If you think that the earhooks are merely a nod to some bizarre notion of mobile phone chic, think again. They’re there, in fact, to support the weight of the earpieces, which house a rechargeable battery as well as the aforementioned amplification and Bluetooth electronics. And they do it very well: the F1’s are comfortable to wear, with an alternative pair of hooks supplied in the box if the standard ones don’t suit your lugholes perfectly. The earbud design is easy on the ears as well, but compared with the ear canal design of the ety8s, it won’t block out very much extraneous noise.
Other aspects of the design work just as well. The two earpieces are linked by a thin cable that goes around the back of your neck and is short enough to avoid getting snagged in your coat or shirt collar. The phones are charged using the now-standard micro USB connection so you can connect them to any powered USB socket to charge (as long as you have access to the right cable). And the controls – all found on the right earpiece as well – are in places that are easy to find with your fingers. On the top edge are the skip track buttons, on the bottom edge are the volume controls, and a circular, digit-sized button on the side performs pairing and mute functions.
A closer look at the right earpiece also reveals the presence of a microphone, which gives away the fact that you can also use these earphones to answer phone calls – this even works when you’re listening to one device (a wireless MP3 player, for instance) and another paired device (your mobile phone) receives a call. It automatically mutes the sound, goes into mono mode, and a quick tap of a button answers the call.
And then everything goes wrong. It’s a brilliant idea combining a pair of decent stereo earphones with headset functions, but the microphone itself is woeful. I made several phonecalls to various recipients on my TyTN II, plus a couple of other smartphones I had on review. I also linked the F1s to my laptop and made a Skype call, and in every instance those at the other end of the line complained that my voice was distant, thin-sounding and difficult to hear. After having to shout down the line to make myself heard on one call I gave up using the facility. A battery life of just six hours is none too impressive, but considering the small size of the units, it’s hardly surprising.