Another Apple conference has gone by with an all-new iPhone for the next six months and the company still refuses to give back the headphone jack that some claim they stole in the iPhone 7.
Almost every single night I listen to music before going to bed because it helps quiet the mind and I’m sure many of you do the same. At night, I grab my Grado headphones and go to plug them into my smartphone, which, luckily, still has a headphone jack.
At one point or another, are manufacturers soon going to realize that taking features away for a smaller or thinner body isn’t always what the customer will want?
Nevertheless, our music is what gets us through our busy days and a lacking headphone jack won’t stop us from listening to those great tunes.
Just because summer is ending, doesn’t mean that you can’t be outdoors or take a vacation to somewhere warmer like the beach. This is where Apple’s Bluetooth-everything ideology makes sense.
Bluetooth’s personal short-range connection makes it so well suited to transfer content to Bluetooth earbuds and it helps simplify our lives by removing a cord that tends to tangle when put into a pocket.
I’m not a runner, but it’s quite popular in the United States. When people go for a run, what’s the common actions we see that they do on TV? Pop in some earbuds and then play their playlists. The next part in the TV show would be them getting kidnapped, but that’s more of a rarer occurrence.
Exercising, mowing the lawn, sitting on a plane, or maybe just taking a walk around a college campus, we need small, but powerful earbuds. Earbuds that won’t tether us to a smartphone and won’t tangle when put away. This is where iClever comes in.
iClever has been a fan favorite here at Tech Support Forum by offering a lot of different technology in a lot of different ways. This time, they are back with a new set of Bluetooth enabled earbuds that can be used between all applications.
Welcome to my review on the iClever XFree Mini Bluetooth earbuds.
The iClever XFree mini is a design that is familiar to me and most likely a design familiar to you as well. Whenever a pair of wireless earbuds makes it into the review pile, I’ve begun to notice that the designs are strikingly similar to one another.
Connected to both ends of the approximately 1.5-foot cable are two bullet shaped metallic housed earbuds. The body of each individual earbud is larger than desired, but there are two stems that are angled inwards and this is the part that is inserted into your ear canal.
The stems are a channeled tunnel that pushes the sound from the speaker into the ear canal. Each stem has a small metal mesh to stop earwax from entering into the speaker. After a month’s time of using the headphones, it does a good job at not clinging onto earwax.
With most earbuds, they rely on the silicone speaker cone to have enough friction to hold the earbud into the ear canal. Well, as any runner will know, the bouncing of running means the earbuds can easily bounce right out of your ears. On the XFree mini, iClever provides a set of wings that better position the earbud into the ear.
There are small, medium, and large sets for both the silicone ear cones and wings and finding the right fit is ideal. You can even create a combination of sets, as I did, by using the medium cones and small wings.
With the wings installed, they act as a spring and press against the cartilage of the ear itself. If you’ve never used them before, it can be a little uncomfortable, but I assure you that the discomfort fades away as your body adapts.
To get you through a comfortable day of music, there is a 120 mAh internal battery. This battery is housed inside the tri-buttoned in-line remote control which is positioned closest to the right earbud.
The remote functions as a volume controller as well as a multifunction controller for phone calls and a play/pause. Over time you learn which button does what without looking, but with them all being the same shape and having little to no easy markings, I would accidently hit the wrong button.
A future revision of the product should consider different shaped buttons for better ease of use. The good news is that the remote is well positioned on the cable and easy to reach. Another positive is that there is also a built-in microphone for phone calls. More on that later.
With a brand name of iClever, it wouldn’t be a fitting name if they didn’t include some clever design or feature into their products. The cleverness is what gets this brand moving and above their competition.
On the XFree mini, the earbud bodies have opposing magnetics that allow the rear of the earbuds to snap together. While snapped together, you can wear the earbuds like a necklace when they are not in use.
I first saw this in the Beyerdynamic Byron BT review where the earbuds can snap together and it’s a clever design. Instead of the earbuds flopping around on your chest or possibly falling off your neck, they just rest there with ease.
Finally, when it’s time to put the earbuds into a longer termed storage, iClever provides a pleasantly crafted carrying pouch that the earbuds tuck into. The pouch is a little small for these earbuds, but they do fit inside and the pouch stays closed.
As always, when a new wireless product arrives, the first thing to do is to charge it to its maximum potential for testing purposes. When I went to charge the XFree mini, iClever provides the world’s shortest charging cable.
Less than 8 inches in total length, the cable is laughable and a clear cost-cutting maneuver as most people will not want such a short cable. It puts the cost of a new cable onto the customer.
Nevertheless, a full charge of the Bluetooth earbuds from zero resulted in a five-hour charge time. Taking in about 0.5A on a 1A charger, the recharge time is what might be expected and is about average for earbuds of this design.
For testing, I opted to use the XFree minis while mowing the lawn on a warm September day. While mowing, I began to sweat as the sun blasted onto my face and head. In many cases, this could be harmful for earbuds as sweat and water begins to seep into the earbuds body.
Luckily for me, the XFree minis are IPX5 water resistant so sweat and light water splashes are harmless to these earbuds. Additionally, cleaning them with a damp paper towel is also possible as water cannot seep into the electronics.
Dust on the other hand can get into the earbuds, so if you are mowing a field of straw or working in a dusty environment while using these earbuds, be warned that it could collect inside the earbuds themselves.
I used the earbuds exclusively with my Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus smartphone over a Bluetooth connection and used Pandora Plus as the music source. With this phone having Bluetooth 5.0, the earbuds are still using Bluetooth 4.0, but the connection between the phone and earbuds never dropped below five feet.
With its 8mm dynamic drivers, songs like No Way from David Gilmour sound rich and full of life, but the bass is lacking from the song. Being Bluetooth, iClever needs to optimize battery life and taking some of the bass away does this. Bass is present, but bass heavy listeners may be disappointed.
Where the earbuds really shine is when vocal-intensive songs are being played. Robert Plant’s Big Log is a great example of this. His words and background instrumentals are heard crystal clear using the XFree minis and it’s a pleasant listening experience.
Tone levels for mids and high notes are acceptable on these inexpensive pair of Bluetooth earbuds. They don’t match the sound signature of an expensive Bluetooth set, like the Beyerdynamic Byron BT, but then again, they are not trying to.
In most applications with most sounds and music genres, I feel like the sound generated is above average, considering the price. Lows and bass could be enhanced, but it wasn’t so bad that I didn’t want to stop using or was discouraged from the XFree minis.
One thing that did keep me going while using the XFree minis was the comfort. The included silicone tips are easy to use and cause little to no discomfort for my ears. Your results will vary, but I could easily see myself using the earbuds on travel and for walking around without the thought of them becoming dislodged.
While walking around, you can also talk on the phone via Bluetooth to the connected smartphone. The built-in microphone is just ‘okay’ and I wouldn’t use it for anything other than a casual talk. Indoors is much better for the microphone than outdoors as the microphone likes to pick up on every sound in the room.
All of this music, voice, and standby time is reliant on the 120 mAh battery mentioned earlier. This battery lasts a significant amount of time on a full charge. I was able to use the battery for a week before I needed to recharge it. In a non-stop music fest, expect to get about eight hours out of it.
My Final Thoughts
This is a big review and a lot of talking points for a product that only costs $19.99. How iClever can make a strong and well-built Bluetooth-enabled product for this price is insane, but the benefits to you are stunning.
The sound is what you would expect for a $20 headset, but it has everything you could possibly ask for in Bluetooth earbuds. I think for this price, the earbuds sound great and you could easily use these earbuds in every environment, with all types of music, and for hours upon hours without discomfort for feeling like the sound signature isn’t right.
As with other iClever gadgets, this one received a recommendation from me and a purchase that nobody could be disappointed with. Their nearly five star Amazon review rating shows that I’m not alone in this either.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
Tagged Amazon, Beach, Bluetooth, cheap, Go, headphones, headset, iClever, Mini, On, phone, review, The, wireless, XFree.