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Puro Bluetooth Headphones Review

Physical Characteristics

Puro very kindly sent me a pair of their excellent BT-5200 Bluetooth Headphones for review.  The headphones came supplied in really smart retail packaging which looks far more attractive than the ‘minimal’ packaging used by many known brands. The headphones come supplied with an excellent zippered hard case with a net pocket for storage of additional cables, etc. That’s a really nice touch and enhances the overall package considerably. They also come supplied with a standard USB power cable and a short but nicely made headphone cable for when you want to use the headphones with non-bluetooth devices.

The headphones are lightweight but give a definite impression of quality. They are made from high quality aluminium with chamfered edges (reminiscent of the new iPhones) and a powdered finish which looks like it could take a few knocks without problems. The buttons and switches are very high quality and the padding is also high quality and quite comfortable. The headband also has some padding and, when worn, you really can’t feel the headband much at all. My wife was instantly impressed with them the moment I unboxed them and I ran a serious risk of losing them before I even got the chance to listen to them.

Comfort:

The style of these headphones remind me of the Sony ZX310 although the Sony’s are not as well made. They are small and rest fairly tightly on your ears rather than fully encapsulating your ears. There is a fair amount of clamping pressure with these headphones and for your first few listening sessions you might want to take them off for a few seconds after a few tracks just to give your ears a break. I do find them more comfortable now than I did when I first tried them on. This pressure does help with sound isolation - both from external noise and leakage and also enhances the bass response. The Puro’s are secure enough for you to use them for running and other exercise - they’re unlikely to fall off your head from doing normal movements. I have used them when walking the dog and they really do stay put.

Bluetooth vs Wired

One really nice touch with these headphones is that you can use them with a cable for devices which don’t have bluetooth or if your batteries are low. This is a welcome feature and the good news is the sound quality is the same in both modes. They are nicely efficient and easy to drive with portable players. Note that the buttons don’t do anything when used in wired mode - all control is done from the player.

The supplied flat style cable is somewhat short but the good news is that they are a completely standard stereo mini plug connection so you shouldn't have any problems using a third-party longer cable if you need to. The plugs appear to be gold plated and the strain relief looks like it would be effective.

Bluetooth Operation

The controls on the Puro’s are minimal - Volume Up/Down/Track Forward/Backwards are on two buttons, a simply switch for instant power on/off and a Play/Pause/Pairing/Answer/Hang Up button.  The headphones connect to your paired device very quickly - far quicker than any other bluetooth headphones I have used and the connection is far more stable and offers a greater range than you would get from bluetooth ‘earbud’ style headphones. The headphones go into auto-pair as soon as you switch them on so you can quickly switch between devices.  I used the headphones for a very brief phone call to test the feature and I could hear and be heard by the caller without any problems. I’m Billy No-Mates anyway so not many people ring me (except the wife to nag remotely) so I don’t think I shall be using them much for phone calls.  One really nice touch is that the bluetooth used on the Puro’s is the latest version which supports very fast connect and low latency. This means that you can use these headphones when watching YouTube videos without any issues around lip-synching. Nice one!

Another thing I really like are the controls. The Volume Up/Down/Track Forward/Backward buttons for example have been well thought out by Puro. Single tapping the controls whilst playing music will gently increase or decrease the volume one step. Holding the buttons will ramp the volume up and down and double tapping the buttons will engage track skip. The only downside to this is that quite often you will increase the volume one step each time you change track.

The range on the Puro is very impressive - in fact better than any other bluetooth headphones in my collection. I can easily go to any room in my house (or to the bottom of the garden) without any problems and the sound stays solid throughout. Don't let the aluminium construction fool you into thinking the radios would be compromised in some way because this definitely appears to not be the case. Again kudos to Puro.

Sound Quality

Wow!  Just wow!. I love the sound of these headphones. I own both the Audio Technica ATH-M50x and the remarkable Ultimate Ears Triple-Fi Pro 10 in ear monitors along with an external DAC/AMP for most of my wired listening so I do know what good sound quality sounds like. Puro have absolutely nailed it with this one. Firstly, although these headphones are sold as ‘safe’ headphones thanks to their subtle output monitoring, they can go loud and rock out with the best of them. I like my music loud and I didn’t use maximum volume on these things - kudos. The wired and wireless connections sound pretty much the same to me so there’s no compromises either way - another really good thing.

OK - let’s break it down a bit.

Bass:
Deep but controlled. Not flabby and you can easily pick out bass notes with these. Perhaps slightly soft when compared to in ear monitors but certainly not in an unpleasant way. One thing I did notice is that there’s a considerable amount of detail with the bass - if you know how to read music you would be able to write out what the bassist is playing without having to concentrate too hard. In other words surprisingly analytical. The sound stage on the bass does sound slightly ‘boxed in’ but has some punch. One thing I have noticed with many bluetooth headphones - both full sized and in ear is that the bass is usually ‘enhanced’ - sometimes to the point where they become absolute BASS MONSTERS. With the Puro’s that’s not the case - whilst there’s definitely a little bass enhancement going on, the combination of their isolation and mild boosting does offer a richness which is perhaps not 100% accurate.

Mids:
Slightly recessed. This definitely helps stop the headphones from becoming ‘shouty’ at louder volumes which is something I definitely welcome. Again, like with the bass, there’s a surprising amount of detail in there as well. One thing I noticed straight away when I started listening to the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10’s (very accurate balanced armature ear monitors) was the stability of the soundstage. Whilst narrow, the location of instruments in your ‘headspace’ doesn’t shift around - the performers stand still and this helps you focus on specific parts of the recording if you wish. The Puro’s also offer this level of stability. These are definitely not $10 headphones repackaged and inflated - they are the real deal and can play with the big boys.

Highs:
Slightly recessed but nicely detailed. Other reviewers of the Puro’s have reported hearing details in their recordings which they never noticed before and I can confirm that the 5200’s really do a great job in this respect. Cymbals have a nice metallic sheen to them without any brightness. This helps reduce listening fatigue. There’s no way I would describe these headphones as ‘bright’ but they do have detail and you can certainly listen to them for long periods of time.

The Puro’s seem to have pulled back slightly on the dynamic range from what I can hear. Crescendos tend to have slightly less impact when compared to the Audio Technica’s - not by much but it’s noticeable. I am wondering if they will become a little more dynamic after some use and the drivers have had a chance to ‘flex’ a bit. I do believe there can be subtle changes to the sound after headphones have been used for a while. Time will tell.

One thing I decided to do whilst slightly drunk the other night was have a wallow around in nostalgia and listen to some music I am very familiar with but haven’t heard for quite some time. Cue up Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Queen I (their first album). Sure enough I could hear details I never noticed before on both albums. Queen I is quite ‘hissy’ being an analogue recording from the early 70’s but was very easy to ignore once the music started. The electronic noise floor on these headphones is no higher than from my other electronics so any hiss you hear will almost certainly be embedded in the original recording. The amplification provided by the headphones in bluetooth mode is impressively loud without appearing to run out of steam. I’m not sure what Puro did with the 40mm driver in these headphones but I like it.

Their sound characteristics are a combination of the ATH M50x and Triple Fi’s. They have a decent bass punch like the M50’s and some of the detail that can be found with the Ultimate Ears. The larger housing means better wireless range and less drop-outs that can be experienced with earbud-style bluetooth headphones which results in a rock-solid soundstage image which in turn allows you to become more engrossed in your music.
One interesting aspect of these headphones is that I actually found myself listening to music at lower volumes than I normally would. The Puro’s feature an LED which changes colour to show you how loud your music is. The three colours, Green for safe - Yellow for loud (they recommend you only listen for a couple of hours a day at this volume) and red for potentially too loud (they recommend only 10 minutes exposure per day at this setting). Note that the LED’s colour can change during peaks in the music and this function only works when the headphones are used in bluetooth mode.

Conclusion:

These headphones are utterly brilliant. I have been looking for a pair of wireless headphones which offer this type of form factor with excellent sound quality and battery life and feel that I have found them with the Puro’s. Whilst they look a little strange on me (fat head syndrome) I basically don’t give a monkey’s - they sound superb and that’s really all I’m interested in. The nice thing about these is that they are not ‘impressive’ sounding but rather ‘natural’ sounding. They don’t exhibit excessive bass or treble (even though both have been slightly enhanced I feel) and it’s this non-fatiguing sound quality which makes them stand out from other bluetooth headphones which offer an initially impressive ‘boom’ and ‘tizz’ to the sound but can soon wear thin.

I love the fact that these can be used in wired mode. I also love the fact that I don’t feel that there’s a compromise regarding sound quality when using these in wireless mode - I really can’t tell any difference in sound quality between the two. I can see these rapidly becoming my “go to” headphones for a quick casual listening session as they are far more accessible than Earbuds.

Likes:
Sound quality. Form Factor. Battery Life. Volume. Build Quality. Passive Wired Mode. Wireless range. Supplied Case. Headphone Colour (I have the copper/gold coloured ones). Very good quality controls and switches.

Dislikes:
A little too tight on my head - hopefully will loosen up a little in time. On ear rather than over ear. Slightly ‘boxy’ bass (although still nicely detailed). Too nice for me to wear at work - I need another pair for rough and tumble.

Equipment Used:

Samsung Galaxy Note 2:
My primary listening source when portable. Whilst this is a fairly old phone it does have some excellent music playback capabilities thanks to the use of the Wolfson chipset and the excellent Neutron audio player. Sometimes the bluetooth performance can leave a little to be desired but works well most of the time.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.5:
This device is completely stock and un-rooted. When using bluetooth headphones there’s really no difference in sound between this and the Galaxy Note. In wired mode it still sounds good - again a Wolfson chipset and reasonably nice digital amp.

AGPTEK Imp MP3/Lossless Player:
No bluetooth with this one but does feature excellent sound quality and a more powerful amplifier. Great for testing the wired capabilities of headphones and walking the dog.

Sony Smartwatch 3:
Used to test the overall compatibility of bluetooth headphones but actually sounds as good as the other players regarding overall sound quality. Slightly geeky but what the hell.

Topping NX2 DAC/AMP:
No bluetooth but capable of higher cleaner output than most devices on their own. Great for generating a consistent sound when using wired headphones. Offers finer volume control.

Puro BT-5200 Bluetooth Headphones Amazon Page
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Labs-BT5200-Bluetooth-Wireless-Headphones/dp/B019GEG2ZM/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1470077376&sr=8-9&keywords=puro

Puro Soundlabs Amazon Storefront Page
https://www.amazon.co.uk/PuroSound-Labs/b/ref=bl_dp_s_web_7069635031?ie=UTF8&node=7069635031&field-lbr_brands_browse-bin=PuroSound+Labs