
Update (07/08/2014): The headphones received a heavy stress test with over an hour exposure to dense rain and hail in the mountains as I personally took it with them me on a climb. They took every bit of it and still function normally without any signs of damage or defect. During the trip, they were fully exposed around the neck, dripping with water and playing music.
They perform well, are very comfortable (even in long-term use) and at $99…will sit very well next to competition when they release. For it’s niche, we give it a 7.5/10. They just need a slightly longer USB cable in case someone has a hard to reach port.
Watch our unboxing video:
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Ryan, I did forget to mention that! Although the story might be slightly over exaggerated 😉
It’s also good to point out that we have continued to have a lot of fun with these. They have also survived a few *unintentional* drop tests on hard tile surfaces as well as walking through a rain curtain (not recommended). It was almost enough for use to put it up to a re-vote to possibly move it to an 8/10 rating but that is still “up in the air”. If they truly were rated as being water resistant, they would instantly hit a 8.5 rating. with us.
No surprise coming from Onkyo. They have always been well-known for great tech.
I would like to point out that we have been getting so many suggestions about adding video vlog to the tech blog and this product marks the very first time a video review/unboxing has been included. James rushed off and shut himself in his office with the camera so he would be the first to get one out. We look forward to providing more videos to go along with both the digital and print reviews (…as soon as we get the camera back from James).