First off, a heart-felt thank you to SmartOmi for sending me two of their latest in ears to audition. Both pairs were sent in exchange for an honest review and I have no affiliation with SmartOmi. I always appreciate the opportunity to try new gear and the Bluetooth market has been particularly active so it seems I have a steady stream of cool stuff to try out. I am truly blessed and I thank those who continue to make this hobby exciting and new.
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.
Having recently done a handful of reviews, I was approached by SmartOmi to review two of their new offerings. Both arrived in the same Amazon box a few days later. The outer packaging on both shares a similar color scheme and design but that is really where the similarities end. The package comes in somewhere between the typical Chinese warehouse packaging with no information, and the typical US packaging with all the details on the retail packaging. The front identifies the brand and model and that the box contains wireless headphones. The rear of the box lists stereo sound, snap paring, one-key operation, and 1year warranty. I would have preferred details of the expected battery life, frequency response etc. (As a side note pairing is misspelled and should be updated.
When you lift the cardboard top, you see the charging case, the manual, and a charging cable and spare tips.
The earpieces themselves are a two-piece plastic shell with the bulk of the body being black and the outside face plate in a medium grey. On the outside, a small round button with a LED ring around the perimeter sits at one end of the oval shape. A small port in the middle of the bud is the only tip off that a microphone exists. On the inner side, the nozzles are shorter than some but the provided tips are all double flanged for a little extra isolation. Fit was good due to the small size of the buds and double flanged eartips. Also of note is the ear-pieces also have four charging contacts per side instead of the usual 2. The case is a metal shell in a matching grey with a smoked plastic lid. One great feature of the case design is the magnet that holds the buds in-line with the contacts and prevents the contact from being broken if the case is bounced around in a pocket. Having recently tested no less than 4 different charging cases with Bluetooth earbuds, this is easily the best design for maintaining the connection between charger and bud.
The ACE does not seem to share the firmware with many other of the inexpensive Bluetooth buds as pairing is accompanied by different prompts. Pairing went easily and range was found to be roughly 10 meters in clear space. Due to the low power mode of the earbuds, much over 7 meters is iffy. They do support Bluetooth 4.2 but do not have the AptX codec.
The buds easily lasted 90 minutes on a charge and the case was capable of recharging them completely in between 20 and 30 minutes depending on the charge state of the case. With the case plugged in or recently charged the charging time was closer to 20 minutes. With a ½ discharged case, the buds took significantly longer to charge completely. A 3rd charge from the case without plugging in the case resulted in an only partial charge of the buds.
As mentioned earlier, 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 as intended and the phone automatically switched to the left earpiece only then back to stereo when the call ended without any flakiness as has been evidenced on some other models.
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.)
Bass: Finally, a Bluetooth bud with decent but controlled bass. The Ace has good mid-bass and only a small hump with minimal bleed over compared to the other sets I have tested. Sub-bass is not present and bass extension does not go particularly deep although this is not unexpected for a 6mm driver. I did find that the bass did react well to EQ so those that demand more of a V shape have the option to go heavier than default. I don’t think these will ever make a basshead happy, but that can produce more bass than the default tuning is pushing.
Mids: The mids are more forward and are well rendered. Acoustic guitar sounds realistic with good timbre. Overall, much clearer than I have come to expect with more detail and depth than anticipated.
Treble: Treble extension is good but not great. Cymbals are a little sharp and metallic but the treble is sufficient to provide some sparkle and air in the top end. I did not notice any sibilance in female vocals and played a couple tracks that are noteworthy for producing sibilance in lesser designs just to make certain it was not the source material influencing my understanding.
Soundstage is reasonable but not huge as can be expected in a small, closed back design. Instrument separation is good although the lower mids can get a little busy and cramped on large orchestral pieces.
I have grown a bit jaded having recently tested a number of less than stellar products. The SmartOmi products were both a pleasant surprise. I can recommend the ace for those looking for a small in-ear with good sound and a charging case. They have the best sound of those I’ve tested lately. The ACE is smaller than most sets I have tried with better designed tips and will fit a larger range of people well. They have good if not great Bluetooth connectivity although an upgrade to AptX would be a nice addition to the next model. Sound is a warm, well balanced sound albeit without a ton of extension on either end. They wont replace my beloved Akg40 anytime soon, but for a wireless device designed for use during travel and at the gym, they deserve your attention. You can spend a lot more in the Bluetooth bud market and get a lot less. I’ve done it myself several times now.