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Featured Review: JBL UA Headphones Wireless

February 16, 2016 - Written By John Anon

In spite of what seems to be an abundance of wireless earphones on the market, in general terms, they all seem to sport a similar level of functionality, a similar design and similar levels of performance. After all, due to physical restrictions, earphones can only differ so much. This has resulted in manufacturers starting to turn to sub-markets to try and individualize and position their latest offerings. One particular sub-market which seems to be getting a disproportional amount of attention of late, is the sports and exercise market. This in turn had led to the sport and exercise earphone selection also substantially increasing with options becoming available at literally every price point. However, not all sports earphones can claim to be JBL earphones and not all earphones can claim to be Under Armor earphones and right now, only one pair of earphones can claim to be JBL and Under Armour earphones, these are the UA Headphones Wireless, priced at $180.

Specs

In terms of the specs, the UA Headphones Wireless come equipped with 5.8 mm dynamic drivers and offer a frequency response of 10 Hz-22 kHz. However, these are headphones which are designed to offer a better bottom line thanks to the inclusion of JBL Pure Bass. In terms of connectivity, the UA Headphones Wireless makes use of Bluetooth 4.0 to establish a connection with a target streaming device. Charging occurs through the use of the microUSB slot and the battery is one which is expected to last up to eight hours in between charges. The UA Headphones Wireless come with a built-in mic for hands-free calling and also include an IPX5 rating for water-resistance. So while you are not advised to submerge the earphones in any capacity, their level of water-resistance will ensure protection against splashes and sweating during more strenuous workouts

In the box

The packaging with the UA Headphones Wireless Headphones is rather nice and does set the general tone with what to expect. In fact, for a pair of earphones, the packaging is rather big and much more inline with what you might expect from premium headphones packaging, in terms of presentation. Although, it should be noted that they do not come with the same quality of packaging as you would find with premium headphones. On opening, the UA Headphones Wireless are immediately presented and resting in a recessed backing. Beneath the inlay, you can expect to find additional sets of ear tips (“enhancers”), the microUSB charging cable (flat cable), the quick start guide and a soft touch carry case. It is also worth mentioning that these earphones do come with a one year premium membership to MapMyFitness (typically $29.99) and the instructions on how to redeem the free premium membership come in paper form inside the box.

Hardware & Design

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Coming from a collaboration between one of the biggest audio brands and one of the biggest sports brands, you might expect a product like the UA Headphones Wireless to come boasting a very fashionable look. However, that is not strictly the case. These are attractive earphones, although their look is rather unassuming on first impressions and you could quite easily miss them if they were in among a bunch of other brands. They are not immediately identifiable as a premium product. Which will be a positive for those looking for a more unassuming set of earphones.

That said, their unassuming nature drastically diminishes the closer you look, as the UA Headphones Wireless come boasting some very big earbuds and while this might sound slightly off-putting at first, they are big by design and this is one of the features which are more likely to encourage you to consider the earphones. Not to mention, it is not technically the earbuds which are big. In truth the tips of the buds are essentially the same as what you will find anywhere (maybe even a little smaller) and their enlarged look comes from the back of the earbuds, which results in a perceptually larger product. This is only perceptually though and the larger aspect is where you will find all the tech inside. One of the immediately noticeable benefits of this design, is that there is no lag with the UA Headphones Wireless cable. Once in-ear, these earphones feel extremely light. As all the tech is happening in the earpieces, the cable is able to be stripped down to just what it needs to be, gauge and casing. Furthermore, these larger earpieces do seem to act as a sort of counterbalance which leads to a more secure level of fit when worn.

Speaking of which, these are also earphones which come with TwistLock tech included. This is probably better off explained as a more ergonomic design and one which ensures that once they are in place, they are designed to stay in place. This is primarily achieved by the actual ear tips being the only aspect which plugs into your ear. Housing all the components inside the butts of the earphones and not the in-ear aspect, results in the ear tip element also being much lighter. Once in-ear, the science suggests you can just twist them and they lock in place. During testing, this was a bit more effective on paper than in practice, with few if any notable improvements in their ability to stay in-ear – based purely on TwistLock. However, the larger back pieces do offer that extra stability and do ensure that the rest of the earphones are much lighter, which was certainly an aspect that added to their ability to stay in place. Of course, for those who find the tips to be a little on the big side, these do come with additional sized tips so you can find the right shape and size to better fit your ear. Which again will certainly further help in their ability to stay put.

Moving on and the only additional aspect beyond the earphones is the control panel which comes positioned on the right hand side of the cable. Again, on first impressions, this is another unassuming aspect which is rather small, plastic in nature and containing a typical three button layout, along with a small pin hole microphone for hands-free calling. However, aspects like light and plastic did further add to to the lightweight nature of the earphones, which again, was a big positive and added to their more sports-oriented functionality.

The control box comes with a red backing symbolic of the UA branding and the buttons, although small, are surprisingly quite well build and do offer plenty of depth allowing for easier depression without becoming too frustrating. Although, it is likely that some will find the general size and shape of the control box a little frustrating in itself, as this does seem to be the case of compromising on size to ensure a lighter weight. Not to mention, the right hand positioning of the control panel is probably not going to be ideal for left-handed consumers.

Overall, when it comes to the design of the UA Headphones Wireless, these do seem to be extremely well made earphones and certainly ones which are designed to better suit consumers looking for a more lightweight, durable and comfortable set of earphones.

Sound Quality & Performance

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Moving to the sound quality and this will largely be determined on where you place your emphasis on the volume/clarity spectrum. What will be an issue for some, is that these are not super loud earphones. In fact, they are very quiet compared to what you could find with a similar priced product elsewhere. The upside of the generally lowered volume is that you never do experience any distortion at all and irrespective of music genre. This lack of distortion, coupled with the JBL build does result in a great sounding pair of earphones. On paper, the frequency range is more than sufficient and this does come through when listening, with the UA Headphones Wireless able to forcibly deliver a full(ish) range. Bass is responsive and the earphones are able to deliver in this respect, although, like the general sound, it is just not a booming or loud bass. The top and middle aspects come through nicely with a warm and vibrant tone and overall produce a very good sound. Again, what might be a problem for some – is if you go looking for the sound. The quality on offer with these earphones is all about performance. With such a high price tag in play, if you are expecting to start listening and suddenly be wowed by the sound, that is not going to happen. They are very good sounding earphones and do perform extremely well, but you’re not going to get a wow factor from them.

Taking away the price for a moment and just focusing on the sound solely, these will be a little on the low side in terms of volume, but are ideal for the market they are aimed towards. Sound reproduction is extremely good, the frequency range is wide enough to accommodate all frequencies and the sound is consistently good across genres. This last point in particular, is an important point, as these are earphones which do not require constant adjusting when flipping through music styles. Without the need for equalizing, these offer a balanced sound across genres and again, is a feature will likely appeal to those who just want to hit the gym, hit play and not have to worry about further adjustments to get the best sound.

Connectivity & Battery Life

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As you might expect with a product in this price range, and one coming with the JBL name behind it, there is very little to complain about in terms of connectivity. The UA Headphones Wireless work flawlessly. At no point during testing was there any form of drop-off or drop-out experienced and the level of connection remained stable at all times. In fact, one aspect worth pointing out is that the connection also remained stable even when the battery was running low. Some earphones will start to intermittently cut-out when the battery is nearing its depletion and this was not the case with the UA Headphones Wireless. These will stay solidly connected right up until the battery does fully cut-off. Likewise, the range on these headphones is also excellent. Like the battery issue, although some earphones note a maximum connection distance, the nearer you get to that maximum, the greater the level of breakage you will begin to notice – basically, within their range, but unable to maintain a solid connection. This again, is not the case with the UA Headphones Wireless. These offer a very solid and reliable connection even when nearing their maximum distance. These earphones do mean that you will not have to worry about the connection when moving further away from a streaming device.

Moving on to the battery life, and again, there is not much to complain about as this is another aspect which is very much on point. According to the specs, these are earphones that are designed to offer up to eight hours of continuous playback between charges. During testing, this proved to be an extremely reliable time-frame. The UA Headphones Wireless do offer a great level of battery life and you will certainly get about eight hours of continuous playback while off the charge. You won’t get much more than eight hours however, but you can be rest assured these will easily get you through the best part of the day, let alone even the most extensive of workouts or runs. Last but not least, in terms of charging, the UA Headphones Wireless typically require just under two hours to charge from empty to full again. Which although might not sound that quick, is in line with what you would expect from a product like this and certainly adequate for an eight hour usage return.

Wrap up

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Arriving with an $180 price tag attached, the JBL Under Armour Headphones Wireless are earphones which will immediately draw expectations. For a certain price, one would expect a certain quality, a certain look, a certain premium build or special features. This is the higher end of the spectrum and positioning these earphones in this range will result in some questioning the price. However, the truth is that these are earphones which are not designed to be flash or fashionable. These are earphones which are designed for the sports-oriented in mind and ones which are designed to provide a consistent, reliable and quality listening experience. And for those consumers, these are a very good set of earphones. While volume is probably their weakest aspect, they do provide a solid experience, a very reliable connection and do seem to be durable enough to last. For the market they are designed for, they are on the money.

Should you buy the JBL Under Armour Headphones Wireless?

If you are a regular gym goer or someone looking for a pair of headphones which can consistently and reliably deliver, then the UA Headphones Wireless are a good option to go for. They are a little on the expensive side and this will be a factor for some consumers. But for those who know exactly what they want in a pair of sports earphones and are willing to pay the asking price, these do deliver, effortlessly.

Buy the JBL UA Headphones Wireless