Thursday, October 20, 2022

Sport&Outdo : SportSet Headband Headphone Unboxing and Review

Not everyday I will receive a Red Dot Award (2021) winner item for review. This is a headband that is also a headphone from Sport&Outdo (S&O). A headband AND a headphone, this was how they won the RedDot Award in 2021 for Concept Design.

Weighing at 59grams with playback time of 5hours, Bluetooth 5.3 protocol and IP67 waterproof, this set of headphone (speakers on the side, pointing to your ear) allows an out-of-ear-canal experience. A good True Wireless headset for work and play.

While this is not a bone conduction headset, the functionality and design intend is the same - open ear concept so you stay aware of your surrounding while doing what you love, and looking good with it. 

Priced at USD99(now) and available at Sport&Outdo. Ships globally.

First up, the unboxing! Stay tuned as I put this SportSet through extensive wear testing!

The S&O SportSet

First look at this SportSet reminds me of the mid-2015ish sweatband known as Halo-band which has ability to "divert" sweat away from the eyes via some internal rubber/silicon drain. Now, add on a True-Wireless Speaker (TWS) and you get the S&O SportSet.

A good indication on how it will look like on the model

The S&O team sent me their first version for me to stress test and to provide feedback. It is a privilege and I intend to share with them my user experiences. First up, the box that contain the SportSet (as it is known for "Headband Headphone"). The box gives an impression of exclusiveness and premium-feel. Embossed printing and simple to the point feature.

Embossed wording.

The Logo could had been made more prominent
The back/bottom of the box has the Red Dot Award Winner indication and also tell of the technology and thoughts the team put in. 
Simple and to the point. Take note this is a Bluetooth 5.3 Codec and with IP67 Waterproof. Also, the unit i received is marked as "M" size for my 58cm head circumference
S&O did not skim on the technology of the SportSet. It comes with Bluetooth version 5.3, which is considered the newest codec that offers 2x the speed, 4x the range and 8x the amount of transferable data. The iteration of 5.3 also meant better battery/energy savings, faster device switching between two devices, minimal lag is communication and more secured/encrypted data exchange. This also meant better sound quality at a lower bitrate (thus saving energy/longer playback).

Two other sales/distribution in London and Germany

Important Specs to Help You decide
What's in the Box
The box reminds me of unboxing a new phone. The top black portion holds the charging cable (USB-POGO pin aka pin that is like Pogo stick/spring loaded) which is magnetic  and snap automatically into the charging pins. It is also one direction due to polarisation of the magnet. The other item is the user manual in two language (English and German). The missing Chinese user manual surprised me and perhaps the target market is more international by S&O
Makes you wonder if there is a phone below isn't it?

The POGO pin charger and user manual

The POGO  and the charging status (green steady blinks)
Charging is a fast 40mins for a 4-hours usage. A 5-min charging gives a 2-hours usage, which is really impressive if you planned to have a short run and your SportSet ran out of juice.

The Unit and the Elastic bands

3-length of band for the customised fit. 190mm, 200mm and 210mm length is ready 

The length is clearly marked on the metal fastener and with side indication

Only one way to slot in and secure

The silver part = speaker!

The S&O logo on the right side is the ON/OFF button

The charging pod is on the left side

Bottom hole is the microphone outlet

How they both lined up

There is a marking on the unit itself on the R-L orientation

Quick slide and snap into place

Similar for the other side
S&O claimed the unit to be 43 grams on the unit itself, the additional is the elastic band fixture at longest 210mm
Pairing The SportSet to Devices
One of the promises of Bluetooth Version 5 is the ability to link two devices at the same time and switches between them seamlessly. Pairing on my iOS16 was simple and quick. The name will appear as SportSet and linking was immediate. Linking to my Garmin Fenix7x device was also quick and seamless. Once they were both linked, streaming music and having playback coming in from either devices was fast and swift.

It is a Headphone with mini-speaker, not bone-conduction
Unlike the bone-conduction headphone that hooks over the ear (Shokz or AfterShokz as it was formerly known), the SportSet sports two mini-speakers that lend the playback function. My initial concern that the sound may be muffled was quickly put to rest as the position of the speaker is actually directed to the ear. At the loudest setting, the sound/music was audible and caught on my Insta360 camera. Either it was that loud, or the Insta360 has awesome mic-pickup ability (which is actually the mic-pick up)

Right side. Take note of the Speaker orientation towards my ear
The biggest differences between the SportSet and Shokz (Open Run Pro, absolutely top of the range model) apart from aesthetic (how it look on the user) and technology (speaker vs bone conduction) is with this SportSet i am able to hear the broadcast clearly AND the ambient sound around me clearly. On the Shokz, the ambient sound (traffic or people talking to you) drowns out and it is as if you were wearing an in-ear unit.
Complete unboxing
Sound wise, it is as expected. Less bass pumping through and mostly midrange and high range. While the Frequency Response mentioned 20Hz to 20kHz. Just do not expect audiophile quality. How does it compare to the Shokz? Very similar minus the vibration on the side of the ear. The Shokz "delivers" the bass via low vibration, so you feel the bass, instead of "hearing it".

Wearing it and How it look on me
Wearing the SportSet was easy. It reminds you of wearing a headband - well, it is technically a headband. While it may look pretty strange for a bald person like me, it may look normal for someone with hair. At the moment, the elastic band is only in florescent green with black band and wording, Would be nice if there are other options (wish list)

Have you ran with a headband or sweat-band? How about liking your workout with a headphone/earphone/bone-conduction headset? If you did, and you are comfortable to do so, this could be your 2-in-1 solution. The fitting on the SportSet is via the elastic front panel (removable and as mentioned, come in 3-length). As the unit itself is not stretchable, you may have to get use to the feeling of the back portion pressing on your head. However, it still felt comfortable without much restriction - and unlikely it will slip down while running as the silicon surface will provide sufficient hold.

Left side

From the back!

Does It Work With Other Cycling or Running items?
While we were in the spirit of testing and checking the suitability of this unit to work on multiple scenario, I've tried it on two diffferent type of cycling helmet, running cap (and offline casual cap) and except for the Aero-helmet, the other items worked really well with the SportSet unit. 

BT version: BT 5.3 (competitor is BT5.1)

Operating distance: 20m(barrier-free environment)

Work time: 5h (competitor is 10hours)


Docking Battery spec: 120mAh

Earbuds charging time: ≤40 Mins

Frequency: 20HZ-20KHZ

BT decoded version: SBC AAC

Earbud weight: 43g (59grams with L 210mm band)

Waterproof level(device): IP67 (competitor is IP55)

BT protocols: 

a2dp/avctp/avdtp/avrcp/hfp/spp rfcomm/pnp/hid/sdP core/l2cap core

Price: USD99 at the moment. This is 45% cheaper than top of range competitor ( Shokz Open Pro (USD179.90))

Thank you S&O!

I am grateful and privileged to be included in this first commercial version of the SportSet. The team has asked me to "do whatever I want" to test them out and provide feedback. In return, they asked for my opinion and improvement. Open channel collaboration like these is hard to come by - as most brands are protective and only interested in selling. I've already listed down a few improvements I would want to share with them. 

Leave comments below if you see opportunities to make this even better as well. I believe our view (as users, current headphones, earphones, bone conduction) may be very similar. Here are my list just based on first feel and unboxing
  • More compact unit, thus making the "side less bulky"
  • Choices of color for the headband
  • Make the headband to be like cloth material so it is like a head covering (like Buff)
  • Instead of "Sport&Outdo", just use their S&O logo. Subtleties is nice
  • Longer battery life for use on longer runs (Marathons or Ultras that extend post 5-hours) wihtout sacrificing the current size. (can't expect more compact speaker system with longer battery life)
  • Siri or Google Assistant button/function
  • Potential to incorporate a red LED blinker at the back or a safety reflective strip incorporated into the rear band
The Concept Design
Stay tuned as I test this unit on actual everyday usage! Follow me on these channels for more contents

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