Beats Co-Creator Goes It Alone With An Earphone That Really Stands Out From The Crowd

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Beats Co-Creator Goes It Alone With An Earphone That Really Stands Out From The Crowd

As seen on Forbes

“In the crowded earphone market your pitch really has to standout from the crowd. Ask most young people to name a brand of headphones and I wouldn’t mind betting that most would reply with ‘Beats by Dr Dre’. The iconic brand was picked up a couple of years back by Apple and appears to go from strength to strength. Now Steven Lamar, the co-creator of Beats by Dr Dre, has set up his own company; and if my experience of ROAM Ropes is anything to go by, Lamar stands a very good chance of making an impact.

These Bluetooth earphones are unusual in that they work with a downloadable app that can be used to shape and alter the EQ response of the music by creating and storing custom sound profiles or by using one of the many presets that Lamar has created. I have to say that, although the audio quality of the ROAM Ropes is as impressive as you’d expect, I’m not overly keen on the design, but I’m not the target market of these ingenious earphones, which will no doubt appeal to the market that’s already dominated by Beats.

ROAM Ropes are worn as a wire harness that you put your head through and drape over your shoulders. Dangling at the front of the harness is a small plastic pendant that contains a rechargeable battery and the necessary circuitry for the EQ engine and amplifier that drives these earphones. They’re not unpleasant to wear but the striking design by San Francisco-based Astro Studios is a bit more bling than I’d like. I suspect younger users will love the design but I felt as if I was wearing some sort of necklace.

As far as the sound goes, the ROAM Ropes are so clear and so well-balanced, you really can hear every aspect of the music. Spoken word is outstandingly nuanced and Ropes suit all types of music, especially if you use the app to alter the sonic response to your tastes. The 10mm direct radiating base driver delivers a frequency response from 4kHz – 20kHz, while the balance armature driver delivers mid- and high-range frequencies as high as you can hear. That dangling pendant at the front of the harness houses a 28-bit, 50-MIPS processor and an ultra-low noise, 24-bit stereo DAC. The amplified signal-to-noise ratio is a very respectable 98dB.

However, these earphones aren’t without a few problems or teething troubles. First up is a tendency to pick up interference from cell phones. It doesn’t happen that often but it can be annoying. The second oddity is the battery charge level which shows up on my iPhone 5s and iPad as being at 60% no matter how much I charge the earphones. I’ve tried this out on two pairs of Ropes to see if it was a manufacturing defect but it’s not. Fortunately there’s a battery level indicator from within the ROAM app so you can use that instead. This is a minor bug that could easily be fixed via a firmware update.

One aspect that I really like is the inclusion of a cable that plugs into your smartphone’s headphone jack and then plugs into the Micro USB port on the pendant and enables you to listen to the headphones when there’s no battery charge left or if you simply prefer not to use Bluetooth. The balanced armature drivers in these earphones do an incredible job of reproducing music in such an engaging and enjoyable way. There’s also an inline remote control on the right-hand cable that controls the volume, pause, skip tracks, as well as answer and hang-up commands.

You can use the ROAM Ropes without the ROAM app but the advantage of using the app is the opportunity to shape the EQ response and to increase the volume to a level higher than the limit that many smartphones impose. My one criticism of the app is that doesn’t automatically launch and connect when you’re using the earphones. You have to launch the app and then connect to the ROAM Ropes each time you use them. This ought to happen automatically and I hope it’s something ROAM is going to sort out, along with the erroneous battery-level reading.

Verdict

ROAM Ropes are great earphones… there’s no question about that. Are they worth the extra money over a cheaper pair of Bluetooth earphones? Yes they most definitely are, especially if you like the eccentric design and can live with the few issues on battery levels and connecting the app each time you use it. ROAM will do very well if it can carry on developing products with this sort of quality, especially now it has signed a marketing agreement with Atari. ROAM Ropes will also be gracing the necks of some of the USA Olympic Team in Rio this  summer, so that should give the brand plenty of the right kind of exposure.

Prices: $199, £153, €180

More info: http://roamwith.com

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