As far as problems go, the problem of plenty is one of the better ones to run into. That is what potential buyers can look forward to in the bluetooth earphone market. With smartphones ditching the old 3.5 mm headphone jack, many consumers are making the jump over to wireless audio. The last two years alone have witnessed an explosion of sorts within this segment and there is healthy competition at virtually every price point. UK based ANT Audio plan to make their mark in the Indian markets with a range of products planned for this year and I got the chance to review the ANT Audio Wave Sports 450.
The 4k-5k wireless earphone market segment is a tough one to crack. Any device at this price point is going to have to decide where it cuts corners because make no mistake, though not cheap, the price here will not be anywhere near audiophile quality. Anyone that likes to dive into the technical specs of a device will note that there is nothing here that stands out. These numbers would apply to 95% of all earphones in this segment:
But numbers can be misleading as intelligent design can offset the burden of cheap parts. Not that the Sports 450 feels cheap. Build quality is satisfactory with the neckband providing the right amount of flex for the job. Considering these are meant for use in and around the gym the IPX5 rating also ensures that sweat and moisture will not pose a serious threat. Just as well, since the little rubber flap covering the micro USB charging port does not look like it will last long. The box comes with 3 pairs of different sized foam tips and fins for a customized fit. One minor complaint, the Sports 450 will not easily fit under a helmet as they protrude too much from one’s ears. Unfortunately, motorcyclists will have to look elsewhere. As for comfort, the 450s are surprisingly light. There were times when I forgot I even had them on. There is zero stress on the back of the neck, something few devices of the “neckband” variety can boast of.
But where the earphones shine is sound. I was impressed with the “open” soundscape on the Sport 450s. Mids and highs are crisp and clear to the point where I actually picked up some new frequencies in songs I have heard hundreds of times before. Hard core bass nuts might be a little disappointed but that would be nitpicking. To clarify, the bass is far from lacking, it is meaty and complements the soundscape very well. The best way to describe the Sports 450’s soundscape would be to call it open and excellently balanced. One would be hard pressed to find much better at this price range. Another bonus, if premature hearing loss is your thing, these babies can get really, REALLY loud. I never went over 70% for music. Audio levels for podcasts and audio-books will vary on the quality of their recording however.
Ideally, bass nuts should be able to adjust equalizer settings via ANT’s audio app to boost the lower end a tad. I say “ideally” because in reality it would be pointless to try. At the time of writing this, the app is utterly useless. I’ve installed it on 4 devices (2 android phones, 1 iPad and 1 iPhone) and it crashes almost instantly on all 4. ANT might as well have not bothered. I must reiterate, this is nitpicking, unless you are the sort that thinks “Untz Untz Untz above all”, it is hard to complain about the sound quality here.
Another area where the set excels is battery life. The specs claim the Sports 450 can keep going for 10 hours on a single charge and if anything, they undersold it. I managed to get just under 14 hours! Though to be fair, most of this was whilst listening to audio-books at middling volumes. Music tends to drain the batteries quicker as the drivers need to work that much harder. Still, color me impressed. One caveat: this stellar battery life comes at the expense of long charging times. The specs suggest a 2 hour charging period but in reality I had to juice these things for 2.75 hours after draining them.
No complaints regarding connectivity. The manual claims a 10 meter range and that is pretty much what I got. Like any other bluetooth set, the 450s will struggle to maintain a stable connection through a concrete wall or two. Pairing worked flawlessly across all the devices I tested them on. The ability to be connected to two devices at once was a nice touch.
One thing that definitely needs to improve is the control unit. I found it un-intuitive and a pain to use. The volume controls are tolerable, with a slight recess on either end to guide a user’s fingers but they take a while to get used to. As for the middle button, good luck figuring out the precise location. With a stiff button and poor tactile feedback, it made pausing/un-pausing etc an exercise in frustration. It is much easier to control things from your phone/device. I’m surprised how this passed muster. I was hoping the magnetic buds would serve as an offset to the problem. Most earphones that come with magnetic “soft locks” usually pause any audio when stuck together but the Wave 450 does not. Odd.
Were it not for some unfortunate missteps, I would call the Wave Sport 450 an easy choice for anyone looking for a gym focused wireless earphone. As it stands, this segment of the market is too crowded for it be more than a worthy contender for the crown. But it comes very, very close.
(Note: The MRP for the Wave Sport 450 is 4999 INR but I have seen flash sales on Amazon for as little as 1400 INR. At that price it would be stupid not to grab em.)
Pros: Outstanding battery life, Excellent sound quality, Very comfy, Sweat proof
Cons: Long charge time, Un-intuitive controls, Useless app, Unlikely to fit under a helmet.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
PS: Forgot to mention, this thing does allow you to take and make calls. Sound quality on both is good though the mic can pick up some wind if you are on the move.
UPDATE: Welp. This took an unfortunate turn. After using the 450s as my primary earphones for 4 months, they died on me. I was using it while sweating bullets in the gym on a particularly hot day. The set is rated as IPX5 for water resistance which means it is sweat proof. But considering the fact that it died just after emitting a crackling noise, its safe to assume a circuit shorted out due to moisture ingress. My guess is that the poor quality flap covering the charging port is to blame (something I expressed concern about in the review). Whatever the reason, if a device that has the word “Sport” in its name can’t be used in sweaty conditions, something is clearly not right. Sadly, it looks like one cant trust the 450s to work in their intended environment. If you have one, keep it dry.
Some other quality issues also cropped up during this time. At some point, one of the internal magnets must have come off its housing as the ear-buds now stick in an awkward “off axis” position, i.e., not back to back.I don’t remember dropping it but I do run and jump around whilst wearing them. Also, they do get jostled about in my bag. This Inst something one should have tolerate at the intended price point. Moreover, the app is still utterly useless. They are still a bargain at 1500 INR in terms of sound quality but in light of these issues, I’m downgrading the score. Pity. I really liked them.
REVISED SCORE: 5.5/10