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Review: iFrogz Impulse and Summit Bluetooth Headphones

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Nov 18, 2016, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

iFrogz's Impulse and Summit wireless headphones are Bluetooth on a (shoestring) budget. They are a low-cost option for those who may need to save some cash or for those want a pair of throw-away headphones for travel. Here is Phonescoop's review.

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Intro

The Impulse and Summit Bluetooth headphones from iFrogz are budget-friendly, minimalist buds for people seeking a wire-free existence. The Impulse sits at the top of the iFrogz line in terms of audio quality, while the Summit focuses more on providing comfort, fit, and performance for active types. Can low-cost buds like the Impulse and Summit deliver the goods with torturing your tunes? We found out.

Background

Striking a balance between price and performance is a difficult juggling act for technology companies. Throwing too high or too low can lead to things crashing down on your head. A division of accessory maker Zagg, iFrogz's headphones are among the least expensive available. The Impulse costs all of $40, and the Summit is even less at $35. These low prices don't stop iFrogz from making some big claims.

Hardware

The Impulse and Summit share the same basic form factor, and even share some components. Each has two buds separated by a cable. A control module, where the cables meet, contains the buttons, battery, wireless radio, and microphone for voice calls.

The Impulse features smaller earbuds with metal enclosures. They look like tiny canisters. A thin, cheap cable sticks out from each bud at a 90-degree angle and snakes down to the control module. The connection between the cable and buds feels a bit weak and I worried that the buds might eventually pop off the cable with repeated use over time.

The Impulse comes with six tips — three standard silicone and three noise-isolating silicone — for the best-possible fit. I found the noise-isolating silicone provided the right mix of comfort and seal with my inner ear.

Impulse  

The Summit headphones have more substantial plastic enclosures and ear wings to help secure the buds in your ear. The enclosures are still relatively small when compared to sport buds from the likes of Jabra and Plantronics. A plastic stalk juts down from the bottom of each bud to give the flat, non-tangle cord some protection. I like that the cord is more secure on these buds. I was disappointed to learn the Summit includes only three silicone ear tips. The ear wings come in three different sizes, but they are hardly different at all. That means you won't be able to personalize the fit quite as much as you might be able to with other buds.

Both the Impulse and the Summit have a thick, black control module in the middle of the cable. The cables go into one side of the module together.

Summit  

A port at one end accommodates microUSB cables for charging. An LED is perched next to the port. A rather large button in the middle of the module handles basic on/off and play/pause functions. Nondescript buttons on either side for skipping tracks and adjusting the volume aren't easy to find by feel and are rather confusing to use. The quality of the control module worries me a bit and the buttons aren't reassuring at all. A clip on the back of the module does double duty: use it to wind and store the cable, as well as attach the module to your shirt collar so it doesn't bounce around. I like the clip a lot.

In absolute terms, the Impulse were more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time, but they were more prone to fall out during vigorous movement. The Summit headphones stayed in my ear more consistently, but I didn't find them as comfortable thanks to the goofy ear wing. Due to the design, you need to drape the cable in front of your neck and affix the clip to something... anything.

The buds carry an IPX2 rating for protection against sweat. That means you can use them at the gym, but not outside in the rain.

Headphones like the Jaybird Freedoms fit way better, but you pay for that comfort and fit by a factor of four.

Performance

The Impulse feature 11mm drivers that sit far back in the housing and fill an "acoustic-rich, reflective chamber" before the sound bounces its way into your year. These are fairly big drivers for in-ear buds and it's obvious in the sound. As long as you've got a good seal, the Impulse provide good sound for the price. I was mostly pleased with the way the headphones are tuned. There's no app to adjust the on-board software, so the only way to adjust the sound is via the music app on your phone. That said, whatever EQ shape iFrogz has settled on is good for most music playback. In other words, the Impulse do a decent job when it comes to actually pushing music into your head.

The Summit feature 8mm drivers that are more sensitive than those in the Impulse. That means they don't need the silly chambers to create more volume in your ear. On the flip side, the more direct path the sound takes from the driver to your eardrum isn't able to hide that these headphones are average at best. The difference between the Impulse and Summit is rather stark, with the Impulse delivering cleaner, richer sound. Music played back via the Summit sounded flat to my ears. The Summit rely heavily on phone-based tweaking to get the best-possible results. No matter how much I tweaked I never found a setting that made me truly happy. The Summit deliver acceptable sound quality for the price, but I can't say I was impressed.

Phone calls I made with both the Impulse and Summit were decent.

The initial pairing process is a bit of a pain thanks to the weird central button. I ended up turning the darned things on and off a number of times before I successfully entered pairing mode. Once paired, the Impulse and Summit found and reconnected to my phone(s) quite easily. I tested them with a Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus.

I could not get the headphones to pair with either an Android smartwatch nor the Apple Watch, which sort of stinks.

The headphones offer the normal 30-foot range. The radio cut in and out every so often when the headphones and smartphone decided they weren't talking. The drops weren't too frequent, but they were enough to be annoying.

Then there's battery life. iFrogz has not published specs on just how large the rechargeable batteries are, but they must not be all that big. The boxes in which the headphones come say "10 hours of battery life" but that's a lie. You'd expect that to mean 10 hours of music playback. It doesn't. The Impulse and Summit both gave up the ghost at the 5-hour mark for me consistently. What happened to that other 5 hours? That's for standby, says iFrogz. In other words, you get up to 10 hours of battery life if you combine music playback and standby time.

Still, 5 hours is enough for a workout or a round-trip commute. Plan on charging these buds a lot. The headphones don't include any sort of carrying case or extra battery.

Discussion

iFrogz is aiming hard for the entry-level Bluetooth headset market with the Impulse and Summit. For $40 and $35, respectively, I think people are getting what they pay for, which is to say: not much.

The headsets may be inexpensive, but it shows. The components are worryingly cheap and sometimes feel delicate. I'm not sold on the strength of the connection between the ear buds and wires, for example, and the control module is not fitted together very well.

More importantly, the headsets don't deliver the type of sound I'm looking for. The Impulse and Summit provide basic music reproduction with no frills. I was able to find a good-enough sound for the Impulse, but not the Summit. The Bluetooth radio performance was what I'd call below average, and at just 5 hours with no backup options, battery life could be a whole lot better.

If $40 is all you can afford to spend on headphones, these are okay, but you'll get much better sound from wired buds. The Impulse and Summit from iFrogz are basic Bluetooth headphones that are an entry-point to wireless music at best.

Our Ratings

2.5
Overall
 

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