This week I was contacted by our new friends at Ausdom, asking if I'd like to review one of their Bienna brand headphones. I had never heard of the brand before and was intrigued by the wireless model QY8. This model labels itself as an aptX specification product. This is a note worthy spec to put into a headphone at the $29.99 (Amazon USA) / £19.99 (Amazon UK) price point.
I wondered how It would live up to this specification as aptX is capable of delivering CD quality audio transmission and often found in higher priced wireless audio devices; It is also interesting to note that the official aptX website lists all headphones that use the technology, and the Bienna QY8 does not feature in this list, although Ausdom's own brand headphone is in that listing. Very strange.
So what can I conclude from the slightly vague spec and omission from the aptX product listing? Perhaps a costs savings effort, in which case a win for the consumer as the savings appear to have been passed on. I guess it doesn't matter too much if the QY8 performs as well as I expect it should given the aptX support. I've owned Bluetooth headphones and amplifiers using it before, and they have been superb, so the technology certainly does live up to its claim where specified.
Note: aptX is supported by the majority of Android OEM smartphones (though not the Nexus handsets) on the market today. Sadly though, no iPhone supports this technology, instead they use SBC fallback when paired to aptX capable outputs. For a full list of compatible products please see the aptX website.
Contents & Specifications
The box is exactly how you see it below, a brown box with no other information on it, either inside or out!
I had some trouble locating an official Bienna website to pull more detailed specifications from, the earphones themselves seem to be only sold on Amazon.
Update: The Amazon UK link states an 80mAh battery on-board.
You could be forgiven for thinking then that the QY8 may not sound very good given that no mention is made of important information such as frequency response, THD and driver size.
Although having said that, the aptX standard codec has a frequency response of 10Hz-22KHz, so from this I guess we could assume that this is also the minimum boundary for the speaker driver in the QY8 in order to comply.
The quality of the plastic isn't as high quality feeling as more premium earphones, but is certainly acceptable. The description says the QY8 is sweat proof, and being sports earphones we can safely assume the material quality isn't going to be prone to allowing either human or nature's moisture in.
The right earbud contains all the buttons, whilst the left bud contains the MicroUSB port and microphone. The USB port is covered by a flap, which my (lack of)nails were unable to open successfully. In the end I used a small tip instrument to get it open.
Taking the eartip off reveals a white material acting as mesh to protect the inner driver chamber from moisture and debris.
The eartips fit into the surround very snugly and there's no play on either the tip or the hook. Each bud is labelled in clear white font of a nice size, so visually telling which is which is easy. The volume buttons are also notched, so feeling for the correct side in the dark is just as easy.
Compared to a wired earphone, the QY8 is considerably larger, though not that much heavier. In the above photo I've put one QY8 earbud next to a Sennheiser IE80 earbud. I can certainly notice the QY8 on the ear more than the IE80.
In fitting, the QY8 is more bulbous, the ear hooks are essential for keeping them in place, else they wobble off when you start moving around.
I found the comfort to be initially very good, a nice snug fit with the large size eartips and hooks. After about an hour on the ear though, I could feel the hooks clamping into my upper ear and some discomfort set in.
I have never worn earphones with hooks before as my IE80s do not require them, so maybe it's just that I'm not used to having this configuration yet.
The Amazon product description states that the QY8 has:
Two powerful audio drivers on each side offering balanced audio and crystal clear sounds...
Having listening to my entire music library on shuffle all day, I can confirm the above claim by Bienna is true. I reviewed the Symphonized NRG Premium earphones this week, and the audio quality is higher fidelity and better presented on the QY8 over Bluetooth than the NRG over wired, and for only ~$5 more.
Treble is nicely controlled and it has to be said though that the character of the QY8 leans on the brighter side. They are brighter than the Symphonised NRG wired, and my Sennheiser IE80. The curious thing about this is that there's no sibilance that I could hear, vocalists singing words with the letter S in them were presented with good all round detail without sounding digitised.
The soundstage is spacious, though not as wide as more expensive earphones. Vocals are middle-front in position, though not as centralised as I found the Symphonized NRG to be in this area.
Bass control was really a major highlight. I found that sub-bass kicked hard yet low, and was very detailed. To best describe it, it feels like the headphones are very neutral, but someone has disabled tone defat at the source and added a few notches to the bass dial, for the better.
Outside of audio output, I found the battery life to be excellent. I've been listening to them almost all day on and off and have yet recharge the built in battery. Bienna say it takes 2 hours for a full charge, and this gives 7 hours playback. The Amazon UK page states an 80mAh battery inside. It takes 2.5 hours to charge an average smartphone, so I think the charge time is a little long.
My Xperia Z3 detected the QY8 as an aptX device and music sounded very authentic to the original file.
To finish, the microphone works as expected too, I made some calls and the other party was able to hear me just as well as they did through the phone's microphone. No complaints here. Double tapping the main button initiates last called number redial, and a single tap answers and ends calls.
The button also serves as Google Voice Search (via Google Now) on Android phones. Unfortunately at the time of review, I only had access to Android phones to test the features with.
Once again, another new product has been a surprise during testing. For $30/£20, you're getting an exceptional pair of earphones that offers high end sound. Only a couple of years ago this would have been (excuse the pun...) unheard of. Yet here we are.
The future of wireless is always getting brighter, and if the QY8 is anything to go by, then I cannot wait to see what products are to come in another couple of years.
The Symphonized NRG is one of the best low-cost wired earphones I have heard in a long time, and here the Bienna QY8 are the best any-cost wireless earphones I have heard. In many ways the performance of the QY8 beats most wired earphones even at double this price range.
My only real criticisms are the discomfort and lack of detailed info being disclosed on the for sale pages. The fact that aptX is supported shows that they are aimed at people who do want to get the most out of their portable music, those people tend to look for detailed specs when shopping around.
If you have similar sized ears to me, and can get used to the discomfort after prolonged listening, then I think these earphones will amaze you. Just make sure whatever you pair them up to also supports aptX.