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Lifewire / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick
Good quality sound
Quick charging time
Unreliable Bluetooth connection
Needs multiple attempts to pair
Call quality soft and hard to hear
The SB210 is a perfect (and unfortunate) example of a handful of good ideas brought low by poor execution. While it delivers solid sound quality, especially compared against the competition, and is intuitive to use and control, it’s crippled by reliability issues that make it more irritating than convenient.
Bluetooth beanies are remarkably simple devices, knit caps with wireless headphones sewn into the band. The SoundBot SB210 Wireless Musical Beanie could’ve been a standout in this category, but it has some foibles that prevent us from giving it a strong recommendation.
As a piece of fashion, the SoundBot is a simple but welcome addition to most outdoor winter outfits. It doesn’t oversell the fact that it has Bluetooth speakers—when it’s off and the LED isn’t flashing, most people probably won’t even notice them.
You can get this wireless music beanie in 13 colors and styles, including black, blue, gray, pink, ivory, and yellow. There are different styles to choose from as well, some with corded texture or others that sport a pom on top. There’s even a black model with a built-in LED flashlight. This is a decent selection of options, but other Bluetooth beanies we reviewed offer up to 29 varieties.
We were never able to get more than a few feet away before the Bluetooth connection started sputtering and failing.
Generally speaking, you can expect a Bluetooth device to have a range of at least 30 feet. While this was the case when we connected the SB210 to our iPhone X, the range shrank significantly when we paired it with an iMac. We were never able to get more than a few feet away before the Bluetooth connection started sputtering and failing.
The built-in microphone gives you the ability to make and receive phone calls wirelessly, but we found this feature to be unreliable when we used it. When we were listening to music and a phone call came through, the hat unpaired from the phone. It did the same when we tried to make a call. The only way we found to speak through the hat was to pair it with the phone after the call has connected, which for real world usage is more hassle than it’s worth.
The owner's manual that comes with the SoundBot is the most comprehensive of the wireless beanies we tested. It gives you step-by-step instructions and explanations of all the product’s features. While a tutorial on how to charge the beanie might seem valuable, we liked the fact that the instructions tell you how to remove the speakers from the hat when it comes time to put in the washing machine, something no other beanie we tested offers.
Connecting this wireless beanie to a smartphone or computer is basic stuff if you’ve ever paired a Bluetooth device before. Unfortunately, though, it takes this Bluetooth beanie a relatively long time to connect with a smartphone or computer, around 15 seconds during our testing period. It also consistently took multiple attempts to pair before a connection is established.
The SB210’s packaging claims that you’ll get five hours of listening time on a full battery charge, which our testing confirmed. SoundBot also claims that it gets 60 hours of standby time. We fully charged it and set it aside for two and a half days. When we turned it on again, it powered right up and worked —but not for very long. We only got about a 45 minutes worth of listening time out of it.
From a dead battery, you can fully charge the SoundBot in less than an hour. This was the shortest charging time we saw during our testing phase. Other products can take up to two and a half hours to go from dead to full.
The SoundBot will keep your head nice and warm. And while we wouldn’t say it’s particularly comfortable, you won’t experience any scratchiness or skin irritation while wearing it.
Given the size, price, and design of Bluetooth beanies, we don’t expect them to deliver the high-quality sound you’d get from high-end earbuds or headphones. However, of all the wireless music hats we tested, the SoundBot produces the clearest, most enjoyable sound—at least while listening to music.
We had to crank the volume up to max just to be able to partially understand the person on the other end of the call.
When we listened to the album Past Masters by the Beatles we found the sound rich and full. Small details can be heard clearly, but lack the depth and range produced by more expensive wireless audio products such as the Apple AirPods.
Taking phone calls was a very different story. The sound was very quiet and sounded distant, and we had to crank the volume up to max just to be able to partially understand the person on the other end of the call.
Depending on the style and color you choose, expect to pay anywhere from $19 to $33, right in the middle of the price range of the beanies we tested, which run anywhere from $15 to $40.
We tested the SoundBot alongside the Blueear Bluetooth Beanie Hat, and aside from the better sound quality and quick charge time, the SoundBot generally came up short. The Blueear was able to pair on the first try, maintained a steady signal across the Bluetooth range (regardless of which device it was paired to), and held connection when taking a phone call. Blueear’s beanie was more reliable and provided a better real world usage experience, and offers several colors and styles that are cheaper than the SB210 range.
Undermined by unreliability.
The SoundBot SB210 Wireless Musical Beanie would be worth considering if it performed more consistently in our tests. It produces good sound quality, charges quickly, and offers intuitive controls. It’s sadly crippled by unreliability, which reduces it from a handy convenience to a nagging annoyance, and strips away a ton of its value.
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