The Satechi Aluminum Wirelsss on-ear headphones are moderately priced yet feature rich. While midrange and not for the perfectionist audiophile, features include enhanced bass, Bluetooth or wired operation, audio playback control buttons, three crisp aluminum colors, and a separately available stand that doubles as a USB 3 hub.
I am not a musician, but I have spent quite a bit of time in my life building home audio and home theater systems for personal use. As a result, I have learned to assess and compare audio equipment subjectively.
So when I had the opportunity to review these new Satechi Aluminum Wireless Headphones, I decided to take a certain approach. Namely, how do they sound for the money, how do they compare to some other headphones I have, what are the notable features, and what is my recommendation? Accordingly, you won't see frequency charts here. But by the time I'm finished, you'll know if they're worth the price and if you want a pair.
The Satechi Aluminum Wireless Headphones (SAWH) come in space gray, silver or gold. (MIne were silver.) They are on-ear headphones, meaning that they rest on top of the ear and do not surround it, as with over-ear headphones. They're designed to be used as Bluetooth 4.0 devices, but they include a 3.5 mm port and cord that includes a microphone and has playback controls. These headphones are very handsome looking compared to the typical, dreary black plastic used in many designs.
Close-up detail showing charge LED, bevel and BT pairing button. Stand described below.
- Bluetooth 4.0
- MicroUSB-USB charging cord included (1 meter, 39 inches)
- 3.5 mm audio cord included (1.25 meter, 50 inches)
- Audio cord has microphone and controls (Play/pause/next or previous track).
- Aluminum earpieces and aluminum head bar (with external cushioning).
- Earpiece has pairing button, volume buttons (hold) and next/previous track (click).
- LED charging indicator. (Red for charging, blue when fully charged.)
- 18 hour battery for Bluetooth (Lithium-ion, about 300 mAh. ) Three hours to charge fully, drawing 100 milliamps.
- Weight stated as 170 grams/6 ounces. Thats with the audio cord. (I measured 155 grams/5.5 ounces for just the headphones.)
- When the battery is depleted, the wired mode remains seamlessly available.
- When the audio cord is plugged in, the battery stops being depleted.
These last two features are crucial and require just a bit more engineering that one might suspect would be common in $70 headphones.
Page 2 - Audio Testing, Fit & Finish, Packaging, and a Negative
Page 2 - Audio Testing, Fit & Finish, Packaging, and a Negative
I tested these headphones against a pair of everyday headphones that I had handy. 1) Samson HP20 and 2) Sony MDRZX110 ZX Series. I use these mostly for voice: Skype and iPhone calls respectively. They're both in the US$20 price class. My goal was to determine if the Satechi Aluminum Wireless headphones (SAWH) were noticeably better sounding and therefore worth the extra money.
I set up an iTunes playlist with eight songs: two Rock & Roll, two classical, two electronic, and two vocals. I did A/B testing with each of the test headphones against the SAWH in wired mode because that's all that's available with the test headphones.
In 7 out of 8 cases, the SAWH clearly and obviously outperformed the Samson HP20s in every way. The bass was better. They were brighter, richer, less muddy in almost every case. I could easily hear detail, cymbal brushes and other sounds, that were only hinted at in the Samsons.
In testing against the Sonys, the SAWH were clearly superior in 8 out of 8 of the tests. In general, I would say that once I used the SAWH, I wouldn't ever consider using the other headphones for any kind of music. Those two remain fine for Internet voice.
One might be tempted to say that, of course, $70 headphones would sound better than $20 alternatives. But in these times, that's not always a given, and testing is the only way to determine if one's money is well spent.
Fit and Finish
Another thing that pleased me greatly about the SAWH is the aluminum earpieces, aluminum volume and BT buttons and head bar. It gives them a feeling of nicely machined quality, and yet they still only weigh 155 grams/5.5 ounces. The fact that you can get them in the MacBook matching colors of space gray, silver and gold is a nice touch. The outside edge is beautifully beveled and catches light in an attractive way. The audio cord has nicely clad grip sections and feels well made. The grip sections look like aluminum, but I think it's plastic.
These headphones not only perform well, they're very good looking and create that Apple-like pride of ownership in their craftsmanship.
A Negative (for me)
I know that on-ear headphones are very popular. Last Christmas, I tested a pair of Beats on-ear headphones that are similar in size and shape. Both the Beats and the SAWH pressed on my ears in an uncomfortable way. (There is no tension adjustment, but there is very comfortable padding.) I personally prefer over-ear headphones because the earpiece foam distributes the pressure on the area around my ear, leaving my ear generally uncompressed. But that's a personal preference. If you have the same preference, you may not like the SAWH. I'm told Satechi has no plans for an over-ear version.
Packaging & Manual
Satechi has a knack for packaging. In this case, the back of the box provides callouts and a summary of usage in case you misplace the small pamphlet. The 8 panel pamphlet (100 mm/4 inches tall) has just enough information to get you started, but omits some of the technical details I listed in the feature section above. My taste goes towards providing those kinds of details, especially when it comes to the operational choice of Bluetooth on battery or audio cord.
The warranty is one year.
Page 3 - A Nice Accessory and My Recommendation
Page 3 - A Nice Accessory and Recommendation
Headset Stand/USB Hub
A thoughtful partner accessory is the Satechi Headset Stand and USB 3.0 hub. Headphones tend to get tossed on a desk, and they're always in the way. This stand keeps the headphones safely hanging, always easy to grab. There's a pair of sleek black plastic hooks on the back that provide a place to organize your cords.
This stand doubles as a three port USB 3 hub and also has a 3.5 mm audio jack. It's also available in the same colors as the headphones. It has a nice heft and includes a blue LED to indicate that it's getting power.
I must add here that the first one I received was defective. The USB ports were offset internally, and I could not attach a USB device to any of the ports. Satechi sent me another one right away, and it was fine. This would be covered under warranty, but the fact that it even passed QA at the factory is unsettling.
Another thing to be aware of is that this stand ships in two pieces. Once the arm is fitted and clicked into the base, it doesn't come out again. It's just something to be aware of.
The stand sells separately for $34.99, and I'd strongly recommend it as a valuable addition to the headphones.
Altogether, with both cords and charging up.
A lot of headphones have crossed my desk over the years. Most of them just lay around in a tangle of wires and aren't anything worth looking at. The Satechi Aluminum Wireless Headphones sound amazing compared to everyday, inexpensive headphones, look great, and offer that matching stand + USB 3 hub. I think they're both worth the money.
Of course, this is a $70 set of headphones. If you are an audio purist, I'll direct you to Bryan Chaffin's reviews of headphones in the $300 to $350 range.
- V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Headphones Look Great & Sound Amazing
- Hands-On with Blue’s Mo-Fi Headphones: Comfort Married to High Fidelity
The lesson, I think, is that—as with optics—the more you pay, the more quality you get. I surmise that for myself and any casual user of headphones, the Satechi Aluminum Wireless Headphones are both attractive, packed with nice features, including Bluetooth, and won't cause your credit card to melt.
The final test? My wife wants to pry them (and the stand) from my office desk, and I am conflicted. I don't want to give them up, but, then, I want her to have something great. No doubt, I will soon relent.