Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Nice detailed sound, Good separation
- Mid range too dominant, Uncomfortable design
If you can handle the uncomfortable design and want a wireless pair of headphones for your portable music player, then the Creative SL3100s may be for you. Unfortunately, most people will find their ears hurt too much to really make use of them.
Price$ 199.95 (AUD)
Creative's SL3100 wireless headphones is another product in the increasingly popular Bluetooth Stereo Headphones category. It streams music wirelessly to the headphones using a rather chunky Bluetooth dongle, but unlike many other products on the market, doesn't double as a mobile phone hands-free kit.
As a pair of headphones, the primary concern is sound quality. In the past we haven't been particularly impressed by the audio quality of most Bluetooth headphones, but as this set is designed purely for pairing with a portable music player, we were hoping Creative would jump ahead of the pack. Thankfully, we were not disappointed.
The SL3100's, while not offering the best quality audio we've heard, will more than satisfy the average consumer who is looking for an alternative for their wired headphones. Their best feature is their separation and musicality. Individual elements are well placed, with reasonable detail, and the overall sound is quite fun. The mid range is the dominant part of the sound, to the point of overshadowing the highs, which are a little recessed. They also came across as quite harsh in some parts, which made listening for long periods fatiguing. The bass was quite slow, but reasonably well balanced, leaving the overall relatively neutral. The soundstage was as we expected from a mid range pair of headphones, with reasonable immersion that resembles a mid-sized concert hall.
While the sound was quite pleasing, the design leaves a little to be desired. We repeatedly encounter comfort problems with the over-the-ear style headphone. Some companies, such as Koss and Sennheiser, have got it right, employing soft rubber clips or including padding to ensure your ears don't get sore during long listening sessions. Unfortunately, Creative has included no such thing here. The ear cups themselves are padded, and relatively comfortable, however the band that holds them in place is simple, hard plastic that digs into your skin. We found the SL3100's uncomfortable after just five minutes of listening, and quickly had to remove them for a short break. No matter how good they sound, it is tough to recommend headphones that can't be worn for any real length of time. We suggest you try them on before buying, if possible, and see for yourself how they feel.
As mentioned, they pair with your audio device using a Bluetooth Dongle. This is about the size of a USB flash memory stick, and dangles from a small cable. At this size, it is a little awkward, and we much prefer the circular, coin sized dongles some other pairs of headphones have employed.
Everything is easy to operate, with pairing achieved by simply switching both devices on. There are a number of buttons on the headphones themselves, including play/pause and track skip. However, these only work with Creative MP3 players, so those with iPods and other products are out of luck.
Both units run off internal batteries, which are charged using an adapter. The battery life is quoted at eight hours, depending on usage conditions.
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