The blogosphere has been overrun with rumors of future iPhones without the traditional headphone jack, and that could be a good thing. First, that Lightning port might have a job to do when it's not being used to charge the iPhone, and second, maybe a lot more people will start using wireless headphones like the new Satechi Aluminum Wireless Headphones (US$69.99). In this review, I'll take a look at these stylish new headphones from a well-known accessory manufacturer, as well as the matching Satechi Aluminum Headset Stand ($34.99).
Satechi Aluminum Wireless Headphones
First, let's take a look at the Aluminum Wireless Headphones. At $69.99, the headphones are less expensive than a number of on-ear wireless headphones that I've tested in the past, and they have a distinctive look. Using Bluetooth 4.0 to stream audio from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac -- or even your Apple Watch -- the headphones come in silver, space gray and gold finishes to match your Apple devices.
The controls for the headphones are located in the left side, with +/- buttons for volume and skipping ahead or back and a power button that also works for Bluetooth pairing. That side also has a micro-USB port for charging the headphones and a plug for those situations where you can't use Bluetooth. A cable with controls and a microphone is included, although you'll probably never need to use it -- the Wireless Headphones have a built-in microphone so you can also make phone calls hands-free.
The headphones feature a well-padded band connecting the two sides, and the ear cups are nicely padded as well. Note that these are on-ear headphones; unless you have very tiny ears, they'll sit on your ears and won't cover your ears. I found the Aluminum Wireless Headphones to be quite comfortable for long-term wear, and I have a big head (I wear a 7-7/8 hat size!). I let several other people try the Headphones on and they also found them to be very comfortable.
Pairing is fast and simple; you simply press and hold the power/pairing button for about five seconds, and a small LED blinks blue and red. Using the iOS Settings > Bluetooth controls, it's easy to pick the headphones -- they appear as ST-AHP -- and pair them with a tap. Likewise, using the Bluetooth pane in the OS X System Preferences shows the headphones and they're paired with a click. The headphones support A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP for excellent quality.
To move between devices -- say an iPhone and a Mac -- you first need to unpair the headphones by using Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device or System Preferences > Bluetooth on your Mac. Once you've unpaired the device and headphones, the latter recognizes that it is no longer paired and allows you to proceed through the pairing process again.
So, how's the sound? Pretty darned good for a rather inexpensive pair of headphones. While I'd say that the sounds is a bit biased towards bass, I found the midrange and highs to be crisp and clear as well. As with most headphones, stereo separation is excellent.
The microphone on the headphones is a tiny hole on the left ear cup, and I'd suggest you speak loudly if you're making a hands-free call. The sound quality is acceptable to call recipients, but quite muted... so speak up! Incoming call quality is good but a little "muddy".
The controls are easy to find, and once you get used to how they work, they're quite logical. Increasing or decreasing the volume requires a quick series of taps on the appropriate button, while a single tap skips to the next track or the beginning of the current track. Satechi says that the rechargeable battery keeps the music going for up to 16 hours.
If you prefer -- like I do -- headphones to those damnable earbuds, then the Satechi Aluminum Wireless Headphones are an impressive and affordable Bluetooth solution.
Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★
Satechi Aluminum Headset Stand
Rather than just tossing those nice aluminum headphones onto your desk, why not show 'em off on a matching Aluminum Headset Stand? As with the rest of Satechi's metallic line of accessories, the headset stand comes in silver, gold, and space gray finishes matching the headphones... and your Apple gear.
Unlike some other headset stands in the same price range, the Aluminum Headset Stand does more than just hold your headphones up -- this stand is also a 3-port USB 3.0 hub. But wait, there's more! Yeah, it also has a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, so if you're a fan of cabled headphones, you can plug them into the stand. There's also a cable organizer on the back of the stand to wrap unruly cables around.
Satechi does note that the hub is designed only to connect USB 3.0, 2.0 and 1.1 devices to your computer and "is not a standalone device charger," but I found it worked just fine for charging the Aluminum Wireless Headphones. You may run into issues with bus-powered hard drives connected to the hub, but it works fine with flash drives. There's a blue light that appears on the base of the stand to indicate that the USB connection is working properly.
So for $35, you're getting a USB hub and a way to keep your headphones nicely out of the way and off your desktop. Nice.
Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★