“Never judge a book by its cover,” the wise tell us. And we would extend the same advice to those who clap eyes on the rather elaborately named Energy Sistem Energy 1 Bluetooth headphones. No, it is not that they look bad – their glossy, shiny plastic build will definitely catch some attention. They are compact enough, and their trapezium shaped ear cups certainly make a change from the round and rectangular ones that we see on most units. The earcups can rotate slightly to give you a better fit, and the right earcup has three buttons behind it for controls – one each for increasing and decreasing volume, with a multifunction button between them. The right earcup also has a micro USB port beneath it for charging, while the one on the left has a jack for an inline cable – you can connect these phones over both Bluetooth and wires! The band between the earcups is solid enough while being flexible with just about enough “give” to adjust to different head sizes, and in a very neat touch, there is a hinge above the earcups that lets them twist inwards, shrinking the whole headset to the size of slightly oversized sunglasses. At around 137 grams, these are not bulky or heavy headphones, and although there is no carry case for them, they should fit into most bags easily, although that glossy plastic will pick up visible scratches and smudges.
That plastic is also responsible for some judging the headphones too harshly. Many people who saw them felt they looked a little on the cheap, plasticky side – we had the blue units for review, and to be honest, they did have a rather plasticky sheen to them. Some might consider them to be funky, but most people who saw them shook their heads at the design and at the fact that the earcups were not designed to seal out sound like other headphones (like Motorola’s Pulse Escape, which comes in the same price segment).
Their perceptions, however, changed when they put them on. Paired over Bluetooth with an iPhone or Android device (you do not need an app, but can simply do it through the Bluetooth menu), the Energy Sistems Headphones 1 deliver some very good sound. Yes, there is no noise isolation or cancellation, but the band fitted snugly around our heads and stayed in place while we went for a walk. We would not recommend wearing them for working out or running as excessive movement did move them around our ears just a little. They, however, felt comfortable with the inner lining feeling smooth against our ears. And while they do not seal out sound, with a little tweaking the headphones did negate most ambient sound effects.
The sound itself was generally well balanced and well above average – those wanting insanely high levels of bass will be disappointed, but if you are the type whose tastes incline more towards music that has a few clearly defined instruments or very prominent vocals, then you will like what you hear. Country, folk and classic rock fans will prefer these as will those with a leaning towards jazz, but turn up the number of instruments and a certain amount of ‘confusion’ comes in. We also felt we detected a slight distortion in sound sometimes at higher volumes (volume levels themselves are decent), but nothing to break deals over. There is also a slight seepage of sound at higher volume levels, but it is again not very high.
Using the buttons on the headphones is a slightly mixed bag. The volume increase and decrease can also be used to go a track ahead or behind with long presses. The multifunction button in the middle is truly multifunction and can take some getting used to, as different durations of pressure allow it to be used to start and shut down the phone, for pairing (a longer press), for taking and rejecting calls, and also for making calls. That may sound like a lot, but for the most part, things work smoothly, although we did not like the clicky sounds the buttons made while being pressed. A word about call quality – we do not recommend using them in noisy environments as while we could hear the person we were talking to clearly, they often had issues hearing us.
Battery life is close to the eight hours promised – we normally got close to seven and seven a half hours while using the headphones at relatively higher volumes. Charging the headphones took about an hour and a half, and of course, if they run out of battery, you can always use the inline cable in the box to plug them into a 3.5 mm audio jack. A neat touch, we think. Bluetooth range incidentally is supposed to be 10 meters, but the connection tends to drop if you step out of a room.
All said and done for Rs 2199; the Energy Sistems Headphone 1 Bluetooth do deliver a fair bit. They are compact, lightweight, have good battery life and very decent sound. We think their biggest rivals are going to be the Motorola Plus Escape which comes for around the same price and while being heavier and bulkier, have noise isolation up their sleeves. But if you are looking at something that is lighter and more portable, these are definite contenders.