There’s a new wave of headphones that’s been rolling out recently. Over the past year or two the realm of fully wireless headphones have begun. Countless companies are selling them and today we review one of the latest products. The CrazyBaby Air Wireless Headphones.
Arriving on Indiegogo last year, crazybaby are a well established company. They have had previous success with their other products the Mars and Luna which are also both speakers. The new headphones raised almost three million dollars which was over 5500% of the original goal. So it’s safe to say these were popular!
With over 22,000 backers one of the main features was the new Carbon Nanotube diaphragm. This promised much better sound quality despite being a small speaker. Another major plus was the latest CSR chip which was touted to enable their “Never Drop Audio Connection”.
Previous wireless bluetooth headphones have had numerous issues with dropouts or interference. This is usually due to the extremely low power required due to small batteries. With such low power the transmitters don’t have much signal strength to work with. Furthermore the human head makes for an excellent Bluetooth absorber!
What’s In The Box
Given the slew of previous wireless headphones disappointing customers and Crazybaby’s promise of a “no drop” connection I decided to order in December. After around 8 months of waiting my single black pair arrived in the mail. Originally they were supposed to arrive in January 2017 but suffice to say, there were a few delays.
One of the main things that delayed them was a redesign due to a new, better battery. Another retooling was also required as the molds for the charging capsule weren’t up to their high standards. As a type of apology Crazybaby graciously extended the warranty from 12 months to 18.
Included in the box for each Air is:
- Air Wireless Headphones
- XS/S/M/L Silicone Ear Tips
- S/M/L Sport-Sleeves
- Charging Capsule
- USB-C to USB-A Charge Cable
Click on any of the gallery images for super high res, crisp and up close versions!
Look And Feel
The Air charging capsule is one of the sleekest pieces of tech I’ve seen/touched. It’s small, modern, milled to perfection and easily fits anywhere. Extra points to Crazybaby for their use of USB Type-C for the charging cable. There is also a handy LED on the other end to indicate when the buds are charging.
Opening/closing the capsule is simple and there’s a solid “click” when you do. You’re supposed to rotate the top to a “lock” and “unlock” position but this isn’t really needed. It’s also virtually impossible to see the lock/unlock icons on the capsule as they’re about the size of a pinhead.
I simply push/pull the top in/out to access the buds now as it’s much easier and doesn’t seem to damage it. When you do open it up you’re greeted with yet more precise engineering. The buds magnetically slot into their home and charge straight away. Furthermore when you do put them in there they automatically turn off too which is nice. Note they don’t auto turn on when you take them out. For this you have to press and hold both Air buttons.
The magnetic touch is very welcomed as you don’t always open the capsule facing the right way up. The last thing you want is for the buds to fall out and onto the floor. Being magnetically locked into their charging home is an excellent addition.
Fit And Comfort
This will obviously vary from person to person as no two ears are the same. For me the fit was perfect. I could sit with them in my ears for hours on end and not feel any discomfort. Normally over ear headphones and even my previous (albeit cheap) earbuds would have to be removed eventually. Usually 1-2 hours of constant use was enough but with Air I found them running out of battery first. This meant they were in for around 3 hours.
The charging capsule is also very small and easy to carry with you. You can slot it in your bag and it holds the buds well. It also doubles as a charger for them too which is extra handy. Most companies are doing this already but none of the other cases seem quite as premium as this one.
Another note that was surprisingly good was their noise cancellation. Combined with the volume up to full you’re 100% isolated from the world. Given how small and concealed the Crazybaby Air’s are though, it might cause some issues with people thinking you’re ignoring them so be warned!
Ease Of Use
Connecting and pairing up the Air’s was easy on every device I tried. Turn on Bluetooth, turn on the Air’s, search for Bluetooth devices, click and they’d be paired.
There was no passcodes to enter and it paired first time every time. This was the case on an Android Nexus 6P, Samsung S8+ and Asus Windows 10 laptop. It’s nice to see that bluetooth devices are now getting much easier to pair. While the Apple Air Pods pair even easier I still prefer standard bluetooth. Sure it adds one step or so but I can use these earphones on anything.
Using the buttons on the side of the earbuds was also quite easy. A touch sensitive button I think would have worked better. However they still work very well and you quickly get used to them. I sort of squeeze the earbud so that I hold onto one side while pressing the button on the other. Each button has a few different uses depending on how many times you press it in a row.
Turning them on takes a few seconds and they instantly pair up to your phone. When you are done with them just put them back into the capsule and they automatically turn off. It’s all very simple and quite straight forward so props to Crazybaby for this.
Here is where we really get into it. The connectivity. Do they drop? Have they finally achieved the real deal????
My Answer: No. Not good enough.
There are many things that affect electromagnetic waves. I actually happen to be uniquely qualified in understanding this as my Science degree was done in Photonics. This degree specialized in the interaction of electromagnetic waves and their interaction with matter. Bluetooth is an electromagnetic wave. Therefor I fully understand what might interfere with EM waves like Bluetooth radio signals and how they propagate in air right down to a quantum level.
As such I tried to be as scientific and methodical about testing the connectivity as I could. That being said I didn’t exactly have lab equipment or do 100 rounds in a Faraday cage. Whilst this admittedly isn’t as scientific, it is a lot more comparable to real world environments.
Test Environment And Tests
In keeping with this real world environment I’ll note that our house has a 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi router in the middle of it. It also has several LIFX Lightbulbs and an August Lock. While I acknowledge that these could cause interference with the Air’s, this is what happens in the real world.
It is no good testing your product in a blank environment and claiming “it works” when in the real world it gets overwhelmed by incidental signals. So to do these tests I put the Air’s through three separate test environments that were progressively more challenging:
- Playing music from a Samsung S8+ that was sitting on a table 30 cm directly in front of me
- Play the same music from a Samsung S8+ that was in my front left jeans pocket
- Again play the same music from a Samsung S8+ that was sitting on the floor during gym
These three environments I believe mimic three very real and very common test case scenarios. All three used the Air’s on full charge and paired with a brand new Samsung Galaxy S8+ that’s running the latest version Android. Being pretty much the most powerful and latest Android phone (and one of the most common) the S8+ was a perfect test phone. It even has the latest Bluetooth 5.0 which is above the Air’s 4.2 version. To do each test I played 3 random songs via Google Play and simply counted the number of drop outs experienced.
Test Case 1:
Here was the simplest test. The phone was placed 30 cm in front of me on a wooden table. There were no obstacles in between, no movement on my part and the phone and buds were roughly on the same plane. The results were good. Over 10 minutes of music play time and there were zero drop outs. 10/10, complete pass.
Test Case 2:
Here the smartphone was placed in my jeans pocket and I simply walked around the house. I went about my day tidying up a little and putting clothes away here and there. My hands were in my pockets sometimes, sometimes my arms were crossed. Sometimes they were just by my side I tried to mix it up. The results weren’t good. Over the 10 minute period of music play back I counted 12 drop outs. Each drop out only lasted a brief second but it happened frequently. Roughly once every minute or so on average.
Test Case 3:
The third and final challenge was a weights work out. This involved me placing the phone on the carpet floor around 1-3 meters away from me. I would walk around, load/unload weight plates. Perform free weight exercises while listening to the music. This test case was chosen as not only do I like listening to music while doing gym, but Crazybaby explicitly advertises this for sport.
They have pictures of people running with them and even note their water resistance to sweat and rain. Again the test results weren’t good. Over the 10 minute period of music play back I counted 21 drop outs plus the right ear bud died completely for a brief time. It came back on after around 10 seconds.
Connection Stability Conclusion:
The below quote is taken directly from Crazybaby’s website (emphasis mine):
Never Drop Audio Connection – In a world flooded with Bluetooth technology, Air is a cut above the rest. The latest CSR high quality decoding chip provides a consistent reliable connection that never drops out.
This claim by my testing is completely false. Unless you have your phone sitting directly in front of you with nothing (not even your arm!) in between, expect drop outs.
I could perhaps excuse the Air’s if they only slightly failed in Test Case 3 as this test involved me being up to 3 meters away. Added to that the large metal weights and constant movement make for a very difficult transmission environment. I could excuse the odd drop out every 10-15 minutes maybe. But a drop out every 30 seconds is not good enough.
To make matters worse you can’t even use them with the most likely of use case scenarios which is with your phone in your pocket. Test Case 2 had the Air’s dropping around once per minute. This is not what I think of when I envisage “consistent reliable connections“. As far as I’m concerned the Air’s should virtually never drop out when being in my pocket. This is at most a 1 meter transmission distance.
I also tested the Air’s using my Asus Laptop. Again being directly in front of me on a table they performed flawlessly. Walking away from the laptop, even with line of site and things didn’t go so well. Walking 3-4 meters away from the laptop I experienced the odd dropout. There were 2 dropouts in around 10 minutes. These dropouts seemed to occur only when the main left earbud was obstructed by my body or arm.
According to their website Crazybaby Air provides up to 3 hours listening time, or up to 4 hours talk time. Running them dry a number of times in a row now that seems to be quite accurate. If you need to use them again after they’re dry you’ll need to wait around an hour for the capsule to recharge them. The capsule holds four full charges which is much better than competitors out there.
I’m no audiophile. However the Crazybaby Air’s sound fantastic. They are loud and crisp with a good amount of base. I’m also now hearing a bunch of new parts to the same music I’ve been listening to before. Previously unheard base or background riffs. It’s quite the new experience and helps to justify the premium price.
I don’t want to go too into depth in this area as I’m no professional. That being said I don’t think too many people will be disappointed. They are after all only small speakers so one can’t expect miracles. I also can’t vouch for how much difference the Carbon Nanotube diaphragm and the latest CSR chip make. Either way I’m very happy with the quality.
Making calls with the Crazybaby Air’s wasn’t such a great experience. According to the receiving caller I was quite faint and echoed a bit. This isn’t entirely surprising given there is no microphone sticking out of them. Instead it’s nestled inside my ear which has to make things more difficult. Calls were fine though provided you speak a slight bit louder than normal.
Using the Air’s to activate Google Assistant was much better. A quick double tap on the left bud activates the prompt and all commands went through without a hiccup. This was tested while the phone was in my front left pocket. Various commands like turning LIFX bulbs on/off worked as well as calling contacts.
Crazybaby has created their own iPhone and Android app for their new headphones. I’m not really sure why though.
It’s a great start that the application is smooth, built for Android and very well designed. However there really is no functionality to it from what I can find. Below are a set of screenshots from the app. The first two simply tell you how to use the earbuds which a quick start guide can do. The music tab can play music obviously but why you would do that through the Air app rather than Google Music or another music specific app I have no idea.
Moving on you have a Settings tab that has no settings and an Account tab for… well honestly I’m not sure what. The app doesn’t crash or lag but it also doesn’t seem to do anything either. Thankfully you don’t actually need the app at all to use the headphones.
One of the key details that the app should provide is the battery status of the buds. This unfortunately isn’t anywhere to be found. The app also requests your location permission when you first open it. I can’t think of any reason why this is required for earbuds but it doesn’t function without it. Crazybaby should either remove this permission or at least explain why it’s required.
I’d also like to see the ability to control the LED flashing on the earbuds via the app. Turning it on and off, changing colours etc. They could also give you a live status of how the buds are charging when they’re in the capsule. To start with though it should at least tell you the Air’s battery level.
Overall I can’t recommend the Crazybaby Air wireless headphones. They certainly deliver on the premium side of things. Providing all the sizes, sleeve and components you could want in their box. They also look and feel fantastic. Modern, sleek and small they’re easy to carry anywhere.
While they are easy to use I did find their use confusing sometimes. This is due to the zero feedback on what they’re doing due to the minimalistic design. What did that weird sound mean? Is that them turning on or off? Or has the batteries died? Verbal sounds would be much clearer.
The battery life whilst accurate didn’t amaze me like the look and feel etc did. Given how small they are it’s quite the achievement though.
- Included Components – 10/10
- Look And Feel – 10/10
- Fit And Comfort – 10/10
- Ease Of Use – 9/10
- Connection Stability – 3/10
- Battery Life – 9/10
- Sound Quality – 10/10
- Companion App – 0/10
- Total Score: 61/80
Crazybaby Air Conclusion
Clearly the companion app is where everything starts to fall apart. Perhaps I’m missing something and if so, I’ll happily update this post. However being a scientist and engineer as well as huge technology, IT and networking nerd if I can’t figure the app out… it’s not a good sign. The app is void of any useful function and has none of the useful functions you’d assume. So it’s only saving grace is it’s not needed.
As for the connectivity perhaps I’ve received a faulty unit. I will happily retest any replacement device Crazybaby sends me and update this post. I’ll also be contacting them to see what they say as currently I’m not satisfied with this purchase and want a refund. Even though I love almost everything else about the Air’s, if they don’t play music effectively… what’s the point?
Finally I know there are a lot of backers out there waiting on their Crazybaby Air’s. I also know Crazybaby haven’t answered all of everyone’s questions too. So if you have any questions or requests for specific photo etc just ask. I’ll try and do my best to answer or provide shots.
Also if you have received your Air’s please do your own tests and report back in the comments. I’m sure more backers would like to hear other’s stories. Count the drop outs in a 10 minute period for one of my test cases and let us know how you went in the comments below!
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