This week I was provided an interesting contrast in two bluetooth headphone products, the long awaited Apple AirPods and the BB Air wireless headphones from German firm Blomm & Berger.
Most of us watched the introduction of the AirPods during the WWDC keynote this September and were surprised to see Apple miss their shipping date in October. They finally started getting retail production going before the end of the year but are still on substantial back order.
The AirPods are small. Very small. Easy to lose small. So easy to lose that Apple actually assumes that you will lose one of the pair and has listed the replacement cost ahead of time ($69 with AppleCare). The whole pod is the size of a roll of dental floss. Don't let size fool you though, there is some great tech inside that little pod.
At the opposite side of the spectrum are the BB Airs. Big hearty headphones optimized for EDM and featuring both on-ear and over-ear earpads to allow for comfort and flexibility. Custom manufactured in Europe for the German based company that has made a name for themselves sponsoring dance parties and FIFA matches. They didn't have the money to startup manufacturing of the new product line so they turned to Kickstarter and Indigogo for support.
There isn't a lot to say about the sound quality of the AirPods. They sound about the same as the EarPods that ship with every iPod and iPhone. That in itself is pretty remarkable in true wireless headphones at this point but from an audio standpoint these aren't going to blow anyone out of the water.
Blomm & Berger's BB Air's are another matter entirely when it comes to sound quality. Even with the smaller pads placing them on your ears instead of over them these things sound very good. When you increase the size of the soundstage by completely surrounding your ears with the larger ear pads you get one of the best wireless sound experiences we've encountered so far.
As we all have heard, the Air⋅Pods have the same size and fit as the standard earpods, which quite a few people find uncomfortable. I don't mind them usually for short to medium listening, but they aren't comfortable past the two hour mark for me. This is fine, because battery life is only rated at three hours at 50% volume, so getting past two hours without needing to take them out to charge will be rare for most of us.
In contrast, I found the BB Air with the over-ear pads to be comfortable throughout a five hour flight from Portland to Houston without any problems at all. Usually even if they are not putting pressure on my ears (a rarity even for headphones designed to be over the ear given the size of my auditory appendages) my ears are feeling hot and uncomfortable by the three hour mark but somehow this didn't happen.
Overall I think both of these headphone devices are going to make buyers very happy. Apple already is having a hard time keeping Air⋅Pods in stock and I don't see that changing until another true wireless competitors products catch up with marketing. We'll have to wait and see if Blomm & Berger get enough marketing behind their own line to gain any major market share with what is a great product almost no one has heard of yet.