The Koss Fitbuds BT190i are affordable wireless headphones with a particular focus on sport. But you can probably tell that just from a glance, thanks to that bright shade of orange.
While the price is decent, the sound fair and the design perfectly good, the Koss Fitbuds BT190i’s wireless signal is patchy in real-life use and the SoundMagic E10BT offer better performance in almost every area for just a little more cash.
Koss Fitbuds BT190i — Design and features
The Koss Fitbuds BT190i are the sort of wireless earphones I can imagine using every time I go to the gym. While they sacrifice battery life for the sake of minimal bullk, they’re secure without using a neckband.
Instead, they have silicone anchors that hook into your ear cartilage, to make sure they don’t fall out of your ears if you start going crazy on the treadmill. They’re the same little hooks found in wired sport earphones, used to stop cable snags killing the music. But unless you’re running through a jungle it’s hard to see how you’d catch the Koss Fitbuds BT190i cable anyway.
Just like custom moulded IEMs, not everyone will like the ear-filling feel of these earphones. But I find them comfortable, and secure enough for vigorous exercise.
If you don’t like the orange version I’m using, Koss also makes a pair that swaps orange for grey, as well black-bodied pairs with grey or green highlights.
The first issue that might turn some of you off altogether is battery life. At around five hours between charges, I don’t find the stamina quite good enough for an everyday pair. As a gym-only pair I’d need to charge once a week, twice max, they’re spot-on.
You recharge the battery using a standard rubber-covered Micro USB port on the Koss Fitbuds BT190i’s 3-button remote.
This is an unusually long bar of plastic, perhaps in order to house the battery, but it also makes using the buttons blind a cinch as they are so well-spaced. The rubber cover is what helps make the Fitbuds BT190i “sweat resistant”, to use Koss’s words, but they aren’t full-on washable.
The Koss Fitbuds BT190i hardware has its charms, but is also behind the main issue. Bluetooth signal integrity is much worse than the SoundMagic E10BT’s. Using a couple of different Android phones, I experienced fairly regular blips and millisecond cut-outs. For best results you’ll want to keep these earphones away from any sources of interference, and performance is likely to vary a bit between phones.
Koss Fitbuds BT190i — Sound quality
The Koss Fitbuds BT190i have dynamic drivers and fairly satisfying if not high-end sound. Starting with the good parts, these earphones have overtly potent ultra-low frequency bass power, which gives kick drums bags of punch without bass so big it seems like expanding foam sprayed all over the bottom-half of the sound.
Soundstage width is good for an affordable earphone too. Some pep and scale makes the Koss Fitbuds BT190i a pretty enjoyable listen. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the integrity of the mids. Rather than being soft filler in-between the treble and bass, which is often what you’ll hear in non-hifi earphones out to make the most impact, there’s some real structure and stature to them. They’re mids with added fibre.
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I can get on-board with the shape of the Koss Fitbuds BT190i sound, but it’s distinctly entry every-level despite its strong points. There’s limited detail compared with the SoundMagic E10BT, and the delivery is a lot less smooth. While calling it crude is perhaps a little strong when I have enjoyed using these earphones, their sonic finish is cruder than that of the SoundMagics or the Skullcandy Method Wireless.
Bed into their sound and they’re a fairly satisfying listen. But compare them directly with a more able set and you hear what you’re missing, largely any sense of fine fidelity. As with the battery life, though, perhaps this doesn’t matter too much if you’re buying them for the gym.