SmartOmi Boots Mini Wireless Headphones REVIEW
When it comes to our smartphones, they seem to be with us 24/7. Even though the dual speakers of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus are rather good, I still enjoy a good pair of headphones. Historically, I have opted for the around the ear models. I found that the sound was better and you also get some native noise cancellation. Lately, I have resumed using earbuds, for their portability and the in-ear seal. Many of these intra-aural systems are bulky, have an in-line control box that weighs down on the ear or they have a cable that is draped in front or behind your neck. No matter what I do, I inadvertently pull on the string and one or more of the tips becomes dislodged. I have quietly waited for wireless earbuds and the technology is now here.
The SmartOmi Boots come packaged in a rather plain cardboard box with a Stussy like S on the cover. You may remember back in the 80’s/90’s drawing a weird angled S shape, we all seemed to do it, but nobody knows where it came from. Inside the cardboard packaging, you will find dual curved headphones (0.15ounces each), a 3″ diameter black clamshell storage case, a 10 1/2″ USB A to micro-USB cable, charging cradle and an assortment of medium/large ear tips and ear hooks. The accessories will allow you to customize the fit/experience and to enhance the seal with your ear. I really appreciate that there is a red/green internal coloration to the ear tips, which allows you to keep track of the L/R status.
When you remove the product from the packaging, plug the USB-micro end into the charger and then the USB-A end into a USB 3.0 port or into a standard USB A wall outlet. This needs to have 5V maximum output. The SmartOmi Boots do not come with the silicone ear hooks installed. I chose the small tips with the small ear hooks, as these seemed to fit my ears the best. Shaped like commas, the boot headphones have most of the bulk near the base. The base is where you will find the main button, which is responsible for on/off function and for play/pause. Along the side is a small side button, used for power control. There is also a LED indicator on each earbud and a microphone in the center. These are not mirror imaged, and there is no set master/guest device. Additionally, there are no identifying or branding marks on the SmartOmi Boots.
Once you are done with the customary look over, you will need to charge the devices. You will notice along the back that there are 2 small golden colored charging ports. These will slide into the charging hub, which has cutouts for the buttons. To appropriately place the tips into the charging hub, make sure that the ear tips are facing upwards. It will take roughly 2 hours to charge the devices, and you will notice that this time has expired when the red LED on the charging hub turns off. After using these for the past 2 weeks, I have found the reported charging time to be quite accurate. Each SmartOmi Boot contains an 85 mAh, 3.7V LiPo battery, which is not replaceable. The manual states that you can expect to get roughly 300 charges out of the device, which seems to be a bit lacking. Having used the devices for audible book listening and music listening for about 1–2 hours per day, I have charged the device 4 times over the past 2 weeks. With heavy use, you can expect to charge the device daily, as the battery only lasts about 4 hours (less with heavy use with both earbuds).
Once charged, pick the appropriate ear tip, then a wing for your ear. Press and hold the bottom button until the blue and red LED alternate (~4 seconds). If you hold for 2–3 seconds, this will turn on the device (blue LED slowly pulses), but will not enter into pairing mode. On your smart device, navigate to Settings, Bluetooth, then select SmartOmi BOOTS. Once connected, you will notice the LED changes to a blue flashing LED again. Now you can power on the other device and it will connect automatically. You will hear “Power on, Connect me” every time you turn the device on. Hold the button for 2 seconds and you will hear “Power off.” If you lay them aside and forget about them, they will automatically turn off after 5 minutes of disuse. Once you have both devices connected to the same Bluetooth host, you will notice the main device flashes a blue LED and the secondary device will flash green. IT does not matter which order you connect them, they can be used interchangeably.
If you only have a single device connected, you can short press the side button to increase the sound and you can hold the button to change to the next song. If both devices are being used, you can use the master device to increase the volume with a short press and change the track with a long press. You can decrease the volume with a short press of the guest earbud and you can use a long press to resume previous track. I am very pleased that the short press is utilized for volume change and the long press is used for track changes. If you press the main button on the master device, you will pause the music. To resume, press this again.
I was actually impressed with the call features. The microphone is hidden inside of the main button and is better than many I have tested. Even my wife was impressed with this feature. Most of the Bluetooth headphone microphones pick up ambient sounds or resemble a tunnel. Leaving my phone in a different room, remaining within the Bluetooth range, I had a conversation with my wife utilizing the device. She could not tell that I had the earbuds in my ears, she thought I was talking through the phone. She did not believe me when I told her and she actually asked me to come into the room and prove it. It is important to note that during a call, only the master device is functional. You can double press the main button to voice dial and to activate Siri. This was more sensitive than I expected as well. If you hold the main button for 2 seconds you can reject a call. You can answer a call by pressing the button once. To redial the last number, hold both main and side buttons on the master device at the same time. I was really surprised with this feature of the device.
I luckily did not have any pairing issues between the earbuds. The manual details the needed steps to fix any kind of anomaly with the earbuds and the smartphone. It further details pairing issues between the two earbuds. These steps can be reviewed in the manual, and appear to be rather straightforward. The language within the manual is rather choppy/broken but it does serve the purpose. There is an entire 2 pages devoted to Q&A. They list the device as waterproof, and then state “pls don’t wear it when swimming or shower.” The devices have no listed IP rating for dust/water resistance. They are designed to be used when sweating and during light rainy days, but not meant for submersion. The devices can be used independently as single buds, with two devices. In this instance, each bud will act independently.
When it comes to sound feedback, seeding the tip into the ear properly will make a huge difference. To start my tests of the sound, I navigated to the audiocheck website. My favorite test is the stereo perception and sound localization test, found under audio tests. I warn you if you have never listened to this with headphones, be prepared to turn around. If you do not believe me, turn up your sound on a set of earbuds to about 50–75% volume and navigate to “The Real thing” and see what I meant. Using the low-frequency test, there was an annoying buzzing at 10Hz, but the bass was present at 20Hz. This was again incredibly surprising. I found that 50% volume was really all I needed. For the high-frequency range test, I was able to hear at 15 kHz, which is very reasonable for my age group. Most people over the age of eighteen will hear about 16 kHz and this will drop quickly. The limits of hearing are about 20Hz to 20kHz.
Once this testing was completed, I turned to my usual songs. Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” Ce Lo Green “Bright Lights Bigger City,” “Hotel California” by the Eagles, Dark Knight Rises Joker Theme “Why So Serious” from 3–4 minutes and then the opening to Star Wars Episode 3 Attack of the Clones. To test the instrumental sound, I utilized the sound track from Far and Away, Gladiator and Braveheart. To finish my testing I tend to listen to Billy Joel “Piano Man,” “The Longest Time” and I use the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Somebody to Love” by Queen. The sound production by these little boots was rather impressive. In fact, they appear to have digital signal processing (DSP), full duplex echo cancellation, real time noise reduction and voice clarity. If there was any music playing, I was unable to hear the sound of people talking or anything in the background. It is rather amazing how well the sound works.
I was pleased with the bass and the treble lines. The sounds were smooth and full throughout the spectrum of volume. The manual states the range to be 10Hz, but this is below the sound of human hearing. Again, there was an annoying buzzing that was heard at this pitch level. Nearing the end of the battery life, there was some distortion, the sound to video seemed to lose sync. Whether watching youtube videos or amazon prime, there seemed to be some lag when using both devices. This was not present with audio only. It proved to be an issue throughout the testing. Throughout my testing, I would occasionally experience some connection issues and button delay while using the device. I found that when using both devices the batteries lasted only about 3–4 hours. When compared to other devices on the market, this battery life is on par with the competition.
There is one major issue and this issue may be a deal-breaker. When you have both earbuds paired, there is sometimes a momentary lag between the audio and visual information. This may not be that big of a deal to you, but to me, this is a huge function of the earbuds. Whether watching youtube, or amazon prime or even iTunes, this distortion was evident. I actually did not notice the issue as bad using the new iOS TV app (formerly Videos) or while watching iTunes. However, it is still present. The sound of typing on the keyboard does not sync either. The sound had no issue, it was just with some video connections.
The sound production is good and is highly reliant on proper ear fit with the tips. There have been some complaints about the size of the devices and the weird comma shape. Personally, they fit the ear canal well, the wings help to keep them installed into my ears and the sound was good. No matter if I jostled or jumped, moved etc, the SmartOmi boots remained in place. A quick look at the Amazon page shows some reviewers talking about the waterproof feature of the device. The manual clearly states to not use them in the shower, however, multiple people state that they use them in the shower regularly. I have no interest in using these earbuds in the shower. I have a Bluetooth waterproof speaker for that feature. Like any microphone, the earbud will pick up some ambiance. However, these are better than many I have tested and possibly the best sub $100 earbuds I have used. The frequency range is good. I love how quiet the sound can get without having a prominent drop from sound to no sound.
Comfort is good but will depend on how often you have used earbuds. Again, and I cannot make this statement enough times, the fit is the most important aspect of the sound and comfort. If you are looking for a sub $100 pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds, I do not think that you will find a better deal than the SmartOmi buds. The battery life is a limitation of current technology and not a limitation of SmartOmi. The interference and the occasional link issues between the earbuds is another tech issue. The range of the Bluetooth 4.1 is great, and you will likely be able to go into any room of your home (single story) with little to no range issues. If you do get out of the range, the device will pause until you are back in range.
The Apple AirPods are rumored to be one of the best examples of connectivity with an Apple device. However, I do not want to pay $160 for those headphones. I would, however, buy these again as their sound and connectivity work pretty well. If you are interested in music only, these will serve you well. I was displeased with the lag with the video. I am not certain if this lag is due to the device or to Apple connectivity. I would rate the device at 3.5/5 stars.
If interested, you can use the following code 3NPTJUAQ for 15% off when you order directly from SmartOmi.
Originally published at macsources.com on January 31, 2017.