Find wired earphones too restrictive? Paul Rigby reviews the Xqisit BT IE 200 earphones as an alternative
Arriving in a neat black & white box with a hinged lid and magnetic lock – all very Apple-like in its presentation – the 200s lie within with a choice of three ear plug adaptors plus a charging cable (this is a Bluetooth set, after all) and manual.
For those used to wired earphones, the small cable provided by the 200 design will be a shock as it’s only 70cm from the tip of one earphone, along the cable to the tip of the other. It’s not a lot in reality but is all you really need. Along that cable is a tiny battery, fitted inline plus a separate control pod, fitted further along the same cable. On the control pod are three buttons: volume up, volume down and a multifunction button that is used to power on and off and pair with your streaming device. This involves various button push combinations which all receive verbal confirmations, a welcome addition. This same button can also be used to start/stop music, play, mute or, as the earphones can be paired to your phone, answering, rejecting or ending a phone call. There is even a last number redial option. You can even end the current call and answer another call on the fly (as long as your phone supports the right protocols).
This is all rather neat and tidy but I do have a slight problem with the charging aspect. Not the charging in itself – at just two hours, that takes relatively no time at all – but the supplied cable is very short indeed, which leaves you with no choices at all if you need a longer cable (unless you have a longer spare, of course). I also have a problem when replacing the buds. Replacing the medium buds for the smaller models was a cause for frustration because the bloody things refused to be pushed onto the chassis pods. Cue lots of silicon buds hanging and flying off to the four corners of my test room. The good thing is that the buds are firmly attached to the chassis pods. It’s just getting the things on in the first place…
The length of the cable allows you to drape the earphones behind the neck. Thus the weighty earphones are then allowed to drop and drape on the top of your chest. The idea is that you then move the earphone pods together. At the rear of each earphone pod is a magnet. Hence, the two pods click and stick together. Great for mooching around town as you don’t have to worry about your earphones getting lost, falling on the ground and the like. This magnet attachment will also automatically pause any currently playing music.
For the test, I paired the earphones both with my iPhone 6S, for MP3 play and also my iMac computer, for hi-res testing. Both devices paired to the 200s without any problems.
I began with my iPhone and the MP3 of Kylie Minogue’s All the Lovers from her Abbey Road Sessions album. Listening to the music, the performance, in technical terms, was ok without being perfect. I did experience the odd micro-pause where the pairing lost a temporary signal. This effect occurred infrequently. Once for every three tracks played perhaps?
The upper mid performance, reflected in the rather delicate introductory guitar strumming was full, warm yet offered all of the necessary detail plus subtle string bending, at one point. That ‘warm’ midrange aspect was fully explained when the bass kicked in because the bass was dominant. Too dominant because it tended to bloom out and dominate the entire track adding techno club bass to this largely low key, rather delicate, pop outing. The drums had no real form or character, all the ear was faced with was lower frequency tone.
I decided to move to my iMac and try a higher resolution and the 24bit/96kHz version of the operatic ballad, Let Us Garlands Bring: Come Away Death. A beautiful and melancholic operatic piece, the high resolution proved a might overwhelming for the 200s which topped into upper midrange distortion at higher volumes. That said, bass was much more controlled here and there was plenty from the accompanying lower registers from the piano. Control was not absolute but the earphones did regain a measure of precision. Upper mids lacked extension and experienced veiling which failed to allow the music to really sing.
OK, the test was not going too well so I changed tack and left the test room…and the house. And this is were the 200s flowered and proposed: fighting traffic noise, screaming babies, arguing couples, sirens and the cacophony of life. These earphones belong…out there. In that environment they exclaim, “You WILL hear the bass, by hook or by crook.!” And you do. The sound quality moves towards a certain balance in this environment, allowing you to hear the content of your device easily and without effort. I wish there were EQ options, I have to say, because bass was still too much for my ears. Surely, a bit of sound tweaking is not too much to ask for £50? Nevertheless, the 200s performed decently in noisy conditions.
Earphones to use outside the house only. They are not audiophile designs and should not be viewed as such. The compact design and phone-centric options are useful too.
XQISIT BT IE 200 BLUETOOTH STEREO IN EAR HEADSET
GOOD: compact design, phone facilities, ease of use
BAD: veiled mids, boomy bass, no EQ options, signal drop outs