I love the fact that thanks to Gear Diary, I’m able to check out products from companies with whom I’m not familiar. AUSOUNDS is one such company; they sent a pair of their $199.95 AU-Flex ANC WIRELESS Neckband Earphones for me to try. I’m so impressed that I’m seriously considering purchasing their true wireless earphones.
The AU-Flex ANC are neckband-style earphones. That means, of course, there is a neckband that houses the battery, the electronics, and the controls, and then thin wires leading from the neckband to the earphones themselves.
People tend to either love or hate this design, which, to some degree, has lost popularity at a time when true wireless earphones are all the rage. I recognize that but still think there is space for this style, thanks to the long battery life, comfort, and additional features that can be packed into them. In the case of the AU-Flex, the neckband allows them to get 22 hours of playback per charge, include Bluetooth 5.0, offer an IPX5 rating, and include active noise cancelation. They even packed the tech that makes hi-res wireless audio with a transfer rate of 990bps possible.
The company describes their new offering as, “The Future of Mobile High-Fidelity” and goes on to explain,
The AU-Flex ANC is the first of Ausounds’ High-Fidelity earphones. Delivering the performance of a wired in-ear, the soundstage of a thousand-dollar over-ear, and designed with sustainable metals and lightweight aluminum, the AU-Flex is a herald of mobile hi-res future. Engineered with a unique Hybrid Planar Magnetic driver that delivers a wide and accurate soundstage only found in planar technology. A separate dynamic subwoofer that provides natural deep bass. This innovation provides an Ausounds audio signature that is a precision-balanced sound that isoptimal for long-listening sessions.
Inside the box you get the AU-Flex earphones, three additional pair of silicon tips so you get the right fit and seal, a short USB-A to USB- C cable for charging, and a protective pouch that won’t do much to protect your $199 investment from the person next to you sitting on them.
The neckband is flat and flexible. Of all the neckband headphones I have tried, these are, thanks to that flexibility and the soft-touch material covering it, among the most comfortable I have tried.
Each side of the neckband ends in thicker sections made from silver-colored plastic. The left side is blank and service no “operational” function. (I suspect this is where they house the battery.) The other side contains all the electronics and controls.
The rubber end cap opens to reveal the USB-C charging port.
I love the fact that AUSOUND went for USB-C and appreciated the placement of the port at the end. It makes opening the cover and connecting a cable easy.
At the top is a hard-to-see grill that houses an indicator light. As the small “AUSOUND” logo on the surface of this silver area, the indicator light is small and subtle.
On the inside surface of this area are a series of buttons that let you control your music and the functioning of the AU-Flex. The button closest to the end lets you play and pause music, decline a call, or activate your choice of voice assistant. The further most button controls the ANC. With a series of button pushes, you can toggle between ANC on ANC off and, my favorite, Monitor Mode so you can hear what’s going on around you.
The middle button is elongated. One end increases the volume while the other decreases it. A long press on Volume Down repeats the current track. A long press on Volume Up skips to the next track. And when you are on a call, pushing and holding the Volume Up button lets you toggle between the headset and the phone.
The headset ships with silicon tips already in place. They also include three additional tips in a variety of sizes so you can find the one that fits most comfortably and provides the best seal. I tried all the tips and recommend anyone purchasing these earphones do the same. Even if you think you have the right size it is still worth seeing if the others fit even better.
I ended up using the largest ear tip but still found it was dropping out of my right ear after a few minutes. It wasn’t until I adjusted the angle of the earphone as I inserted it that I was able to get a good seal and have it stay in place. When I did … I was impressed.
The excellent sound provided by the AU-Flex is, in part, thanks to the driver technology employed by the company. As they explain,
Hybrid Planar Driver: Our uniquely designed Hybrid Planar Magnetictechnology comprises a planar magnetic driver forsuperior resolution at the mid and upperfrequencies and a phase-aligned dynamic driver todeliver deep rich accurate bass. The drivers are enclosed by dual-voice coils and encased with adurable metal enclosure.
The result is sound that, regardless of the music genre I have tried, has impressed me. The sound is full wand delivers clear highs, deep bass, and bass that doesn’t bottom out even with the heaviest EDM beat pounding away.
And they aren’t shy about their desire to take on the “big” players in the market.
The Ausounds engineering team has unsurpassed experience in research and development for established brands such as Beats, JBL, Bose, and Sennheiser; winning multiple awards for their audio performance and industrial design. The core of our company values starts with our extensive knowledge of audio system tuning and consumer product design. The Ausounds engineering team are some of the best sound engineers in the world and our quality control and testing is a testament to their passion for perfection.
It is important for us to reproduce audio for everyday listening, creating, and reference. The tuning of our headphones and uniquely designed digital audio products serve the purpose of the listener. Whether you’re listening for a powerful sound to drown out the city noise, a pure three-dimensional soundstage for enjoyment or an accurate balanced audio playback, Ausounds audio signature was created for every occasion.
The company went even further when creating the signature sound by including technology for handling high-res audio. Under the best of circumstances, Bluetooth is known to be a compromise on the audio front. It is convenient but, for the most part, requires so much compression to maintain a proper audio stream that the sound suffers. Most people not only don’t care but they also don’t notice the degradation in sound. (How else do you explain the popularity of Apple AirPods?) AUSOUNDS wanted the AU-Flex to offer uncompromising sound, so they “engineered key features that benefit a mobile audiophile lifestyle such as LDAC for a high-res wireless Bluetooth transfer rate of 990kbps.” According to the company, this technology allows three times the data flow than other Bluetooth technologies. It makes a difference you can absolutely hear. In fact, after listening to the AU-Flex for just a few seconds last night, Raina said, “Wow. These sound great. Can I have them when you are done with the review.” (Of course, I said yes… but not happily.)
The other feature that adds to the excellent sound of the AU-Flex is the ANC baked into the headset. It offers ANC On, ANC Off and Monitoring Mode so you can listen to your music or podcast but not be completely closed off to the world. As the company explains:
The noise reduction system inside the earphone generates sound waves that cancel out the ambient noise, thereby achieving an auditory quiet effect without compromising the quality of the audio. This earphone is also equipped with an ambient mode that provides an open-back audio experience while giving you the option to hear the environment around you to assure your safety while walking in the streets or working in your office.
Here’s the thing about active noise cancellation: from what I have experienced, ANC falls into two categories these days. There is the ANC that you want when you’re flying on a transatlantic flight, and there is the ANC that a headset such as this offers. When you’re taking a long, noisy trip, you want headphones with active noise cancellation that will cut out as much sound as possible and create a quiet space for you. It not only makes the journey more pleasant but also lets you arrive at your destination more rested. That type of active noise cancellation is found in Bose headsets, Plantronics headsets, and other products that we have reviewed here on the site. Much of the time, such headsets are either on-ear or over the ear with the over-the-ear style being the most effective because of the passive noise cancellation baked into the design.
If you’re looking for that degree of active noise cancellation, the AU-Flex might not be the best option. The active noise cancellation built into this headset is similar to that which you’ll find with Apple’s new AirPod Pros. Yes, the ANC cuts out ambient sound, but it isn’t enough to quiet down the roar of a plane engine or a train. Instead, the active noise cancellation here allows you to enjoy your music with greater clarity at lower volumes. Yes, it does block outside sound to a certain degree but not to the degree that you might want on a plane. That’s not a criticism; it’s simply a statement that not all active noise cancellation is the same. In this case, the headset sounds fine when the active noise cancellation is turned off, but it is far deeper and more vibrant with the active noise cancellation turned on. Also, I don’t need to pump up the volume quite as much, so I minimize the risk of distortion and hearing damage in the process. The inclusion of a monitoring mode is nice too. It’s more effective than turning off the active noise cancellation because it grabs the ambient sound and feeds it into your ears as you are walking down the street or pursuing whatever activities you are involved in.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20 KHz
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- SPL: 99+/-3dB
- ANC Depth: 20 ~ 25dB
Finally, it is worth noting that the AU-Flex has “intelligent magnetic clasps.” That means the earbuds connect to magnetically when not in use, so they won’t get lost while you run for your train. But, as the term “intelligent magnetic” suggests, the magnets do more than that. When you pull ear earbuds out and attach one to the other via the magnets, an auto-pause function stops the music. When you separate the earbuds and place them back in your ears, the music automatically starts again. It also means you can leave the earbuds around your neck and, when a call comes in, you can separate the earbuds and put them in to answer the call.
So, by offering a high-res wireless Bluetooth transfer rate of 990kbps, active-noise cancellation, intelligent magnetic clasps with an auto-pause function, and a rapid charge USB-C port, these earphones have it all. As AUSOUNDS puts it,
This earphone is engineered to deliver hi-res audio at an accessible price with the sound quality and comfort a true music enthusiast can appreciate.
I have to agree. AUSOUNDS is a new company to me, but if the AU-Flex is any indication, I’m pretty impressed with what they are doing. Being able to offer a superb sounding neckband style headphones with all the current bells and whistles for under $200 is nothing short of excellent. I’m a fan and know you will be too. Just don’t let your significant other try them out, or you will be out shopping again. Check them out here.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Comfortable neckband-style headphone; ANC with Monitoring Mode; Great battery life with USB-C rapid charge; Intelligent magnetic clasps
What Needs Improvement: Not everyone will love the neckband style; It took me a while to get the right fit