We’re “all ears” for our holiday headphone roundup

 Holiday picks from Beats by Dr. Dre, Mixcder, Jabra & Wicked Audio

With the weather turning cold and the leaves falling, holiday season is right around the corner. While many are thinking about keeping their ears warm, others might be thinking of keeping their ears filled with sounds of their favourite tunes and podcasts. Ears come in all different shapes and sizes and so do earphones, earbuds and headphones, so instead of toques and earmuffs, let’s look at a couple of pairs of over-the-ear headphones and in-the-ear wireless earbuds to meet different budget needs.

Dr. Dre Meets Mickey Mouse

For the audiophile and Disney enthusiast ahead of Disney’s Mickey Mouse’s 90th anniversary, is a set of Special Edition Beats Solo3 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones driven by Apple’s W1 chip. It features a sleek all-grey streamlined body with a Mickey Mouse motif displayed in his classic cartoon pose.

It’s complemented with heavily cushioned pivoting ear cups designed to allow you to customize how they fit to your ear so you can feel comfortable wearing them all day – which you can since the battery life is rated at up to 40 hours. When the battery runs dry, the “Fast Fuel” feature will give you an extra three hours of playback with only a five-minute recharge.

The Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones – Mickey Mouse’s 90th Anniversary Edition offers seamless instant set-up. It has multifunction on-ear controls featuring dual beam-forming mics allowing you to easily take crystal clear calls, control your music and of course, activate Siri. They come with a custom felt case inspired by the touch and feel of Mickey Mouse ears, a 3.5mm RemoteTalk and universal USB charging cable plus a special anniversary collectable pin and decal.

They’re available now on pre-order from theSource.ca, launching November 11th, 2018 from The Source and Apple for $399.99 CAD.


Budget Conscious Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones

If you’re in the market for a full-featured over the ear model perhaps on a tight budget, newer to North America is the Mixcder E7 Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) Bluetooth Headphones with Mic.

It features a built-in 400mAh battery designed to stay powered almost around the clock (20 hours), a little less with ANC enabled with a recharge taking just a couple of hours. It’s equipped with soft synthetic earpads, providing excellent cushioning around the ear and padding in the headband which exerts just the right amount of pressure avoiding the common “head fatigue” which plagues many larger style headphones.


The 40mm driver units offer a good immersive sound experience – respectable bass, decent mids and highs on par with mid-range and some higher end wireless headsets. Sound quality is also above average when the ANC technology is added to the mix as it’s actively analyzing and adjusting to the outside noise. It also has a quality built-in mic for clear voice calls.

While the Mixcder E7’s do not fold in, nor do they have a battery indicator, it’s rare to find a set of full-featured headphones that features both Bluetooth wireless and ANC capabilities and a relatively impressive experience at an entry-level price. You can pick up a pair on Amazon for under $70 CAD. It comes with a one-year warranty with lifetime support, audio & charging cables and a carrying case.


Elite In-Ear Experience

If you’re looking for the ultimate truly portable in-ear experience allowing you the flexibility to customize what you’re hearing and when and adjust the amount of outside noise to let in or block out, then have a listen to the Jabra Elite 65t.

Their finely tuned drivers are only 6mm in size and when partnered with its four-microphone array allows for the best call and voice quality so you can better hear and also be heard.

Much of this is made possible through the Jabra Sound+ App through passive noise cancellation. For example, the ambient noise, i.e. sounds of everyday life can be controlled to allow them in or block them out depending on your surroundings – i.e. at work, out for a walk, or driving in the car. The howling crackling sound of the wind can also be filtered. The beauty here is the ability to pre-define your settings or “Moments,” so you don’t need to set-up each time your environment changes. The app also offers other features like customizing your music profiles.

Battery life is also most impressive. Unlike its early predecessors, this third generation 65t is designed to run for up to 15 hours on a single charge (five hours on the earbuds and up to 15 hours from the charging cradle.) A quick 15-minute charge gives you 90 minutes more play.

The Elite 65t also supports Bluetooth 5.0 so if you have a newer smartphone like the Apple iPhone 8 or Samsung Galaxy S8, like the Beats Solo3, you’ll have better Bluetooth range and lower power consumption.

For added convenience the Elite 65t switches on automatically when removed from the charging case and auto-pauses when either earbud is removed from your ear.

Jabra Elite 65t retails in Canada for $219.99 and is available from Jabra, Amazon, and Best Buy. It comes in three colours, has a two-year damage warranty against dust and water and compatible with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.


Truly Wireless, Truly Affordable and Wicked

If you’re dead set on truly wireless Bluetooth earbuds but think it carries a hefty price tag then have a look at the Wicked Audio Arq. It features an oval shaped sweat resistant exterior with a soft rubberized finish making this great for travel and is designed to withstand active lifestyles.

Arq has a built-in mic to make and take calls and hands-free features like pause/play and answer/hang up without the need to reach for your phone.

The 10mm drivers offers high fidelity sound that’s deep in the bass, nice in the mid-range but perhaps a little light on the highs.

The Arq do sit comfortably in your ear although you may have to experiment a bit with the three different cushion sizes at first due to its shape. And when properly placed they do offer good noise isolation for better sound quality.

Battery life is rated at three hours. You can also get another 20 charges or 60 hours by storing them in their own carry case. The case is a bit oversized due partly to the integrated 2600mAH battery that doubles as a power bank so you can charge other devices like your smartphone.

An interesting design feature is that both earbuds programmed as a “Master.” It’s advertised as a better connectivity feature but actually allows each earbud to be used independently.  Another feature you might appreciate is Wicked’s “Triple Battery Protection.” Found in all their wireless products, it’s an integrated circuit on the battery itself that prevents the risk of charging malfunction.

Wicked Audio Arq, comes with three cushion sizes, powerbank charging case, USB charging cable and a one-year warranty. It retails for under $100 and available from Amazon and Walmart.

Troy Media columnist Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca.






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