Sports Headphones – A Diamond in the Rough

My latest entry prompted several headphone recommendation requests, and the first was resolved with great success so I will share it here for anyone interested in the same market.

A friend was interested in activewear headphones for use while exercising at the gym. Bluetooth was a key feature as they wished to pair the cans wirelessly with their iPod Touch. Her budget was $200. She wanted an on-ear style as IEMs inevitably fall out of her smaller-than-average ears.

I related to her my experience with Sennheiser behind-the-neck style on ear headphones and did some research to see what was available in Bluetooth in that format.

Sport behind the neck on-ear wireless headphones with Bluetooth technology is an incredibly tiny, tiny niche market. As such there is very little in the way of articles or features showcasing the best models. Matters are further complicated by the fact that behind-the-neck Bluetooth cans are not listed among all the other headphones on Amazon but instead are tucked away quietly under cell phone accessories.

But exploring that small category quickly revealed that there are very, very few models available with the behind-the-neck on-ear build and that most of those which qualify have only a handful of customer reviews on Amazon. The average cell phone accessory headphones are IEMs and have only 1-300 reviews, which did not instill any degree of confidence as to their quality.

Surprisingly, there was one single product which is the diamond in the rough of this otherwise quiet market. The Kinivo BTH240 headphones have a 4-star average review from over 5,100 buyers who each sing its praises in great detail. The 240 series was apparently a significant improvement over the previous Kinivo model in several categories, including improved battery life, a sleeker new design, increased number of pairings, and an added micro USB charging port.

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The model is incredibly lightweight at only 73g, is foldable, and comes with a velveteen storage pouch. It works with the iPod Touch and a variety of other devices, and the battery is good for ten hours of active use. Users with smaller than average heads and ears expressed that they wear them with incredible comfort and that after 45 minutes of intense running the headphones hadn’t budged an inch. They are also incredibly resistant to sweat and are fantastically durable.

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And the price? The MSRP is $49.99 but Amazon offers the BTH240s in a variety of colors for only $24.99. My only gripe with these headphones was not the product itself but that, curiously, all colors were priced the same except for pink, (the color my friend was excited to find), which was not 24.99, nor the MSRP of $49.99, but THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS. eBay reflected the same price, and the only two sellers Google returned with a lower price were red-flagged by uBlock Origin as being less than trustworthy merchants. The fact that “lady tax” is still an issue in 2017 is appalling, but my friend will settle for the standard black model.

So if any of you are interested in a quality Bluetooth sport headphone, give these a try.

Published in: on January 7, 2017 at 2:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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Leaving the Cloud for my own Private Island

I spent the last two years fully-embracing the cloud. And why not? Cloud computing offers many wonderful features. Google’s suite of apps create a seamless user experience from one personal device to another. Sites like Discogs.com empower users to access and share their record catalogs everywhere they go. Goodreads.com networks book-lovers from all around the world and democratized the used book market by facilitating the search and purchase of titles. It created a market where even the tiniest, tucked-away bookshops could compete directly with bookselling giants like Barnes & Noble.

I use Google Docs for drafts of articles I’m writing and really enjoy the flexibility of calling them up on my phone, tablet, or my media workstation throughout my day. And I’ve absolutely lived on Google Calendar for many years now.

Cloud-based archival storage services offer users data redundancy and reliable sync-and-forget-it backup systems with a 99.9% recovery rate – far more reliable that entrusting all your precious data to a single external disk.

But recently, I’ve been rethinking the cloud, particularly about the amount of control and privacy a user relinquishes when their content is no longer stored locally. iTunes was the worst atrocity to come of the cloud, as many users are starting to understand. The DRM fiasco crippled the usability of the software, and as users learned from the U2 incident, their music libraries were really at the mercy of Apple.  Spotify and streaming services are not much better, with drastically-limited media selections and, again, the content is never really yours.

iPod DRM

The entire era of cloud-computing was less about empowering the user and more of an exercise is usury. Let’s face it – storage has become incredibly inexpensive. And the popularity of lossy-compression for casual listening has only made it easier and cheaper for users to have it all. There was no longer a need to up-sell a customer base to a bigger and better device every six months, because the average smartphone suits most users just fine as an all-around media player.

For those with more discerning tastes, a simple and inexpensive home server is sufficient to grant instant-access to terabytes of lossless audio and HD video libraries from our tablets and phones anywhere with 4G service.

The industry had to invent a new way to maintain a steady influx of customer revenue. Enter the streaming service and world of online backups. These subscription-based services keep the customer paying month after month for storage and instant-access. Adobe was perhaps the most curious company to go this route, releasing the latest version of its software suite rebranded as the Creative Cloud. The customer scenario was much the same for Adobe – previous versions were everything their customers needed, so why would they need to upgrade ever again? The solution was clear – monthly subscription fees.

Adobe-survey-CC-pricingCNET Adobe CC Pricing Survey (2012)

The elephant in the room of cloud computing is the compromise of one’s privacy and security. Facebook users know all too well that every minute detail of their publicly-broadcasted lives is being sold and re-sold to advertisers banking on hyper-targeted marketing.

But you know all this – you don’t buy in to cloud archive services. You’ve implemented all the standard privacy tools and ad-blocking plugins and your web experience is fairly secure and advert-free. But what about those who don’t have the luxury of their own media server or truly unlimited data plans for their portable devices? How should they freely access their large libraries of media anywhere they go?

There is a solution. Seagate manufactures a device specifically tailored to meet the needs of this particular niche of customers and to resolve their unique problem. The Wireless Plus 2TB portable HDD (STCV2000100) is surprisingly compact and lightweight. It features an internal 10-hour battery and its own personal WiFi network. Pair it with each of your personal devices and you’ve got 2TB of content with you EVERYWHERE – on or off the grid, with no monthly fees.

Seagate Wireless Plus 1

Currently priced at ~$190, the Wireless Plus offers an incredible amount of freedom for its price point. For users like myself with our own media servers, there really isn’t an urgent need, (save perhaps for taking your entire library with you on a camping trip.) But for those tired of shelling out monthly fees for remotely hosted content – this is the device you’ve been waiting for.

Seagate Wireless Plus 2