photos by Kevin
In recent years we have seen a proliferation of on-ear and over-the-ear headphones priced in the $200-$300 range. There are, of course, the Beats by Dr Dre. They are joined by the likes of the Denon AH-D 1100 headphones (reviewed here), the Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones (reviewed here), the V-Moda Crossfades (reviewed here) and many more. Is there room for yet another pair of headphones in the mix, let alone from a company that is known for its Bluetooth devices rather than wired-audio?
That’s the question faced by BlueAnt with the release of their EMBRACE wired on-ear headphones. How do they hold up in an already crowded market? Read on to find out.
The BlueAnt EMBRACE headphones are a sophisticated and stylish pair of over the ear headphones, with highly optimized drivers that let you hear your music the way it was meant to be heard.
The EMBRACE comes supplied with an integrated in-line remote control and microphone that lets you make and receive calls, adjust the volume and change tracks on your smartphone without taking it out of your pocket.
With the EMBRACE Stereo Headphones you can listen to your media and content, take and make calls, switch tracks and change volume all without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.
The integrated in-line remote control and microphone is Made for iPod, iPhone and iPad, and the EMBRACE is also supplied with an OMTP adapter, which expands support for the microphone and remote to a wide range of other devices that support this standard.
The Perfect Companion: With today’s busy digital lifestyle and our hyper connected day-to-day lives, we need headphones that work seamlessly across platforms and devices.
Music The Way It Was Meant To Be Heard: True-To-Life Sound: Due to the flat frequency response of our highly optimised drivers, the BlueAnt EMBRACE enhances your mobile entertainment experience by offering the absolute best sound that is not artificially manipulated. The headphones provide a listening experience that is true-to-life and enables users to adjust EQ settings to match their personal preferences.
Absolute Best Sound: The EMBRACE offers the absolute best sound to enhance your mobile entertainment experience. The sealed-leather pads keep noise out and ensure that you hear all the audio detail and range faithfully reproduced.
Inventive and Smart: The ultimate in music enjoyment with highly optimized and refined drivers keeping music sounding rich, pure and incredibly detailed.
“Music The Way It Was Meant To Be Heard”: Boasting 40mm custom tuned high performance drivers to deliver the fullest range of sound that is sure to enhance your mobile entertainment communication experience.
Precision Design: The EMBRACE has the best fit and is styled for comfort with conforming ear pads that hug your ears to filter out the unwanted background noise so you can focus on what you want to hear.
The first thing you notice when you open the box is the high quality carry case BlueAnt includes with the Embrace headphones. It is nicely made, has a strong clasp to keep it closed, and it sports an interior compartment that fits the headphones perfectly.
It isn’t too loose. It isn’t too tight. Yes, Goldie Locks would love its “just right” fit.
Highly optimized drivers for pure and detailed sound.
Minimum compression and distortion: the ultimate flat frequency response.
Noise isolating design.
Maximum comfort for extended listening.
Premium leather and metal materials for a truly refined look.
Made for iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Cable with integrated Remote Control and Microphone.
Additional standard “straight-through” audio cable included.
Flat folding design for convenient storage.
Stylish carry case included.
1 year replacement warranty.
What’s In The Package:
Cable with remote and mic
Straight-through audio cable
The left and right ear pieces each fold 90 degrees. This lets the headphones sit flat and slip into the carry case with ease. If you are wondering whether this hinge will be a weak point on the headphones wonder not. The Embrace headphones are solidly made out of quality materials. I expect will hold up quite well over time.
When the ear pieces are rotated into place they make a solid “U” from one earpiece to the other with little or no flex at the joint but enough flex in the middle band to make them quite comfortable. Each earpiece can also be extended a bit for added comfort. I usually find myself extending the earpiece a bit so the “U” is longer and then, once the headphones are on, retracting them a bit so they grip my head a bit tighter.
The ear pieces are covered with perforated leather that offers plenty of padding. The combination of soft leather and lots of padding not only results in a high degree of comfort but has the additional benefit of providing passive noise reduction.
The BlueAnt Embrace headphones do not have a permanent cable attached to them. Instead, BlueAnt followed an approach seen in other high-quality headphones that allow you to use different cables depending upon your needs at the time. (It also means you can choose cables of different lengths.) As a result, instead of a fixed cable you will find a 3.5 mm jack on one of the earpieces. The company provides two different cables that connect to it although you can use any standard 3.5mm cable.
The provided black cable is for listening to audio only. By contrast, the blue cable has an in-line microphone that includes music controls as well. (I expect this is the cord I’ll use the vast majority of the time since I like the flexibility it provides.)
On both cables the end that plugs into the audio source is a right angle plug. I had never really thought about the difference between a straight jack and a right angle plug but having looked more closely at the differences between the two while reviewing these headphones it has become clear to me that, so long as the device design permits it, the right angle offers a cleaner “profile” when plugged in.
The in-line control has a play/pause/call button in the center and a volume up and down on either side.
The opening for the microphone is on the other side.
Very often the in-line microphone/controllers on headphones can be rather flimsy. I’ve had many simply separate at the point where the two halves come together after wrapping around the cable. That’s not happening here. No, this mic/control feels substantial and has a solid, soft-touch construction that I don’t see coming apart any time soon.
All of this is good and well but when it comes to a pair of headphones there are really just 2 things that matter: comfort and sound.
Are they comfortable?
As previously mentioned, the combination of high quality materials, leather earpieces and abundant padding create a pair of headphones that are incredibly comfortable. I have worn them for an extended period multiple times and have felt little or no “ear fatigue”. I’ve even fallen asleep while wearing them– and that doesn’t happen if headphones aren’t super comfortable.
Do they sound good?
I’m pleased to say that these things sound awesome. I absolutely love listening to them and find the sound to be full and rich. There is another quality to the sound that I have been trying to put into words but have yet to find the best way. The closest I can come to explaining it is that they put out a “relaxing sound” that doesn’t tire you out by pounding on your eardrums.
Such judgments are rather subjective however and I would be remiss to not mention that Elana described the sound as ‘good but a bit muddy”. (Then again she isn’t a fan of headphones in the least.)
So overall, how did BlueAnt do with their first foray into non-Bluetooth audio? I give them high marks. The Embrace headphones are high quality, well constructed, quite comfortable and sound great. As an overall package they are a great addition to the lineup of available on-ear and over-the-ear headphones. And at a price of $199.99 they are in the right pricing ballpark too!
You can find details and order your own here on the BlueAnt web site.
What I Like: High quality; comfortable; sound great; good quality carry case; detachable cable with two cables included
What Needs Improvement: Priced at $199.99 they are competitive but don’t have the “name recognition” of the likes of a “Beats by Dr. Dre”, if the price were 25% lower I think they would fly off the shelves. At this price they will have an uphill battle. That noted, I like these more than the beats I’ve tried.