by Joe White
October 29, 2013
Company: Avantree Product: Hive Price: $40.49 Compatibility: Bluetooth-compatible devices Website: www.avantree.com, www.mobilefun.co.uk Date: Oct. 29, 2013 Ever since purchasing a Pebble watch, I've been on the hunt for a pair of affordable Bluetooth headphones, in order to allow me to listen to music or podcasts using my iPhone without posing any possible risk to the handset itself. This is because I often listen to content while walking, and after having dropped (and smashed) my iPhone 4 a couple of years ago, I'm now somewhat averse to removing my iPhone 5s from my pocket while outside - unless I can find a place to stop or, preferably, sit. Since Pebble can wirelessly provide advanced music controls through its on-board Music app, all I needed to do was find a pair of Bluetooth earphones or headphones, and my handsfree ideal would be achieved. After using Avantree's Hive wireless headphones for a couple of weeks, then, I consider in this review how the product compares to my previously-used ear-speakers, Apple's EarPods.
The ProductAvantree’s Hive is a pair of black plastic headphones, with cushioned support for each ear and built-in music controls. There’s also a microphone built into the headphones, too, allowing users to engage in calls while on the move, and a built-in battery means you can recharge the Hive using a USB cable (which is included with the product). Perhaps the biggest sacrifice I had to make when it came to switching from Apple’s EarPods to Avantree’s Hive appeared immediately in terms of comfort. If you have so-called “compatible ears,” EarPods feel great, and often when I’m using them it barely feels like I have earphones in. Hive, on the other hand, isn’t quite as comfortable - or at least for me, the headphones weren’t to begin with. After using Hive for a few minutes I found that my ears started to hurt, and that the headphones pressed rather heavily against the side of my head. Holding on to the belief that both my ears and head are of average size, I proceeded to alter the headphones, trying to configure a fit that suited me. Though I achieved this eventually (to a degree), the compromise in this respect is that Hive feels rather less secure as a result. Fortunately in my testing, this didn’t prove to be a problem; as of this writing, the headphones haven’t once fallen off my head. However, potential users should be aware that when it comes to comfort, Hive could take a bit of getting used to - at least for certain users. Once you’re hooked up, I'm pleased to report that Hive offers impressive sound quality - impressive, that is, for the price. At $40, the headphones cost roughly the same as Apple’s iPhone 5s Case, less than its iPad Smart Covers, and are far cheaper than competing products: as such, it's a highly affordable set of headphones, and prospective users should keep this in mind. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to corroborate with Avantree’s claim that “an immersive audio experience with crystal clear audio and rich bass” is on offer, both treble and bass come through fairly clearly, and the wireless factor makes using the headphones a far more enjoyable, less stressful experience than Apple's EarPods. Connecting the headphones to an iDevice or computer is also a simple task, and is merely a case of pairing using Bluetooth. I’ve found that switching between my iPhone 5s and MacBook Pro is a chore, since I need to re-pair each time. However, after establishing the connection, the quality of music playback through Hive is good. On occasion I’ve noticed that the signal can prove weak, even when I’m in close proximity to the headphones; yet at the same time, I’ve also found that I can walk a great distance from the iPhone or Mac - upstairs, even - and the connection remains strong. Avantree promises 10 meters of connectivity and the headphones indeed offer this. Though I’ve been using my Pebble smart watch alongside Hive, music controls at the side of the headphones allow users to pause or play their present track, to skip a track, and to increase or decrease the volume. However, because the same button doubles as both the skip and volume toggle, it's frustratingly easy to accidentally skip a track or podcast when attempting merely to increase the volume using these controls. Because of this, I've been refraining from using Hive's built-in music controls, essentially rendering them redundant. It would be much better to have a dedicated volume control elsewhere on the product, perhaps on its other side. When it comes to using Hive to make a call, the headphones and their built-in microphone work well: callers have told me that they can hear me fairly clearly (though not as clearly as they can when I'm not using the Bluetooth headphones), and this aspect of Hive works rather like a nice bonus feature - that is, not a factor you'd necessarily purchase the product for, but a feature that you're nevertheless pleased to have. All in all, for the price Hive performs well, and I'm pleased with the product.
- Good build quality
- Decent playback
- Connection is often reliable
- Built-in microphone works well
- Not always comfortable to wear
- Built-in music controls are irksome
- Frustrating when switching between Mac and iDevice