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If the design doesn't entirely convince, it must be said the BluPhones don't lack for functionality, combining both Bluetooth headphone and headset abilities into one very small package.
On the right headphone is a Multi-Function Button (MFB) that, shockingly, combines a number of different functions. You hold it down four seconds to turn on and two to turn off, while six seconds will activate pairing mode, enabling you to search for the BluPhones using the desired device and enter the code ‘1234' to complete the connection. All of these actions activate corresponding LED lights on the left headphone, flashing blue indicating ‘on', red ‘off' and alternating red and blue ‘pairing'. In playback this also doubles as a Play/Pause button and when you have incoming call will answer it, with a second press ending the call.
Also on the right headphone are next and previous buttons, while you'll find volume control buttons on the left headphone. You'd imagine that given the size, all these buttons would be rather cramped, but happily they're arranged well enough and it's easy to feel your way around and enjoy your music without getting the phone out.
But how does music sound? Reasonable, would be the one word answer. For a small set of headphones they reach decent volumes and produce a nice clear mid-range, but there's no real sense of detail in the sound. Bass is really quite weak and percussion lacks fizz, but despite being no audible treat they're perfectly listenable.
Likewise, call quality is decent but never excels. Microphones can be found on the inside of each headphone and, despite their location, we didn't encounter any problems having a clear conversation provided there wasn't too much background noise. However, unlike more dedicated Bluetooth hands-free kits, there's no active DSP noise cancelling, making noisier environments more of a challenge. As such, it's perhaps best to regard the BluPhones as headphones that can be used as a hands-free set as well, rather than a perfect merging of the two.
It's a point supported by the battery life. Terrible it isn't, but like most aspects of the BluPhones its five hours of music/talk time is solid but unspectacular and you're infinitely more likely to run out of battery on your headphones than you are on your phone or MP3 player. Overall, this makes the Gear4 BluPhones an imaginative but slightly flawed take on a Bluetooth Headphone come Headset, failing to provide the comfort or quality needed to make them truly desirable.
Though the premise of creating light Bluetooth headphones with hands-free capability is a good one, the Gear4 Bluphones don't quite pull it off. We found the earbud design not entirely comfortable and though most aspects of the performance were decent, nothing about the BluPhones stands out and says ‘Buy Me'.
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