20 December 2016 Update
It’s been over 3 months that I’ve been using my Awei A880BL headphones. What I’ve loved so far is the battery life. I can go for over a week without charging the headphones. My average usage is about 5 times a week for an hour.
I’ve noticed a couple of people who come to the same gym as me and wear the Awei A880BL.
What sucks so far? The build quality, which I already spoke about (read the cons). My headphones managed to chip during normal use. But they’re not broken, or have stopped working. I just need to patch them up.
You can read the full review below.
Electronic gadgets, even the best of them, have a finite life. That’s why it really sucks when an expensive piece of tech doesn’t last that long. Of course, “last that long” is a relative term (for me it’s two years), but you’d expect products made by big known brands to last longer. Right? I’ve had my fair share of disappointments with big name brands that I’ve vented about on this blog. From my Nike Push-Up grips, to my Sennheiser headphones, and Jawbone UP24. But this post isn’t a rant.
Recently, my Jaybird Bluebuds X died on me. I’d bought them less than two years ago for ~HK$ 1,400 (US$ 180). I used them practically everyday for 18 months, so it did bum me out when they died. I’ve been anticipating the release of the Jaybird Bluebuds X3 (the Bluebuds X2 are actually quite cheap at the moment) but sadly the release date keeps getting pushed back. So, I decided to hold off buying another pair of expensive bluetooth headphones. This decision, although extremely practical, made my workouts at the gym really annoying with wired headphones. Also, thanks to the number of times I’ve dropped my Nexus 5 (3 years and still going strong #bestphoneever!), my headphone jack’s become extremely unreliable.
Frustrated with my music listening experience on my smartphone, I made an impulse purchase. I noticed a pair of decent looking Bluetooth headsets that looked stable enough to wear during workouts. And because they were priced at HK$ 159 (US$ 20.5), I really didn’t think twice about buying the Awei A880BL.
My Review Of The Awei A880BL
What I Love So Far!
- The Price: US$ 20
- Battery Life: 8+ hours
- Great For Running & Workouts: Fit’s extremely well and stays put even while running
- Excellent Call Quality: Mic works better than it did on the Jaybirds
What Are The Compromises?
- Audio is bass heavy but completely fixable through a 3rd party equaliser app
- Build Quality: Cheap plastic, and I’m afraid any rough handling might break them
- Bulky design: Takes a while to get used to
At 1/9th the original price of the Jaybirds Bluebuds X, the Awei A880BL, are an affordable pair of bluetooth headphones. My back-of-the-envelope impulsive purchase decision was simple: if the Awei A880BL can last me more than 1/9th the time that my Jaybirds did, I’d be quite happy. So, can these headphones last more than 2 months? I’m already done with a month’s worth of extensive usage. So, I’m guessing – yes.
Best Bluetooth Headphones For Running Under US$ 50
The A880BL are termed as the company’s sports headphones. Although they are slightly bulky, the headphones themselves weigh almost nothing. With their twisted body design, the A880BL latch onto the ear canal naturally. The design also makes the wiring go over the ear and then behind the neck for a stable feel. Once inserted, it’s nearly impossible for them to fall out. This makes them the perfect bluetooth headphones for running.
Also, I’ve been easily getting over 8 hours worth of battery life on my Awei A880BL. With my daily usage, I easily get through a week on a single charge.
Sound & Call Quality
The sound quality out-of-the-box is quite bass heavy (not in a good way) and the headphones can get really loud! Some of you may enjoy that, but I didn’t. Fortunately, I found that by using a 3rd party equaliser app, I was able to reduce the amount of bass and improve the sound clarity on my A880BL.
One of the big problems that I had with my Jaybirds was its mic. Whenever I’d get a call on them, the caller could never hear me. I’d be force to pull out my phone and switch the call to the handset. Amazingly, I don’t have this problem with the Awei A880BL. For real! The mic on this sub-US$ 20 bluetooth headphone is way better than that on a US$ 100+ headphone.
Build Quality & Design
This is where the Awei A880BL bluetooth headphones fall apart. But you’d expect them too, right? The headphones are made of cheap plastic and feel flimsy in the hand. I’m not afraid of breaking them while wearing them, but I’m a little skeptical of how much abuse they can handle, say in a bag. No, there is no case that comes with it.
The buttons are slightly hard to press, so I usually find it easier to use the controls on the phone. The good thing though is the presence of a start-pause button. I didn’t realise how much I needed this button. The Jaybirds only had a volume control, so I had to use my phone to pause the music. I personally prefer having the volume controls on the phone and the pause button on the headphone.
Best Cheap Bluetooth Headphones
The Awei A880BL bluetooth headphones are extremely functional, and incredible value for money (under US$ 20 on Amazon). For that price, it’s hard for me to even find another pair of cheap bluetooth headphones or fault these ones.
The Rise Of Cheap, Durable Chinese Electronics
Not too long ago, Chinese electronics were considered poorly made, and not built to last. That still might be the case, but my perception of Chinese products has changed. After all, not all Chinese products are knock-offs of well established brands. Many Chinese companies today are leaders and pioneers in their respective fields. And many are pushing the boundaries of innovation. Think of DJI, the world’s most popular drone manufacturer, and Feiyu Tech, the world leader in consumer handheld gimbals. Or my personal favourite, Xiaomi – the company that can take an existing product, build it better and cheaper than anyone else. Sure, Xiaomi may have borrowed a few designs from other companies, but isn’t that how some of the biggest tech companies in the world started (ahem…Apple).
Take a trip down to Shenzhen and you’ll see how competitive the electronics market is for Chinese manufacturers. They’re not only competing on price, but also quality. It’s truly the survival of the fittest!
Redefining Value For Money
During our trip to Shenzhen in August 2015, we had bought a few knick-knack knock-off products. I honestly didn’t expect them to last more than a couple of months. But I’ve been more than happy to have been proved wrong.
Electronic products from China today have come a long way. After all, almost every single tech product around you is made there by big or small/unknown brands. My first sentence of this post was about electronic gadgets and their finite life. Big name brands, unknown brands, it doesn’t matter, all electronic gadgets aren’t really built to last these days. So the question is, would you be happy spending US$ 180 for a product that lasts 18 months, or US$ 20 for a product that lasts 6-12 months? Both do exactly the same thing.