An intriguing proposition, Paul Rigby reviews the Archeer AH45 Bluetooth headphones which also double up as Bluetooth speakers
You heard right. This is a set of Bluetooth headphones which can also double up as a pair of wired headphones if your battery fails for any reason. In addition to that, though, a pair of external speakers have been attached to the outside of each ear can so that, in theory, you can listen to a song on your ears and then, later, you can take off the headphones, flip a switch and the music will continue as bona fide speakers.
Arriving in a very presentable, foam-lined, sturdy box these chunky headphones arrive with a carry pouch, charge cable, 3.5mm Aux-in cable and manual.
Based on a 40mm driver, the AH45 headphones are supported by a robust head-band that is hinged for fold-away storage. Inside is a 1000mAh lithium battery that can be recharged for three and a half hours of headphone play or 10 hours of speaker play.
A small light indicates charging and a full charge status.
Supporting Bluetooth 4.1 and with an effective range of 10m, the AH45 headphones feature a range of buttons and switches, all collected on one ear can. The power button will turn on the headphones from the internal battery and will also initiate Bluetooth pairing. Pairing is begun from a power-off status. You press the power button for six to eight seconds. Once the indicator light flashes orange and blue, you’re in pairing mode. I found pairing simple and easy on my iPhone 8. Don’t do this near other Bluetooth devices, though, otherwise signal confusion is bound to occur preventing pairing.
A sliding button will activate Bluetooth speaker activation on/off while two further buttons will change the volume up and down. There’s also a microphone built in plus a Line In socket for a 3.5mm plug for wired headphone use.
Comfort was an issue because the headband pressed into the top/centre of my head. The apex of the top of the head, in fact. I wondered if my big head was the problem. Which is why I then roped in my long suffering wife as a contrast. She is petite with a small head but she complained of the same issue. Examining the headband, the issue clearly lies in the position of the ear cup hinges. They are too far away from the inner cup area. Partly, I assume, to try to balance both the Bluetooth and speaker gear inside each cup. Comparing the hinge position with several reference headphone sets I have here, the other reference headphones place their hinge points much nearer to the ear to maintain a natural headband curvature.
Via the Archeer AH45 ‘phones, however, positioning the cups on your ear means that the headband is stretched too far and effectively flattened. There is very little curvature on the headband once the unit is on the head. Thus, the central portion of the headband pushes directly onto the top/centre of the cranium. The headband padding is insufficient to compensate for the flattening effect.
One major issue I have with the AH45s is that, although these headphones are Bluetooth – which says mobile use, I would have thought – you can’t really take them outside. At least, not in poor weather. Buried in the instructions is a demand to keep the headphones away from water or, as the manual actually states, “rains”. This paragraph doesn’t stipulate a downpour or light drizzle but it does also mention ‘moisture’ as a no-no which, thinking about it, is a pretty severe restriction as that word spans quite a lot of climatic circumstances. You have to do this to prevent electric shock or, get this…fire! Which is rather disconcerting, I have to say. Unless you want to check the weather forecast before you leave the house and take a brolly with you in case of sudden downpours, external use for these Bluetooth headphones is not an option, therefore. Odd, because I would have thought that mobility is the point for any Bluetooth design. Hikers in the Sahara shouldn’t have any issues, I guess.
I decided to tackle the Bluetooth element first off using my iPhone 8 and Mercy Mercy Me via Marvin Gaye. Any streamed signal will never be as good as a wired connection in terms of audiophile music. The technology can’t cut it – at least not yet. So performance judgements have to be tempered a tad. That said, there was nothing offensive in the AH45’s streaming Bluetooth output. No brightness, no bass bloom or treble pinching. Yes, the soundstage was rather constricted, dynamic reach was rolled off and detail was rather veiled but the streaming process of a lossy sound file will have had a big say in this.
I then streamed a 24bit/88.2kHz version of David Elias’ Vision of Her. A man and a guitar, basically. The lack of air in the soundstage continued while dynamic reach remained constricted yet overall quality was much better here in terms off midrange insight. The song offered a relatively mature and rich presentation although the headphones never maximised the 88.2kHz resolution.
I then tried a wired test, which is a better test of the headphones themselves, Bluetooth technology can hamper the potential of any headphone design in sheer sound quality terms. I inserted the included cable into the headphones and then plugged the other end into my Astell&Kern DAP and played Andrew Gold’s ‘That’s How I Remember You’ at 16bit/44.1MHz.
In wired mode, the general sound quality level moved upwards a level. In relative terms, the AH45s offered a sense of clarity and a wide soundstage that the Bluetooth option couldn’t hope to match.
In absolute terms, though, the headphones never really amazed or wowed, sounding rather limited in terms of transparency with a fuzzy-edged soundstage, foggy bass and subdued mids. Nevertheless, despite these criticisms, the sound remained admirable if you look at what the AH45s are trying to do here. The wired mode was definitely a useful option in a set of headphones that, let’s face it, provides more of a broad package than a specialist service.
Finally, I tested the Bluetooth speaker option using the David Elias, hires track. As you might expect with this category of Bluetooth speaker, they made a noise, an acceptable noise I have to say, but little more. There was little to analyse here except for a pleasant array of central midrange frequencies. For near-field use, the speaker option is useful, though and adds a musical continuity for users to listen to the same music toggling from headphones to Bluetooth speakers and back again.
Despite my concerns in terms of absolute sound quality and mobility issues, sound is satisfactory (although it’s never outstanding) but there are no demons here. The sound quality is never nasty or undisciplined.
The basic design idea for the AH45s is actually a useful one but for a lifestyle scenario instead of an audiophile option. In that arena, the AH45s will offer a useful service.
ARCHEER AH45 BLUETOOTH HEADPHONES/BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS
Price: $46.98 (at the moment, the headphones are only available to buy for those living in the USA and Canada – Europe and Asia will be addressed “soon”, according to the company)
GOOD: feature laden, easy to use, intriguing design
BAD: overall sound quality, comfort issues, mobility concerns
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