Many years ago before smart phones took off I had a flip phone that had the best accessory. It was an integrated necklace and headphones that let me hang the tiny phone around my neck and have an earphone ready to go whenever I needed it. This let me make hands free calls and kept the phone easy to access.
In those days you didn’t have the option to listen to music or podcasts and Bluetooth while it existed was not something that was viable to use. A few weeks ago I found something that I hoped would be the spiritual successor to this headset.
The Syllable A6 Necklace Headset has an unusual design. The easiest way to describe it is as a necklace which attaches via a magnet at the back of your neck. The magnetic attacher also holds the battery and a microUSB charging port. The front of the necklace has a pendant which has three buttons – an up, down and select/power, a microphone and two red and blue LEDS. The two sides of the necklace sprout cables with earphones.
Once you’ve put it on you have headphones easily available and physical controls for your music or calls hanging in the nape of your neck.
When you first get the A6 and get the cables figured out the biggest surprise is how small and light it is. It is designed for exercising and hence the battery on the back and control on the front are joined by relatively short cables making quite a tight necklace and are equally weighted to let it balance in place. I was initially concerned that it might feel too tight but after I got it adjusted its light enough to forget you are wearing it and the magnetic clasp was strong enough to hold but had the advantage that if it got caught it would detach easily rather than catch around your neck.
Sound quality is fairly good. As is the norm with economic small headphones there is less bass than would be ideal and if you turn everything up it suffers from distortion but the A6 is a cut above what I had expected. The built in microphone is a nice extra and while I’d not recommend using the mic as your main way to make calls it was clear and due to its location picked up surprisingly well. The mic also allows the headset to be somewhat noise cancelling and while this was noticeable it was not a particularly strong effect.
A6 Headphones, microUSB to USB charging cable
About Manufacturer: Syllable
Syllable is trade name for Chinese manufacturer Shenzhen Kaijuyuan Technology Co. They formed in 2007 and specialise in earphones and headphones but also make a range of audio accessories such as an audio jack to bluetooth transmitter and cables.
There is little information about their environmental policies available but they do say that “Our workshop working environment is clean,clear and comfortable.All equipments of production lines and workers seats are arranged by standard positioning.Windows.lights and exhaust”
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The A6 is versatile and leans itself to a variety of uses, users, situations and changing circumstances. It is designed for exercise but it is useable for general listening and for phone calls.
It does have one major disadvantage – battery life is only around two hours. This might be a problem for some users but I found the fact that it is chargeable via microUSB meant that as long as I was willing to recharge regularly this wasn’t a big problem. It recharges in around an hour from near empty and was chargeable from my the batteries I usually have with me as well as wall chargers or my PC. The location of the microUSB port means that there is no way to charge it whilst wearing it.
Despite being designed for exercise the A6 does not say that it is water or temperature proof. I’ve used it in mild rain with no issues although I’d recommend tucking the control pendant under your t-shirt as this seems to be the most vulnerable section.
Once you have the cables untangled and understand how the A6 is supposed to be worn it is a very sensible design. I’d recommend getting a small pouch of some sort to store it when not in use as the cables seem to delight in tangling themselves up in your bag or pocket.
The A6 only comes with one set of earpieces designed for a medium size ear. I found them quite comfortable but I was lucky in my fitting. They are removable and the earphone head is a standard shape so your rubber earpiece from another headphone might fit. The buttons on the pendent are of a good size and very clicky so you know when you’ve pressed them. This has the advantage that you can press them through a t-short or top and know when you have pressed them.
The pendent has two LEDs built in which are somewhat annoying – if you are listening to music the blue LED flashes at regular intervals and is bright enough to be distracting. There are no other lights on the A6.
Environment & People
There is no available information on either the social or environmental policies of the A6’s manufacturer. The headphones themselves are made of plastic and electronics and would be very difficult to recycle. Hopefully the A6 will have a good lifespan which would somewhat counteract this but I would be somewhat concerned about the number of times the battery could be charged and used before losing a significant amount of its play time.
Bluetooth earphones have dropped considerably in price in the last few years and the A6 fits well into the current price bracket for a miniature set with a microphone and noise cancelling.
Voltage Range: 2.8V-4.2V
Microphone Sensitivity: -43db±2db
Bluetooth Frequency Range: 2.4-2.48GHz
Output power: around 1.4mW
Bluetooth protocol: Audio Transmission and Remote Control Protocol: A2DP/AVRCP
Power Indicator: Red light on when charging, and blue light on when charging is completed
Warranty: Standard legal warranty.
The A6 requires a source for the sounds it plays that can output a Bluetooth stream with an A2DP format. This will include almost any modern phone and modern PCs. I’ve had them working with Android, iOS and a Windows 10 PC
When I first saw the A6 headphones I was struck by the attempt to take an old idea and update it with a modern twist. Necklace mounted MP3 players and phones were very popular for a period of time but as we all switched to smartphones became less sensible as we need to see the screen of the device. Better battery technology and the decrease in power required by Bluetooth have made bluetooth headphones more viable and hence the A6 wants to bring back the form factor.
Does it work? Yes. But the drawbacks of the battery life mean this isn’t going to be one for everyone. The A6 can go at most two hours of music or podcasts before dying. That will work for most exercise routines but is probably too short for a normal day out for most people. The low battery life means that the headset is so lightweight you forget you have it on and the necklace design is as practical as it has been. Recommended if you are willing to regularly recharge or listen to less than a couple of hours a day and at the £30 price are worth investing in.
Personally I’ve switched to using the A6 as my on the go headphones but will keep packing a wired set as a backup.
The review is based on the Syllable A6 Necklace Sports earphones kindly provided by Syllable. This post contains affiliate links. First published on 30 October 2015