Thursday, 10 November 2016

AudioMX HB-S3 Bluetooth Headphones Review by mark2410

AudioMX HB-S3 Bluetooth Headphones Review by mark2410

Thanks to AudioMX for the sample.

First Impressions:  A brand that is new to me but when they fired me a message saying would I review, well sure I always like hearing new stuff.  Looks fairly ordinary, like a lot of stuff that’s coming out of China these days.  Probably nothing amazing but you know, they always seem to hit a great performance to price ratio.  These coming, in front of me the box is nothing very special.  Very sturdy outer, nothing fancy.  The headphones themselves, now I’d assumed the grey bits were plastic but no, they are metal.  Yep that whole band to cup hinge thing is solid metal.  Oh and then the buttons, thank god someone has finally started slapping on giant buttons.  I mean tiny ones are fine when I’m looking at what I’m pressing but pressing blind on the side of my head, bigger is better. 

Getting some music going and I am very pleasantly pleased with their audio quality.  I really shouldn’t be surprised but I always seem to have low expectations and end up thinking, ooh these are really not bad!!!  There is a something curious, there is a W dips and humps somewhere.  The bass doesn’t mostly dominate but certain tracks it seems rather big.    Mids too, a couple of tracks sounded really quite mid centric and then the next track came on and went away.  These are rather intriguing.  Hmmm, burn in time.

Source:  FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear

Lows:  Really good.  Really confusing at times but having had to go skim the price I am very pleased.  It’s a little odd at the jump you’re getting over only slightly cheaper models but the bass here is at this price, super nice.  It’s got great potential to really get kicking when you ask it too, not bass monster level or anything but it can rise up easily.  Then when you ask it to go away, it does.  Especially when amped, I could very easily get distracted into listening to the music rather than the headphones.  Lol then some random track would kick in with some crazy scaled and deep low and they would thunder it out.  It was really unexpected and strange.  It was also super fun.  It’s not often I start turning things up because the bass is so entertaining but I was with these.  They have an uneven decline, a bit of a dip in the mid/bass region then the middle and lower bass ranges ramp up.  I know it’s a little bit wrong to do so but they are super entertaining.  It also does makes the bass a bit more expansive and softened, good follow through on a note but the initial impact is soft.  I’m good with that if you’re going to have abundance, too hard can get wearing on the ear.  These are a little flabby deep down.

The quantity and quality levels are variable.  The brain is telling me the bits it gets a bit wrong but it is striking a very comfortable balance.  Poppy deep party bass sounds highly entertaining and at the same time more structured and layered lows, double bass and such are still really good.  It’s so mixed and enthusiastic.

Mids:  Most of time they came across as a bit V shaped but my initial thought was that they were mid centric.  Yeah there is that W shaped sound signature at work.  You get the right vocals and the can leap to the front.  Giving a strangely forward and direct quality and feel. Then something completely different comes on and their overall balance feels completely different.  They were as happy with Norah’s “Painters Song” as they were some cheesy pop hit.  I am loving the versatility.  With that versatility there is a slight tendency to not be the most appropriate thing for any particular style but at the price I don’t care.  No one is buying 40 odd quid headphones to be a master of only one one genre in particular.  I was hesitant to A/B with some similarly priced Bluetooth headphones and these, well these frankly smash them.  The Bluedio T3 and the Archeer AH07 both get their arses handed to them especially in the mids.  The HB-S3 are clearly, significantly better.  The detail levels are so much better and their resultant articulation makes everything more highly nuanced.  While they aren’t hard-core audiophile things, for a cheap pair of Bluetooth headphones I am super pleased with their performance.

Highs:  The treble is the hardest bit to get spot on but they do a highly admirable job of it.  It is rather cleanly focused, a little over focused perhaps and the declining decay is a little bit quick but for the price, they are great.  Just like with the mids the competition items that I grabbed cannot keep up with these.  Considerably more detail available to you and still retains a good degree of composure and thus isn’t hard on the ear.  Sure it can be a little over prominent at times but its inclination is to the slightly warm.  It isn’t really one for intense treble detail though, at its price duh but on the whole the treble as an accompaniment.  Most of the detail is in the mid-range and the treble is comparatively not quite as talented.

Quantity levels, well with that W shaped going on the mid/treble cusp is slightly dipped and the extension isn’t endless so there is a range where it peeks.  You get treble in there and its abundance became more prominent, which pushed it forward and into your face.  Owl City’s “Cave In” isn’t quite the treble extravaganza that it should be.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong and it’s besting the T3 and AH07 with considerable ease but…… it’s just not as capable as the mids and even the bass. 

Soundstage:  Strange at times.  Certain things particularly in the vocals could sound right up front, in your face but most didnt.  The bass tends to always be closer in however the rest added a bit more distance.  Height and width were okay so things were mostly laid out in a semi-circle before you.

Comfort:  They just managed to fit round my ears so for me they were really quite comfy to wear for a few hours.  I do think if my ears were even a tiny bit bigger than may not be the case.  The cups got round my ears but only barely.

Fit:  Good, no issues, on and done.

Cable:  It is a standard 3.5 to 3.5mm male to male cable.  Nothing fancy at all and easily replaceable if you lose or kill it.  If you ever even use the cable.  Bluetooth of course is probably what you’ll be making use of and it worked great. 

Battery Life:  Frankly, I didn’t even try to test or measure.  They are quoted at 24hours playtime and 900 hours stand by time.  So, once I saw that I thought these is no way I’m going to even think about testing.  I mean 900 hours is 37 and a half days so, yeah if you want to test that claim be my guest.

Isolation:  Meh, the iso is a rather a bit so so.  It’s passable for out and about, not sure I’d want to use on a bus and certainly not Tube or flight stuff.  The isolation will be fit dependant and I noticeably got less on my left than right.  Not that the right had tons to begin with.  Of course there is still enough that with music on you may not hear the instrument of your death of you don’t look around when near traffic.

Build Quality:  Excellent.  Now granted the band seems mostly plastic but that big metal band to cup attachment thing, they feel great in the hand.  At their price point they feel extremely sturdy.  Of course I’m not testing them to destruction but they certainly look the part and are nice to the touch.

Aesthetics:  I like them.  I like the metal cup attachment thing though it seems a bit of a missed opportunity to have not made more visual use of it.  I thought it was plastic at first glance.  Not ugly by any means, I actually think they are rather nice.  Rather particularly nice looking given their price.  However, if the metal bit had be maybe brushed metal instead they could have looked even better.

Phone Use:  Made a call, they said they could hear me okay.  There were no issues at all in communicating fine.  The button controls were all good too, oh and really easy to find and push the right one with your fingers.  Very handy.

Amped/Unamped:  Now the primary focus for these is going to be Bluetooth. So accordingly they are pretty sensitive to run so you do not at all need to amp them.  Still they did respond well to power.  I know they are never likely to see a big amp in the wild but I’m just saying, they worked well so if you have its nice to give them lots of power.

Accessories:  You get the standard, micro USB cable to charge them, the 3.5 to 3.5mm male to male cable and you get very study feeling nylon, I think, baggy to keep them in.  I like hard cases better but for their price I’ve certainly got no complaints.

Value:  Great.  While these are bitty more costly than their competition, well the things I grabbed that were near me and are also Bluetooth and cable usable.  Now the T3+ has that card slot so it’s still an outstanding buy but…. these sound considerably better and almost the same price.  These are great value, excellent sounding with decent looks and build quality.  You really can’t go wrong with a pair of these.

Conclusion:  So when I got these I didn’t think anything special about them.  On paper they aren’t anything out of the ordinary but they sound great.    That bit W shaped sound signature gives them excellent flexibility and allows for the much more pleasing instrument separation and for detail.  These simply spank the other items that are of a similar nature and price.  It’s highly apparent when you A/B things.  Now these aren’t the bassy beasts that may be more common and more desired from products in the pricing range, these are tuned much more cleverly.  The W shape lets you get some great bass and the mid/bass doesn’t dominate.  The lower bass is what comes out of nowhere at you and its very fun.  Then that dip frees up the mids to let them shine too.  I can’t quite call them audiophile headphones but they are edging that way for the price tag and they chuck in Bluetooth capability too.

Down side wise, well they aren’t stupid mega bassy which some people want.  If you’re one of the moar bass = bestest ting evar!!!!!! Then they probably aren’t for you.  This strikes me as more of a transitional product.  You were a bass head but your growing, maturing in your tastes and want something more grown up sounding.  You still like to get your bass on from time to time but you also want the other bits too.  These accomplish that well.

So would I / should you grab one?  Me, yes.  Aside from a brief play with a Senn Momentum on ear wireless these are the nicest balanced Bluetooth headphone that is springing to mind.  Don’t quote me on that because it’s not the first time I’ve forgotten about something for no other reason than it wasn’t in my line of sight.  Still for the money, there are excellently tuned, the balance is enough to please most with its bass output yet it doesn’t leave the mids nor treble behind.  These are nice enough that even hard core audiophiles which want a Bluetooth thing, something cheap, for the gym or whatever, somewhere you don’t want anything expensive in harm’s way, these would do.  Yeah its detail levels paired with its balance make this a standout product.  Seriously I’ve caught myself dancing in my chair and had to force myself not to burst into song.  Those things don’t usually happen with cheap Bluetooth headphones, it happened regularly with these, that’s how much I enjoyed them.

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