Wireless headphones are a rapidly emerging market, thanks to the continually growing proportion of the population that own Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and tablets. On-ear wireless headphones, in particular, are picking up. We've reviewed several of these style of headphones, and found performance and price to vary wildly. You can spend $30 on a bargain-bin set of wireless headphones, or upwards of $400-500 for some of the name brand audiophile products out there. And at those extremes, it's a little easier to weed out the "real deal" from the junk. But in the middle of the road, around the $80-150 mark, things get a little less clear.
SuperTooth, a company whose products we've reviewed in the past (and liked), is taking its first shot at such a headphone. At $99, the SuperTooth Melodies sit at the entry-level of the premium segment of the market. Not absurdly pricey, but certainly not an investment you're going to make on a whim. Unfortunately, I just don't think there's a $100 worth of sound here; though, don't count out the Melodies just quite yet.
- What are they? Wireless on-ear Bluetooth headphones.
- How much? $99 MSRP.
- What's so special about them? Well, not much if I'm being honest. They're wireless headphones.
- What's in the box? The headphones, a travel pouch, and the proprietary USB charging cable.
- Do I want them? Eh, not for $100. At $60 or $70 (a price they may very well reach), I'd say the Melodies were closer to being fairly priced, but there just isn't $100 of headphone here.
- Key Specs
- Bluetooth 2.1 A2DP (no apt-X)
- 7.5 hours claimed listening time
- Microphone and on-ear control buttons
- Weird USB to mini-plug charging cable
- They're really small (though they should fit most people - my egghead manages)
- Portability: They are really portable. Just look at the photo of them fully collapsed in my hand (folding would have been nice).
- Build Quality: These are like 99.5% plastic, but they do feel very solid and well put together. The headband is a bit flimsy, but they just don't feel like they're going to break easily, in general. Not premium, but not cheap (except for the headband cushion, see next section). When adjusting the headband size, they click in a satisfying, mechanical way.
- Comfort: They're very comfortable. The fact that they only weigh a little over 10 ounces probably helps, and the ear cup cushions do their job well.
- Connectivity: Simply hold the power button down to pair, and you're good to go.
- Controls: I like having the volume controls on the underside of the right ear cup, it makes them a lot harder to confuse with the track / call controls, and they have a very satisfying clicky action. The microphone works, but it's on an ear cup, so you can guess about how well it works.
- Sound: They don't sound terrible. In fact, they sound quite decent. A lot better than the sort of Bluetooth cans you can get in the sub-$40 range, definitely. But not like something that costs $100, unfortunately.
The Not So Good
- Sound: The Melodies sound OK. Here's the thing, it's not like wearing them upsets me or something. It's that I feel like I'm listening to a $40 set of on-ear Skullcandy headphones I bought at Target. I've heard (much) worse, but I've also heard a lot better. The bass is probably the highest point of the aural experience here - decent depth, and no muddling of sound or "buzzing." But as for clarity and fidelity, they're mediocre at best. Songs sound emptier, and less dynamic (more "dull") than they would on a good headphone. The maximum volume on the Melodies is pretty conservative, too - probably to prevent people from cranking them to the point of distortion / ear damage. I just wasn't impressed or wowed by any aspect of the sound of the Melodies. Take another point off for not supporting the increasingly-common apt-X Bluetooth audio standard, which would increase the quality of sound.
- Value: This is the thing I really don't like about most on-ear Bluetooth headphones. They never come close to sounding as good as a wired on-ear headphone in a similar price bracket. For $100, you can get a set of wired Grados (no controls) that will make sweet, sweet musical love to your ears every time you put them on. And if you really care about sound, that is extremely hard to ignore. Going wireless is great for working out or walking around, but the markup for this convenience is often absurd. Another option exists, too, if you want a pair of smart headphones with controls and a mic, but don't mind a wire.
- Build Quality: The volume controls I like so much? Yeah, they rattle when your head is bouncing around or otherwise in continuous motion. If you're listening to loud music, you probably won't notice, but if you aren't, you will. And it may drive you to clinical insanity. Also, the headband cushioning material feels incredibly cheap.
- Controls: Half the time I press the "Play / Pause" button on the right ear cup, it doesn't register - unless I press down hard. Annoying.
- Charging Cable: How hard is it to use microUSB, really? You're using a USB cable in the first place, which means 0.5A of charging power, which mUSB can easily handle. Proprietary chargers annoy everyone.
For $100, I can't recommend the SuperTooth Melodies. At $60, maybe even $70, I'd be less hesitant. Given how much below MSRP the company's Disco Bluetooth speaker goes for, I wouldn't be surprised to see such a drop in a couple of months.
It's not that they're bad, it's that they're clearly overpriced for what they are. If you want to ditch the wire on your on-ear headphones, you've got plenty of options out there, and some of them are even pretty good. But if you're asking me, now just isn't the time to buy a product like this. With high-fidelity apt-X support slowly becoming more common, and the competition in this market heating up by the month, you're better off waiting and seeing who comes out on top, and I doubt if it's going to be the Melodies.