Comfortable to use, well built and offering decent if not great audio, there’s not a lot to dislike about the iT7s2. They are easy to use and offer decent battery life. Our only real quibbles are the generally poor quality of almost all Bluetooth audio, and the price. But you can’t really go wireless and complain about the former, and in the post-Beats world a hundred quid is actually pretty reasonable. A good, solid headset for the gym.
The iT7s2 is an in-ear sports headphone – a combination of flexible single object Bluetooth headset replete with silicon in-ear buds. It offers better-than-average audio quality and comfort, as well as a full feature set of audio- and communications functions. But you get what you pay for in the headphones world, and the iT7s2 will set you back £99.99. (See also: Best headphones of 2014.)
iT7s2 review: build quality, design and comfort
I’m not usually a fan of (a) Bluetooth earphones and (b) ‘sports’ headsets. The former often seem unecessarily finicky with poor audio. And as to the latter I’d never previously found a ‘sports’ headphone that was easy to wear when working out. Often the sporting aspect seems to consist of a robust nature that copes well with sweat, and a chronic lack of comfort from wrapping around sensitive ears a single band of plastic. Which is at least a sporting challenge. I’ve tried a lot of earphones designed for the gym, and I’m delighted to say the iT7s2 is the first that I have found comfortable and practical.
The iT7s2 is pretty lightweight – iT7 claims 30.6g, and we measured it at 32g so we won’t quibble too much. Of course there have been plenty of lightweight sporty headsets before. Often I find that they won’t stay in my ears once the sweat starts flowing (and flying), and the headband itself digs in or simply feels uncomfortable. To these issues the iT7s2 brings two useful and simple solutions. The in-ear buds are sizeable and made of rigid plastic, but feature a large and well-shaped silicon in-ear piece. This means that even though they don’t fit entirely into my larger gentleman’s lugs, they stay in or on there nicely. Moreover, they don’t feel like they are about to drop out or fall away from my head as do many other earphones when I am exercising.
This is helped by the fact that the earbuds are sited on the end of an inch or so of very flexible rubber. So although the headset itself is rigid plastic, there is sufficient flexibility and spring to keep things sitting comfortably.
This is important, because in common with many sports headsets the iT7s2 is a one-size-fits-all deal. That isn’t as much of a problem as it can be, however. The iT7s2 headband sits behind your head once the earbuds are in place. I have what can only be described as a massive noggin’, and the relatively small headbad is as comfortable on the treadmill as it is when I am simply lounging about. Not perfect, but comfortable enough.
And that’s good. When I work out or go for a run I usually have to wear over-ear headphones that get hot and sweaty, or use in-ear buds and wear a hat. Neither is ideal in hot weather. The iT7s2 is a good balance of the two.
It’s also a relatively discreet one-piece headset. The usual green iT7 branding is present, set against a uniform shiny black. But with the headset in place the overall effect is much more subtle than with other similar products. Of course, fashion is a key aspect of headphone design, so this may be a negative to you. To me it’s a positive.
Behind your right ear sit three easily findable buttons: the volume up- and down controls, and a multifunction key. The charging contact sits behind your left ear. It’s pretty easy to change volume and answer a call. Or at least as easy as ever it is when using a Bluetooth headset. (See also: Best headphones for kids.)
iT7s2 review: features, in use
So that’s good then. And the iT7s2 headset has all the features you might expect. It use Bluetooth to pair with your smartphone, MP3 player, tablet or laptop. It is – as we now expect – a pretty straightforward process. You press the multifunction button to open up the iT7s2, and then press and hold it for a while to put it into pairing mode. The LED status light on the top of the right earbud flickers blue and red and you can pair.
You can make and receive hands-free voice calls from any Bluetooth-enabled phone with the in-built microphone. You’re more likely to receive calls this way, I’d guess, and that is straightforward. We cound calls came through clearly at our end, and our callees told us they heard us loud and clear. In the marketing material for the iT7s2 it says that you can ‘make and receive HD calls’, and this is true: but be aware that this will work only if you are calling someone on the same network as you, and that network supports HD calling. The point is that you won’t lose quality jumping from phone to iT7s2 to ear.
On/Off, Next/Previous, Volume +/- are all easily controllable whilst on the jog and listening to music. At least they were for this clumsy clown.
iT7s2 review: audio quality
I’m prepared to be corrected on this, but it is my firm believe that if you want high-end audio, you should avoid Bluetooth pairing full stop. The iT7s2 is not built to provide a high-end hi-fi experience anyway, it’s for decent audio when exercising. That’s the most you can expect here, and the most you get.
However, if you are going to use Bluetooth headphones go for the ones that – like the iT7s2 – use the Apt-X lossless audio encoding codec. This is by no means terrible audio. Listening to acoustic music such as The Ash & Clay the sound is warm and nicely rounded. There’s a slight lack of clarity at the top end, and the bass can be a bit muddy, but there is none of the coldness sometimes associated with poor-quality Bluetooth headphones.
Switch up to melodic Indie music from The Stone Roses and the effect isn’t quite as pleasing. Without pressing the earbuds into my ears I found it difficult to pick out the different melodic guitar parts, and the bass was present without being clear. Harder sounds from sources as varied as Bruce Springsteen, Journey and The Darkness sound better. And as you might expect from headphones that in design and price seem to ape Beats, bass-heavy dance and beat music from the likes of Mr Scruff and Chas N Status comes out clear and punchy. In general sounds are warmer than you might expect, but the more nuance and detail you require the less happy you are likely to be. Overall though, we are pleasantly surprised by the audio quality of the iT7s2.
A couple of other key factors: the volume levels are pretty decent. When you are pounding away in the gym this is good, on the streets less so (it’s not safe not to be aware). Similarly the noise isolation is decent – you won’t disturb your fellow runners, but you also won’t hear traffic creeping up on you.
iT7s2 review: battery life
One key factor in any Bluetooth headset is battery life. iT7 claims a talk time of up to eight hours, music playback of up to seven hours and a standby time of up to 180 hours. We have been using the iT7s2 for up to an hour in the gym and for half an hour or so at the beginning and end of each day. It’s been on standby in between. We’re four days into the week and so far no battery issues.
And this is using the iT7s2 in an unnatural way. The charging cable connects to a USB port. It comprises a short cable with a small clip on the end. You slip the clip over the left arm of the iT7s2 and two contact points fold into place. The iT7s2 is then charging. We’d wager that most people will simply leave their headphones charging every day or two, and the battery life of the iT7s2 is certainly good enough to handle that. (See also: Best headphones of 2014.)
- Bluetooth headset
- in-ear buds
- USB charger
- built-in mic