Not that Bluetooth earphones and headphones weren’t already growing more and more popular, but Apple’s removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack has all but ensured that this is the direction mobile audio has headed. Do you have a favorite set of Bluetooth earphones or headphones yet? I’m still trying to decide. Lately, I’ve been using ROAM ROPES.
ROAM, a company founded by Steven Lamar, may seem new to you, but Steven has a history in the audio world. As the president of SLS, he “brought SLS from the pink sheets to the American Stock Exchange, launched SLS’ first consumer product in partnership with Quincy Jones and secured product placement agreements for SLS products with Mark Burnett Productions.” Steven was also the “founder of Jibe Audio, LLC, which was responsible for the concept and design of the Beats by Dr. Dre headphone product line,” a claim that Beats has contested (but then, they have a history of contesting any early contributions made to the company outside of Dr. Dre’s and Jimmy Iovine’s, don’t they?). You can read more on ROAM’s back story and their founder’s personal reasons for keeping cellphones away from people’s heads by clicking here.
ROAM ROPES are a premium wireless headphone product that offers excellent sound — as long as you don’t mind wearing the set as a type of necklace with an “EQ engine” pendant (which also holds the rechargeable battery) hanging from the middle.
Their design might seem to make them a bit more “involved” than some wireless headphones, but it also means that they are easier to wear throughout the day — being that they are easily accessible for putting on when you want to listen to music, or they can be comfortably left off (yet still easily accessible) as they hang around your neck when you aren’t wearing them.
Included in the package are a carry case, a short microUSB charging cable, a microUSB to 35mm jack cable (for when you don’t want to use Bluetooth on your headphone jack enabled device or if your battery dies), a selection of ear hooks and tips, a quick-start guide, and a ROAM sticker.
ROAM ROPES look like a pendant necklace with earbuds coming off each side, and in a way, that is how you should approach using them. Wear them around your neck with the EQ Engine “pendant” hanging down. Leave them on. Forget about them. Put them on when you want to wear them, and remove the earpieces when you need to pay attention to something else. They are comfortable, and you’ll quickly get used to wearing the extra ‘necklace’. You can wear the EQ Engine pendant under or over your shirt; you can adjust how low or high it hangs on your torso by pulling on each side of the earphone cables. Speaking of cables, these are flat and tangle-free; very nice.
Why the pendant design?
The pendant (we call it the EQ Engine) is where all the magic happens. It houses an amplifier, audio equalizer, Bluetooth and battery that sends the amplified audio signal to the ultra high end, dynamic, balanced armature earphone drivers. The combination of the amplifier, EQ processing and earphone drivers is what reproduces the exceptional audio you hear through ROPES earphones. It’s also the communication interface for the companion ROAM EQ audio personalization app.
For you techies, the pendant houses a powerful 28-bit, 50-MIPS processor and ultra-low noise, high-performance 24-bit stereo DAC. The amplified signal-to-noise ratio is an exceptional 98dB. Sensitivity is incredible at 105dB @ 1k. Audio distortion is non-existent.
There are several color schemes available; I was sent the red, white, and blue ROPES USA version, which “were created to inspire patriotism and to honor our defenders, veterans, first responders and their families who willingly sacrifice each day to provide freedom and security that we enjoy as a nation.” You can also get ROPES in black, white, or in a special Stand Up to Cancer orange edition.
Through December 31, 2016 ROAM® will donate $100 to Stand Up To Cancer® for each pair of Special Edition Orange ROPES® earphones sold.
Before you get started, you’ll need to charge the headphones via the microUSB port at the bottom of the EQ Engine. An LED next to the power button will glow red as it charges, and then it will turn orange once charging is complete. ROAM says that 15 minutes of charging equals one hour of playback, so you should be fully charged within an hour or two that first time.
The battery will last 6 hours on full tilt. It will last 7-8 with intermittent use throughout the day.
However, there is a “Sleep Mode” setting in the ROAM EQ app that enables you to put the device to sleep when you’re not using it. You can choose for it to sleep after 2, 5, 10, 20 and 30 minutes. The lower the sleep level you choose (for example 2 minutes), the longer the battery will last. At 2 minutes, we’ve gotten 24+ hours of battery life. With sleep mode enabled, you will notice a 3 second delay when re-starting a song or taking a phone call.
You turn on the ROAM ROPES by pressing and holding the power button for three seconds. An LED will flash next to the Bluetooth button, and a series of tones will sound in your ear letting you know the headphones are powered up.
The first time you power on the ROAM ROPES the Bluetooth will automatically search for a device to pair to; if you need to connect them to another device in the future, you can do it by pressing and holding the Bluetooth button for three seconds.
The right earphone’s cable has a built-in play/pause, forward and back button.
The ear pieces are comfortable; the ones that came installed actually fit my ears perfectly, and that never seems to be the case. While the ROAM ROPES don’t have noise cancellation, they do offer excellent noise isolation; most background sound will be blocked while wearing them. If you are going to be more active while wearing the ROPES, then you might want to try one of the earhook styles, but for casual use, the buds are probably perfect.
I should mention that the ROAM ROPES are sweat-resistant, but they are not water-proof. ROAM says, “Honestly, they were not designed for working out, more for all day, every day, casual use when listening to music or talking on the phone.” Good to know.
The flat cables worn around your neck are surprisingly comfortable …
… but I suspect that people will either love or hate the hanging pendant. Give it a chance, though, I think the sound it produces is worth it.
The hardware is only part of the story here, though; ROAM ROPES use the ROAM EQ app to control their built-in equalizer.
Once you’ve downloaded it and paired the headphones to your phone, you’ll need to connect them in the app.
From that moment on, you’ll have an impressive amount of control over what you hear. You can adjust the sound yourself to create personalized presets …
Or you can use any of their already created presets.
You can adjust the headphones’ volume from within the app or hit mute; granted, these are things you can do from your phone, too.
You can also adjust settings such as gain, balance, and the LED brightness of the headset.
You can further personalize your headphones by changing the name of your headset, setting a sleep mode timer, or you can use the app to find easy troubleshooting answers, get device information, and reset to factory settings.
One thing that I can say about these earphones is that they sound amazing, absolutely amazing. The equalizer is far to superior to the one included in the the iPhone’s Music Settings, and the result is music the exact way you want to hear it. The music heard through ROPES is almost 3D; listen to Metric’s “Help I’m Alive”, Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, or “On the Run” to see exactly what I mean.
Bass is absolutely superb; it’s strong (if you want it to be), and it never bottoms out or booms uncontrollably; Jay Z’s “Can I get A …” is so incredibly crisp and clear, yet it thumps. Vocals and highs are pristine, and mid-range isn’t muddy at all; Joywave’s “Destruction” sounds like it’s going to explode in your ears, and you can hear every single layer in Yello’s “Pumping Velvet”. Manchester Orchestra’s “Simple Math” sounds incredibly lush, and Muse’s “Sunburn” is so sharp! Everything sounds fantastic.
I have to say that these headphones more than impressed me; they sound great whether playing rap, pop, alternative, or classical. I love that even when you’ve got an EQ setting that you think sounds good enough, you can further tweak it for personalized bass, warmth, body, clarity, and balance.
There is no cable “rustling” sound that you get with wired earphones; I had no issues when using the phone while wearing them, my voice (on the other end) and the person’s I was speaking to were equally clear.
ROAM ROPES are not inexpensive, but I think this is one of those times when the price is justified by the product. ROPES sound extremely good, they are powerful, they are comfortable, and they deliver what’s promised; they allow you to “listen to your music the way YOU want to hear it.”
ROAM ROPES Wireless Earphones retail for $199, and they are available directly from the manufacturer.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Comfortable to wear for long periods; They hang around your neck when not in use; Tangle-free design; Excellent sound — no matter what type of music you listen to
What Needs Improvement: Some users might object to the pendant style of the EQ Engine