I am no stranger to BlueAnt products so when I read they released a wired on-ear stereo headset just I had to know more about it. After all this is a company known for it’s bluetooth headsets and handsfree car speakerphone units. This also being BlueAnt’s first wired stereo headset I wonder just how well will they be able to compete in this newly revived market that’s already occupied by well-known and established players.
When looking for new headphones I prefer to do the whole in-store listen test first whenever possible. This way I can get a basic feel for sound quality. This time I was fortunate enough to find a store where I could test one out. So using the “Headset Demo” playlist I have setup on my iPhone, I spent roughly 20 minutes cycling through the tunes while listening for just some basic sound quality. In that short time I was quite pleased by what I was hearing. I felt the Embrace was definitely worth further investigation so I brought home a pair for some real quality time.
Starting with the box it seems that BlueAnt went to great lengths to present their first wired headset in a good light. I would almost say that they took a chapter out of Apples playbook on product presentation. The black box which is simply designed with a rendering of the headset on the front, the name and insignia on the sides and the specifications on the back is enough to catch one’s attention. Inside you’ll find no unnecessary fillers like throw away cardboard or plastic pieces to hold the headphone in place. What you will find is a luxuriously designed storage case with the BlueAnt insignia embossed on the lower front. The only extra piece here is a single layer of foam which cushions the case inside the box. Opening the magnetic clasp of the case reveals the headset that is well protected in the blue microfiber lined main interior compartment. You’ll also find a small pocket inside the case containing an OMTP adapter for use with non-Apple devices and two 36-inch long detachable audio cables along with the standard warranty and user guide. The iPad/iPhone/iPod touch friendly cord is colored in the iconic BlueAnt blue complete with an in-line multi-function remote and microphone for easy use and hands free calling. The standard straight-through cable is plain black with nothing extra. When I say everything you need for instant listening is included and inside the case I mean everything. You can literally purchase the headphones, take out the case, put it in your carry-on bag, discard the box without looking in it and immediately hop on a plane without worrying about whether you accidentally threw something important away.
The headphone unit itself is designed with the user in mind. The headrest is generously cushioned and wrapped with soft leather leaving the black brushed aluminum sides exposed giving it an understated yet sophisticated look and feel. Finishing off this look, BlueAnt went with rectangular earphones, also wrapping them in leather, covering up the memory foam like material inside.
The headphone has a rather simple yet effective and functional design. Each earphone as observed even in the case rotates 90°, flattening it out for easy storage. You get about an inch of adjustability on each side which should be enough for most people. Each side slides freely with no tick markers. Overall the Embrace feels very solid and sturdy with it’s aluminum body construction yet light enough that it shouldn’t weigh you down when wearing it.
BlueAnt also offers replacement parts for the Embrace. These cover the ear cups, cables and OMTP adapter.
Listening to the Embrace I found it to sound exactly as stated on their website. It does indeed have a flat frequency response but somehow seems tuned to give music a warm dynamic sound. Listening to various genres of music and even some movie watching the Embrace is alive with clarity, detail and depth. The bass, mid-range and treble are all nicely balanced with one another so no one particular sound becomes drowned out or muddied as with some flavored headsets. The bass is very present and deep in a satisfying way that doesn’t fall flat or sound under emphasized. Mid-range is full and quite detailed and the treble hit the highs without being over done. Should you want a different sound all you need to do is change the EQ on your device to something more your liking. The tuned flat response makes tailoring your EQ settings the experience it was meant to be… personal, instead of compensating for poorly tuning a or an extremely flavored headphone sound. The only thing you should really have to compensate for is badly recorded music.
I was extremely pleased using the Embrace regardless of where I was or what I was listening to. Instead of feeling like the music as solely confined to my ears, I was engulfed in sound and comfort like being in the middle of a good surround sound system. Music, good music is suppose to elicit an emotional response and the Embrace helps to accomplish just that. Outside noises are pretty much blocked by the generously padded ear cups which also makes listening to voice calls a non-issue. Voices were clear and external noises don’t seem to overtake the microphone. Despite it’s aluminum construction the Embrace is very comfortable. After extended wear of more than 5 hours at a time on numerous occasions it never felt any heavier than when I first put it on. My ears still felt good afterwards with no pain from being pressed against my head for extended periods of time. There’s enough pressure to keep the headphones in place but the ear cups are cushioned enough to disburse any extra away from most people’s ears.
From it’s well-thought out aluminum and leather design to it’s warm, airy and balanced soundstage the Embrace sets a new precedence for quality on-ear headphone design. There’s not much more I’d ask for from the Embrace except for an even wider dynamic range as long as it doesn’t lose it’s warm and balanced sound signature. I’d recommend the Embrace for the mobile listener who just wants to enjoy their music and look sophisticated while doing so. The Embrace isn’t expensive if your looking for a good set of cans and when compared to other’s in the same price range ($199), I do believe the Embrace gives you the best bang for the buck. So head over to BlueAnt and check it out.