SoundPEATS Q16: Who needs wires?

Greetings,

We all know it’s coming, whether we like it or not. The wireless wave is upon us. Pretty much every major earphone manufacturer has a wireless option, and there are countless others trying to get in on the fun. Today we’re going to see what SoundPEATS was able to pull off with their fully wireless model, the Q16.

It feels weird to say that a company that was founded in 2010 has been around for a while as I still remember what I was doing at the turn of the 20th century. But alas, that’s the case. Over the last seven years they’ve been building a world class brand selling high quality, low cost products with no intention of skimping on the important stuff; i.e. sound quality.

When I was contacted to see if I would be interested in checking out the Q16, I was hesitantly curious. My previous, and at the time only run in with a fully wireless earphone, the D900s from Syllable, showed there was a lot of promise tucked away among a slew of problems. However, one quick look at the product design, specs sheet, and slew of positive reviews for the Q16, and I knew I had to give these a shot. They have a similarly ergonomic design as the ADVANCED Evo-X which I really enjoy and use daily, longer battery life than any other wireless in-ear I’ve tried (truly wireless or not), and they are using Bluetooth 4.2. This was a key point in my decision to give the Q16 a go as I hoped an updated version of Bluetooth would lead to a more stable connection between the two earpieces, a critical flaw with the D900s.

If my experiences with the Q16 are any indication, SoundPEATS will be a brand to keep an eye on as they continue to refine and enhance their products. Let’s find out why.

Disclaimer:

Big thanks to Carrie at SoundPEATS Audio for reaching out to see if I would be interested in checking out the Q16. This unit was provided free of charge. The thoughts and opinions within this review are my own and do not represent SoundPEATS or any other entity besides myself.

You can check out the Q16 here on their product page;

http://www.soundpeatsaudio.com/html/goaling/product/detail_anon.html?product_id=19

Us lucky Canadians can scoop ours up here;

https://www.amazon.ca/SoundPEATS-Bluetooth-Headphones-Earphones-Sweatproof/dp/B06X6B3CV6

Specs

My Gear and I:

I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.

Gear used for testing was an HTC One M8, and a Shanling M1 that was recently added to the crew. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures, I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. My favorite in-ear, the Echobox Finder X1[i[ is a fantastic example of this with their grey filters installed.

 

Packaging and Accessories:

SoundPEATS takes a minimalist, classy route with the Q16 shipping it in compact 4″x4″x2″ matte black box. Print is quite minimal with a glossy SoundPEATS logo printed on the front, and some customer service and website info printed on the back.

Lift off the lid to reveal the hard clam shell case that takes up the entirety of the box. Hidden underneath that is the instruction booklet and a card that covers both first use instructions and the same customer support details that appeared on the back of the box.

Inside the case you find the Q16 earpieces themselves and the provided accessories;

– 9″ USB charge cable that splits off into two MicroUSB connections

– Spare silicone tips in s/m/l (medium preinstalled)

The USB cable uses a flat wire and feels pretty durable. The tips are something you’ve probably seen before as they come with huge number of earphones across many manufacturers. I personally like them as they’re comfortable, seal well, and are very durable.

 

Design, Build, Comfort, Isolation:

While I’m always down to try out an earphone with an eye-pleasing design, not all can accomplish that task. The Q16? Well, I certainly wouldn’t say their thick, bulky shells make them a handsome earphone but I’ve certainly seen worse, and they’re at least interesting to look at. The plastics feel like they were chosen not because they’re visually appealing, but because they’re durable. The buttons depress with a solid click and are easy to discern from one another. The rubber chosen is a little plasticy, but I consider that a good thing for longevity. Everything about the Q16’s build makes me think they were design to take a lickin’ and keep on kickin’.

Don’t think all this bulk, beef, and function over form means they’re a heavy, uncomfortable beast, because that’s not the case. While their ergonomics aren’t quite as impressive as the ADVANCED Evo-X, which I chalk up entirely to the larger drivers, they’re still quite good. Once you’ve selected the right eartip, these things are stuck in place and they’re not going anywhere. They’re even more stable than the Evo-X; and bonus, no driver flex!!! My only real complaint about comfort lies on the ear hooks. A slightly softer, more flexible material would be appreciated as they clamp around my ears quite aggressively. They are also billed as being sweatproof, but there is no official IPX waterproof/dustproof rating to be found anywhere so I personally wouldn’t be going out of my way to drench them in moisture.

Isolation is actually quite impressive. Expectations were low going in; large dynamic drivers and a shallow fit design. Not really a recipe for strong isolation in my experience. That said, once they were on and my beats pumping, exterior noise was not a factor. Sure, you still heard the low murmurs of voices around you and tires running across pavement, but it wasn’t as invasive as on the Evo-X, and certainly more isolating than the D900s.

Overall the Q16 is well constructed with good ergonomics making them fairly comfortable. They also isolate more effectively than the majority of dynamic driver based earphones I’ve come across. Just don’t expect them to win any beauty pageants as they’re a chubby little chum.

 

Connectivity and Battery Life:

Seeing that the Q16 was running Bluetooth 4.2 gave me hope that they would offer improved connection quality over the ADVANCED Evo-X and Syllable D900s. Guess what!? The Q16 is killing it in that regard, though not without the occasional hitch. I’ll come back to that.

Every Bluetooth product I’ve tried has been stupidly easy to connect to a device, and the Q16 is no different. Hold down the multifunction button (middle) on the main earpiece (the one with red buttons) until the LED indicator starts cycling red/blue. You’ll also hear some bleeps and bloops as additional verification. Find it on your device. It’ll be the one clearly labeled Q16. Select it and you’ll hear a lovely lady say “Connected”. Done.

To connect the second earpiece things get a little more complicated. You need to turn it on.

Oh, you were expecting more? No,no. That’s it 🙂 No other steps. It’ll find the primary earpiece and do the rest for you. Cheers mate!

Once connected the Q16 has no problem letting you trundle about your living space while maintaining a solid connection. They’re rated as having 33 feet of range in open space which feels about right. The only time the primary earpiece broke connection was when I either covered the transmitting device with my hand and then sat on it, or if I had a couple walls between us. I also experienced none of the left-pocket woes of the Evo-X. Not bad!

Back to hitch mentioned earlier. The left earpiece would drop connection every once in a while out of nowhere. Like the D900s, sound would fade out then fade in when a connection was re-established. Unlike the D900s, on the Q16 this process was quick and not frequent enough to ruin the experience. Annoying, but far from what I would consider a red flag. Also unlike the D900s, the Q16’s left and right earpiece have a 33 foot separation range. While I haven’t really tested this in depth, it seems like nice feature to have if you enjoy sharing your music with others.

Battery life, another feature that attracted me to this particular model, sits at an advertised 6 hours. Given this was a time-restricted review, I managed to run through the battery three times over the course of the week and a bit I’ve had these. The six hour time frame felt about right, with the right earpiece always lasting a touch longer before Jenny (that lovely lady mentioned earlier) would give me a low battery warning. The charging process is painless and reasonably quick at only two hours. I did all my charging from my laptop and that worked just fine.

Overall the Q16 did a much better job of providing a strong, stable connection, completely shaming the D900s (sorry Syllable) and besting the Evo-X. While I wish they had a portable charging station like Syllable’s fully wireless earphones, the 6 hour battery life and reasonably quick 2 hour charge time worked out just fine.

 

Sound Quality:

Tips: The stock tips are great and all, but I’m one for tip rolling and the Q16 likes it. The nozzles are just a fraction of a millimeter smaller than what I consider the standard (5mm) found on most earphones, but it still allows for plenty of variety. JVC tips fit well, and so did those from Ultimate Ears. Comply 400 series tips fit, but were too loose for comfort. Something a bit smaller than that would work fine. I settled on what is rapidly becoming my favorite tip, KZ’s new”Starline” model. They provided a great seal and brought the speaker housing just far enough away from my ear to make them that much more comfortable. They maintained the stock sound signature, which it a feature (?) of those tips that I really like. Let’s check out what that signature is shall we?

When I first fired up the Q16 and popped them in my ears, the volume nearly blew out my skull. This can hit some hilariously high volumes! After dropping down to something more realistic, I choose a track, crossed my fingers and thought, “Please let them be at least as good sounding as the D900s.” While I enjoyed the D900s’ signature, they didn’t offer much in the way of technical prowess. Expectations were kept deliberately low, and below what I expect from wired Bluetooth sets since these tubby gems are fully wireless.

For my first track, I opted for one of my favorite psy-trance songs; Infected Mushroom’s “Deeply Disturbed”. Why that one? It’s got live flamenco guitars, weird vocals, covers a seemingly wide range of frequencies, and there are effects flying all over the place which really tend to screw around with Bluetooth earphones. Most I’ve tried don’t really image all that well. By the time the track ended 8 minutes and 26 seconds later, I had a stupid grin on my face and could safely consider the Q16 not only competent as a fully wireless headphone, but just good in general.

Their general presentation is that of a w-shaped signature that’s not bass shy, nor with recessed vocals, nigh with subtle treble. This is an aggressive earphone with a lively signature made even more so by a particular quality that adds a unique edge to them. I’ve had a hard time finding a way to write it down, but it’s almost as if the Q16 is swelling with pent up energy, ready to burst at any moment. @Peddler’s comment of them having a hard quality to their sound is the same thing I’m hearing I suspect. Regardless, this signature works really well in an earphone designed to be used during heavy activity as it serves to get your heart rate up and blood pumping. It’s the complete opposite of the Evo-X and D900s which are both much softer, warmer sounding products. The Q16 hits hard and fast, and doesn’t let up.

It also manages to display a solid bit of space with it’s presentation, and it’s imaging qualities keep up with the Evo-X. I was pleasantly surprised at this given how poorly the D900s performed. It could portray left, right, and centre, with next to nothing in between. Versus the Evo-X the Q16 is a little more vague off centre and at the trailing edges of it’s sound field, but it’s plenty good enough for it’s intended use and miles beyond what I was expecting to hear.

The only issue I have with their sound is a touch of graininess, something I suspect would have been hard to avoid. If the Q16 supported aptX, maybe this minor con would be avoided?

Overall it’s a strong performer with an aggressive, detailed sound. It’s bass is punchy, mid-range clear, and treble prominent but not uncomfortable. What I like most is how quick and precise they come across. Not something that any other Bluetooth set I’ve heard manages to pull off.

Final Thoughts:

To be frank, SoundPEATS has shocked me with the Q16. It’s a comfortable, durable feeling Bluetooth earphone with some good features and excellent performance, both wirelessly and when it comes to sound quality. The lack of aptX is a bit of a dark cloud in an otherwise clear sky, but listen to them for a brief period and all is forgotten.

They easily perform on the same level as my current favorite the Evo-X from ADVANCED, but are even more convenient to use due to a longer battery, more stable connection, and completely wireless form factor. Color me impressed. Until something better comes along, these will be battling the Evo-X for ear time when biking season is upon on.

The Q16 gets the “B9 Goose of Approval”. Thumbs up lads!

– B9Scrambler

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