i.am+ BUTTONS Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Review
Is Will.i.am’s latest tech gadget ‘Fiyah’ or not?
Branded as "Premium wireless bluetooth earphones. Tailored fit with immersive sound.", Will.i.am’s headphones have a polished feel and decent sound quality but may disappoint users given their price tag.
The Buttons come in four Apple-exclusive colours that match finish of the iPhone 7 (Black and Gold, Space Grey, Rose Gold and White). The circular disc design is stylish and practical, with a high quality metal finish.
They are also fitted with magnetic discs so you can clasp them around your neck when you need a break from your tunes. Both headphones are connected by a woven fabric cord, giving the headphones a hip look whilst increasing the durability of the wires.
The charging port is subtly concealed by a rubber housing and is easily accessed by the included micro USB cable. I found the rubber earpads and design very comfortable, which made the headphones barely noticeable. The transition from corded headphones to cordless bluetooth added to the comfort levels.
Set up and sound quality
When you activate the Buttons you are greeted with a warm tune followed by a voice welcoming you "Buttons are on". Listening to will.i.am's latest track Fiyah, I found out that choosing the right earpads was essential to getting the full sound potential of the Buttons.
My first impression of the buttons with the default earpads was quite dismal, with the sound quality coming second to my Apple Earpods. The Buttons struggled to produce any solid sound as I cycled through a few progressive house tracks that I knew well to test the higher and lower frequencies.
The trick here, it turns out, is matching the earpads to your particular fit to get the most out of the Buttons' audio features. One advantage of the Buttons is the vast number of earpads included. You can choose between a single earpad for each ear for simplicity or a dual-piece ear pad for a more customised fit.
Upon opting for the two piece ear pad the sound quality vastly improved. They genuinely sounded like an entirely different set of headphones. The bass was very impressive for an in-ear headphone and the higher frequencies were quite clear as well.
The Buttons advertise 6+ hours of active battery life and meet this expectation easily. If you’re working in an office which requires human interaction, you can expect two days of music with the Buttons before requiring a charge. Getting a full charge was impressively efficient, taking around 45-60 minutes.
In the charging department you only receive a micro USB cord without a charging plug. I was very surprised given the price tag and premium details that were given to the packaging and headphones. In addition you are unable to listen to the BUTTONS whilst charging, which may disappoint listeners who want to stay hooked to their extended sets.
As pictured, the far left button allows you to increase the volume, the middle button lets you pause, skip tracks and power on/off and the far right button lets you decrease volume and hold for Siri.
The Buttons are a convenient option for music enthusiasts, providing a decent bluetooth range (approximately 8-10m) away from your device. Although the headphones provide a decent wireless range, I found the connection quality quite inconsistent.
In the office and at home, I experienced 3-4m of range before losing sound. At its best, the Buttons provide 8-12m of bluetooth range allowing you to go to the kitchen whilst listening to your favourite tunes. With Bluetooth 4.0 technology, the headphones miss the general standard of up to 60-90 metres by a very long shot.
The controller is easy to use with three buttons allowing you to control volume, pause, play and skip tracks. The Buttons also allow you to use Siri by holding down the decrease control.
Knowing whether the headphones are on or not can be annoying, as the ‘on’ light is hard to see in broad daylight. This results in holding the power button multiple times before lights stop flashing or listening to a singular headphone to clarify that the Buttons are powering off.
The controller also sports a microphone for calls which I struggled to use. Callers during tests reported that it sounded as though I was talking through a wind tunnel while using the Buttons for call purposes.
The Buttons retail price range from $199-$299 on Australian websites. Shopping around and doing your research can save you almost 33% of the cost that other retailers are charging. The price tag of $199 is much more palatable for the Buttons. If you are tending towards the $300 mark, over-ear headphones would provide more bang for your buck.
Will.i.am's Buttons boast impressive sound quality, visual appeal and functionality. I thoroughly enjoyed using them as they provided solid bass backed up by clear and crisp treble.
The price tag is the only aspect that holds these headphones back, since the $299 price range gives you superior buying power in todays market. In saying so, the Buttons make a sturdy investment and should faithfully meet your music needs. I'd gladly recommend them to users who are looking for a reliable pair of bluetooth headphones with a unique design. If you're looking for another pair of bluetooth in-ear headphones, you can read the review of our Apple Airpods here. For over-ear bluetooth headphones around the same price range, read our Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 review.