Tangled cables are the bane of many a mobile music lover’s life, but up until fairly recently Bluetooth earphones just weren’t cutting the mustard. Problems with connectivity, clunky, uncomfortable design and sound quality have been common complaints. Yet with Apple’s announcement that it was getting rid of the audio jack on its phones, the need for a good Bluetooth design has become ever more pressing.
So how do the Rowkin Bit Charge Stereo earbuds stack up against these issues?
First the good bits. The Bit Charge are among the smallest earbuds on the market. So tiny are they, that once I’m wearing them, those around me think I’m wilfully ignoring them rather than listening to music, leading to some slightly awkward moments in the office.
The lightweight design is comfortable too, so much so that I find it easy to forget I’m wearing them. They’re a good fit, sitting securely and don’t feel as if they are about to fall out. And as they are water resistant, they could feasibly used while working out, though they don’t offer the reassurance of designs that have ear hooks.
I’m also rather taken with the sleek dual-function case they come with. As well as providing a safe place to store the earbuds, the case is also a portable charger into which the earbuds slot neatly, held securely in place via magnets while they charge. A USB port means I can also charge my smartphone while on the go. The buds allow for two to three hours of music listening per charge, with the charger providing 15 charges of the buds or one charge of a smartphone. Two hours isn’t really going to get you through a long-haul journey, however. Perhaps a short charge is the price you pay for such a tiddly design.
They are also a fine option for making calls. The buds built-in mic performs respectably and, as they can be paired with multiple Bluetooth sources at once, I didn’t have to knock out my music source and reconnect to take a call.
When it comes to sound, the earbuds don’t perform particularly badly. They are never going to rival wired headphones, but the sound is acceptable – clear and fairly balanced. That said, I have a preference for a bassy, full sound, which isn’t really catered to by the Rowkins.
Now the not so good parts. The pairing process was needlessly fiddly and involved pressing and holding the control on the back of the earbud and waiting for a specific sequence of flashing LEDs. The LEDs also indicate which is the primary earbud (put in left ear) and which is right. This varies depending on which bud connects first. It was frustrating and required repeated examination of the instructions each time the buds are used until the process eventually sinks in.
Another issue is connectivity. I found I could get about 5m away before it dropped out, and while I didn’t encounter many problems while listening close to the source, many have found this to be an issue.
For me, none of these things was a deal breaker. But, at £99, the price is relatively high. Whether that’s a price you want to pay depends what you are looking for in your earphones. The Bit Charge Stereos look great, are really comfortable and the charger is convenient. However, I’m looking for top-quality sound from my headphones and these just don’t offer the audio performance I could get elsewhere for this amount of money. And is around two to three hours of listening time satisfactory? I’d say not, especially for those who have to make long journeys for work. On balance, there are some really good features here but the price tag is just a bit too high.
Price: £99 rowkin.com