Beats X Bluetooth earbuds – update

 

Two weeks ago I published a review of the BeatsX Bluetooth earbuds over at podfeet.com as part of my hosting duties standing in for Allison Sheridan. I had a few issues with them at the time I wrote the review but now I have a few additional thoughts on them, so here’s a quick update.

The issue I had with the power button still effectively remains, but with practice it’s really simple to judge “more than a second” to hold it down and I’ve found that in addition to easily forming the habit of turning them off and on, I’ve pretty much stopped looking at the power light now. The chime in my ears is enough to confirm to me I’ve done the job of turning them on or off – if I leave at least one bud in an ear before pushing the button, so I can hear it. This last bit can be mentally challenging. When I get into my car, I engage my after-market Bluetooth system. Once connected, it ‘steals’ the audio from the BeatsX and my first instinct is to simply remove them from my ears – but I need to leave them in and power them off first, even while the audio is playing now on the car speakers.

The bowing out or in of the cables below my ears remains a problem. Every length of wire on this product is a ribbon shape and this causes them to have a mind of their own. From time to time I still manage to twist an earbud – almost always the left – the wrong way and the wire twists uncomfortably into my face. If there was one thing I would change on the design, it would be round wires from the earbuds to the ‘lumps’. On the positive side, the recent weather has given rise to wearing my ‘up-to-the-chin,’ fleece-lined jacket and I’ve had no problems zipping this up to the top against the rain and the buds staying put, although see the following point for a probable contributing factor to that.

I mentioned I had trouble with wind catching the flat wires and tending to blow the buds out of my ears. There were a couple of days when the winds were severe enough (around 50km/h+) that this became extremely annoying. One lunchtime I went for a walk and just about gave up trying to listen because the left bud kept edging out of my ear. I’d been experimenting with the different sized tips, even going with different sizes on each ear, but nothing would stay in. After that walk, I fetched out the optional “wings” that are provided and fitted what appears to be the smaller pair of the two provided. These have made all the difference. With the wings fitted, the buds don’t move at all. I’m fairly sure I still don’t have a perfect seal in my left ear, but even the strongest winds do not budge them. These also make the buds feel lighter in my ears.

There have been two days when I have absent-mindedly left my BeatsX at home. For such occasions, I have two pairs of Sennheiser wired earbuds stashed in my car, as it’s when I get out at the railway station that I usually realise my error. I have the pair I had been using full time prior to the BeatsX, and an earlier pair which are a little higher quality but less practical. Using either pair of Sennheisers made a definite difference to my listening experience. The sound of both sets was somehow more comfortable sounding. I’m no sound engineer, so I can’t explain why that is. I also found the apparent weight in my ears was less with the wired sets, which surprised me. But… I struggled frequently with the wires, which was the whole point of going Bluetooth.

Just yesterday I discovered an unexpected benefit of the wireless earbud lifestyle. I had spent the last hour or so at work listening to some tunes while I got some work done – my ‘desk neighbours’ having left early. The iPhone was on my desk so I could easily see what track was playing and skip or like (I was listening to Apple Music’s My New Music Mix playlist). When it came time to pack up, I stood up and went about putting stuff away and even fetching my jacket from the nearby coat stand, all without having to fuss at all with where my phone was (it remained on the desk) or where any wires were dangling as I was reaching over and under my desk. When I was ready to leave, I simply placed the phone in my jacket inside pocket and walked out. The music had continued uninterrupted the entire time.

To summarise, the effect of wind on the flat wires is a bit of a design flaw that had me seriously thinking about giving them up, but the wings address that problem, if not truly fix it. With that out of the way, no other niggles make me regret my purchase.

You can purchase BeatsX directly from Apple for NZD$229.95.


All images copyright © Apple, Inc.

Apple Music – my analysis

I like it, and I’ll pay for it.

I could actually stop there, because that’s really all that matters to anyone – do you like it, and if so, would you be prepared to pay for it? Simple.

But I thought I’d put down a few thoughts on why I like it.

Because it integrates deeply into my existing music ecosystem. Ever since I bought my first iPod in 2004, I’ve had iTunes installed. Through one PC, two Macs, three iPods and four iPhones, it has always been there. Of necessity, of course, but I’m down with it. It is the source of most of my music library (ripped from CDs) and these days that reflects over the cloud directly to my iPhone where I do a lot of my listening. Apple Music integrates well in this space. Not seamlessly, but well.

Because it functions quite well. I’ve had over a dozen listening sessions with the service now, mostly on my iPhone but a few on my Mac. After a very short learning curve it’s making sense most of the time. When it doesn’t, it’s not a huge deal. Well, except the Connect part, but that’s not important to me.

Because it gets me. Really, it does. Lots of people are saying this. It’s the single biggest point in its favour for me. I skip very few songs that it plays for me in its suggested playlists. That’s more than I can say for my dalliance with Spotify earlier in the year. Through Apple Music, I’ve already discovered one new artist who it seems I like a lot, but who I’ve never really investigated before. Apple Music knows this and keeps playing them for me. Plus I’ve come across a few older tracks I love but didn’t have in my library. I do now, though. (There will be a podcast about that, soon.)

Because I can see its breadth. I know the Beatles aren’t on the service. Yet, at least. No biggie. I have all the Beatles music I’m ever likely to want, and last I checked they weren’t releasing new material. But anyone I’ve thought of I’ve been able to find. And that goes for many other people too. A colleague at work is into dark, heavy metal. I suggested he check out the service. “I doubt it’ll have much I listen to” he said. “Try me” I said. He gave up after five bands, all of which I was able to show multiple albums from. He was impressed because “streaming services don’t have that kind of music.” Apple Music does.

Because why not? The only question that enters my mind and gives me pause is “will I use it enough?” It rolled out on June 30th. It’s July 13th. As I said above, I’ve had over a dozen listening sessions already. That’s probably more music I’ve listened to in two weeks than the entire preceding 6 months. It doesn’t hurt that we finally got wifi at work and that none of my team work in the same building as me.

So yeah, I like it and I’ll pay for it.


Banner image © Apple, Inc. From Apple Music..