Recently, I wrote a review in which I discussed the importance of branding in giving customers the reassurance they have invested in a good product with excellent customer service. That’s perhaps a generalization as there are some big brands out there that charge far too much and have pretty lousy customer service. Sometimes there’s a case for choosing a less well-known brand where you might get just as good a product but for considerably less money. The only drawback is you’re taking a gamble when buying a make that’s an unknown quantity. Hopefully, this is where reviews like this one come into their own.
This week I want to talk about some earphones that are made by a company with hardly any brand recognition with the broader public. These minimalist earphones have a word-of-mouth reputation for offering excellent value for money and superb sound quality. The reason why they cost less is down to the absence of advertising and marketing that many of the big names have to pay for.
Status Audio is based in New York and sells its products to a younger demographic and puts all its budget into using the best materials and the highest-quality drivers in its earphones and headphones, creating product that would cost two or three times more had it been a big brand name.
The two models of Bluetooth earphones I’m going to look at in this review are the BT Transfer and BT Structure, both designed by Status Audio. These earphones use the same dual-driver design as each other, with a high-quality balanced armature driver for the upper registers, and a large 9 mm dynamic driver that dishes up a hefty amount of sub-bass and midrange. As these two earphones essentially sound the same, albeit using different physical designs, I’ll review them together to avoid repeating myself.
The Bluetooth BT Transfer earphones are supplied with silicone ear tips and ear fins that help to keep the earpieces securely in place, especially when the user is exercising. There’s a wide choice of ear tips sizes supplied in the box, as well as a selection of ear fins in a wide range of sizes. These earphones can comfortably fit any size of ear once the user has chosen and fitted the correct combination of tip and fin to make them fit snuggly in the ear.
The earpieces feel nice and heavy and there’s enough power for up to eight hours of continuous playing time from the rechargeable battery. The battery is housed in the inline remote control which sports three buttons for controlling functions such as playback or the taking and making phone calls. The remote also houses a cVc microphone for phone calls as well as issuing commands to voice assistants. The battery can be charged in just 1.5 hours using the supplied Micro USB cable. Status Audio has chosen not to use a USB C cable which many people find easier to use as the design feels more robust and is symmetrical, so it doesn’t matter which way round you plug it in, unlike Micro USB which feels a bit delicate and has to be plugged in the right way round.
The BT Transfer earphones are water-resistant to IPX-5 standard, which makes them ideal for exercising in a sweaty gym or for walking around in light rain or drizzle. The Bluetooth standard used for these earphones is the latest Version 5.0 and the chipset supports SBC and apt-X audio codecs. I tried connecting them to my iMac to see if they supported the AAC audio codec that Apple favors, but I was unable to get them to connect by AAC. The lack of support for AAC may be an issue for iPhone users as the basic SBC basic codec can sound a bit flat.
The sound produced by these earphones is impressive. There’s a big helping of sub-bass coming from the 9 mm dynamic driver and it can handle frequencies down as low as 20Hz; at times they almost sound like a loudspeaker. Meanwhile, the balanced-armature driver serves up a detailed and sweet treble which results in an excellent tone where each frequency stays in its swim lane without drifting across to smear or muddy the neighboring frequencies. So often, budget earphones have their bass artificially boosted at the expense of the midrange. Sure, it makes a good thump, but the midrange gets stripped of much of its subtlety and ruins the music; that’s not the case here.
These are some of the nicest-sounding budget Bluetooth earphones I’ve heard in a while. There’s very low background chatter from the chipset and the bass drives the rhythm along and makes these earphones real foot-tappers that bring out the best in any music. I tried them out with Angelique Kidjo’s “Celia” album, celebrating the music of Celia Cruz, the Cuban Queen of Salsa. The music leaped out of the earphones and the BT Transfer’s made a fantastic job of playing the TIDAL Masters version of the album that I was streaming on my iPhone. The BT Transfer positively lapped up the music and provided a sound that was big and brassy but still with a sense of refinement and poise.
I mentioned that I was reviewing two pairs of earphones from Status Audio in this review; the second pair I tested was the BT Structure. These earphones are almost identical in terms of sound as they both use the same driver setup. However, the BT Structure earphones have slightly longer battery life at 12 hours and feature a larger earpiece incorporating sturdy ear hooks that make them ideal for exercising in without any fear of having them drop out while working out. Normally, I’d expect an ear-hook design to compromise slightly on the seal made with the wearer’s ear canal, but that’s not the case here.
The BT Structure earphones pump out the same high-octane sound despite not being able to be pushed as far into the ear as the BT Transfer. There’s an impressive array of ear tips and silicone ear wings supplied that enable the earphones to stay in the ear, even during the most vigorous workouts. Like the BT Transfer, these earphones feature an inline remote control with three buttons for controlling things like Play, Pause, Volume, Track Skip, as well as taking and ending phone calls.
Verdict: Both the BT Transfer and BT Structure from Status Audio play a wide variety of musical styles with genuine gusto. The use of dynamic and balanced-armature drivers help them achieve a sound that makes you want to get up and dance. There’s plenty of volume on offer, so even when exercising in a noisy gym or jogging by a busy road, the music shines through. It’s a shame there isn’t support for the AAC codec but both pairs of earphones offer good value for money and I enjoyed listening to a whole range of musical genres with them. Which pair you choose will depend on your preference for wearing style but these wireless earphones are perfect for the gym or everyday use.
- Status Audio BT Transfer: $69 / £57.32 / €61.03
- Status Audio BT Structure: $79 / £65.63 / €69.87
More info: www.status.co/pages/shop
- Bluetooth: Version 5.0.
- Style: In-Ear.
- Drivers: 9 mm dynamic driver + balanced armature driver.
- Waterproof Rating: IPX-5.
- Playing time: 8 hours continuous / 12 hours with BT Structure.
- Charging time: 1.5 hours.
- Charging; Micro-USB.
- Frequency response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz.
- Impedance: 16Ω.
- Sound pressure: 102 db +/- 3 dB.
- Remote: Three button.
- Microphone: cVc 6.0 with voice-assistant integration.
- Weight: 22 g.
- Codecs: SBC and Apt-X.
- Finishes; Midnight Blue or Gunmetal Gray.
- Accessories: Ear tips, ear fins, charging cable, and hardshell case.