Entry Level ANC, Medium Battery Life, Affordable Price
Not many manufacturers will let you have a taste of big-time features such as ANC without breaking the bank, and if you are on a journey to finding the best wireless noise-canceling earbuds, then you must know how hard it is. Thus an affordable ANC featured in earbuds of this magnitude would understandably raise some eyebrows. The HE5A by Cowin appears to be an ace up their sleeve and makes them shine in this niche. It didn’t escape our all-seeing eye, so we LoLd in disbelief and decided to put these to the test.
Design and Accessories
Unboxing the Cowin HE5A revealed a set of simple design headphones accompanied by just a few accessories – interchangeable ear tips, micro USB charging cable, a rather thin starter user manual, and a thank you note from the main Man, Bill Cowin himself. We thought it was a nice touch to have added a small card indicating that if you sent Cowin a selfie with your HE5As, $1 will be donated to UNICEF Charity.
As for the headphones, they are two earbuds connected via a non-adjustable wire with two small panels on each side and a round-edged neckband. The neckband is to be worn around the backside of your neck, with each earbud pushed into your ear canals. The outside of the earbuds is Cowin branded and finished in piano black. That’s fingerprints for you to wipe off if you want to continue looking slick.
These earbuds go deep inside your ears, so they will not easily fall out while doing your thing, even with all the sweat involved. This is a design solution for which other manufacturers have opted differently. Some earbuds go shallower but have hooks or wings to attach them more firmly to the outside of your ear. Thus more ambient noise will get in. This will be better for hearing noises around you, but worse for your listening experience.
Comfort-wise you get 3 tip sizes to choose from.
The neckband is flexible and easy on your neck. We tested it even on a beautiful long-haired individual. No trouble there. Flexibility makes it easy to ball up and fit in any pocket without tangling issues.
The earbuds are magnetic, so when you are resting them on your chest they will stick together thus eliminating the chance of falling or causing discomfort by flying in all directions.
The general control panel accommodating all the buttons and the charge port is on the right. You have two small buttons for BT on/off and for ANC, and a volume/next song one.
Tiny LED indicators are included, although you will have to take the headphones off to be able to see the indications. There is also a nice lady voice to tell you when your phones are on/off, and when the Active Noise Cancelling is on/off.
Sound Quality and ANC Feature
Naturally, the most important thing to discuss when talking about headphones is quality of sound, however, audio sensations are subjective which means that everyone has different needs and perception of good sound and subjectivity makes it really hard to talk about sound
The Cowin HE5A stand out with a feature which is more likely to be seen with higher level designs. That is the Active Noise Cancelling technology.
As I mentioned, you will have a button to turn it on/off. The sweet lady spirit inside your headphones will inform you accordingly.
ANC is basically meant to decrease the level of the unwanted outside noise. Remember, these are earbuds, so ambient noise will not be canceled completely. Considering the use, this is good for you safety. When you are on the move you wouldn’t want to be completely deaf to the world around you.
High-quality super sound doesn’t come easy and more importantly – it doesn’t come cheap. What we settled for in this review was an attempt to prove the HE5A are capable of delivering at least a well-balanced sound.
Strike one – bass is usually described as beefy and meaty, only this time it could be said about mids. Lovely, as mids are in most cases muddy, or missing, or just wrong, but to our satisfaction, this is not the case here. Lows are tight and not over-pumped, which results in less pressure and stress. Highs tend to fall behind just a bit, at least at first hearing. However, in the overall sound, this doesn’t seem to be disturbing or annoying. You have a decent presence and sufficiently saturated audio.
Interestingly, we have found the sound to be affected by the depth you thrust the earbuds inside your ear canals. Our recommendation is to find the sweet spot between comfort, suffocated signal, and the right position to prevent knocking the buds out.
Call quality, Built-In Microphone, and Bluetooth
Most wireless earbuds are Bluetooth compatible, and since almost 100% of smartphones, tablets or other similar devices support these, getting set-up and hitting the ground running is fairly simple. Hit the BT on/off button, select the headphones from your device and that’s it. The claimed Bluetooth effective range of 33 feet (10m) is easily covered. Courtesy of the Bluetooth 4.2 standard.
The built-in microphone enables hands-free calls with good quality. No need to discuss sound quality when it comes to phone calls. You should be able to clearly hear the person who is talking on the other end, and that person should be able to hear you speak just as good. Well, the Cowin HE5A has that covered. You can also turn the volume up or down using the built-in buttons.
Sweat and Moisture Proof
As sweet as it would have been to be able to slip into a nice hot bath after a workout or a long ride on your bike wearing nothing but the family jewels and your headphones, we would advise just against. The Cowin HE5A are only sweat-proof.
Use them during your activities to get pumped up. Enjoy them pre- and post- your royal shower/bath/pool to relax. Oh, and don’t go out in a blizzard.
These are meant to do the job while you, being a non-pro enthusiast, are huffin’ and puffin’ your way through a casual fitness session. This should do just fine.
Sweat-proofing capabilities add up to the headphones’ durability. We all know the damage sweat could inflict. With some individuals, it really is the fifth element, so this should be considered a cool bonus feature.
Battery Life and Charging
Sound quality is the ultimate priority when talking about headphones. In order to stay entertained and indulge on the sound you have chosen for yourself, however, you would need headphones that are alive. Therefore battery life easily comes as the second most important box to tick.
Charging the battery of your Cowin HE5A is easy like Sunday morning. There is a micro USB port on the general controls panel attached to the wire. Plug in the USB cable supplied with the headphones and wait for about 2,5 hours. Right, you now have an 8-hour lifespan available. That should be sufficient to last for at least a week of gym routines, or whatever.
Battery life of wireless in-ear headphones is, of course, no match for the over-ear bigger brothers which will easily go into double figures. Worry not, as the 2,5 hours of charging to 8 hours of listening ratio is fair. That is what most competitors will come up with.
“Headphones on. World off.” – that’s written on the back of the box. Nice one, but don’t turn the world off just yet.
What most people need eventually is a pair of headphones that are pleasing to their own ear and are as reliable as possible.
The Cowin HE5A are not meant for audiophiles and studio recordings. And what they are meant to do, they do well. As a minor side note, we tried them as musical aid. Headphones on, selected tune on, and with no wires in the way – bass guitar on for a little play along exercise. Profit.
Headphones are a product allowing quite some room for creativity in terms of design, functions, innovations and what not. The market is in a permanent state of development, so it twists and turns like a big twisty and turny thing. In this light, fighting with yourself over the decision on the right headphones is a tough fight, no doubt. But how wrong could you get with these?
Choose style, choose portability, design, price, etc. There are many things to consider, so get it sorted and shoot. Our guess is you will come out swinging and this argument will be well buried and forgotten.