When I received the OnVocal “OV” Stereo Bluetooth Earphones, I was expecting something that I could use with my Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot. I thought it would be redundant considering the nature of how the Echo works, but if it could provide another lazy way to manage my smart home, then the OV Earphones were worth checking out.
I received the earphones and immediately took them out of the box. The packaging was so classy – the earphones were encased in a faux leather case with a magnetic fold and a felt interior. Included inside the box are an AUX cable and a microUSB charging cable. The case is slim enough to toss into a backpack and offers sufficient protection for the earphones.
The On Vocal earphones come in two parts: a rather bulky neckband which houses all of the necessary tech to allow Alexa to function in the wild. A Bluetooth connection is necessary for Alexa to work away from home. If you go for a run without your phone, then Alexa stays at home as well. The other part is a wired, over-the-ear, pair of earbuds that attaches to the neckband. The right earbud has an extended, flexible microphone. While this microphone is sure to improve the quality of making phone calls, it isn’t the best look in my opinion. Both earbuds sport Comply foam tips, providing a true in-ear experience, which expand to provide a better seal and a better sound. The build quality is on point as the earphones feel solid and well constructed. I can’t help but wonder if OV could have made the neckband more compact.
Let’s start with the negatives. The neckband is too bulky and uncomfortable to sit discreetly under the collar or for all-day wear. Also, some useful features were not available to me when using Alexa. For one, the earphones would not make phone calls via Alexa as I can do in my home. Also, I wanted to set a reminder and this function was not available. While there are many features that are Alexa enabled, these are two basic functions that should have been incorporated. Last, I think the $299 price tag is a bit excessive. Knock a hundred dollars off and these are a full go. Also, I think the button placement/design is a little weird. There are six buttons that control power, volume, track control, enabling/disabling Alexa, voice, and ambient control. Each of these little nubs impact comfort by pressing into the neck if the earphones are not sitting on the neck just right.
The OV app is also lacking. Compatible with both Android and iOS, it has the potential to really maximize the earphones capabilities. However, it misses the mark with the absence of an equalizer which would give the user more control over the sound quality.
There are a lot of good things to say about the OV. The sound quality rivals any of the better earphones such as the Jaybirds and the Powerbeats3. I don’t claim to be an audiophile, but the OV earphones more than suits the average user’s purposes. Music of all genres come through crystal clear and the earphones are plenty loud. As I write this, Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” is kicking in my ears and I have no complaints. Phone calls are clear and without any interference, in part due to the extended microphone. Bluetooth connectivity exceeded my expectations as I was able to move about 40 feet from my phone before interruption.
The earphones are a “smart” device. Not only can you access Alexa, but you can also access other smart assistants such as Google Assistant, Siri, and Samsung’s Bixby. This is only possible by having a Bluetooth connection to your phone. These can be accessed by using the button found on the right earbud. As far as Alexa is concerned, a press of the front left button wakes it up. There is about a two-second delay, but it isn’t necessary to use a wake word to bring Alexa to life.
The OnVocal Stereo Bluetooth Earphones is a great idea in concept, but I think it could have been executed better. I have faith that as the technology continues to develop, future generations of OV will be worth the $299 price tag.