Review: WinnerGear Hero Wireless Earbuds
Fully wireless earbuds are finally becoming more mainstream and options abound. If you're looking for a way to enjoy music that doesn't involve cables, cords, or wires, something like the WinnerGear Hero is one way to get a taste of freedom without breaking the bank. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.
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The promise of truly wireless earbuds has so far been better than the reality. I've tested options from Motorola, Samsung, Jabra, and Apple over the last year, and few have lived up to the hype surrounding this form factor. Some suffered from poor wireless performance, while others simply didn't sound good enough, or delivered crummy battery life. Thankfully the industry has made strides over the last year and is beginning to deliver viable options. New drivers, better power management, and advanced codecs combine to make for improved experiences all around.
WinnerGear is the latest company to roll out fully wireless earbuds. The Hero from WinnerGear is less costly than some options. Do you have to make sacrifices at this price? Let's find out.
Most wireless earbuds share a basic form factor, which consists of two separate in-ear buds and a charging/carrying case. The majority include a charging cable along with spare eartips and earwings for customizing fit. You'll find all of these in the box with the WinnerGear Heros.
The carrying case is a simple black affair. I'd call it fairly compact thanks to its 2.55 by 1.73 by 1.17-inch measurements. It's got an oval-ish shape and is lightweight. The plastic materials that form its skin aren't of the highest quality. The flip-open lid that covers and contains the earbuds has a flimsy hinge. Two small LEDs are located on the front so you can assess the charge level of the individual left and right buds. The microUSB port and a second LED light are on the back. This additional light allows you to gauge the battery level of the charging case. The earbuds themselves drop into the case easily and are secured well enough when the lid is snapped closed.
Each bud is small and cylindrical. WinnerGear stuck to black for the buds' chassis and rubber earwings. The only flash of visible color comes from the ear tips, which have a red liner. I'd call the buds utilitarian in their appearance and functionality.
A single button appears on the outer end of each earbud. You have to turn the left bud on first and then the right ear bud. The left bud connects to the phone. You'll hear "connected" twice: once when the Heros connect to the phone and a second time when the buds connect to one another.
The buttons do triple duty. A long press (about 3 seconds) turns the buds on and puts them in pairing mode. Once paired with and connected to a smartphone, a single press of either bud will play/pause tracks and a double press will skip forward to the next track. A single press also answers/ends calls. The buttons are easy enough to find by feel and the travel/feedback is good. You need to press the button for about 6 seconds to turn the buds off. The copper charging pins for each bud are next to the buttons.
The Heros come with two rubber earwings. They stretch over perhaps 50% of the surface area of the earbuds. I didn't have any trouble removing and reapplying them. The wing on each is rather long. My guess is some people might find both options too big for their ears. WinnerGear probably should have included a third option with a much smaller wing.
I found the eartips to be incredibly frustrating. The three sizes should ensure most people find a comfortable fit, but swapping them is not fun. Like most ear tips, those of the Hero are easy enough to remove — just pull and they slip off. The same is not true of putting them back on. In short, the elastic sleeve of the ear tip that goes over the small stalk of the earbud is just too small and/or not flexible enough. I had real trouble getting them on. This process should take seconds; instead, it takes minutes.
After spending (too much) time swapping the earwings and eartips I eventually found a fit that worked for me. I was able to comfortably wear the Heros for hours without suffering any ear fatigue or soreness. The earbuds remained in my ears consistently when walking, jogging, doing yard work, and other activities that had me trudging around. That's critical.
The Heros have a sweatproof coating, so you can get yourself good and lathered up while exercising without worrying about your headphones. Don't drop them in the pool.
The Heros connect via Bluetooth to most any smartphone or tablet. I tested them with both Android and iOS devices and had no trouble connecting at all. They don't include anything fancy such as NFC pairing, but the headphones launch in pairing mode and this speeds up the process dramatically. I've tested plenty of headphones that require you to jump through extra hoops to enter pairing mode, so I appreciate WinnerGear's approach.
You do have to power the earbuds on individually, which is not the norm. Most competing models allow you to turn on one bud, which automatically boots the second bud.
The earbuds talk to one another effortlessly and (this is important) never got out of sync while I tested them. I never experienced any drops in playback as long as I was in range. Speaking of which, Bluetooth range is limited to 30 feet (10m).
There are aspects to the Hero's sound that I really like, and others that I don't. To start, the in-ear style of the earbuds produces passive noise cancellation. That means they plug up your ears to cut down on outside noise intrusion. On the positive side, they deliver clean, bright sound. There's not even a hint of muddiness. The Heros are tuned to produce strong mids and trebles that punch through with impressive clarity. The flip side of this coin, however, means the Heros are almost entirely devoid of good bass response. You'll hear some bass, of course, but it's not thumpy, strong, or impressive in any way. I tested the Heros with several apps and with several different equalizer settings and was never able to dial in enough bass to make me really happy.
If you're a fan of bass-heavy music, such as EDM or R&B, then the Heros may not be for you. The metal and hard rock that I prefer to listen to came across as thin and weak through the Heros, which just don't deliver the skull-punishing bass I prefer. Alternately, the Heros are really good for acoustic or orchestral music and spoken word stuff, such as podcasts or audiobooks.
Battery life is average for this class of headphone. By themselves, the Hero earbuds push through just about three hours of music playing time. That's enough to get most people to work and back on a single charge. The case can recharge the earbuds a total of four times, giving you up to 12 hours of playback before you have to plug the charger back into the wall. Based on my tests, it took the case an average of two hours to recharge fully depleted earbuds. That's a long time to wait if you've got nothing else to do on a bus or airplane.
WinnerGear doesn't provide an accompanying application to help manage or control the Hero earbuds.
If you wish, you can use just a single earbud for voice calls. The left earbud includes a microphone and can handle mono phone calls. (You're out of luck if you prefer your right ear.) Given how comfortable the Heros are, I could easily see wearing the left bud throughout the work day to help with calls.
The Heros cover the basics of this form factor well enough. The carrying and charging case is compact and provides the basic information about charging the earbuds that I want. The earbuds themselves are compact and fit well. Changing the earwings isn't taxing, though swapping eartips was somewhat fussy. I found the Heros comfortable to wear for hours.
Battery life — at 3 hours per charge and a total of 12 hours with the case — is acceptable. The earbuds' Bluetooth performance was great, as they connected to phones easily and maintained strong music playback without drops.
I'm not sold on the quality of the sound. I respect the clear, bright sound the Heros produce, and yet I miss the bass that the Heros so clearly lack. The Heros are a fine option if you prefer lighter styles of music or perhaps enjoy podcasts. These earbuds are not for people who love head-thumping bass.
WinnerGear sells the Hero wireless earbuds for $150. That's $50 to $100 cheaper than many competing models. As long as you don't mind the lack of bass, the Heros are a decent option considering their lower cost.
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