We’re not going to discuss whether Outdoor Technology has come up with the most unintentionally hilarious name in the history of headphones (the Jays v-Jays still hold that crown). Still, while it’s possible the vaguely retro-military style of the Outdoor Technology Privates is the inspiration for the name, it just sounds funny. This pair of $99.95 (direct) Bluetooth headphones provides a significant bass boost without going overboard, and while high end could be a bit more crisp, bass lovers will likely enjoy the sound signature. A detachable cable allows you to listen in wired, non-Bluetooth mode, which is a great extra touch. You are now free to giggle like a child every time I mention the name Privates in this review.
The canvas headband and the square-shaped earcups of the supra-aural (on-ear) Privates evoke something out of Battlefield or Call of Duty. Each pair is available in military green (of course), turquoise, black, or mustard yellow, and is outfitted with black, well-cushioned earpads. The headphones collapse at hinges above the earcups and fold down flat for easy storage, though they do not ship with any sort of carrying pouch.
One great aspect of the Privates’ design is the optional audio cable. It’s removable and though it has no inline remote control for mobile phones, it allows you to use the headphones as a traditional wired pair when the battery power is low or dead.
Speaking of pairing, the process is very simple—we had no issues pairing with the iPhone 4S in a matter of seconds. The flashing blue status light that tells you the headphones are paired is quite bright, which is a minor annoyance found on many Bluetooth headphones. In a darker room, it lights things up, and in a brighter room, it still catches the eye.
The capacitive touch surface of the panels on the earcups uses swipes up and down to control volume, and sideways to navigate tracks. The same button you use to pair the headphones controls playback, as well as answering phone calls. The swipes didn’t always seem to work, or required repeated swipes to skip a song. Aesthetically speaking, the lack of multiple buttons is nice, but it’s not quite as efficient for controlling your music.
The Privates ship with a USB charging cable and the aforementioned 3.5mm, canvas-lined audio cable. Outdoor Technology estimates the battery life to be about 10 hours on a full charge.
The audio quality of the Privates doesn’t change much whether they’re connected through Bluetooth mode or the audio cable. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Privates do not distort and they pump out a powerful bass response. The low-end will appeal to fans of big bass, but things aren’t boosted to insane levels.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” his baritone vocals get a nice richness from the low frequency response, but they could use a bit more treble edge. The drums receive a nice added low frequency presence, but it’s not so over-the-top that they compete with the vocals for the spotlight. Things could be crisper overall, but the mix is never muddy.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” some added high-mid edge could help the attack of the kick drum loop cut through the mix more. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate this beat are boosted, but not as intensely as you might hear on other pairs like the Beats by Dr. Dre line-up.
Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” sound quite crisp and well-defined through the Privates. Classical tracks tend to retain a decent treble presence to begin with, and typically have less intense bass response that pop mixes, so the bass boosting adds a little richness to the lower register strings and percussion while keeping the spotlight on the higher register strings and the growls of the brass section.
For $100, the Privates are a solid offering, but it’s worth perusing the competition, particulalry if you’re looking for more presence in the high-mids and highs. If you’d prefer to spend less for sporty design and solid performance, the Outdoor Technology DJ Slims and Editors’ Choice Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 both offer a decent Bluetooth experience but not exceptional audio fidelity. If you can spend more on your headphones for audio fidelity, consider the Sennheiser MM 100 or JayBird BlueBuds X.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc