There has long been a quest for truly wireless headphones, but finally, the technology exists to create a set of diminutive ear buds with a battery and Bluetooth circuitry small enough to not only be functional, but actually practical. Over the last week or two, I have been putting the Elyxr Air wireless Bluetooth headphones through their paces. There is obviously going to be comparisons drawn between these and the much-publicised Airpods, and whilst they are certainly similar in concept, the execution is much different. I personally prefer the noise isolating in-ear headphones that fit snugly into your ear canal rather than the apple style headphones that sit just at the opening, so the Elyxr are quite appealing to me. Rather than coming in a little box like the Airpods, these come in a rather funky little docking station with a sliding section that exposes/protects the actual ear buds. The ear buds are held in place magnetically and charged with contact tech. Don’t worry, there is almost no chance of them accidentally falling out thanks to the strong magnets that suck the ear buds in with a satisfying click. The docking station is a bit chunky, but that’s due to its rather nifty extra feature. It contains a 2100mah battery which, according to the manual, is enough to fully charge the two earbuds up to 12 times on a full charge. But that’s not all, it also has a USB port at the bottom, so it can charge your phone if you get caught on the hop with a low battery. Despite all this, it remains a neat little package and feels solid, but not overly heavy.
The earbuds themselves (which remind me of a pair of cufflinks) are small enough that they can fit in your ears without too much left sitting out, so you don’t end up looking like Uhura from the original Star Trek, but so much that they are hard to hold or use. The two buds are identical and can be used one at a time in mono mode, or together in stereo. These are activated by the button that takes up the majority of the end of each ear bud and there is a small LED that will blink red or blue to indicate the status of the device and also identify the left from the right channel. Admittedly, the pairing process is a bit fiddly and I would have preferred to have a dedicated left and right ear piece. Each ear piece will audibly identify itself as the left or right, but you’ll only hear this if you get them in your ears quickly enough. I’m not sure how much mono use these headphones would ever get. I personally would have ditched the mono function to achieve a more user-friendly interface.
Once you have figured them out and got them paired and in your ears, they are really rather comfortable and don’t feel likely to fall out. The sound quality is very good and music streams easily. The button on each piece acts as a pause/play button and there is little delay between pressing the button and the according response. This multi-use bottom is also utilised for the phone function – yes, you can make and receive calls with these things too!
Placing the headphones in the dock automatically switches them off and starts the charging process, so you need to turn them back on each time. I found that the instructions are pretty clear for the initial setup, but for general use, there could be a little more information. Through trial and error, I found that if you activate the “master” (left) channel first, then the “slave” (right), the two buds paired up easily with each other and then the phone. I just had to remember which one was which. It’s a little tricky at first, but once you have used them for a few times, it becomes a lot more familiar and is less of an issue.
I used these headphones regularly for my brisk evening walk and despite their little setup niggles, I found them great for this application. Without cables to weigh them down, snag on clothing and pull them from your ears, they remained in place snugly and comfortably. They were great for listening to podcasts, delivering clear sound with a decent volume. I did notice that they would occasionally cut out for a second before carrying on and, after a couple of days, I realised that they were cutting out at the same points along my route. A little experimenting revealed the cause. The master bud is the left one and I was carrying my phone in my front right pocket of my jeans. Whenever I would turn my head fully to the left, watching for traffic at a junction etc, the sound would cut out, so I can only conclude that my body blocks the signal. With the size of these things though, packing a battery and speaker in there doesn’t leave a whole lot of real estate left for transmitter/receiver circuitry, so there are bound to be limitations. Transferring the phone to the left pocket of my fleece solved the problem and there was only the occasional outage after that. Not ideal, but a fairly easy fix.
All in all, I really like these little headphones. The sound is good and I love the battery pack concept. Hats off to Elyxr for trying to do something different and offer genuinely useful additional features with the docking station. Yeah, there are a few user interface niggles, but you have to bear in mind that this is the early days of an innovative new format and there are bound to be a few teething issues while the kinks are worked out and the tech is perfected. These are completely function and practical headphones that do the job well. I look forward to seeing what future generations of these style of headphones can do.
Elyxr Air Wireless Headphones are available from the official website for €139.99.