Beats co-creator's new Bluetooth headphones sound amazing

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Beats co-creator’s new Bluetooth headphones sound amazing

As seen on Mashable

“‘That’s a lot of wires for a pair of wireless headphones,’ was my first thought when I unboxed the $199 Roam Ropes USA Bluetooth headphones.

For Steven Lamar, a co-creator of Beats, the development of Roam Ropes is a personal journey.

Lamar lost his spouse to brain cancer and wanted to try something that limits how much time a smartphone is near our head. Scientific research remains inconclusive and there is no consensus on any of the potential carcinogenic nature of cellphones, according to the National Cancer Institute.

But with Roam Ropes, Lamar wanted to solve the problem of usability and mobility.

“You might have some Beats around the house, but all day, every day use? I’m probably not going to use my headphones. And when I’m traveling, they are just a pain in the ass,” Lamar toldMashable. Earbuds have their own issues of becoming tangled, hurting or a general lack of quality.

The patriotic edition of Roam Ropes, available via pre-order on Kickstarter, that will be worn by Olympic athletes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are worn like a necklace with a pendant hanging from the center. Roam Ropes is also available in a white, black or a “Stand Up to Cancer” orange edition if you don’t want the red-white-and-blue color scheme of Ropes USA.

Roam Ropes comes packaged with nearly every possible combination of earbud tip or clip to fit every ear canal imaginable. Large or small, Roam Ropes has you covered.

Ropes includes a travel pouch, a small charging cable and a cable adapter when you don’t want to use the Bluetooth or amp.

Questionable design

As I walked away from my desk, I realized I made a terrible mistake. Spotify was on and my headphones were still connected to my phone. I stopped in my tracks as I waited for gravity to tug the headphones from my ears as the phone crashed to the ground. It never happened because I was wearing the Roam Ropes.

That sense of freedom is startling at first, but easily becomes habit afterward. Walking around an apartment with your phone nowhere to be found, bike rides and anything else you can imagine are much easier and more comfortable with Bluetooth headphones. The headphones fit comfortably and the sport clips provide more security if you are more active.

Roam Ropes’ design appears to be, at best, a fashion statement or, at worse, a completely counterintuitive eyesore. We’re supposed to want customization, mobility and flexibility in 2016, not a mess of wires and a pendant dangling from your neck when you’re listening to some music.

Much like Beats, Roam Ropes wins you over by the end. The pendant won’t be for everyone, but it sits pretty comfortably tucked underneath your shirt. The EQ Engine sits flat and its silhouette is non-existent unless you wear tighter shirts. While riding a bike or grabbing a lunch with a friend, I forgot all about the Roam Ropes around my neck.

Ergonomics aside, the most striking thing about Roam Ropes is the pendant, or EQ Engine, which acts as the heart of the earphones and distinguishes these headphones from others on the market.

Housed in the thin rectangle is an amplifier, equalizer, Bluetooth and battery. Think of the EQ Engine as the powerhouse of the Roam Ropes.

The EQ Engine has decent battery life and it takes around a 15-minute charge for one hour of playback. The charging cable that comes with the Roam Ropes is really short, which means you won’t be able to listen to the headphones while they charge.

Coupled with the Roam EQ app, you can completely customize your listening experience based on your own preferences. If you want the vocals front-and-center, there are preset modes that can do that, or you can fiddle around to find the sound you like best. There are also plenty of options for the bass lovers in the room.

“I wanted to create functionality with the audio because everybody hears differently and I don’t think any one sound profile from any engineer at Bose or Beats or Sony really fits all listeners,” Lamar said.

I liked having the option to add some warmth to music or make a song brighter. The enhancements were never overpowering with added bass giving more body to a song instead of a muffled thump.

Roam Ropes is facing a lot of competition from more expensive Bose and Sennheiser offerings to more affordable headphones from the likes of Skullcandy, Phlaton, Jabra and Plantronics.

There are more minimalist earphones, but Roam Ropes is a nice alternative to the larger over-the-ear headphones or the plastic collar-style earphones.

There’s a lot to love if you’re an audiophile. Even the earpiece has a level of quality above the retail price, according to Lamar.

“The drivers in these earbuds are the same ones Shure puts into their $1,000 earbuds,” Lamar said. The Roam creator even said Ropes bested the $299 Bose QC20 in a side-by-side comparison.

Bluetooth headphones are taking over the market, according to the latest NPD data. Bluetooth headphones bested non-Bluetooth headphones for the first time in June with 54 percent of headphones sold. The wireless headphone is also seeing a tremendous growth of 42 percent year-over-year for the first six months of 2016 compared to a paltry 7 percent year-over-year growth for non-Bluetooth headphones.

And with new smartphones ditching the headphone jack, Bluetooth will be the better option for pretty much anyone who doesn’t want to deal with dongles.

Roam Ropes is a worthy entry into an increasingly strong lineup of wireless Bluetooth options. The design is a bit divisive, and there are other options to consider for around the same the price, but Roam Ropes does not disappoint when it comes to the audio.”

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