Monday, 21 November 2016

UMI BTA6 Magnetic Bluetooth Earphones Review by mark2410

UMI BTA6 Magnetic Bluetooth Earphones Review by mark2410

Thanks to UMI for the sample.

First Impressions:  Now while I know UMI isn’t primarily an earphone maker, these look highly similar to things I’ve seen in the past.  Particularly with the magnetically snapping together.  So I’m going to have at fish out the Jesbods, err though I forget which one was which.  Mind you the box these came in, whoa it’s metal.  Yep they come in a mini biscuit tin like affair.  I think the last time a saw earphones that came in a metal box was the SE530 and that wasn’t exactly yesterday.  Still, metal, that just seems wildly overkill for a low priced product like this.  In side it we have a manual, and a little poly bag with the accessories in it.  We have a micro USB charging cable and a bunch of tips and inner ear guide things.  No little case?  Ah well the Jesbods didn’t either.  They must have come out of the same OEM right?

In the ears (after a little charge up) and whipping of the stock tips for some foamy ones that were on my desk. Hmm, a pleasant balance not huge overkill bass.  Treble a touch diminutive.  Mids are fine, nothing is leaping out as m as the centre of attention.  These would seem to be a pretty balanced affair.

Source:  Nexus 5 and Lumia 735 mostly.

Lows:  They are a rather boosted but not quite as much as they might have been.  There seems to a bit of the far bottom end a little absent.  Flicking to the QY13 and there is definitely a resemblance.  These are maybe a little level in the bass as opposed the rounder hump of the 13 that would make these the more grown up a presentation.  These are a little more reticent to rise up and thunder out a flabby low end, they stay that little bitty more composed.  Trying to flick back across, these do appear to be a little more levelled, these are just that little bit more polite.  Trying to skim through some more aggressive tracks and the bass will engage more volume but there is a still a fractional politeness there.  These are working rather nicely in more constantly low production rather than just thumping out an initial impact.  There is something thought that I’m just not quite putting my finger on.  It’s not the depth, it’s that there isn’t a heapy rounded hump so the bass just is a bit more staid than is more common at this price point.  It’s an interesting way to go, making them rather more versatile acoustically than just the gym going bass thumpity thump thump.  These are more generalist in their presentation. 

Tonally they are a little but greyish rather than brown. There isn’t the warming taking place that you can often get, the bass is a little more grey, more detached, more flavourless and less skewing of the tracks being played.

Mids:  There is that same slight greyness creeping in.  It’s not adding a warming flavour but it is darkening a touch, the vocals remain towards a slightly more dry presentation.  It makes it rather versatile and isn’t as flavouring imparting as some other’s these therefore are happy to play back whatever you throw at it.  It’s a bit more composed and even-handed. It’s a little bit curious really, normally things of this type are much more warmed and flavoured.  Yet as flick to other things these are going for a more even handed style, so you could really use these for whatever.  Though many of the style it seems more adept at doing are things that I’d imagine more listeners would be wanting something higher up the food chain.  Sometimes a things can be too evenly handed I guess.  The darkening tone but not being so richly warmed things retail a little better clarity and openness than others do but it’s all a rather slight colouring. 

Detail wise these are reasonably open so you’re better able to be aware of the details and vocal nuances but these don’t have the resolving power to truly shine there.  Of course they don’t, they are a cheap product and are Bluetooth too so there was no way that was going to happen yet others hide things more than these do. 

Highs:  Rather wisely their treble here is somewhat muted.  Again nothing that comes to the fore is their slightly greying rather than going for a more warmly rich presentation.  They darken to obscure things upper end but they aren’t suffocating it with warm gooeyness.  As a presentational style it’s reasonably preferable to me, I’m not wild about suffocating warmth though it does mean they are loss obfucative in their upper end talents.  Nothing at this price is going to have a masterful treble rendition and while there do dial the quantity down rather somewhat its still more noticeable.  They don’t oppress you with warmth which would hide those things.  In very prominent highs they have a nicer tonality than others but they are also more readily noticeable that they struggle with fine detailed shimmer.  That won’t be a surprise to anyone I’m sure given their pricing but it does make them less forgiving to bad mastering and bad bit rates.  As a more dry and pure sound I prefer it to over heavy warmth but there are down sides to it. 

Quantity wise the treble is a bit muted, it’s not far behind the mids and bass but just enough to make it not be the star of the show ever.  Polite, just a bit tamed and sanded.

Soundstage:  Not bad.  They are reasonably scaled and they have a rather nice left and right distance.  Not so much with the depth but for the price you got a rather nicely integrated assemblage.

Fit:  Well, these are meant to be worn down and I don’t love that so swapping the channels you can wear them up.  It’s not perfect and compared with wearing down I seem to regularly have a sight fit issue with the left channel.  It constantly was a touch muffled in comparison to the right no matter what I did.  I don’t know why this happened but it was the case.

Comfort:  Fine, worn up or down I was happy wearing them for hours at a time with no bother at all.   Mind you I did mostly wear some foam tips that were on my desk rather than the silicones they came with.  But then I’m pulling things out a lot more in a review than anyone would ever do so in normal use.

Microphonics:  If you wore down you would get a bit.  There isn’t a cable slider things so tuning my head from side to side I did get some.  Now if I wore them up there wasn’t any but then I got that slight channel imbalance.  Still it’s not like it was a huge issue ever.  Oh, hold on, yes you do get a slider thingy.  It was in one of the inner ear guide things.  Cool.

Cable:  It is a flat cable which did mean they less loved wearing over my ears but other than that, no issues.  Given the length of the cable I wouldn’t expect anyone to have any issues with it.

Accessories:  You get the charging cable, 3 pairs of tips a chin slider and 3 pairs of inner ear guide thingys.  You get a reasonable selection I guess but I’d have happily sacrificed the ear guide things for a baggy to keep the earphones in.  Still you can also buy cases without issue if you want one and I would suggest you do, things die by just getting stuffed in a pocket.

Build Quality:  Nice.  I did have that channel thing from time to time but physically they looked great.  The beds themselves looked great.  Really nice for the price that dark metallic gun metal colour, very nice on the eye.

Isolation:  They were actually not bad.  Fine for normal out and about and on a bus too.  Not really for Tube or flights but you know, better than nothing.  They will be easily enough when playing for you to accident get run over if you don’t remember you need to use your eyes near traffic when using earphones.

Aesthetics:  Well I liked them quite a bit.  I am a total sucker for that gunmetal colour. Then the matte black then the gun metal slack colour again.  Now you can’t really see most of that in use but hey, I liked them anyway.

Battery Life:  They say up to 8 hours.  That’s a bit more than other similar things claim but in use I can’t say I found them to be noticeably less than that claim.  The standby time was a rather significant 240 hours.  So that’s ten days, you can but that wasn’t going to get tested anytime soon, or ever. 

Value:  Well their price seems a little bitty variable, for the UK its £19, the US US$27, Spain E23 and Germany E28.   So if you’re in Germany, I say buy from Amazon Spain instead.  Still for under 20 quid there are pretty nice value.  While I’d swap their fancy metal box for a little storage bag or something but you can’t really fault a pair of Bluetooth earphones when they are coming in at this price.

Conclusion:  So these are an interesting product in the fact that they aren’t all that interesting.  You see these are rather similar in nature to some other products and while they have tuned them to be a little bit different and that tuning is something on the whole I approve of, it’s curious.  These are more pure, less warming than other things close to them and while I like that, I wonder if their target gym going crowd is?  The bass here is that bit more composed, bit more polite and reserved, linear and easy going.  So if I was picking an under 20 quid Bluetooth earphone these is a good chance I’d take these over some other but I’d not be looking for thumping basstastic chav cannons.  These aren’t that so as to how good a things that is well, it can only be up to what the end user is after.

Now while their balance is a little unusual, it’s still a pretty broadly versatile thing.  Going from Basshunter to Enya in seconds and they are rather pleasant and non-overly influenced rendition of them both.  It really has the versatility thing down.  So if you have a broad range of musical tastes then these might be a good option for you over some genre specific thing which is more highly flavoured.

S would / should you buy one?  Me, well if I was picking an under 20 quid Bluetooth set, maybe, these would certainly be in the running though I’m just not totally sure what I’d do with them.  Versatile yeah but I’m the sort that doesn’t exactly just have one generalist.  I’m a fan of having 20 specialists.  You?  Well do you want things that are specialists or something with more versatility to them?  If you want something that’ll happily do Enya and then Steps then the fat blond girl these are a pretty solid option.  In that case then these are certainly something for you to consider seriously as they are rather versatile in a way most things can’t quite nail as well.

UMI BTA6 Magnetic Bluetooth Earphones Quick Review by mark2410

UMI BTA6 Magnetic Bluetooth Earphones Quick Review by mark2410

Thanks to UMI for the sample.

Brief:  More earphones for Uhura.

Price £19 or US$27

Specifications:  I couldn’t find a nice list so I’ve pieced the bits a saw, sorry if I miss something.  Bluetooth 4.1, 120mAh battery, 8hours listening time, 8hours talk time, 240 hours standby time. IPX6 water / sweat resistance, 2 hours charging time, can pair to 2 things at one time.

Accessories:  Ear Tips(S,M,L)x3 pairs, Ear Hookx3 pairs, USB Charging Cablex1, User Manualx1

Build Quality:  They would appear to be rather good.  Visually I can detect no imperfections and they come with a rather decent 18month warranty.  Plus they are rain / sweat resistant.  Though I’d still want to keep them in a little case.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  Fine for out and about and on a bus.  Not really Tube or flight levels but easily sufficient for getting run over if you don’t remember you need to use your eyes near traffic.

Comfort/Fit:  Very good.  No issues in comfort though I did have a slight issue with the left channel being slightly more fussy.  Don’t know why but when wearing up especially it was little sensitive.  Still comfort wise I was fine wearing them for hours and hours at a time.

Aesthetics:  I love the gunmetal beside matte black.  Its attractive while visually subdued and that appeals a lot to me.  I think they look great.

Sound:  Slightly less flavoured than what you’d or at least what I expected.  While they are bass dialled up and treble a little dialled down they aren’t as greatly tonally flavoured. They aren’t abounding in richness nor warmth.  Darkened a presentation for sure but its slightly more grey rather than brown.  They are all warm and soft, floured and gooey.  They therefor are a bit cleaner, more clear sounding than other things of this nature.  For a cheap Bluetooth earphone it’s a bit more generalised a sound that is more versatile than how others tend to be.  There isn’t the same degree of oppressive warmth smothering things to same extent as some others do.  These are more balanced, less encumbering and less obscuring.  It’s a curious position to take.  Going for a bit of a more grown up flavour or rather a lack of flavour for what that is a cheap end Bluetooth product.  Going for a maybe a more, erm, experienced musical style.  This isn’t quite so chavvy and thumping as many others are. While this appeals greatly more to me I’m not entirely sure it’s going to offer up the sort of colouring that mainstream buyers may be after or expect.  This is that bit more mature acoustically.

Value:  Well for under 20 quid you get a pretty fine offering.  It got lots of competition but you really can’t go wrong with this for the price it’s currently sitting at.

Pro’s:  Slight more a mature tonality.  Looks good.  Good Value.

Con’s:  Perhaps not as flavoured as some may wish.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

UMI-BTS3 Portable Wireless Speaker Review by mark2410

UMI-BTS3 Portable Wireless Speaker Review by mark2410

Thanks to UMI for the sample.

First impressions:  UMI do speakers?  Well why not everyone else is too.  So I do wonder what will make this one different from any others.  Opening up the box its nice looking, all black and all matte black too.   Ooooh it’s kinda pretty. Oh, the top and bottom are clad in black rubber.  Okay this looks nice for a little speaker, and I like those bug buttons on top too.  Oooh wait what’s that???  It has NFC on it, yey for easy pairing.  Not that pairing is hard but hey, it’s a nice feature.  Oh and here’s another little but great to see thing.  On the back the power switch is a real switch.  Not some software press and hold, you flick a switch, manually.  I’ve wanted that for ages on little Bluetooth speakers.  Hmm is UMI mind reading???

Grabbing my Lumia 735 and wiping it over the top of the thing and ding, press to pair appears on it.  Woo hoo, how easy is that, just like it should be.  Then I start it playing and first impressions are pretty good.  It’s a reasonably balanced affair, a bit treble heavy is on axis and it’s not going too crazy with the midbass hump.  Hmmm it’s alright actually, not perfect but not bad.

Source:  Nexus 5, Lumia 735, Huawei P8.

Lows:  It is pretty nice.  It’s not trying to thunder out gobs of midbass because the speaker is tiny, tiny speaker’s can’t do real bass so this does the right thing.  It does what it can as then lets the deeper end go into rapid decline.  You do get a bit of a midbassy bump but it’s not silly overdone.  It therefore is over all, rather nice.  I do rather approve that the spec list says it only goes to 80Hz.  Though no specificity on the + - dB range on that but its good they aren’t trying to claim 20 and overblowing further up and ruining the bass that it does have.  Still, it’s a dinky little speaker and while it’s rather clean in what it has, it does roll away and it’s probably not going to please those that only care about more bass at the expense of any quality or accuracy.  Being that the drivers a itty bitty things the bass is much better with a clean little punch than it is at trying to sustain a gentle low note, it behaves well but physics is physics.

Mids:  So while the little drivers may not be best suited to bass reproduction they are superb for mids.  Now these area a little Bluetooth speaker so let’s not get carried away and thinking you’re getting some LS3/5A besting marvel.  But you know for 25 quid it’s not just not bad, it’s really pretty enjoyable.  Particularly for rather mid centric things they are really quite fun and jovial, lively little things.  I’m currently listening to Natalie Imbruglia and I’m genuinely enjoying it.  of course  can pick out bits that aren’t quit right and detail that isn’t there but come on, it’s a little portable battery powered 25 quid speaker.  Now the mids are a little bit lacking it detail and dynamics, if you’re going for the greatest vocal performances you do notice that it’s a small thing, it can’t give you fullest depth of a performance, everything is that bit compressed into a more narrow range.  Still, as I said it’s a little portable speaker and for what it is it’s a little gem.

Highs:  Now they are relatively an on axis thing.  Not to the extent I’ve seen elsewhere but these were a little more it its best when you were off axis.  The drives are a bit big for tweeters and they don’t have the greatest detail yet the do pull out a goodly level of detail.  There is a more compressed feet as they can’t do the fullest of dynamic ranges but they are really pleasant on the ear.  A nice quantity of detail with a nice relatively delicate feel.  These are going to blow your socks off but I can’t help being pleased and impressed in equal measure with its performance for what it is.  Still the rule is don’t go wild with super abundant, hard brittle treble.  It’s not the greatest treble reproduction in the world and if you get it on axis, pointed at your face and throw on some scratchy treble fest you will get what you asked for.  A scratchy treble fest.  Try sticking to things that are more polite up top and let it play to its strengths.

Soundstage:  Being a little speaker there is largely no stereo separation as you’d expect.  The overall acoustic feel of it is pretty small too.  It can be loud but it’s more about giving you a more intimate feel to the music it plays.

Dynamics:  It can dee a reasonable job in vocal dynamics but it’s not stealer.  Of course it’s a little speaker and its portable, battery powered so there isn’t really much surprise there.  Still it can do a pretty valiant stab of a decent vocally dynamic range.

Power:  Not so much as with power but volume.  It can be loud but it’s never is a room filling sound.  It’s not a big air mover and while it can be loud its never offers a large scale feel to anything.  Loud and shouty yeah, full and breadth not so much.

Battery Life:  UMI claim that you can get 24 hours of playback at 50% volume.  That is a pretty impressive claim and one I didn’t verify.  If you think I’m sitting and timing out 24 hours of playback, you would be thinking wrong.  So from what I did use, it lasted ages.  So I’m not going to dispute that, still it’s a huge number compared with what others state so I’m a little sceptical.

Build and Durability:  The built feels excellent.  The thing is all rubber top and bottom and then the mesh grill that is the rest of it is all metal.  I’m not throwing it down a flight of stairs to test it but it looks and feels excellent.  Of course I have no idea what’s under the rubber but the thing feels fantastic in your hand.  Plus that rubber means the corners are rubber so I would hope that it should be able to survive a few knocks and bumps better than others might.
Phone Use:  Pretty good, I made a call and while they did instantly assume I was on a headset they said they could hear me okay and I was intelligible.  They did say though there were little breaks so I wonder if that’s the background noise cancelling mics doing something.  Either way it works fine, they heard me okay and I could hear them very well.

Value:  Excellent.  It used to be £50 before and at that it may not be my top option but it sounds pretty good, looks super good and feels excellent in the hand.  It’s also got a couple little tiny things that really do make it stand out for me.  Those being the NFC pairing and the hardware on off switch.  Not exactly deal makers or breakers but they are pluses you don’t normally see on this sort of product.

Conclusion:  This I really quite like.  Now it’s not the world’s most amazing sounding speaker ever, it’s decent and about as good as you get for something of this size as it is a fairly small little thing.  However its looks, are excellent. The feel of it is excellent.  The real hardware on of switch is great.  The NFC pairing is great.  The big easy to use buttons on the top are fantastic.  It’s all the little bitty details that aren’t by themselves very important that add up here to set this a little bit apart.  I mean like the NFC pairing it’s not like normal pairing is hard or takes more than a handful of seconds.  Yet it’s just a nice little touch and when the competition is so fierce its little things like this that make me like the BTS3.  It’s the attention to detail.  What really makes this come across as a great little product is the attention to detail, the minutiae UMI have put into it. 

Acoustically while the BTS3 is a nice little thing it isn’t perfect, though I’m pleased that UMI are a little more honest about the frequency range, it’s not going to appeal to all so much.  They haven’t tried to thump out a big mid bass hump.  So I’d expect a more youth audience to not be so chuffed, this I felt was more at home with some gentle Barbara Streisand ballad than it was a chat topping hit.  The clean and simple mid ranged acoustic wanderings, simple and pretty on the ear.  More hard, thumping tracks that you blast out at volume it wasn’t so pleasantly composed. It did it, it was fine but more melodic harmonies were better.

So would I / should you buy one?  Yeah.  I really very much like the look of it and I like how it deals with gentle midranges.  Smooth and gentle stiff paired nicely.  You?  Well it’s got a lot going for it, that hardware on off means you can’t accidently leave it on by mistake.  The feel and its looks are really nice.  The big easy use buttons on the top of it and the NFC idiot proof pairing.  Want a little speaker for granny, all she has to do is wipe her phone over the top and hit pair on the screen.  Or maybe you want one for a small child?  Same deal and with the rubber clad top and bottom it should be relatively more hardy than other too.  It’s a great little Bluetooth speaker that looks great and offers lots of little attention to detail features for that really add up.

UMI-BTS3 Portable Wireless Speaker Quick Review by mark2410

UMI-BTS3 Portable Wireless Speaker Quick Review by mark2410

Thanks to UMI for the sample.

Brief:  Pretty black sleekness.

Price:  £26 or US$35

Specifications:  Output Power: 10W (5W*2) S/N: 75dB Frequency Response: 80Hz-20 KHz Power Supply: Lithium battery or USB cable Audio Source: iPhone, iPad, Smartphone, PC, Notebook, MP3, MP4, etc Function Spec.: Wireless, Microphone, Line-in Size: 180mm x 56mm x 69mm

Accessories:  1 x Micro USB Charging Cable, 1 x 3.5 mm Stereo Audio Cable, 1 x User Manual

Build Quality:  It would appear to be excellent.  The top and bottom are all rubber clad and the mesh grill is all metal.  Of course that rubber could be hiding things but if feels excellent in the hand.

Aesthetics:  Not that I’m suggesting looks should really matter that much but…. it is damned good looking.  All that matte black rubber coating, looks fantastic.  The thing just looks sleek as all get out.  I very much like it.

Battery Life:  The state 24 hours at 50% volume.  There was no way I was going to test that but that seems extremely a high figure to me so I have a certain scepticism but in use it lasted ages so maybe its accurate.

Sound:  Good:  They pleasingly quote the lower limit at 80Hz which seems more realistic than some claiming 20Hz.  Now the bass is not very low, the drivers are tiny and there is no way though could produce a real low end so it doesn’t try to dial up the mid bass levels.  It’s a bit boosted but nothing silly.  Thus I’m quite pleased with the quality of its output.  However it does make it a bit better suited to things that aren’t filled with bombastic thumping bass.  The mids are rather pleasing particularly in nicely simple melodies.  Clean and pleasing in its simplicity.  The treble is fine, a little dampened on the whole bit it does rise up if on axis.  Though again you probably don’t want to throw on a super heavy treble track any more than a bassy one.  Where drivers of this nature are at their best in in mid-range, nice, clean and simple.  It’s a good little effort too for what it is.  Something you could happily have gently and mildly playing away.  Then should a call come in it’ll act as a decent little speaker phone for you too.

Value:  Great.  Filled with lots of little attention to detail things, the NFC, the hardware on off switch, the rubber cladding, it all adds up to a great little gizmo and at just £26 you really can’t fault anything.  Not to mention it looks great and feels great in the hand.

Pro’s:  Great looks.  Super easy to use.  Sounds good.

Con’s:  It doesn’t really have any.