Prominent tech features with middle of the road sound, comfort and battery life.
Since Apple released the Airpods, September 7, 2016, I have had my eye and heart set on wireless earbuds. Like may jaunt with an Android phone, I wanted to try a non-Apple device. The Aimus Wireless Earbuds arrived in a flat white 6 5/8 inches wide by 5 9/16 inches tall by 1 1/2 inches thick box. The cover was mostly devoid of writing, except for a silver “Aimus” title along the upper corner. Similarly, the top, bottom and side panels were sparsely populated. If you look closely at the surface of the cover, top, bottom and side panels, you will find an interesting subtle musical theme. I found bass clef, treble clef, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, flat symbols, sharp symbols, rests, and triplets. The back panel provided the company address, contact number and support email. I opened up the lid and found three cutout compartments. To my upper left, I found a 2 5/8 inches wide by 2 1/8 inches tall compartment with small, medium and large silicone ear tips. To my upper right, I found a 2 3/4 inches wide by 2 1/8 inches tall compartment with an instruction manual and a small box with a black 19 3/4 inches long USB-A to USB-micro cable. The lower 5 7/8 inches long by 2 3/16 inches tall compartment was deeper than the others and contained the red metallic earbud holder/charging case. Before you pair and use the earbuds, slide the smaller end of the cylinder away from the main device and pull out each of the earbuds. Remove the thin plastic cover for the charging prongs and then replace them into the case. Plug the USB-micro end into the device and then the USB-A end into a standard wall outlet or computer USB-A port.
It took roughly 30 minutes to charge the earbud case, out of the box but took about 3 hours to charge when fully depleted. To access the earbuds, gently pull the two edges of the 3.10 ounce, 4 1/4 inches tall by 1 1/4 inches diameter, red-colored pill-shaped case apart. The case will separate just beneath the 1/8 inches thick silver band and assume the fully extended 6 5/8 inches long state. The interior of the pill-shaped case was an attractive flat black color and had two earbud shaped cutouts. The lower half of the case had a silver “Aimus” stenciled onto the surface, and the micro-USB charging port was located along the base. Each of the earbuds remained securely affixed to the case via magnet. When I pulled them out of the case, a light blue LED arc appeared along the outer edge of the earbuds. The pre-installed ear tips proved to be too small for my ears, and I was pleased to find three additional sizes to choose from. I found that the medium sized tips fit my ear canal better than the extra-small, small or large tips. The pairing process could not have been easier and started when the earbud was removed from the case. A female voice will announce “Power On” when each earbud is removed from the case. She will then announce “Connected, Right channel (right ear), Left channel (left ear), Pairing.” Navigate to settings on your smart device, then to Bluetooth and select “i11” from the list. When I tapped the name, the same female voice will announce “Pairing Successful, Second Device Connected” and you are ready to utilize the earbuds.
To start the sound tests, I navigated to audiocheck.net and used the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz), the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz), the Left/Right Stereo Audio Test, and the Stereo Perception and Sound Localization tests. The 12-page instruction manual detailed the features of the earbuds: Bluetooth 5.0, 40mAh battery, 0.14 ounces weight, 10m-20m (33-65ft) range, 400mAh battery case, 3-4 hour music playtime, IPX5-7 waterproof rated, Touch control and 20Hz-20kHz frequency. When I tested the earbuds with the Audiocheck.net website, I found the frequency range to be from 30Hz to 14kHz. Despite the frequencies heard, the plucky bass sounds present within Holly Cole “Train Song” were strong and enjoyable. The Cee Lo Green Bright Lights Bigger City sounds were big, dynamic and sounded good. The 3:40-4:00 point on Joker Theme Dark Knight Rises “Why So Serious” built to the climactic sounds around 4:40, when the thudding drums started. When listening to music, the range felt a little constrained at times, but on par with most midrange earphones that I have tested thus far. If you are looking for true audiophile-grade sound, you are likely not looking for earbuds anyway. The fullness/richness of the Far and Away, Braveheart and Robinhood Prince of Thieves soundtracks produced a sense of nostalgia for my days within the Wind Ensemble. The flutes, horns, and strings were easily distinguished but lacked a sense of imaging. This did not detract from the overall experience, as the jovial, bubbly “Fighting Donnellys” song still created a vivid mental image of dancers at an Irish party. To further test imaging/staging, I navigated to Yosi Horikawa “Bubbles,” “Stars,” and ultimately to “Wandering.” I especially liked the Wandering song as you could feel birds flocking and people walking around you. For a really fun experience, I have started using a few additional test tracks. For a treat, navigate to Depeche Mode “People are People,” and listen to the opening drum sequences. I have enjoyed Hideaway by Jacob Collier as well. Lastly, since I watched X-Men Age of Apocalypse, I have become a huge fan of “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce. This song does a reasonable job at testing imaging and placement. Both the upper and lower end sounds were enjoyable but not as good as wired earphones and over-ear style cans. I tried the sound tests with the XS and the Small tips as well and found the medium sized tips to make the best seal and thus the best sounds for the buds. After I was done testing music, I listened to Audible books, and I cautiously tried to watch a few video clips with Amazon Prime, Netflix, Xfinity, and YouTube. I was excited that the video/sound was synced and I did not experience any lag.
With sound testing completed, I wanted to discuss the function/button combination of the earphones. The first major issue that I found was with the touch panel. To power on/off the earbuds, you do not need to touch the earbuds. You can simply remove them from the case and then replace them into the case to utilize this feature. However, if needed, you could press the touch ring for eight seconds to turn off the device. The touch controls were difficult to learn and required evaluation and re-evaluation of the user manual. A single touch of either of the earbuds would play/pause the music, a double touch of the right earbud would decrease the volume and a double touch of the left earbud would increase the volume. To navigate to the previous track, touch the right ring for three seconds and to navigate to the next track, touch the left ring for three seconds. You can activate Siri by rapid pressing either the left or right earbud for three taps. Unfortunately, I did not find these controls to be that intuitive. I wanted to increase the volume with the right and not the left. I found myself having to repeat commands and lost battery life while trying to learn how to use the device. I cannot tell you how many times I changed the track when I tried to adjust the volume or Siri activated as I was trying to adjust the volume. As a lover of tech, it pains me to state that I disliked the touch feature. If you have to take the device out of your ear, it may be worth it to simply restart the song/section with your phone as you will invariably change the track/the volume, etc. This feature was truly hard to use and was a bit frustrating. I did not experience ear fatigue nor did I experience any pain with these earbuds and I was able to test them for about 2-2.5 hours at a time, between charging cycles. Unfortunately, there was no iOS battery widget to rely upon.
The instruction manual provided a lot of information but in an odd manner. For example, steps one and two detailed opening and charging the case. However, we did not realize that we needed to remove the thin plastic layer from the charging posts until section eight “Tips.” This step was not a “tip,” it is was a mandatory step to charge the device. Imaging putting the device on charge before a trip and then realizing that it had not charged. You may consider the device defective, or you may then frustratingly read the tiny print. Only then would you realize the mistake and remove the thin plastic shield. If I were going to add constructive criticism for the i11 generation two, I would make the rounded ear tips more oval, and I would flatten out the battery case, as the rounded case felt too big for my pants pocket. Additionally, the company needs to work on the end point of the slide motion. When fully extended, the case felt flimsy, and I was concerned that I was going to break it. Lastly, the magnetic attachment of the buds to the case may be a tad strong, causing a little difficulty removing the buds from the case. I have tested the devices multiple times over the past few weeks, during a commute, on an airplane trip to Boston from Chicago and around bedtime. The sound was average, the comfort was average, but there were some features that were less than ideal. I believe that Aimus could have a rockstar Aimus 2.0 if some of the above features were addressed.