Riwbox might be a brand that you are unfamiliar with, but are their XBT-780 Bluetooth headphones going to make that change?
In the box
With the XBT-780 you get
- A carry pouch
- The USB charging cable
- A 3.5mm cable with inline remote
- The documentation
So for the price of just £35 its looking fairly promising so far, but can it keep that up?
Design and build
First up I’ll quickly tell you about the pouch and its a nice inclusion. Yes it won’t stop them from getting damaged if you drop them, but it will prevent them from getting marked up in your bag.
It has has some large branding which I think is a touch too much and it could have been dialed back a bit. But again for the low price of the headphones its something that was not to be expected.
Onto the headphones now and they are fairly nice upon first glance, they look nice and well made. But when you take a second look and finally hold them, they start to show their price in a bad way. The main colour scheme is all Black which I have no issue with, there is a splash of Grey and a few accented White areas, so that is not really the problem. But when you start to look more at them, then you can see the shortcomings.
For example the use of cheap plastics in areas around the headband and in the main support arms. At first they give off the look of metal, which is good, but then when you actually pick them up you can feel its just faux. See I’m okay with plastic, when the grade is good, but the plastics used here are not. They sound hollow, feel very cheap, scratch easily and has high petroleum levels in it (see pictures). Yes I know they aren’t expensive headphones, but I’ve used cheaper in the past that are better built.
The main finish on the housing is nice though, its soft touch and feels great. The downside is that it picks up dirt and smudges very easily, its also tricky to clean and does leave lasting marks. These are also made from plastic, but gladly the grade is a little higher here. They also have a nice accent too, which adds to the first glance appeal.
Next is the adjustment and again its made from mostly plastic, but I’m happy to say that it features a small amount of metal reinforcement. This should make them last a little longer.
The headband next is actually not bad, its padded through out and it does feel like it has metal reinforcement as well. There is some flex, but not enough to be worrying. There is also some branding but its all Black and doesn’t stick out too much.
The inner earcups are a mixed bag, on one hand they use a pleather material and its okay, its not the smoothest I’ve ever experienced but more on that later. The inside however is really nice and features a White and Black striped design with the left and Right indicators stitched in. Its a nice touch and I wish more attention to detail had been made in other areas. Its also slightly cushioned too which prevents your ears from making contact with the drivers.
Now to the ports and buttons. The left side features a solitary 3.5mm jack which is nicely recessed into the housing. The right side is where you’ll find everything else, there is a micro USB port, LED light and the main controls. The controls feel good, they give off decent tactile feedback and don’t feel mushy to press. They are a touch small and could have been a little bit bigger to make them easier to use.
Finally the cable and its nice. Its fabric and for the most part feels good. The 3.5mm ends are made from metal and I have no issue there, there is also ample strain relief too. The only downside to the cable is the remote, its entirely plastic and feels very cheap. The buttons are mushy and not overly responsive. However the cable really should only be used when the battery runs out and you’re not likely to be using it all that often anyways.
Overall the design is nice, they’re not too over the top and feature subtle details that make them look very nice. Its only when you actually start using them when you can actually fell the corners that have been cut to keep the manufacturing costs down. But if you’re careful with them, they should be okay for a while.
So, how comfortable are the Riwbox, well they are okay. The padding on the earcups is fairly soft and forgiving. Its not the most plush I’ve ever encountered but its good. The texture of the earcups is not the smoothest but it didn’t cause any major fatigue. The opening is quite large too, so if you have more generously sized ears then they should still fit nicely. They also have a decent amount of swivel adjust too, which is nice for better positioning whilst in use.
The only downside really is the heat build up, they do get hot quite quickly and I found I needed a break after around one and a half hours use. Keep in mind that indoors this is a bit of an issue, but in more brisk weather its actually quite nice.
The headband next is decent, the padding isn’t overly generous nor is it soft, but given they don’t weigh much, its an oversight I can accept. The band does help distribute the little weight quite nicely and although the padding isn’t much, I didn’t have any issues with it.
Using the headphones daily was just like most other Bluetooth headphones, but I did have a few issues.
Pairing them is very simple, all you do is press and hold the power button (which also acts as play/pause, answer/reject calls button) until the light flashes Red and Blue, you then go into your Bluetooth settings, turn Bluetooth on and search for them. Once they appear (after around 10 seconds) select them and they will pair. Re-connecting is a simple as turning your Bluetooth on and powering on the headphones and that is pretty much it. They also utilise Bluetooth 4.1 which is quite up to date and will work with newer and older versions of Bluetooth just fine.
Charging them brought up no issues either and its a straight forward experience. The port is easy to access and doesn’t require any force to get a solid connection.
Onto my only real complaint and that is the buttons, they are placed in an easy place to access (round the back when wearing them), so that isn’t the issue. Its how small they are, how close together they are and they all feel the same. If the buttons were a little larger and had some sort of unique identifier (a bump or different texture) then it would make using them so much easier and user friendly. As they are now, they are a little fiddly to press and if you’re wearing gloves, forget about it.
One other small omission is the lack of any folding mechanism. This isn’t a massive deal breaker by any means, but it would have been a nice inclusion to make travelling with them a lot easier.
And finally another issue is the Bluetooth issue, now when having WiFi enabled on my phone the headphones dropped the playback volume and also cut out occasionally too. At first I thought it might have been a sign of a low battery, but I tried it again when they were full and it still did it. Not sure if this is an isolated incident or not, but it needed bringing up.
The XBT-780 use a either a 420mAh or 500mAh battery and have a quoted life of I’m not sure, now on the Amazons page there is two numbers given. One states up to 18 hours use and the other states 15 hours. Not sure which is right to be fair. They really should sort that out. The box though does state that its 500mAh and provides up to 18 hours playback, so thats what we’ll use. In my test at 65% they lasted a very impressive 23 hours 26 minutes, that’s very good and will easily go for about a weeks general use before needing a top up. This will vary depending on your use, but with mine its very impressive.
Charge time time is stated anywhere between 2 to 3 hours and I got 2 hours 16 minutes via my Anker powerport 5. But that will vary depending on what you are charging them with.
Noise isolation and leak
As always I test headphones and earphones on public transport and these were no exception. My test revealed that the isolation is not that strong, even with music on I could still hear my surroundings. It wasn’t as clear as with them off but I could still pick out things that were happening in the background. I could hear faint engine and tyre noise. This was at my usual 65% volume, if I turned it up the background noise did reduce, but that brings it own risks. With music off, you can pretty much hear everything, this means that there natural isolation isn’t great and it relays pretty much solely on how loud you have your music.
Now these don’t make any claims to have ANC or any form of noise reduction, so I can’t really fault them, but I can say that they weren’t that impressive. Its not like the seal between the cups and you head is bad, but maybe its the construction of the headphones that is partly to fault.
Leak is actually well handled and I never got any complaints, so if you keep the volume to below 60% then you should be just fine. Even at 65% the leak isn’t overly obtrusive and is fairly minimal, unless you have someone sat right next to you and then they maybe able to hear your music. But if you’re on a crowded bus or train then likely hood is that your music shouldn’t bother anyone. In a library situation you could get away with lower volumes as the ambient noise around is less, therefore you don’t need your music as loud. But if you do so happen to turn them up in a quiet environment, then the leak maybe a bit more noticeable. So the leak output depends on where you are.
Here is the make or break point for any set of headphones, so are these good? Well, I’m sad to say, not really. The right side of the headphones is far quieter than the left and it throws the whole sound off. I think there maybe a loose connection as it only happens some of the time. But sometimes they did work correctly so here is what I found.
Bass is quite loose and uncontrolled, its got decent punch and the drop is solid, but its a bit unwieldy. Its also lacking clarity and is murky sounding. Bass lovers, who just want powerful bass may find this acceptable and in some genres its better than others, but the lack of quality in the bass is a no no from me. There also some vibration too, its very subtle but when the bass kicks in, you just pick it out.
Mids are decent, they are moderately clear and detail is passable for the price. The outright clarity isn’t amazing nor is the sound separation. Soundstage is a bit lacklustre too and the experience is a little claustrophobic. Maybe I’m being a little over critical but its just not that impressive. I can’t even blame the price as other headphones at the same point do the mids so much better. For example the Archeer I reviewed a while back were more well rounded.
Vocals are okay, they are clear with nice tonal quality. The power won’t blow you away but they are good. These are probably the best part of the sound.
Overall these are just a little bland and have some shortcomings, again price can’t be blamed and I’m sure there will be much better sounding headphones at the same price point. Okay criticism aside, for just some casual listening they are decent and offer enough quality to be enjoyable and I think that is what they were going for. These aren’t intended to be intense listeners, but again I can’t praise them for their quality. So for just a quick trip on the bus to listen to some tunes, then they’re okay, but if you really want to be impressed, these unfortunately can’t deliver.
Now these headphones have some good points like the nice subtle design, the impressive battery life and the comfort. They are let down by the build, Bluetooth issues, average noise isolation and leak performance as well as the so so sound quality. For £35 they are a decent set of headphones, yes they won’t blow you away for the price and they aren’t a hidden gem, but they do perform admirably and provide a modest user experience. I would advise you shop around first as you are likely to find better under the £40 mark.
Get some here: www.amazon.co.uk/riwbox