Bluetooth headphones are a ten-a-penny. Most have small ear pieces, a mixture of plug sizes, and a braided or tangle free connection between them. EC Technology have gone a little further with this Kickstarter-backed product and added some LED lighting and a companion app. Let’s take a look at the IEC Shine Bluetooth Headphones in our full review.
We’ve had Bluetooth headphones before in-house – of course we have. These looked a little bit different so we were only too happy to take a look when EC Technology reached out to us.
Unboxing & Overview
Anybody who’s ever purchased any EC Technology gear before will know the sort of packaging their gadgets come in. A cardboard box with a blue and white sleeve. However IEC clearly feel this is a slightly more premium product for them as the IEC Shine Bluetooth Headphones come in a textured black box with built-in foam inlets housing the ‘phones and the accessories. This might have something to do with the fact that this particular product was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign with the public pledging over $18,000 to see this idea come to light (the first of many puns!).
The headphones themselves are front and centre housed underneath a foam flap and the user manual (we’d actually recommend looking at it). There’s also an accessory box with 2 pairs of additional ear bud tips, and a micro USB cable for charging.
The headphones are a rectangular shape with colour options of black, white, green and orange. We’ve got the black version and they are finished with red accented branding on both ear pieces.
On the right ear piece are the controls. There’s a power on/off button, volume up and down, and a button dedicated to dealing with the different light modes – more on that later. Attached to the ear pieces by default are the medium tips which aren’t your usual buds, but are instead a larger piece of silicone designed to fit not only into the ear canal with the tip, but also brace the bud against the inner ear contours for a tighter, cleaner fit.
As highlighted (see what I did there?) earlier, the connection between both ear pieces is coupled with a strip of LED lighting which has multiple modes.
There are other features and specifications as well such as the unit sporting Bluetooth 4.1 with Apt-X(according to the manual, but 4.0 according to some other literature), a triaxial motion sensor which detects steps, strides and pace for the companion application, and a 120 mAh battery which is capable of around 6 hours of continuous playback or 4 hours talk time. There’s also a nice battery saving option built-in which will enter the device into a sleep mode after 60 seconds of inactivity and shut it off completely after 5 minutes.
Performance & Use
The IEC Shine Bluetooth Headphones are clearly a more premium product that EC Technology usually delivers. From the packaging, to the product marketing material, to the unit itself, we’re expected to think of these as smarter than the average bear. These could quickly become a guilty pleasure. They aren’t the most subtle of headphones and there are those consumers that would frankly rather be seen in a pine box than with these on their head, however the sound they deliver is good for the price you’re paying. The analogy we’d use is your first car; it was cheap, and despite everyone snorting in derision, it gets you where you want to go, doesn’t break down,and despite having different coloured doors, it actually handles well. Like your first car, there are also bits you’d rather ignore.
The ear pieces are soft silicone that fit in the ear absolutely fine, however, at least in our testing, whilst the arm section proves handy (another pub – intended!) in ensuring they don’t just flop out, a little more attention to the actual tip would have been welcome. They didn’t seem to seal in our ear canals unless really pushed. Even then, with subtle movement they were prone to wobbling, which drastically changing the sound that came from the unit themselves. This is most likely the ergonomics of our ears however as other products have produced similar results.
Each ear piece has a silicone gripper towards the back of the unit to anchor the ear pieces in place by wrapping around the back of the ear for added stability. The connecting cable is supposed to be worn to the back of the neck by all accounts, but we simply couldn’t find a comfortable fit with it there and instead found the best method was to have it hang down at the front. Any movement of the head causes the units to move and the cable felt as though it was “catching” with bigger head turns. Other users’ mileage may vary on this however.
Speaking of the cable, whilst the main connection is braided inside the plastic sheath, it is coupled with an LED strip to provide the “Shine”. There are a couple of different modes here controlled via the on-unit light button on the right unit. Movement mode flashes colour across the strip whenever the units detect movement from the wearer, whilst breathing mode does exactly what it says on the tin and cycles through a spectrum of colours, subtly fading in and out. There’s also a breathing mode that links in with the tempo and then there’s a music mode which attempts to react to the sound in the unit itself and light the strip according to the sound stage. In truth the LED strip is little more than a gimmick and whilst the modes do work, the illumination will be largely unseen by the wearer and eat some battery life, so thankfully there is a fully “off” option on hand. There’s also a low battery LED notification too, however as previously mentioned, this is only helpful if you’re not wearing the device as it’s supposed to be worn, as the LED strip would largely therefore be unseen to the wearer. The price of fashion eh?
So, after all that, how do they sound? To my untrained ears they are on par with the usual £15-£30 headphones. You can expect punchy base, decent highs, with slightly lost mids. They are sufficiently loud without distortion for any/most use cases, and they actually do provide quite a lot of isolation. That is, when the ear buds sit where they should. This, is the crux of the issues we have had with the IEC Shine Bluetooth Headphones. The sound, comfort and simply put, use, of the IEC Shines can alter dramatically from minute to minute depending on where the tips are in your ears. Pushing the units into the ears, just a little bit yields the sort of results that we were expecting. Much clearer sound. Perhaps our issues with the tips is the only problem here and we expect others will see no such seating issues and as such will receive a consistent listening experience.
The hardware itself allows for touch control on the right ear piece. Swiping from back to front on the unit during listening will result in a forward skipping of track, whilst reversing the motion will complete a rewind. Double tapping toggles play/pause, whilst pressing the unit fast forwards the current song. We’ve testing this in PowerAmp, Deezer and with the built-in music applications on a number of Android phones and this seems to work just fine once you get the hand of the angles the unit requires when gesturing. A nice feature to have.
Keep on Playing
The battery is a high point on the device. We got through 6 hours of continuous playback with no lighting activated, without issue. Whilst we managed slightly less than the 6 hour mark over the course of 3 days with sporadic use, this was expected, and as the 120 mAh battery is quick to charge, it didn’t bother us. We would imagine most consumers’ use of this product would be for sports, and that’s certainly EC Technology’s expectation, and as such regular charging isn’t going to be a problem.
Finally, the product is also capable of taking/receiving calls and even in a crowded street recipients of our calls said we sounded quite clear and crisp with only the odd large gust of wing causing any sort of problem. Likewise, we could hear callers without issue whilst walking along the street, as well as being in a crowded train station. It’s a win in that department for sure.
Further lending evidence to the fact EC Technology see this device as something a little different to the norm is the inclusion of a companion application for the IEC Shine Bluetooth Headphones. The aptly named “Shine” app is available for both iOS and Android and delivers a number of additional features for the sporty amongst you.
The app allows for GPS tracking of your runs, which can be paced using a built-in metronome. The unfortunate bit here is that it takes over from playing the music, so it’s a choice between enjoying music on your run or listening to a constant “pinging” noise. It also allows you to add a profile with your weight, height, age, and even control the lighting effects of the device. However during our testing we could not get the lighting changes to push through to the device at all. By far the most useful was the GPS tracking aspect of the app, but with a few updates we’re sure that things will improve. We couldn’t find the app on the Google Play store, and had to use the QR code found in the
The IEC Shine Bluetooth headphones, at just £15.99 are a great value product. The ear pieces are built well and don’t creak – something plastic has a habit of doing. They are comfortable in ear, and they have a number of added features that make them fun to play with also. The controls are efficient and effectively and the touch gestures are a nice improvement over the inline buttons many options pump for.
Battery life is, as expected, great, and the audio on the device is decent. The low-end is punchy but not overpowering, whilst the highs are crisp enough for them to be used in the scenarios they will be; aka sports use/fitness. The mids are lost somewhat in Top 40 hits however and again I can see that this is what the majority of consumers will be using this headphones to listen to.
That’s the majority of the good news out-of-the-way. The bad is that this is very much a niche product for those that want to look “Shiny” in the gym or out running. Unfortunately those consumers who would opt for such a device won’t be able to see how their sleek look, ironically, due to the design and placement of the LED strip.
As stated, in our testing we did have issues with the sound distorting due to movement of the ear pieces, however we believe that is simply the way our ears are made as other products have fared similarly. Something to be aware of however others we tested this with stated they had no such issues, and the range of small, medium and large tips should help to bridge that particular troubled water still further.
These are by far the best EC Technology headphone product yet, and whilst the companion app is next to useless currently, and the LED strip is a gimmick which doesn’t really provide any real tangible benefit above testing your battery out, perhaps refinement rather than revolution is required to take the next step. A solid effort for the price; and every plus and minus in this article could have a caveat of that. You’re looking at a value proposition here, above and beyond a class leading device. It gets the job done, reasonably well, and has a little something for those that like to stand out too.
For more Bluetooth peripherals and headphones like these, head on over to the IEC Technology website and have a look at their other products!