Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Wireless works well, flexible design makes for easy transport
- Sound quality disappointing
The Samsung SBH170s are a decent but not outstanding pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. They suffer the same audio quality issues as most other wireless headphones we've tested, however if you're after a wireless and portable solution they should satisfy your needs.
Price$ 179.00 (AUD)
Samsung's SBH170 is a wireless Bluetooth headset designed to operate primarily with mobile phones that can broadcast Bluetooth stereo signals using the A2DP profile. While the growing number of products in this category is promising for those of us who prefer unwired freedom, the fact remains the majority of them could use a lot of work when it comes to sound quality and this model is no exception.
Wireless headphones almost universally sound inferior to their wired compatriots. We have yet to hear a pair of them, Bluetooth or otherwise, that we'd elect to use over a regular pair of Hi-Fi headphones. The SBH170s don't do a terrible job, but their sound quality is still slightly below average.
The biggest issue we have with the audio was how booming it is. Every element of the music is overblown and lacking control. This is most noticeable in the bass, which is extremely bloated with almost no definition. The mid range is the same, exhibiting some noticeable distortion and a lack of clarity. If everything was a little tighter we could have been satisfied with how bombastic it sounds, but as it stands the overall tone is too muddy for our tastes.
The bass is the strongest element, with a lot of extension and slow decay. It is far too prominent, overshadowing the other elements of the music and it made several of our test tracks sound rather inaccurate. Meanwhile the mid-range is quite laid back, with a gritty tone that is a little harsh. We found the vocals to be extremely prominent, pushed forward from the rest of the range, but aside from that the separation is quite poor, with minimal distinction between individual instruments and notes. The highs are decent, but not outstanding. They are a little flat and lack sparkle, but their slightly recessed sound combined with the overpowering lower register notes mean they are the best, if weakest sounding part of the music. The soundstage is fairly flat with a fairly two dimensional presentation, however this isn't unexpected from a pair of wireless headphones in this price bracket.
One noteworthy element of these headphones is their design. The two ear-cups are connected via a flexible rubber strap, which gives them the ability to change shape and angle easily. While this is a good idea for the majority of people, as it will help achieve a better fit than many over-the-ear models, it doesn't have the ability to extend at all, meaning those with larger heads may find them too small or rather tight. For the rest of you, the design is relatively comfortable, although the headphones do have a tendency to move around too much which can be disruptive.
The other cool element of the construction is that the SBH170s are easy to fold up and take on the road with you, thanks to the provided carry case. Most over-the-ear models have the downside of being bulky and difficult to transport when you aren't wearing them, so this is a big bonus for those who want portability but aren't fans of earbuds or IEMs.
The SBH170s also come with a few controls for music playback. These run along the top of the left-hand cup and are comprised of volume, track skip and play/pause. While their functionality can save you pulling your digital media player form your pocket, we found their close proximity to one another a little irritating. Once you learn which control is which it isn't so bad, but every so often we did find ourselves doing the wrong thing accidentally.
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