First off, a heart-felt thank you to George and Gearbest for providing these in ears. New gear is always fun and the opportunity to try out gear as it comes to market is indeed a privilege.
A short note about me: I am a music enthusiast, and audio hobbyist. I make no claim to have the level of experience of some here. I tend to be quite pragmatic and value oriented. I am a lover of blues, jazz, and rock music and listen to a very broad range as I am always interested in what is new.
I’ve recently started on a group of reviews of small Bluetooth in-ears and it seems that every time I finish one I get requests to do a few more. This started with the Syllable D9 (Bass heavy but good clarity), went on to a couple of Borofone models that are best skipped due to quality control problems, two Smartomi products that I am currently listening to, and the subject of this review, the Riversong AirX 2. I am not a huge fan of Bluetooth headphones but have to concede they do have their use cases. Those use cases all require that the ear-pieces stay in place during movement, and that they continue to operate within a reasonable proximity of the source.
The X2 arrived in a typical padded shipping envelope. The box is a departure from the average in that it is well labeled and does a good job of depicting the contents. It is designed to be hung on a display rack and is much more retail oriented than most I have received. The box has a couple of statements that need some clarification. On the front of the box it says “Intelligent Noise Reduction” which would lead to the assumption that they have active noise cancelling. This is not the case as no noise cancellation circuitry exists. The inner part of the box slides out the bottom to reveal the buds, case, and extra tips. A brief manual and a short usb to micro-usb cable is included for charging the case. The packaging is well laid out and eye catching.
The Charging case is similar to the D9 and other two-piece ear bud designs with two pins in either cavity that align with charging contacts on the earpiece. The earpieces will only fit one way and are held very solidly in order to maintain the contact between the earpiece and the charge unit. On the back of the box is a micro-USB female connector for charging. The case hides an internal battery capable of charging the formed tray that holds the earpieces there is a battery so the case itself can charge the earpieces twice without need for the USB connector.
The earpieces themselves are a plastic shell with an oddly dimensioned nozzle that may make finding additional tips difficult. There are three sizes of tips provided, but for me somewhere between the medium and the large would have been perfect. None of my standard tips fit. The buds do rest comfortable in the ear as they are not overly heavy, but they are prone to falling out during strenuous exercise if tilted much beyond horizontal. The entire back of the shell acts as the on/off button or for answering phone calls.
Both earpieces have a mic built in so either can be used independently as a Bluetooth earpiece when using the phone. The microphones did work well and it seems that my phone automatically goes to right side mono only when using these buds to make and receive calls. I could force the left side to work with the phone only by turning the right-side earpiece off.
These buds seem to share the same firmware as the Syllable in that the vocal instructions are the same voice for both. They also share an odd issue when switching between phone calls and music. When listening to music and receiving a phone call, the X2 automatically switched to right side only mono during the phone call and then switched back to stereo once the call was over. The issue was that the two earpieces were out of sync with the left being about a full second behind the right. I could only correct this by turning off both earpieces and then re-starting them.
As mentioned at the top, I am a lover of blues, blues/rock, classic rock, and anything with good guitar work in it. For that reason, I use the following as my test tracks. (artist, album, track, thoughts)
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood – Lenny (Guitar to die for but the thing I look for is the percussion.)
Lindsey Buckingham – Fleetwood Mac, Best of – Go Insane, Live (Probably the most complicated simple song you’ll ever hear, all about nuance and subtleties with this track).
Johny Lang – Lie to me – Lie to Me (Looking for tight bass, bleed over into the mids, and controlled sub-bass)
Tedeschi Trucks – Let me get by – I want more (Female Vocals, backing brass band)
The Blasters – Testament – Blue Shadows (Saxophone and piano with male vocals)
Vintage Trouble – The Bomb shelter sessions – Blues hand me down (Looking at attack speed and decay especially in bass and sub-bass. This track gets muddy quick if the equipment can’t handle it.)
The sound on the X2 comes across as overly compressed and it is very finicky about source material. With low quality source material, the X2 sounded like I was listening from the bottom of a pit. With other sources, the X2 sounded much more realistic although still a bit overly compressed. Not atypical for Bluetooth especially without the benefit of AptX. The addition of AptX and Bluetooth 4.2 would be a welcome change for the X2 as it might remedy some of the recessed sound.
Bass: The bass on the X2 is elevated with a lot of mid bass and very little (if any) sub-bass. The mid-bass is muddy and somewhat slow with a lot of bleed into the mids. I attempted some EQ changes but found very little change as a result. The X2 as a whole did not react to EQ.
Mids: The mids can be tough to find as the bass really hides a lot of them. I found a couple tracks that were extremely light in bass to listen to just the mids. The X2 still had difficulty delivering a solid vocal as male vocals in particular tended to sound hollow and distant.
Treble: Treble is more defined than the mids but does not show much extension or sparkle. Again, the entire sound signature is somewhat muted.
Soundstage is non-existent and instrument separation can only be defined at mediocre.
I had initially expected fit issues to be what limited my listening time, but the sound signature made it difficult to test these long enough to prove the 2 hour battery life. I was able to, but it took discipline not to take them off and swap for something with a more enjoyable signature. Overall, I think these are best reserved for mono use for taking phone calls. The sound quality simply isn’t there for audio use.