Review: Onkyo Trainer (ES-BT1) Bluetooth Headphones

Wireless headphones are nothing new and with nearly everybody using a Bluetooth enabled Smartphone or music player these days the market for Bluetooth headphones is ever growing. Whether you are looking for headphones on a budget or some audiophile quality, there is a pair of Bluetooth headphones at every price point in between. At CES this year, Onkyo (a Gibson brand) released a pair of wireless headphones aimed at the fitness market. Read on to see if the Onkyo Trainer is the perfect pair of headphones to help you keep those fitness resolutions for the New Year.

Features:

The Trainer was designed with the athlete in mind. These over-the-ear headphones are very lightweight at 120g(4.2oz) yet still manage to stay in place during physical activity such as jogging. The ear pads are well padded with a breathable fabric that wicks away sweat and moisture so you can use these for hours without them becoming uncomfortable.

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These headphones feature Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR which means they are compatible with a wide range of smartphones and Bluetooth-compatible music players. One thing to keep in mind is that these are strictly Bluetooth headphones and have no way to hard wire them. On the outside of the right ear pad are several buttons to control volume, play/pause, and track selection. The Trainer also has a built-in mic so these buttons double as call accept/reject/end if you get a phone call while using the headphones.

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The battery life is about 8 hours of music listening or phone calls and when the battery dies, charge time is approximately 2.5 hours. Charging is done through a micro USB port and a micro USB charging cable is included.

Build Quality/ Comfort:

I have only been using the Trainer for the last two weeks since CES so I cannot comment on long-term durability but in the short time I have used them, I haven’t noticed anything that would concern me about long-term durability. The headphones have a solid feel to them despite being very lightweight. The headband is made of plastic that is coated in a colored soft-touch rubber on the inside and a matte black soft-touch finish on the outside face. The headband is adjustable at both ear pads to fit a variety of different sized heads and is very flexible to allow for movement when exercising yet provides enough pressure to keep the ear pads snugly in place.

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The ear pads on the Trainer sit on top of the ear but have adequate padding so they feel comfortable even during extended use. The fabric that covers the ear pads is a moisture wicking material that supposedly keeps your ears dry even when sweating while you workout.  Being that it is currently below freezing here in Boston, I have not been doing much sweating to verify this.

Audio Quality:

One issue I typically have with Bluetooth headphones I’ve tried in the past is a lack of bass. To test this I decided to play “Timber” by Pitbull which seemed fitting since it was played at almost every audio-related demonstration we had at CES 2014. The combination of Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and the 40mm drivers gives these headphones a punch that I was not expecting but was pleasantly surprised to hear. The mid and high tones were also crisp and clear at low to moderate volumes but started to sound slightly distorted at higher volumes, as is the case with the majority of headphones.

Since these headphones are over-the-ear style they do not isolate outside noise like a good pair of on-the-ear or noise-cancelling headphones would. Normally this might not be an attractive feature but for the target market of people running and working out this feature becomes invaluable to keep the listener aware of their surroundings. I personally use these headphones mostly in the office at work and the lack of noise-isolation lets me hear when my co-workers are calling for me across the office.

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The lack of noise isolation also means that the music you are listening to can be heard by people surrounding you especially at higher volumes. Keep this in mind when your give in to your guilty pleasure and decide to blast some Kelly Clarkson, because the guy next to you can hear it and is probably going to judge you.

Also included on the Trainer is a small microphone next to the micro USB charging port. This microphone allows the headphones to function as a Bluetooth headset to take calls. I used this feature briefly but call quality was clear and the person on the other end of the call was able to hear me just fine. I would not buy the Trainer for the sole purpose of making and receiving calls but it is a nice feature to have for the occasional use.

SUMMARY:

Overall I am very impressed with these headphones. Although these are targeted more for athletes, I found them to work well for my use in an office environment as well. If you are looking for a pair of noise canceling headphones or something that is audiophile-quality then you should pass on these, otherwise I think the Onkyo Trainer (ES-BT1) is a great buy at a retail price of $99.