Wireless headphones are slowly and steadily percolating down the price ladder. Even a casual glance through shops and e-commerce sites shows that there are more choices at lower prices these days. Riding this wave, Energy Sistem, a Spanish company specialising in personal audio products, has launched a slew of budget wireless headphones in the Indian market.
We have the Energy Sistem Headphones 3 Bluetooth in for review, which has a sporty design, a claimed battery life of 9 hours, 40mm drivers, and a built-in microphone. This pair of headphones is priced at Rs. 3,375 and will be soon available on Flipkart and Amazon. We have been putting it through its paces for the past few weeks, and here is what we think.
The headphones look quite sporty, especially in the yellow and black colour scheme of our review unit. The rubber coating over the ear cups improves grip considerably and feels premium. On the flip side, the build quality is pretty disappointing. There are sharp edges everywhere, and the plastic looks cheap and feels cut-rate.
The Headphones 3 Bluetooth can be folded for easy storage, but the hinge above the earcups that facilitates this is very rigid and hard to use. We feared that the unit would snap in half every time we tried to fold it.
If you want to go old-school, the headphones come with a backup auxiliary cable that connects to the left earpiece. Not only does this allow you to use the headphones with older equipment such as an iPod Classic, it ensures they do not become a paperweight once the battery runs down.
Audio performance is not the same in passive wired mode, as it bypasses the digital signal processing that is applied when the headphones are powered up. Many wireless headphones such as the Bose Around Ear Wireless 2 sound better when used with a wire (as the signal is pure) but the Energy Sistem 3 Bluetooth lacks volume and fidelity.
The right earpiece houses a microphone and three buttons to control playback and answer calls. The buttons are easy to distinguish by feel, but feel flimsy. The microphone is pretty underwhelming. Callers complained that our voice was coming across as muffled on more than one occasion.
The box contains a short Micro-USB cable, the aforementioned 3.5mm cable, and a number of stickers. A case of any kind is conspicuous by its absence, but that's excusable given the price point that Energy Sistem is targeting.
The headphones are quite light and the padding on the earcups is soft and plush. However, the headband has no padding whatsoever, which makes prolonged use quite uncomfortable. The headphones can also pinch your head a lot, which adds to the discomfort.
While most pairs of wireless headphones in this price range suppress the mid range considerably, the mids on the Headphones 3 Bluetooth are prominent and expressive. Highs are crisp and sparkly, and the spatial separation of instruments is above average. The bass is punchy and controlled, so it won't appease bass-heads looking for earth-shattering lows.
What mars the experience somewhat is a shallow soundstage and lack of clarity which causes tracks with multiple instrument layers, such as Radiohead's Paranoid Android and John Mayer's Home Life, to sound quite muddled.
The sound distorts at high volumes, and there's a considerable amount of leakage, making them unsuitable for use whilst using public transport. High-quality Bluetooth streaming codecs such as aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC aren't supported, which is a shame.
Energy Sistem promises 9 hours of use on a single charge with music blasting at full volume. In our experience, the Headphones 3 Bluetooth did manage to last close to that long, but with music playing at 60-70 percent volume. The device is charged using a Micro-USB port located on the right earpiece. In our experience, it took around 2.5 to 3 hours to charge fully.
The Energy Sistem Headphones 3 Bluetooth is a bit of a mixed bag. While the sound signature is refreshingly neutral and the highs are crisp and sparkly, the soundstage is very shallow and the build quality is substandard. The lack of clarity also makes this pair unsuitable for densely layered recordings.
If you can live with in-ear earphones, you could consider the excellent OnePlus Bullets Wireless, which retails for Rs. 3,990, as well as the Sony WI-C300, which can be found for Rs. 2,999 online and offers tremendous value for money. Those who particularly want an on-ear design should take a look at the Sony WH-CH400, which can be found for less than Rs. 3,500 online and is a more well-rounded package.
Price: Rs. 3,375 (MRP)
Ratings (out of 5):