Review: Awei A990-BL Wireless Sport Bluetooth Earphones – Avoid!

Due to my terrible running addiction, my recent acquisition of the Samsung Gear Fit 2 sports tracker watch, and the mechanical incompatibility of the Bluedio Ci3 earphones with my ears, I was again in the market for a new set of bluetooth earphones. (The earphones are not only to listen to MP3s on the watch, but more importantly, to hear the pacing information communicated by the watch’s terrible synthesised voice.)

After some scratching around on, our otherwise wonderful local Amazon-analogue, I settled on the Awei A990-BL Wireless Sport Bluetooth Earphones.

After just under a month of real-world testing of these earphones (that is, running with them a few times a week, they are “sport” earphones after all), punctuated by disappointing performance and some mechanical breakage, and culminating in complete hardware failure, I can make only this very simple recommendation:

DO NOT under any circumstances buy the Awei A990-BL Wireless Sport Bluetooth Earphones. They have attained the rarely awarded “ THREE (3) thumbs down, avoid at all costs” review.

A complete set of accessories

I was pretty happy when the the earphones arrived on November 15, right on time, and with a pretty complete set of accessories:

None of the three sets of silicone earbuds were large enough for my ears, an issue that was easily solved by using a set of my old Sennheiser buds. My last Skullkandy earphones had the same issue, so I’m ascribing it to my anatomy and not to Awei.

Ear clips break easily

During the first run with these earphones in the wind (when one also really notices how the control unit, a few centimetres from one’s right ear, can really flop around), I realised that the curved ear hooks were definitely necessary. For the next few runs, I had them clipped onto the earphones and they made a huge difference keeping music in my ears.

However, at the start of another run, I slight re-adjustment of the hooks relative to the earphones caused both of the earbud attachment bits to break clean off, rendering these accessories completely useless. I used a reasonable amount of force, and have to conclude that these clips are just not well made:

Bluetooth transmission hiccups

Besides the breakage, I also noticed from the start regular little breaks in the music transmission from the Gear Fit 2 to my ears. It’s possible that these were somehow caused by the unit’s movement during my exercise. I take this opportunity to remind the reader of the “sport” classification of this Awei product.

It could also be that the Gear Fit 2’s bluetooth implementation is sub-par, but, unlike the Awei, it’s an a-list product. In the following weeks I will be able to test this hypothesis with alternative hardware.

Complete hardware failure

About 25 calendar days after purchase, the unit spontaneously died during a run, a disappointment in itself. At first I thought that it was simply the battery that was exhausted. However, no amount of charging back home could revive the earphones.

My Awei A990-BL earphones remain completely dead to this day.

Quo vadis emptor?

After two failed attempts, first with the Bluedio Ci3 and then with these Awei headphones, I have decided to go a different route with the Samsung Level Link bluetooth adapter.

I’ll be able to use any wired earphones (at a much better price-performance ratio, and also much easier to replace) and just plug them into the Samsung Level Link, which will connect wirelessly to the Gear Fit 2.

The Bluedio Ci3 bluetooth earphones will probably not fit your ears either.

This is just a quick warning to anyone else considering buying the Bluedio Ci3 bluetooth in-ear earphones:

Due to their size and design, the Bluedio Ci3 bluetooth in-ear earphones will probably not fit your ears.

If you’re considering to buy them, make sure that you are either able to return them if they don’t fit, or that you’re able to test them out beforehand.

To illustrate the problem, here is a photo of the the right earphone, along with the supplied silicone cover and t-light tip (the large version), with a Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard as the background so that you can get a feeling for the size of the earphone:

The Bluedio Ci3 earphones are quite big. They rely on the t-light tips to stay in your ears.
The Bluedio Ci3 earphones are quite big. They rely on the t-light tips to stay in your ears.

The idea behind this design is that the so-called t-light tip (the wing-like bit of the silicone cover) anchors the whole mechanism in your ear, so that the spout-shaped bit in the silicone cover guides the sound into your ear-canal.

However, I tried all three the supplied cover sizes, but the earphones keep falling out. I am able to fit the t-light tip correctly into my ear, but the driver part is so far from my ear-canal that the music loses all form of bass and sounds incredibly tinny. Even worse, the whole earphone eventually starts to fall out due to its heaviness. (I am 1.9m, that is 6’3″, with ears to match.)

Looking at the Amazon customer reviews of the Bluedio Ci3, it seems I am not the only one with this problem. Let me know in the comments what your experience was.

(Compliments to down here in South Africa, who are doing an absolutely fantastic job both with delivering goodies to your doorstop, but also with handling the odd return now and then.)