BlueAnt Embrace headphones
Choosing a set of headphones, especially expensive ones, is pretty hard. There are so many different pairs, styles and performance levels that we could, in theory, run a site just reviewing headphones and never run out.
But most headphones aren't worthy of such attention, so these BlueAnt Embrace cans must offer something that makes them worthy of your consideration, right? The most obvious thing most people will notice is that BlueAnt isn't exactly a big name in headphones. If you've heard of the company, it will more likely be for its in-car Bluetooth accessories.
There's no point having a colour in your company name, if you don't use it in your products somewhere. And bright, bold colours are all the rage at the moment - look at that Beats Audio trademark red for one. Depending on how you feel about blue, will depend very much on how pleased or disappointed you are that the only sign of blue here, is on the cable that connects your MP3 player to the headphones.
And only one of the cables provided, at that. But the fact that BlueAnt provides two cables is a very good thing. The blue one is for iPod, iPhone and iPad users. It has an in-line remote control that allows you access to Apple's standard controls. The black cable is just a straight-through affair, with no fancy controls.
A standard 3.5mm jack socket is provided on the headphones for these cables, so if they break, replacing them is as simple as just buying a replacement, or finding a cable that you already have knocking around somewhere.
But BlueAnt also provides an adaptor with its cans, which it says will allow the microphone and controls to be used on more devices than just an iPod. That's pretty considerate of it, and we're always pleased to see companies thinking about more than just the half-eaten-fruit brand.
The headphones are made solidly. The headband is a solid, sturdy feeling metal and both it, and the earpads are wrapped in a leather-effect material. Blue-ant also uses a memory foam for its earpads, which it claims improves sound by blocking out external noise. They are comfortable to wear though, which is very important.
The earpads also rotate to allow the headphones to be stored flat. A carry case is included for this purpose too, so if you travel a lot, you'll find that they can take up a modest enough amount of space. Although, obviously, never as compact as in-ear style headphones.
Wearing the BlueAnt Embrace is a pleasure. Well, it is in as much as any headphones are. The ear pads cover your ear, but don't surround them, for us, this meant our ears stayed cool, and we liked that. They get the sound to your ear-drum with gusto too, so there's no disadvantage to the design.
The memory foam is incredibly comfortable too, giving our ears a nice time of things. The adjustable head-band makes it nice and easy to get the headphones positioned well, and although the metal band makes these headphones quite heavy, they aren't too weighty to wear for long periods, and they don't drop off when you tilt your head.
But, we can talk about design and comfort but the main event is the sound quality. And here, the BlueAnt really does very well indeed. The company boasts that the sound is flat, and untuned, leaving you able to apply EQ via your MP3 player. This will suit iPhone and iPod users, because those devices give decent control over equaliser settings. The same, sadly, can't be said of every music device.
We did find that they did a very good job with our Motorola Razr, which does some EQ, upon request, but also has a flat mode too. Even so, we felt these headphones did add a little more low end, especially when compared to a set of headphones like the Phonak Audeo PFE 232 we reviewed recently.
So, a word of caution, if you're looking for vivid bass to the point of excluding anything else, then you might find that these headphones aren't for you. They are certainly capable of producing some amazing low-end sounds, but you'll probably need to help them along with some EQ.
We've very much come to like the BlueAnt Embrace in the time we've spent with them. The sound is very clean, they're an ideal partner for the iPod and music has a depth and quality that should suit even those with picky ears.
They aren't cheap though, and we do wonder who will pick these over, say, a set of Beats, with all the branding and street-cred that those cans carry. One thing is for sure, audiophiles will be a lot less disappointed with the sound from these BlueAnt headphones than from the bass-heavy Beats.
£170 is always a tough decision, but we can't see anyone who does buy these headphones being disappointed with them. They certainly produce a quality of sound that equals that of cans that cost a lot more. Plus, they should last a long time, with their modular earpieces and cables, and that's what you'd want in expensive headphones.