Bluetooth headsets - A tale of hassle


I've used Bluetooth headphones since around 2013. My first pair was this $25 ode to fugliness. It was an around-the-neck style set of 'phones with with on-ear earcups, which didn't cut out external sound; I thought they'd be good for using while biking.

Kinivo BT headphones, apparently a white-label brand whose clones are widely available

Despite the dorky look, the unreliable microphone and a very annoying habit of losing reception at busy intersections, this brand and this style continues to by my most liked type of BT headset. Not the strongest vote of confidence I've ever bestowed, but appropriate given the overall low standards of the BT space.

Surprisingly, the price for this cheapo style of headphones has gone up seemingly every year; variants of the original Kinivo now sell for $40 - $50. Having bought multiple versions of them over the years, I can tell you that they are identical if not worse. There's no BT aptX, not BT 5.0, nothing to reflect the improvements to BT audio quality in the past decade.

Not wanting to pay more for stagnant technology, I decided to look elsewhere. Surely there would be at least one vendor out there that wasn't shilling AirPods ripoffs or grotesquely large over-the-ear headphones that Beats and Skullkandy popularized. I wasn't wrong; I found one....just one though.

JLab Rewind 1 JLab Rewind 2 JLab Rewind 3

The JLab Rewind features a name-befitting retro '80s design. Mercifully, it's minimal and not obtrusive when out and about. You can wear it around your neck when not in use, and it won't chafe under your chin the way headphones with larger earcups do.

The right side has a Pause/Play button that's extremely handy; unlike the Kinivo however, it doesn't have all the other controls that made it incredibly convenient: we need a PREV/NEXT button too!

On the bad side, the on-ear design really does not block any kind of noise at all. The Kinivo's earpiece design made it look awful when worn, but the faux-leather cushioning delivered far better sound than what I get on the JLab. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that these aren't really suitable for listening to music at all; the bass response is almost non-existent unless you press the band to your ears.

I'd still recommend these if you are primarily listening to spoken audio, such as Zoom, podcasts or TV shows; there are no problems there. But if you aren't obssessive about headphone shapes, portability and comfort, I'd strongly advise you to grab something else.