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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Impressive personalized sound quality
Excellent accessories package
ANC is nothing special
A bit expensive for an off-brand
While not the most premium offering on the market, the Aria Me headphones definitely have some great features to offer.
Avantree provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test. Read on for the full review.
Avantree isn’t the most mainstream audio brand out there, and it certainly isn’t the most “audiophile” brand either. But the Avantree Aria Me active noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones provide an interesting new take on an otherwise crowded market. Avantree has made its name on providing consumer-friendly headphones meant for home use. Most of the Avantree catalog consists of RF-style wireless headphones that help you watch TV quietly and help to improve sound reception for the hearing impaired.
The Aria Me headphones are billed as customizable Bluetooth cans that use some equalization tech to personalize the audio playback to each individual’s hearing. They also happen to pack in virtually every other feature the premium headphone market requires, from active noise cancellation to premium Bluetooth codecs. I got my hands on a pair and was really curious to see how this lesser-known offering stacks up against the Bose and Sony headphones of the world.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of the Arias is their aesthetic look. These headphones flat out feel dated and totally uninspired. The simple oval ear cups and the headband are all made of a very cheap-looking, partially matte, partially glossy plastic. The Aria “leaf” logo is embossed into each earcup, and the swiveling arms that hold each ear cup are made with the same plastic, but in a dark gray color (the only contrasting accent on the headphones).
Normally, I would praise a sleek, simple, unassuming design, but there’s just something about the look of these headphones that doesn’t scream premium. To me, they’re shaped a lot like the Bose QC series, but instead of featuring interesting contrast colors and high-quality materials, they feature low-quality plastics and no real design touches. They do include a charging stand (more on that later), which means that they’ll look good hanging on your desk, but this is a small consolation for an otherwise blasé look.
The low-quality materials on the outer casing of the headphones are thankfully not seen on the inside. I was particularly surprised at just how soft and plush the ear pads are for a pair of headphones that otherwise opts for cheaper-feeling materials.
One additional bright spot is the amount of space allowed for your ears inside the cups—the shape is just perfect for my ears, and feels really airy and spacious.
To be fair, headphones in the $300+ range tend to feel just a little softer, but the leathery coverings used on these headphones feel very pleasant against your ears. Even the padding inside is a subtle memory foam that forms nicely to the curves of your head. To account for the connector pins necessary for the charging stand, there is less padding on the top of the headband than I’d have liked, so if you’re prone to a pressure point on the top of your head, then this might be an issue.
One additional bright spot is the amount of space allowed for your ears inside the cups—the shape is just perfect for my ears and feels really airy and spacious. One final point is about the weight. At about half a pound, the headphones aren’t exactly heavy per se, but they do show their presence after a while of wearing them.
After all the talk about cheap-looking materials earlier, you’d think that the build quality wouldn’t feel premium on these headphones. To be fair, a lot of the external chassis is made with cheap-feeling plastic, but most of the joints and points of stress that count are built with decent care. Take, for instance, the adjustable headband: While much of this structural point is made of plastic, it’s actually ribbed in a sturdy-feeling steel.
This helps to reinforce a notoriously weak point on headphones and makes me confident that they’ll last. The earcups and the ear pads are also fairly sturdy, even though they don’t necessarily look the part, and because of the matte plastic, I’m not concerned about fingerprints or easy scuffs.
There isn’t any official durability certification, like drop protection or an IP rating, so it is best to be careful with these headphones in inclement weather and on the go. This sort of official certification isn’t very common for over-ear headphones anyway, so it’s hard to hold it as a real issue. In short, these aren’t the most premium-feeling headphones but do provide a better experience than you might expect on looks alone.
Normally I’d start with the sound quality for a section like this, but in this case, I’ll start with the active noise cancellation. As a category, ANC tech has become very impressive in recent years. Flagship ANC headphones from Sony and Bose are insanely capable at blotting out sound, so it’s hard to be impressed by lower-end headphones that offer the feature. The noise-canceling on the Arias is pretty passable, offering a nice level of reduction in moderately noisy environments.
Where it falls short is in the adaptive side of the equation. ANC isn’t usually very good at blocking variable sounds like speaking or outside music. This is particularly true with the Arias. But if you just want to drown out the sound of an AC unit or some subtle room tone, these will work fine for you. I did also notice that how these handle music being played over the ANC is a little suspect—artificially boosting mids when ANC is activated.
By downloading the Avantree app, you’re able to create custom sound profiles to store and load into your headphones.
The sound quality you get with the Aria Me headphones is a more complicated conversation. Right out of the box, these headphones sound fairly dull, with a distinct muddiness in the midrange and not a whole lot of clarity in the treble side of the spectrum. The bass lacks some support, too, due to the slightly smaller 40mm drivers. You do get coverage of the whole spectrum (20Hz to 20kHz) and a decent amount of volume, but it’s just unexciting. It’s when you activate the “Me” part of the product name that these headphones truly come alive in a way I’ve rarely heard from headphones.
By downloading the Avantree app, you’re able to create custom sound profiles to store and load into your headphones. To do this, the app gives you a short “hearing test”. You’ll be played a series of frequencies and are told to turn a dial to adjust their levels. At the end of this test, it loads a personalized EQ into the headphones that is theoretically specific to your individual hearing spectrum.
After turning this feature on for my hearing, I was blown away at just how much clearer, how much fuller, and how much more detailed the audio quality was.
After turning this feature on for my hearing, I was blown away at just how much clearer, how much fuller, and how much more detailed the audio quality was. So much so that I can’t help but think that Avantree intentionally made the out-of-the-box sound quality muted so that using the headphones with customized profiles sounds better. Either way, this is the biggest improvement I’ve seen afforded to Bluetooth headphones by EQ alone, and it really does bring the sound quality up to par with more expensive cans.
This is the biggest improvement I’ve seen afforded to Bluetooth headphones by EQ alone, and it really does bring the sound quality up to par with more expensive cans.
Over-ear headphones are physically very large—much larger than earbuds. As a result, they can hold larger batteries and bring about higher expectations for battery life. The best headphones in this category will take you north of 30 hours of use on a single charge, even with ANC activated. These headphones, with their 650mAh battery, offer only around 15 hours while using ANC. You do get over 20 hours if you’re just listening to the headphones without ANC, but it’s still a pretty lackluster total for this product category.
Another drawback is that these headphones charge via a micro-USB port, meaning there’s no promise of a truly quick charge. However, Avantree has tried to further differentiate the Arias by including a headphone stand in the box that also charges them. So, if you plan on using these headphones at your desk during a workday as they were clearly intended, then the low hour totals will easily get you through a full workday, and the headphones will conveniently keep charging when you put them on the stand at the end of the day.
Avantree has made a point to try to include as many premium connectivity options as possible on the Aria Me headphones, and they fill out the offering enough to actually make it a pretty compelling pair of consumer headphones. Modern Bluetooth connectivity is here, supporting two devices simultaneously (though the switchover between source devices does take a second or two) and providing all the standard profiles from HSP to A2DP.
But Avantree has gone even further to offer aptX-HD and aptX low latency codecs in addition to the lossier SBC protocol. This makes these headphones great for playing higher-quality source audio and lowering the video-to-sound latency that often plagues lower-priced Bluetooth headphones. I also really liked the physical, tactile switch that lets you easily put the headphones into pairing mode without fumbling through an instruction manual. The connection I experienced was pretty decent, though there was a bit of Bluetooth garble here and there. But not enough to make me ding the connectivity.
These headphones offer a lot of extras and a lot of controls, all to go with a curiously simple bit of software. The Avantree app basically only lets you create sound profiles and is otherwise completely empty. The design and development of the app is also pretty rough. If you want a fancy, modern UX, you won’t find it here.
I think Avantree opted for a simplistic app because they’ve put most of the controls clearly on the headphones themselves. You’ll find pause/play and volume controls, a Bluetooth and on/off switch, a toggle button for the ANC, and even a microphone mute button. There are no fancy dials or touchpads to be had here, but the buttons are nice to have right on board.
The full package here also includes quite a few more accessories than you normally get with headphones. You’ll get the USB charging cable and an aux cable for plugging these headphones in, as well as a fairly nice hardshell case with a leather exterior. But there’s even more in the box: there’s the substantial-looking charging stand I mentioned earlier that makes these headphones feel more premium than you might expect, and there is even a removable, bendable boom mic with its own dedicated mute switch. The amount of extra stuff you get here is really nice, especially considering the price point.
The price conversation for these headphones isn’t as obvious as it is for some others. They certainly aren’t in the $300 price category alongside Bose and Sony, but the brand name wouldn’t warrant that anyway. On the other hand, at $150 at the time of this writing, the Arias aren’t exactly affordable either. They sit in this strange, sort of mid-premium price point, giving them a little bit of an identity crisis. I think for the features offered here (personalized sound quality and tons of extras), the Arias are certainly worth it. But you can find reasonably similar sound quality on cheaper headphones, too.
When it comes to budget brands, Anker’s audio-focused Soundcore brand is doing some of the most impressive things for budget-focused consumers. However, the Life Q30 doesn’t aim to be as flashy as the Liberty true wireless series. Instead, it gives you premium-looking headphones that feel like they cost more than they do but sound a little lackluster and don’t offer a ton of bells and whistles. In other words, they offer the exact opposite in feature set that the Aria Me headphones do. If you like extra controls and features and want the personalization option, go with Avantree. If you want headphones that look and feel the part and still sound decent, go with Soundcore.
A nice total package.
The Avantree Aria Me are very comfortable and offer a solid set of accessories, much more than you might expect for the price point. If you want the best with no concessions, you’d be better off spending a bit more money. If you want truly budget-friendly Bluetooth headphones, they can be found in simpler packages. But in this current climate where many of us are working from home or socially distancing, the ANC, the personalization, and the detachable boom make for a compelling offer.
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