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GeekDad Review: AtomicX Bluetooth Headphones

Gadgets Music Reviews
AtomicX wireless headphones
AtomicX Bluetooth Headphones (image copyright iDeaUSA).

A few months ago, I reviewed the TACO Bluetooth speakers from iDea USA. I was pretty impressed with the value that dual-speaker Bluetooth system offered. The company also sent a set of Bluetooth headphones, the AtomicX. These were a bit more of a mixed bag.

Visually, they’re stylish, and modern looking. The ear cups are rounded rectangles with enough soft padding to be comfortable. They can be adjusted up and down and also rotate slightly in either direction. I was able to get a good seal so there was little in the way of sound bleed (in either direction). The headband is well padded and covered with a soft faux leather material. The version I had is black with brushed metal trim.

Wearing them was comfortable, even for a few hours at a time.

Bluetooth pairing was simple and the headphones would automatically re-connect if I moved out of and range and back. They can be paired with two devices without having to disconnect and re-pair, which is handy if you listen to music from more than one source. However, I noticed a weird, sporadic delay in responding to inputs from my iPhone. At times it would take a few seconds to register a change in volume; at its most extreme, it took nearly 20 seconds to register a change.

I wasn’t sure if this was related to Apple’s latest Music app (I’d just updated), but I tried the iPhone with other Bluetooth devices and couldn’t repeat the effect. So I plugged the headphones in directly and the problem went away. Once back back to Bluetooth, the lag would eventually pop up back, so it’s definitely got something to do with the wireless connection. It doesn’t happen all the time and it’s not a deal killer, but it was annoying. I didn’t spot any other references to the issue on Amazon (where the headphones have a 4.7 star rating with 151 reviews), so it’s possible the issue is specific to my review unit.

The AtomicX Bluetooth headphones don’t quite match the more expensive competition in build quality. They seem sturdy enough, but there are a few points of concern. When folding, there’s a detente with a harsh click that feels as though it’s going to wear over time — I’d guess the hinges may be a long-term weak point. I also noticed the occasional rattle coming from the right ear cup.  Since that’s the one with the Bluetooth radio and controls I was worried that a component had come loose inside, but it turned out that the noise is the control buttons. They’re plastic, a little loose and if you move your head or tap the cup, you’ll hear them jiggling around over the sound of your music.

Everything you get with AtomicX headphones
AtomicX Bluetooth headphones fold to a compact size and include a hard shell protective case (image copyright iDeaUSA).

In terms of audio quality, when plugged in using a cable they offered well balanced sound reproduction (they have a stated range of 20Hz to 20KHz). The experience isn’t quite on par with higher end headphones in my collection like models from Sennheiser, but listening was enjoyable.

There’s some digital amplification going on with the Bluetooth audio (powered by a Bluetooth 4.0 +CSR chip with AptX support). The sound is much louder (and maximum volume is considerably higher) than when plugged in, and it’s weighted toward the bass end of things. If you like your music to have a real bass boost, you’ll love this and it was especially effective when playing electronic music. After about the 50 percent volume level, it began getting a little loud for comfort using Bluetooth and by the 75 percent level it was too much for me, at least for more than a few minutes at a time. Even at this volume, music wasn’t particularly distorted and there was no buzzing, but considerable detail was lost in the barrage of low frequency amplification.

Recharging from my laptop took under two hours and I got over of two full days worth of listening, which is in line with the rated 15+ hours of battery life. I’m not a fan of headphone-mounted controls (I always mash the wrong buttons), but they’re there and worked to control music playback on my iPhone. There’s also a microphone built-in the the ear cup for hands free calling.

Based on my experience with the AtomicX Bluetooth headphones, I don’t think I’d pay the $129.99 retail price for a pair, but Amazon currently has them on sale for $64.99, making them much more attractive. It’s worth noting that the price includes a very handy zippered hard shell carrying case, audio cable and USB cable.

Just make sure you enable the volume limiter option on your device before giving these to your kids.

Disclosure: iDeas USA provided a set of AtomicX headphones for review purposes.

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