I’ll admit, earphones are a bit of an odd subject for review in a mountain bike website, but it’s an incontrovertible fact that many of us enjoy a spot of music when we’re riding.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the idea of riding on the road with earphones on – not least because you’re then deaf to any rapidly approaching idiots in cars who might cut you too close – but there is definitely something to be said for railing a sweet bit of singletrack on a solo ride with something inspiring in your ears, whether it’s Chopin, Cardiacs or the Karoshi Brothers.
It’s quite an experience to hit a bermed corner or get a little air as the music swells, and it really does feel as if you’re listening to the soundtrack to an epic film of your life. It’s hugely fun, and if you’ve yet to try it, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do.
However, there are some caveats. Personally, I find the soundtrack of an epic film of my life to be terribly distracting if I’m riding down anything techy that requires concentration, so I prefer to be able to mute the music as I go.
And I don’t want to completely exclude the outside world; I like to be able to hear what’s going on around me too. I don’t want to get tangled up in cables, and I also want the listening experience to stay put – I don’t want my headphones to rattle loose mid-corner.
Step forward, then, the Outdoor Tech Orca Active Earbuds. According to the marketing spiel, these little Bluetooth-equipped buds are apparently sweatpoof, showerproof, and have a variety of fitments which help them to remain firmly lodged in your ears. They’re charged with an included micro-USB lead, and they will apparently give six hours of connected music on a single charge. They’ve got a little remote control on the cord, which has a microphone and three buttons to control things with.
These three buttons control the Orcas, but because they’re Bluetooth they don’t work in precisely the same way as the buttons on my regular (wired) earphones. I have to press and hold to skip tracks, rather than my usual double press, and making a call (or using Siri on my iPhone) I press the centre button and the uppermost one at the same time. It’s not exactly an issue, but it can get a little confusing if I absent-mindedly fiddle with the controller the wrong way. The (slightly annoying, over-familiar) instruction manual is at least pretty clear, and pairing the earphones with my phone was no problem. Playing music or answering calls is straightforward, and (once I’d figured out the button presses) so is making calls. But who makes calls when riding anyway?
The Orcas come with a selection of three different-sized earbuds, and some rubbery ‘fins’ which fit around the body of the earphones themselves, and are designed to help the earbuds to stay put. There’s no denying that it can get a bit fiddly the first time you put these things in, but they do seem to remain in place once you’ve poked them in there, and they don’t seem to be too sweaty, even if you’re exercising hard. They shrugged off the occasional shower with no problem whatsoever, too.
These are in-ear buds of the ‘sound-muffling’ type. Sitting at my desk typing these words, the sound is surprisingly crisp, with a good bass response, but (pseud alert!) perhaps some slight muddying in the mid-range. I’ve certainly heard worse, by a long shot. Out on the bike though, there is quite a lot of wind noise, because the ‘phones themselves protrude a fair way from the side of your head – and the cord linking the two is a flat rubber which amplifies any abrasions or vibrations it’s put through, such as head movement, helmet strap rubbing, or abrasion on your jacket or jersey. To hear things properly, then, you have to turn the volume up. Which, because external noises are already muffled, means you can’t hear anything from outside at all. Personally, I don’t find this ideal.
These are a pretty nice-sounding, well-made pair of earphones. They connect well, last well and remain in the ears well, even when wearing a helmet. However, while they’re great for running or using the turbo-trainer, the wind-noise when cycling at any speed means they’re only of limited use on the bike unless you crank up the volume.
|Tested:||by five months for Barney|