As the rise of music and mobile gaming has taken place, it's no coincidence why a majority of commuters can be seen sporting a set of branded or generic earbuds. As the lowest barrier to entry, the cheap minimalist earphones are easily the most popular. But when sound quality rises, so does the price; and for some, the cost attached to over-ear headphones - even for music lovers - is too steep to seriously consider.
It's with that in mind that 808 Audio's Duo Wired + Wireless Headphones have clearly been crafted, with a look and feel resembling their studio-quality products. But at under $100, does the Duo offer a serious contender for those in the market, or do they end up sacrificing quality for cost?
A lower price tag doesn't always mean a commitment to practicality, but the Duo's collapsible structure offers a strong hint that the overall design if a sound one. Making the headphones far easier to pack or store (inside an accompanying carrying case), the hinged design doesn't sacrifice their sleek, matte black look. In addition the headband and extensions promise to fit virtually any sized head (or over hats).
As the name implies, the Duo can be used with a wire - either a flat wire with an attached microphone, or a braided 'DJ-style' cable - or wireless over Bluetooth. Thankfully, the Bluetooth pairing is exceedingly easy, and the rechargeable batteries last close to 12 hours on less than a two-hour charge.
The design isn't without some snags - and no, we're not speaking of the onboard microphone which, despite our concerns, functioned quite well. The headphones come with three buttons embedded into the left earpiece (playback, volume, call answering). Unfortunately, the button depth and placement made always made it difficult to know exactly where each button could be found without feeling for all three. It's a small gripe, but when the rest of the design is without issue, it seemed out of place.
Given the Duo's overall comfort, that flaw won't bother many. With soft earcups and padded headband, the headset could be worn for hours without any real fatigue, with or without glasses. As for the sound quality, well, it is in that regard that the sub-$100 price tag was most surprising. Regardless of the genre of music, the Duo delivered a sound that was surprisingly polished from low to high frequencies.
Whether orchestral music or more modern, and ranging from music to movies, the Duo exhibits a genuinely surprising depth and range of sound. It lacks the throbbing bass that many fans may see as a deal-breaker, but it's better to dial back instead of overcompensating with force. Given the price, the sound most certainly did not disappoint.
All things considered, the 808 Duo is a well-priced headset given its design and function, implying a higher price tag but only saving costs through the actual sound quality itself (which should be acceptable for all but the most discriminating audiophiles). And with an ease-of-use that will appeal to virtually any mobile device, laptop, or smartphone user, there's no real barrier to entry beyond the initial purchase.
If a well-built set of wireless headphones on a budget is the task, then 808 Audio has succeeded in offering a strong contender. Some minor design issues aside, comfort, cost, and clarity all make it a sound purchase.
The 808 Duo Wired + Wireless Headphones are available through retailers at a price of USD $99.99. For more details, head to 808's official website.
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