Origem's HS-3 headphones offer balanced HDR audio, with plenty of power, and features to spare
Origem has only been making audio accessories since 2014 and may not be one of the first companies that spring to mind when looking for a new pair of earbuds or headphones either. Origem's age does not mean that it isn't an OEM worth considering in that category and, priced just below $100, its wireless earbuds sold as the Origem HS-3 with HDR are no exception.
Give or take $20, the $100 price bracket for headphones is relatively saturated, often making it difficult to decide whether or not to take the risk of buying any given pair. They tend to be hit and miss, even among name brands. So expectations going into this review were not necessarily set very high and I wouldn't have predicted this gadget to come with any unexpected features or great sound.
After little more than a day of using the Origem HS-3 headphones, however, that reservation was proven to be almost entirely unwarranted. The device turned out to not only be very comfortable to wear as well as being both resilient and stable enough on the ear to meet their marketed intended purpose for use during workouts. The sound quality was exceptional both in its class and well above.
Features are fairly standard except where they're spectacularly good
Now, since this is a pair of headphones above any other purpose, the quality of the audio across various types of media and music is likely going to be the determining factor in whether or not they’re worth buying. At $100, one would expect the sound to be decent at a minimum but that’s something we’ll discuss a bit later on. One area these headphones really stand out is in their out-of-the-box features.
The buttons on the in-line control include a 'plus', 'minus', and multi-function key. Those do all of the things that might be expected, including providing access to Google Assistant or Apple's Siri with the appropriate spoken words.
The different functions depend on what media is being played back, how long or how many times a key is pressed, as would be expected and on that front, this device doesn't differ too much from competitors. That perspective changes relatively quickly with a glance at the user manual though since extra features are enabled here as well as a dedicated, on-device algorithm-based helper referred to in the manual as "Hello VoiceQ."
The first of the useful extra features involves the camera app on the connected smartphone and is relatively straight forward. With that opened up, a click of plus-shaped button snaps a photo. So, for users with a mobile-compatible tripod or who've set their device up somewhere to take a picture, the Origem HS-3 serves well as a shutter button in a pinch.
The camera shutter feature works marvelously but voice commands are where this really steps apart.
When in a media app or receiving a call, using specific two-word voice commands — with no need to press any buttons at all and no need to speak an activation word — accomplishes a variety of tasks. I was able to pause or play music or videos, skip to the next track or the previous one and even accept or reject calls just by saying something like "accept call" and nothing more.
That's convenient and easy — and accomplishable via buttons for those who don't want to speak out loud. It also works no matter how loud the volume is in most circumstances since the mics are all situated on the outside.
Strong where it really matters
Getting down to what will likely be the most important point for many buyers, the sound quality and range from Origem's HS-3 and its 10mm graphene driver — coupled to a reasonably high-end CSR8675 chip with DSP audio algorithm for HDR playback, is spectacular for the price.
The word balanced is thrown around a lot when it comes to audio reviews and can mean different things but here, it means that the volume doesn't ever seem to go above or below what it's set at. It certainly doesn't mean that different genres of music don't stand apart and accent where they're meant to but not where they aren't.
I generally listen to a wide and diverse array of music ranging from dance hall tunes to classical compositions to the heavy growl of progressive metal and nu-metal. That's what my playlist is comprised of too and each genre or artist has its own musical feel. With Origem's HS-3 headphones, each of those genres maintained its character without losing volume or suddenly blowing my ears off. The sound could be described singularly as "strong" thanks to the HDR capabilities.
Simultaneously, the bass never became overwhelming even when listening to songs where it is the most prominent instrumentation. It hit hard where it was meant to or thrummed through — on the guitar side of things — exactly as intended. Highs and mid-range tones were crystal clear, letting parts of any given song shine through where they might not come through at all with a cheaper piece listening gear.
There is a minimal amount of sound bleed when cranked up to maximum volume on both device and headphones but that level of volume really shouldn't ever be needed either. These are not quite by any means unless they're set to within a few clicks of off.
Details did start getting lost when I lowered the volume on my handset down to around three or four and the headphones to one or two clicks above off but there's really no headphones available that won't be true for.
I won't apply the term audiophile to these. It's rare that there's any agreement on what that actually means. But the sound quality here is going to be hard to match at this price, without doing mountains of research first.
The same HDR effect is in place in other media, such as movies or podcasts, ensuring that all the sounds come through in a level enough manner that nothing is missed.
An uncertain build quality …maybe
Build quality and comfort can be equally important depending on their use and there may be some problems there to contrast with everything that makes these headphones great.
Unpacking the Origem HS-3 earbuds for the first time, they certainly don’t look cheap. Matte-colored high-quality plastics and cables are accented by a metal accent with the Origem logo at the center. In my case, these shipped in a “Gunmetal” coloration but they’re available in Silver and Red too. The color chosen affects the color of the cable and the metal accent.
The high quality extends to the satisfactorily ‘clicky’ buttons on the built-in control hub, also featuring Origem branding, and the door covering the snugly-fit micro USB port for charging as well as the cable management clip. Aesthetically speaking, that quality extends to the metal hinge and padded metal ear hook these headphones include to keep them comfortably in place.
Origem has paid a lot of attention to detail here and I never experienced any major problems while using them for extended periods of time or taking them in and out of their included case. Regardless, that hinge and arm system could present a problem for some users, particularly if they happen to be very hard on their electronics.
The hinge mechanism is deliberately thin and lightweight, operating similar to that found on a pair of glasses and with a similar shape at the back end. I will get into how that actually helps with comfort momentarily — and it certainly does — but it’s somewhat flimsy feeling and there is a lot of 'give' at the hinge itself.
Summarily, it feels as though applying any amount of pressure above what these might endure in their stiff soft-touch carrying case or from repeated use would cause that metal to deform permanently or the hinge to fail. In fact, applying just a small amount of pressure did cause some deformation — though not at the hinge — in the metal arms themselves.
That flexibility proves useful in some regards but tends to break down some of the otherwise premium "feel" of the product.
Comfort and ease of use above what the pricing suggests
The comfort of these headphones, on the other hand, is almost flawless. The lightweight metal arm is padded in a material with a feel that similar to the soft-touch — almost velvety — rubber ear nubs. The result is a nearly malleable arm that conformed to the shape of my ears and, despite the presence of a wire, almost felt like I wasn’t wearing headphones at all.
There are four nub sizes included, with the smallest seeming to start slightly under the size of a standard “small” nub and the rest scaling up to slightly larger than the same. That difference in sizes, thanks to my smaller-than-average inner ear, meant that I was able to find a nub that was extremely comfortable without leaking sound.
Taken collectively with the distance from the edge of the ear nub to the speaker, I never felt like any part of the earbud was digging in, even when I rested my head for a moment, effectively laying on the ear.
They never even began to feel like they were going to fall off either and no amount of headshaking or headbanging (or jogging or other exercises) changed that. The included cable management clip further assured I was able to basically forget there was a wire, to begin with.
On the comfort front, these earbuds are better made than most I’ve had the chance to try out, including many that were much more expensive to buy.
Topping off for a day of use is fast
The all-day comfort, snug but light fit, sound quality, and extended features we’ll discuss just below — when it comes to Origem’s HS-3 headphones — is only held back by the battery life. These are, to an extent, billed as good workout headphones and have the IPx5 weather resistance to at least partially back that up. They aren't going to be destroyed by some sweat or a bit of rain. Nobody's working out for six hours, which is what these are advertised at in terms of battery life.
They don't exactly last six-hours either, at least not at the volumes I was using. I tend to turn my smartphone media output volume to a single click below where it warns me not to turn it any louder or I'll damage my ears. The headphones were turned up to around three-quarters of the way up. They lasted for around 5-hours, 6-minutes, and 30 seconds before I started hearing "battery low" in this gadget's somewhat-better-than-average indicator voice.
The Origem HS-3 headphones would have gone on for a bit longer since they seemed to be at around 10- or 15-percent when that happened. Almost nobody is going to want to try and listen to their jams with "battery low" being spoken in their ear approximately once per minute for that last several minutes though.
Happily enough, I discovered that the charging time advertised is almost spot on. Enabled with fast charging — for a claimed four-times faster rate than standard listening devices — Origem claims 30 minutes to a full charge while the Amazon listing claims 40 minutes. Both are basically accurate.
The LED light on the side turns off at a full charge and this charged up to full via a standard USB port and micro USB in just over 32-minutes for another 5+ hour listening session. That means that with a relatively short break in between, these really will last all day long.
Why don't these cost more?
It might be easy to look at a pair of $100 headphones with the features and sound quality of Origem's HS-3 and wonder why they aren't priced at a much higher rate.
These headphones aren't perfect by any means.
I noticed one random disconnect, for instance, after I'd used the device's button to pause a movie and tried to start it up again. I ended up needing to completely unpair the device, plug it in for a second, and then connect again. The issue only happened one time in more than a week and through hours of daily listening and I was not able to recreate it and was unable to work out exactly why it had happened.
Moreover, the smartphone it was connected to has had Bluetooth problems in the past with other headsets. That can't be ruled out as the underlying cause so it likely isn't going to prove a problem at all.
The only other issue of any consequence is that the carry case was a bit too snug to easily fit both the headphones and their short charging cable, even with everything folded up neatly. It's possible, but not a quick process even after a dozen or more attempts.
Taking all of that into consideration, it's easy to recommend the Origem HS-3 with HDR headphones to just about anybody looking for great wireless earbuds at a relatively inexpensive price. What slight issues there are with these, the sound quality and decent battery life are really only matched by the level of comfort that they bring to the table.
What Origem has done here is to release Bluetooth headphones that charge up quickly, utilize HDR algorithms to keep the sound volume balanced, and let through all of the characteristics that are expected from a given song or video. Not only is this pair of headphones genuinely worth the cost, the value ratio very nearly makes the $100 price tag a negligible detail.
These headphones are definitely worth picking up for anybody who happens to be in the market for a pair of wireless earbuds.
Origem is offering a really great price for AndroidHeadlines readers. Now through August 14, you can get the HS-3 for just $59 with the promo code AHORIGEM.Origem HS-3 - Amazon - $59