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Aqua + Review

In recent months I have really started to appreciate the benefits of wireless headphones and have had the opportunity to try out many of the more popular ones out there - both full sized and earbud/iem types. Obviously like with all things, some were better than others.

The Aqua+ is a tiny portable Bluetooth receiver and headphone amplifier in one. Designed to be used only wirelessly, the unit only has an headphone output socket - no word input at all. The unit comes supplied with its own USB powered wireless charging dock (which is a really nice touch and greatly adds to the value of the device (everything battery powered should feature this technology in my opinion), the usual fairly short USB cable and a really neat tight fitting leather case which features a really tight metal belt clip. This gives you confidence that you won't lose the unit when you're out and about. All in all a really satisfying package.

The unit is designed to allow wired headphones to be used wirelessly with your devices and features 32-bit output. It's very small and lightweight  device features a nice analogue style volume control which offers fine control. A voice prompt informs you when the unit is powered on and connected to your device. One nice touch is that the voice is nicely quiet and has a distinctive English accent. Another nice touch is that the unit always starts with a fairly low volume so you won't get any sudden surprises.

Equipment used:

Sennheiser 598SR
Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10's
1More Triple Driver IEM's
Magaosi triple driver IEM's

Google Nexus 7 2013
LG v20

Sound Quality:

The first thing that surprised me was the volume. When driving iem’s it can go far louder than I'm comfortable with and it even drives my full sized Sennheiser headphones without any problems. In fact it goes a little louder than my V20 in low impedance mode. I really like the volume dial as it offers a reasonably close approximation to an analogue control and also offers fairly fine control which is always welcome and often missing from many Bluetooth headphones. The volume control can also be pressed for Play/Pause and activating Siri/Google Assistant. I think the ideal scenario for the Aqua is to have the unit clipped to your belt and bring it up to your mouth when you are making a phone call. When used this way callers had no problems hearing me at all but I don't think the microphone is sensitive enough to pick up your voice whilst the unit is still attached to your belt.

The sound quality is superb. Really deep bass, sweet, not harsh top end and clearly defined mids. Using the APtX codec from my LG V20, there was no discernable noise floor above that of the recordings themselves. There's plenty of volume in reserve so there's some really nice dynamics going on. I found the sound quality to be perfectly acceptable for long, analytical listening sessions - I can’t really give the unit higher praise than that.

The Aqua offers selectable upsampling to 32 bits and this definitely offers an improvement in the sound - allowing a little more detail to the higher frequencies - apparently this is at the expense of battery life though. Whilst in the subject of battery life I've not had the unit run out on me yet - the power management on the unit will shut off power after a period of inactivity and the wireless charging really makes it easy to ensure the Aqua is airways ready when you need it.

Conclusion:

For me I can't see this device replacing my excellent Sony WH1000XM2 headphones or even the Apple Airpods but this is primarily because I like to be completely wireless whenever possible. However this device does allow me to use my better wired iem's wirelessly when I'm out and about and it's good enough for me to appreciate the benefits these better headphones can offer. Another advantage for me is that I can listen to music in bed quite loud without disturbing my wife - that's something I definitely can't do with the Apple Airpods.

Pros:

Small and light. Nicely made. Very good sound quality. Wireless charging capability. Good power output. Low noise floor. Fine volume controls.

Cons:

Bluetooth range isn't very good (although it's designed to be kept close to your phone when in use).