Add a little Soul under your tree this Holiday season
I have always enjoyed technology and love to keep up to date with new devices. Research has always been forte, searching for the best device, with the best features, for the best price. Sometimes I would purchase the device for myself and other times, this information might help someone else’s decision. I think that this has made me a terrible gift receiver because of my high expectations. As Christmas approaches, many people may be left with empty shopping carts. Here is a review of a pair of over-ear Bluetooth headphones that may satisfy the tech sweet tooth. As noted above, add a little Soul under their tree.
The Soul Ultra Wireless over-ear headphones arrived in a 7 inches wide by 7 13/16 inches tall by 3 3/16 inches wide retail package. The main focal point of the cover was the 3 1/2 inches wide by 5 3/4 inches tall oblique image of the metallic blue SOUL ULTRA wireless headphones. Surrounding the main image, you will find the “SOUL Power, Clarity, Comfort” icon along the upper left, a shiny, golden ULTRA WIRELESS product name along the bottom, and a Bluetooth icon, 36 hrs battery life icon, Thicker Pad icon, and Foldable icon along the top right. Along the lower-left corner, there was a QR code linking to information about an extended warranty (www.soulectronics.com). The rear panel showcased a 5 3/8 inches tall by 2 3/4 inches side view of the SOUL headphones along the top right and a plethora of information along the left. Unlike the cover or the clean white side panels, with imprinted metallic gold SOUL upon their surfaces, the information was difficult to navigate. A small two-sentence paragraph along the top summarized the overall goal to improve the portability and listening experience.
The packaging promised two 40mm neodymium drivers, over-ear design, high-quality leatherette headband, thick ear pads, and an all-day listening experience in both English and French. Along the bottom of the panel, Soul included six small-print icons in six different languages: Ultra dynamic wireless sound quality with powerful bass and optimize for high-resolution audio, Full-Ear cup articulation ensures comfort and the best fit, Comfortable soft leatherette headband and ear pads for long time listening experiences, Ergonomic body design with foldable feature, Up to 36 hours playtime, and Line-in feature included.
I removed the outer white slipcover and found an inner black box with a gold Soul icon and Ultra Wireless name. Within the inner box, I was a little taken aback to find a simple plastic bag housing the Soul Wireless headphones/black nylon bag, a 20 3/4 inches long USB-A to USB-micro cable and an instruction manual. Having reviewed several varieties of headphones, I expected to find either a plastic or foam cutout housing the headphones, and a 3.5mm cable. Instead, the packaging felt slapped together and the entire experience felt sloppy. I removed the instruction manual and perused the pages. The second panel provided a list of contents (headphones, carry bag and USB micro charging cable) and each of the subsequent panels detailed the function of the headphones in nine-languages. Before powering on the device, I fully charged it with the included USB-micro cable. I plugged the micro end of the cable into the lower-left ear cup and then the USB-A end into a standard wall charger. For added convenience, SOUL included a small LED between the power button and the 3.5mm port. Once fully charged, you can power-on the device by simply pressing and holding the power button for two seconds. The process automatically activated pairing mode, which made the connection process incredibly simple. To pair with your smartphone/tablet, navigate to Settings, select Bluetooth, and then select “SOUL ULTRA WIRELESS” from the list. The last page of the manual listed several of the main details of the headphones: Bluetooth V5.0, AD2P/HFP/AVRCP profiles, 10-meter range, 3 hour charging time, 36-hour playback, 197g weight, and 189mm long by 170mm wide by 78mm deep.
The 7.05-ounce foldable headphones arrived wrapped within a 10 inches tall by 8 inches wide thin nylon drawstring bag. On first impression, the metallic-blue SOUL headphones, with black ear cups, were quite visibly appealing. The headphones had a 6 inches long by 1/2 inches thick arcuate black nylon headband, and a pair of 3 inches wide by 3 1/2 inches tall black ear cups. For added comfort, each of the ear cups could extend roughly 1 inch at the foldable hinges. To orient the left (master) from the right ear cup, SOUL provided a small L/R on each of the metallic arms and a large L/R within each of the ear cutouts. I placed the headphones onto my ears and enjoyed the 1 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches tall ear cutout, with the 3/4 inches thick padding. The extra padding allowed me to lay on my side and to rest my head on my pillow, without any pressure on my ears or temples/neck. The headband, when combined with the ear padding made for a comfortable listening experience.
When you press the power button, a female voice will announce, “Power on,” “your device is connected.” The button layout proved to be quite intuitive. If you short press the “+” or the “-” buttons, the volume will increase/decrease accordingly. If you long-press the same buttons, you can advance to the next or previous tracks. If you short press the “S” multi-function button, you can play/pause the song, and if you press the “S” and “+” buttons together, you can activate the voice assistant (SIRI). While in calling mode you can press the S button once to answer a call, hang up a call, long press for 2 seconds to deny a call or press the button twice to redial the last number called.
Once the unboxing/fit testing was completed, I turned to the audiocheck.net website to evaluate the qualities of the sound/music. I used the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz) and heard/felt strong bass starting around 20Hz. I was pleased with the lower range of the headphones and enjoyed the fullness of the lower register. Utilizing the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz), I was able to hear the high-pitched ringing test tone at 15kHz. Unfortunately, as we age we tend to lose the ability to hear higher-pitched sounds. Most adults can hear around 14kHz, whereas children can sometimes hear up into the 18-20kHz range. As we acquire more sound pollution/trauma, we tend to lose the upper range of hearing quicker. Once the frequency range testing was complete, I used the Left/Right/Center test and found the earbuds to be appropriately programmed.
To test the stereo nature of the headphones, I utilized the Stereo Perception and Sound Localization Test, which is still one of my favorite features of the audiocheck.net website. If you have never used this site, place a pair of headphones over your ears and activate the test. Even though I have used this test several times, I still feel the need to look over my shoulder. As an extra bonus, you can also listen to the opening sequence of the “Sound Of Silence (3D Binaural Audio)- Simon and Garfunkel Cover-Jarvis Brothers (Ear to Ear), even though I prefer the dark/raspy sound of the Disturbed version of the song. To further test the stereo nature of the headphones, I used “Bohemian Rhapsody,” to hear the left/right call-response nature of the song. With these tests complete, I returned to my typical test tracks. I first listened to Dark Knight Soundtrack “Why So Serious” Joker theme and focused on the 3:20-3:40 mark. Up until that point, the clatter of sounds built to a point of culmination and then dropped away to a deep rumbling sub-bass, which bounced between the ears. This continued to build and added sounds back to the low sound. Turning to Radiohead “The National Anthem,” I was pleased to hear the techie sci-fi sounds within the song. The bass was full, crisp, and clearly supported the high pitched sounds of the song. I next listened to the bass-heavy “Turn your Lights Down Low” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Along with the bouncing baseline of Holly Cole’s “Train Song,” the low/strong and thumping bass worked well for the pop/soul-filled sounds of the songs listed above.
To test the balance/soundstage and fullness of the overall sound, I turned to “Caribbean Blue” by Enya. The smooth vocals complemented the lower moving bass line. The sound seemed to engulf my ears and provided a solid wall of sound. The Jason Soule “Dragonborn” theme felt dark and heavy, as did the somber “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold” from the Hobbit. To test the upper register/tones, I used several different test tracks. With my love for ensemble music, I listened to Holst Suite in Eb, Jupiter, Palovetsian Dances, and The Washington Post March by Sousa. Additionally, I used the Far and Away, Braveheart, and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves soundtracks to evaluate the blend/balance. With Christmas just around the corner, I found myself listening to Pentatonix, Peter Hollens (Mary Did You Know), Anthem Lights, Bob Segar, and several other favorite Christmas Carols. I found solid mid-range, upper-range, and pleasing bass experience. When I test over-ear headphones, I remember why they tend to reign superior to in-ear systems. The headphones successfully reduced outside noises, while also minimizing leak.
Interestingly, there was a noticeable shift from 1 click to 2 clicks within the volume. It is difficult to explain, but there was a click sound that was heard at that level and it felt as if something was actually turned off. The music lost nearly all of the bass, power, blend, and quality. I thus would not recommend listening to the music any lower than about 2-3 clicks of sound. I found 50% volume to be perfect for most of my tests. Even at higher levels the sound never became muddy or tinny. With my music tests completed, I turned to a variety of apps to test the video features/quality of the headphones. I watched The Mandalorian on Disney+ and satiated my baby Yoda fix, and then turned to HULU to watch a few episodes of Perfect Harmony to fill the hole left by Glee. With Star Wars Episode 9 coming out this week, I wanted to start my marathon with Star Wars Episode 1. I forgot how much I liked the sounds of the pod racers and the Duel of the Fates. I did not experience any lag between sound/video while using Movies Anywhere, Amazon Prime Video, HULU, Disney+, or with VUDU. However, I did experience a prominent lag when using YouTube.
To summarize the overall experience, I would give the headphones a 9/10 for sound, 9/10 for comfort, 10/10 for battery life, 8/10 for accessories, and 9/10 for packaging. It was a little odd to know that the headphones included USB-micro charging and took roughly 3 hours to charge to full. I feel that they could have used USB-C technology and provided a quick charge benefit to the users. I was able to use the headphones at 50% volume for 3 hours a night for the past 7 days without charging the device. I loved that they used the newer Bluetooth V5.0 standards and fully enjoyed the battery life, weight, and fit of the device. The ability to fold the headphones for portability was a nice feature but the included carry bag provided little to no protection. The buttons were easy to access, were intuitively placed, and were responsive. If you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift for the music/movie lover in your life, look no further than the Soul Wireless headphones.