JBL Soundgear BTA

So…Bluetooth. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has heard of it, and probably used it.
Bluetooth headphones are great for music if you don’t want to annoy those around you, or your out and about. But what if your sitting at home and just want to watch a movie? There may be others in the house who are not wanting to watch it, or you may have room-mates. Yes, you could put your headset on. But lets face it, some headsets are just not designed to be worn for long periods of time, and once on you probably wont be able to hear whats going on around you. This may not be ideal.

We have been sent a product by JBL which will fix the problem!

The JBL Soundgear BTA.

So what exactly is that? because I am sure some of us have never heard of it..here is a short video from JBL to show exactly what a JBL Soundgear BTA is:

Intrigued? I know I was!

So as you can see from the JBL video, this is a speaker you WEAR around your neck! This is genius on many levels. There is the obvious, keeps your ears uncovered, so you can hear whats going on around you. Your hands are free, so can cook, dance, eat popcorn, do whatever really (yes I know..no different to headphones, but you can do all this AND still interact with those around you…and THAT…THAT is different to headphones!)

So what do you get?

In the box:

We have the Soundgear, a Bluetooth transmitter (BTA), 2 charging cables, a 35mm audio cable and a digital optical audio cable.

There are of course also the usual product info booklets, the manual can be found HERE. 

So in this version of the JBL Soundgear, we also got a Bluetooth transmitter (BTA) because, well as the name Soundgear BTA sugests, this version comes with that. There is also a version just called JBL Soundgear. We will get into explaining the BTA in a bit.

 

General Specifications: 

Weight: 350g
Bluetooth version: 4.1

Audio Specifications:
Driver size: 31mm
Number of drivers per ear: 1
Driver sensitivity: at 1kHz/1mW (dB)96dB
Impedance: 32 ohms

Control and Connection Specifications:
Bluetooth profiles: HFP v1.6, HSP v1.2, A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.5
Bluetooth transmitter power: 0-4 dbm
Bluetooth frequency: 2.402GHz-2.48GHz
Bluetooth transmitted modulation: GFSK,π/4DQPSK, 8DPSK

Battery:
Dynamic frequency response range: 100Hz-20kHz
Battery Type: Lithium-ion polymer
Charging time: 2 hours (from empty)
Talk time: 6 hours
Maximum music play time with ANC off: 6 hours
Play time: 6 hours

Features:
Rechargable battery: Yes
Remote control on ear cups? Yes
JBL Signature Sound: Yes
Bulit-in Microphone: Yes
Multi-Point Connection: Yes
Wireless: Yes
Hands Free Call: Yes
Siri/ Google Now: Yes

Now lets whizz through an un-boxing so we can see what its all about!

 

I guess the first thing you would have to decide on is: are you comfortable WEARING your sound source? For me, walking the streets with a speaker shaped liked a neck pillow would probably not be my thing. Hidden under a collar or a jacket I could do, but not just on my neck for all to see.  This speaker would serve most use INSIDE the home, allowing me to move around while I was listening.

But let me tell you, when I first put the SoundGear on I was surprised by its weight (weighs in at 350g), as it felt a little heavy and I wondered if I would be comfortable wearing it, but literally within a few minutes I didn’t even notice it.

Pairing was SUPER simple, just a matter of turning on the SoundGear, putting it into pairing mode.. see instructions below:

 

 

 

Here we have a short video demonstrating pairing..

 

The advantage of having the BTA version is that this little transmitter allows you to connect to things which do not actually have Bluetooth built in. If all you want the speaker for is things like phones, or MP3 players etc, then you would probably not need the BTA version, but we used the BTA transmitter to connect to our TV. It depends on your TVs capabilities on how you would connect, as our TV simply allowed us to connect using the audio cable, but another TV we tried required the optical audio cable. Once paired though, connection was great.

You can also take calls through the SoundGear, so if you are listening to music and a call comes through, the call will take priority, and without even removing the speaker you can answer the call, then once the call is done, return to listening to your music!

As you can see from the images below, we tried the SoundGear on a few different necks and it fitted all the various shapes and sizes nicely. I think it would fit “most” necks without a problem.

 

And most importantly..what is the sound like? I was actually amazed, because somehow the SoundGear creates a personal “cone of sound” now I know that sounds a little strange, but it is the best way I can describe it. When I put them on, I have a surround sound experience which is clear and as loud as I need, but somehow, this doesn’t project to the rest of the room. I could sit and listen to a TV show without it annoying anyone else. Of course there was a little bit of sound transfer, if someone stood near me they would hear SOME sound, it is an open speaker, so this will happen. I assume that the sound is localised due to the upward direction of the speakers, they are aimed perfectly to fill the space around the wearers head. This is absolutely fantastic for people who live in share houses, work shift work, or just need things to be quiet for those around them. The sound is the sound we have all come to expect from JBL.. great quality, nice and clear – deep bass lows and crisp highs. Keep in mind, this is a pretty hard thing to capture audio from, as to hear the full quality, you need to be wearing the SoundGear, but here is a sample, recorded with a RØDE mic for best possible sound capture.

There was one issue I had with the SoundGear. It may be trivial, but it was quite annoying. When you turn it on, the SoundGear plays a VERY loud start-up audio, which is fine, it is letting you know its on, and paired. But there is a problem, you CANNOT lower the volume of this sound, and once you are wearing the SoundGear this is LOUD! I guess a work-around would be to always turn it on when it is off your neck, but sometimes you just forget!

here is an example of the sound so you can get an idea, and remember, this would be aimed right up into your ears…

 

Another use for this speaker, and this is great if you are a gamer..use it as your speaker for VR content! No longer do you have to wrangle the headset, VR strap dilemma. The quality of sound would increase the VR experience immensely. I also think that it would be the smart choice with VR. You already have your eyes covered by the headset, so being able to at least hear those around you is probably a really smart move. Headsets combined with VR heasets do not allow for this, making you effectively blind and deaf to those around you while you are using them. I do not own a VR headset, so could not personally try this out.

 

JBL were also awarded as Honorees for the JBL SoundGear BTA, in the wearable technology section at the CES Innovation awards 2018.

Pros:

  • Fantastic JBL quality
  • Stylish sleek design.
  • Customer support with JBL is very satisfactory.
  • Very easy to set-up.
  • Portable.
  • Compatible with any device (or if buying just the soundGear, then any device with Bluetooth)
  • Comfortable.
  • Simple buttons for many features.
  • Can take phone calls.
  • Would fit most people.
  • 6 hour battery life
  • 2 hour recharge time.
  • great “personal” sound
  • do not annoy those around you, great for share houses etc.

Cons:

  • That start-up sound!
  • The shape is a little odd for use outside the home.

Price:

At the time of publishing, the SoundGear, and SoundGear BTA was not available on the JBL Australia website. They are available on the USA one though.

JBL SOUNDGEAR BTA

JBL SOUNDGEAR

SoundGear BTA was $249.95 US dollars

SoundGear was $199.95 US dollars.

 

As far as ratings, this has probably been the most difficult JBL product for me to rate. People are either going to LOVE or HATE this product due to its shape. Personally for me, it won me over! I love the individual sound and the fact that it does not annoy those around you. But would I wear it out of the house, no. But then I probably would not wear a headset out of the house either, so that is personal preference. I would be very interested to hear how people found the VR experience, as I feel this would be an absolutely fantastic use of this product.

So would I recommend it? YES! (they only lost a star for the fact I would not wear it out of the house and for not being able to turn down that start up sound!)