On Bluetooth headphones and quality management

I’ve previously written about my appreciation for AliExpress and online shopping; that lead me to purchase a pair of Bluetooth headphones.

More specifically, I already had cheap wired headphones, and nice noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones. I wanted cheap bluetooth headphones to wear while walking around town. Not expensive, not noise-canceling, without a need for a long battery life, etc.

I found some on AliExpress and ordered a pair – the XT-11’s.

They arrived, and I started testing them out. Sound quality was fine, battery life was ok (~1 hour), they fit comfortably in my ears, and the controls on the cable worked ok. However, they had one downside – they were really loud, even on the lowest volume setting. Not too too loud, if I was walking on the street and still wanted to hear my music or podcast, but too loud for listening in the house or on a quiet path. 

I also was curious about how long they took to charge, and found that they charged in less than an hour from a USB battery pack. So…. if I had two of them, I could listen to music forever, just rotating charging and listening. Given that they were less than $2, ordering another pair was an inexpensive experiment.

The second pair arrived, and was the same in almost every way. The difference? The second pair was much quieter – the fourth click of the volume setting was the same as the first (lowest) setting on the first pair. Very interesting. Now I had a pair available for using in quiet spaces and the loud outdoor pair. I haven’t opened up the two pairs of headphones, to see if the speaker driver is placed differently, or some other manufacturing quality defect, but I found the wide variance interesting. 

I’ve had these headphones for about six months now, and they’re still working well with use ~3 times/week. If you’re looking for a cheap pair of bluetooth headphones, I could recommend these. There is a cable between the two earbuds, so not quite as convenient as AirPods or similar, but they’ve been reliable. You might consider ordering two pairs at once – just in case one pair is too loud or too soft for your context!