QAK Thump Blu Headphones Review

by Brian Mullin on September 5, 2013

I
do almost all of my bike rides by myself, and although I love listening
to sounds of nature and the quiet solitude of the backcountry, it
sometimes gets a bit boring. Having some music to listen to on a ride
makes it more entertaining, and the beat can help crank out the miles in
the saddle. Dancing and cranking down some wild terrain is fun when you
have some favorite tunes pumping along the beat.

The OAK Thump
Blu behind the neck headphones are light, wireless, comfortable, long
playing, have good fidelity, and if the volume is kept to a reasonable
level, you can hear environmental sounds with good acuity. The earphones
are operated by six buttons, powered by an internal battery, and they
wirelessly converse via Bluetooth to your phone or any Bluetooth-enabled
device, allowing you to listen to music or have a hands-free headset.
The Thump Blu comes with a USB cable, and is available in white, blue,
green, pink, red and black colors and retails for $79.99.

Most of
the headphones and earbuds on the market block out most of the exterior
noise from the world, which is fine when you are in a safe environment
and just want to immerse yourself in your music. In the world of sports,
whether it’s running, hiking, walking, or biking, you need to pick up
the ambient sounds and spatial cues in the world around you. For safety
reasons, you want to be fully cognizant of your surroundings, so you can
hear cars, traffic, dogs, wild animals, and other trail and road users.
The design of the Thump Blu is sort of a cusp between open ear
headphones and earbuds that just barely sit in your ear. The bend of the
unit and the slight adhesion of the rubber tips of the ear pieces keep
them in place, but it’s not enough to block out exterior sounds nor too
hard for ear discomfort. Although you can crank the tunes up and really
enjoy the music on a ride, if you want to be able to have a conversation
and hear more subtle spacial environmental cues for safety reasons,
then you need to keep the volume at a respectable level.

The
Thump Blu is comprised of the neck band with its attached ear pieces, a
USB port, three LED indicators on the rear bottom, and six rubberized
control buttons on the outside of the ear pieces. Once the unit was
paired with the phone for Bluetooth communication, subsequent paring
wasn’t required, and you only had to turn the unit on and start the
music from the phone to begin operation. The buttons by each ear piece
are hard to locate sometimes, especially with gloved fingers, but the
difficulty was lessened with some practice. Once you have the button
locations memorized, you can play, pause, choose the next or previous
song, adjust the volume, and answer calls. The Play/Pause and Answer
buttons were the easiest to locate since they sit in the middle and have
a raised bump, so you can use their positions to find the other
buttons.

I
liked that it used the typical mini B USB connector on the device
itself for charging, since you always have those laying around the
house. It quickly charged in around an hour’s time, and the battery life
was 6-8 hours, which gave me at least a couple of rides before it
started to die.

The ear piece’s adjustable rubber tips were
comfortable and worked well, even when I got sweaty, or they got rained
on, and although the bend kept them firmly in place, it was never enough
to feel pinched or wedged into the ears. The inside edge of the band is
rubberized for comfort, and helps alleviate any irritation from head
movement. They fit nicely over or under the straps of all the helmets I
wore, and depending on what type of eyewear you were using; the headband
might be slightly altered in position, and the bend force decreased. I
have found it was easier to leave it sitting around your neck when not
listening to music, instead of jamming it into a pack, and it was never
bothersome wearing it in that manner.

I thought they had pretty
good fidelity and acoustics for a small Bluetooth device, and I enjoyed
listening to a variety of music, from bombastic Black Sabbath to mellow
Patty Griffith. They had decent bass, good midrange and had a slight
roll off at the higher frequencies. The hands-free feature was useful,
but I found it sounded hollow and lacking clarity in both directions, so
I only used it for short periods of time. They had good wind noise
reduction due to the light seal of the ear pieces, unless you were going
Mach 1, or it was extremely windy out. The earphones stayed in place
and retained the same fidelity on really rough terrain, and even though
they might bounce around occasionally, it was never bothersome.

Bottom Line

I
have really enjoyed my time with the Thump Blu behind the neck
headphones. The lack of wires due to the Bluetooth connection is very
beneficial for biking, especially when wearing a pack and dealing with
rough terrain, or heavily wooded areas, since there is nothing to get
snagged on. The Thump Blu has good fidelity, was light and comfortable,
and stayed in place on any sort of terrain. Although the buttons were
sometimes hard to locate, they provided the ability to play, pause,
choose the next or previous song, adjust the volume, and answer calls.
The hands-free feature was nice to have, but I found its quality
somewhat lackluster. Its earphone design allows you to hear outside
environmental cues, although you are most cognizant of things if the
volume is kept to a respectable level. Of course, these suckers can
crank if you want them to!
The QAK Thump Blu provides wireless
Bluetooth connection to any capable device, has a quick charging battery
with a long life, and it offers good fidelity and excellent comfort.

Pros
  • Good fidelity with volume levels from ear bleeding to quiet
  • Good battery life and quick charging
  • Awareness of outside noises if volume is at a reasonable level
  • Comfortable and light
  • Stays in place on rough terrain
Cons
  • Buttons can be hard to locate with gloved fingers
  • Hands-free headset quality is lackluster
  • Not quite high-end sound

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: