Creative WP-350 Bluetooth headphones
People of a certain age will remember that, at one time, Creative Labs was the only name that mattered when it came to PC sound. Sadly for the company, the PC market has dried up substantially. So it began to focus more on MP3 players and other audio devices. A tricky area, given Apple's indisputable dominance.
And that brings us to the WP-350 headphones. Designed to be paired with phones, MP3 players - including both Apple's and Creative's devices - they offer Bluetooth connectivity and a few other tricks, for about £90.
Comfortable and practical
The 350s are light, which is good, but they also keep a pretty decent grip on your head, which is incredibly important if you don't want to be picking them up off the floor all the time.
There are some buttons located on the right-hand earpiece. These are pretty useful, and with these being Bluetooth headphones, support on phones is pretty universal too. There is a phone icon, which allows you to trigger your handset's voice dialling feature. It also acts as the power button, and pressing it for an extended period when you turn the headphones on puts them in to Bluetooth paring mode.
As you might expect, there's a play/pause control, which comes in handy when you don't want to unlock your phone to pause the music. There are also track forward/back buttons, which worked flawlessly with our Samsung Galaxy Nexus, using the default music player.
Underneath, you'll find a pair of volume controls. These work differently depending on the device you're controlling. On Apple hardware, they generally control the master volume. On other devices, it's a little less clear. But the result is the same: changing volume.
We found that, even when worn for more than an hour, the WP-350s were comfortable. The tight band can make them feel a little bothersome on sensitive ears, but they're nicer to wear than heavier, wired headphones. The soft pad didn't seem to make our ears too hot, something that can be a problem with larger models too.
The headphones are charged via a mini-USB socket, making them compatible with most phone chargers. This is a really smart move, and one that is likely to see people actually using these headsets. We really hope this is a sign that the proprietary charger is dying a death.
Bluetooth and hands-free
In addition to being Bluetooth headphones for music, the 350s also have a small, discrete microphone. This means that you can use them to make and receive calls. Doing so was easy on our Galaxy Nexus. Press the call button, say the name, and the phone calls that person.
That all works really well, and we had no trouble with voice recognition, and the in-call volume was certainly loud enough. However, we found that it was quite a low-quality affair. We used the Skype call-testing service to check - as we do with all such headsets - on the quality, and found it to be some of the worst we'd heard. Even just listening to speech via our phone was subject to far more distortion that we would expect.
None of this is a disaster, the system is certainly usable, but we're getting used to the likes of Plantronics making very high-quality headsets, and it's spoilt us slightly. And as we use Skype a lot, we really like having that extra quality that sadly, these headphone can't offer.
It is worth pointing out that the headphones support the aptX system. This should lead to increased audio quality with devices that support it. The problem is, a lot of us are using older Bluetooth devices that don't. It should help in the future though.
Obviously, the quality of these headphones varies wildly depending on the device you use. We tried them with an iPod Touch, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus and one of Creative's own MP3 players, the ZEN X-Fi3. EQ settings on the Apple and Samsung devices meant we could tweak the sound to our taste.
There's certainly a lot of bass on offer here, should that be your poison. You can also overdo that part of the audio spectrum, giving a booming sensation that's not entirely pleasant. But setting the EQ up sensibly will yield some impressive results, and we quite liked the sound overall. There was some distortion on specific tracks, but it wasn't a problem in most of what we listened too.
When partnered with Creative's own MP3 player, we felt they were a little weedy sounding. The X-Fi doesn't have quite as many EQ options, and that meant we were more or less stuck with some preset controls, none of which really made a huge difference. We could live without the low end, but these headphones also seemed a little too bright. Certainly, the sound on the Creative WP-350 is never flat, the ultimate goal of all decent headphones.
The Creative WP-350 headphones aren't the cheapest we've seen. They're decent enough, but far from the best-sounding earphones we've ever used. They do have plenty of bass, and with Bluetooth the audio quality is never perfect anyway.
But these will certainly appeal to certain musical tastes more than others - electronic music works well, classical will probably not be as pleasant. The added microphone and their ability to work as a hands-free system is very handy though, and it works well enough for phone calls, but dedicated hands-free headsets are generally better when you need higher-quality voice calls.