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$20 Bluetooth Headphones

By: Richard Mitchell

When I purchase inexpensive in-ear Bluetooth headphones, I generally have a somewhat low expectation for the device. If they last an academic year and are usable (with somewhat expected minor issues), I chalk it up to a great purchase. After all, they were only $20, right?

After a semester of use, I’m still using my $20 Otium Bluetooth headphones on a daily basis. I initially purchased the headphones because I wasn’t able to charge my iPhone while listening to music or watching videos, and I wasn’t prepared to spend $160 on Apple AirPods. The Otium headphones received a good review on Amazon and were well within my “just buy it” impulse-buy budget. When I received the headphones, it only took a few minutes to connect to my phone and start running it through the paces.

General Thoughts:
Audio Quality: The audio quality is similar to the headphones that come with the iPhone. They aren’t the best, but generally fine for music listening and movie watching. I’m sure an audiophile wouldn’t agree.
Comfort: I actually prefer how these headphones feel over a number of other in-ear headphones, but after 5-6 hours of constant listening, my ears get a bit tired of their fit.
Mic: The mic on the headphones is fine for basic phone conversations, but that’s about all I’d use them for.
Noise-Canceling: This device is “noise canceling” in the same way cotton balls are “noise canceling.” If this device has electronic noise-canceling technology, I don’t hear it.

Are the $20 Otium headphones a replacement for Apple AirPods? Well, perhaps. If you are a person that regularly misplaces headphones, needs 4+ hours of battery life, and doesn’t mind the tethered nature, these are a good solution… for $20. But, if you want an amazing level of integration with your iOS devices, these may not be the headphones for you. While I routinely use these with my iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Raspberry Pi and MacBook, seeing the deep level integration of Apple’s AirPods does make me a bit jealous.

AV Use Case:
While consulting with Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, they had an interesting use case where these headphones may work well. Their faculty teaches a class in English to a group of foreign students. Some of the students are fluent in English, some have a limited English background, and others don’t speak English. The Fuqua AV group has a professional translation system in place to capture the faculty’s comments and translate them to the native language of the students. If the students ask a question in their native language, the service translates the question back to English and sends it to the faculty member. But, they are currently using a wired connection for this. The faculty has asked if there could be an untethered option, so their group is exploring using a similar Bluetooth configuration in the coming months.

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