Review: Adventures in Bluetooth: Blitzwolf BW-FYE3 (integral power bank)
Bizarrely, the FYE-3 featured here is actually a development of the FYE-4 reviewed previously. Perhaps Blitzwolf is working down the numbers, not up?! Regardless, it's an Apple Airpods competitor for the rest of the smartphone world - and, unlike the FYE-4, it does a lot of things right (including acting as a part time power bank), even though it too ultimately falls down when considering audio fidelity.
Re-reading my previous review of the FYE-4, that accessory fell down in several regards:
- less than stellar audio fidelity - poor bass, 'thin' feel and unconvincing top end
- physical button on each bud meant pressing in while in the ear
- largest silicone sleeve provided for each bud wasn't big enough (for my ears)
Happily, Blitzwolf has addressed all three points, even if it hasn't quite knocked the first one out of the park yet. Plus it's added USB-A out from the accessory, making it into an emergency phone charger into the bargain.
(I tested the FYE-3 set with a Lumia 950 XL - shown below - and with an Android phone (Galaxy Note 9), by the way. Results were consistent.)
The buds themselves are sculpted well to sit in the ear canal, though that does mean that they're a little hard to grasp in the hand, since the only flat face is the control one! Notice the charging points on the underside of each bud, these are how charge gets from the charging station to the bud batteries:
The idea, again, is to provide Apple Airpod-like ear buds and a totally wireless experience, yet with in-ear-canal audio and at a dramatically cheaper price tag (less than 25%!) And Blitzwolf largely succeeds. Like the Apple accessories, there's a capacitive control surface on the outside (tap to playpause, tap to answer a call, etc.) and like the Apple system, the buds snap into a charging station that you can keep in your jacket pocket:
While charging the buds have a translucent/LED circle around their main sensor surface that flashes green - when charged, this changes to blue, which is pretty cool:
The charging station is rated at 2600mAh, enough to charge each 40mAh earbud many times over. And I loved that Blitzwolf applied a bit of lateral thinking and also put in a USB output, in case you get caught short in terms of your phone battery:
Now, don't get too excited - 2600mAh only equates to about 2000mAh once transferred into a phone, so we're not talking a full charge of the latter, plus the output's only at 0.5A, so consider this 'trickle' charging at best. But, in an emergency on a day trip out, with power left in the charging station, why not use it to add charge into your phone too?
The silicone buds supplied have expanded since the earlier model, there's now an extra set with larger flanges - just for me? Or maybe lots of customers complained? Regardless, the large size now fits my (Western?) ears just fine, making a better seal, for better audio, and also stopping the FYE-3 from falling out.
The audio is better than on the 'FYE4', partly because of the seal and partly because better drivers have been used. So there's now some bass and a slightly richer experience in terms of frequencies, certainly higher quality music reaching my ears compared to Apple's outer ear Airpods. But.... it's not enough for me. The whole point of these 'adventures in Bluetooth' reviews is to find a system that can get close to my wired headphones in providing a rich audio experience with no compromises. And I've yet to find an 'twin earbud' design that can get close to this.
Blitzwolf have improved on the original design in multiple ways, and I love the emergency power option, but they're not there yet. I'm looking ahead another year to their next iteration. Better bass from a larger driver, crisper top end, larger capacity internal battery, higher current options for USB-A output. Ideas for you, Blitzwolf.
In theory, this is available on Amazon UK, as linked above, but it seems to have gone out of stock. Never mind, here's the original Blitzwolf product page and here's the buy link (£31) on Banggood. These are very decent value for what you get, though if you want to go 'Bluetooth' and also want superb audio quality then I'd still recommend the Tribit XFree, which has the added benefit of physical controls for adjusting volume and controlling track selection. Plus, you can't lose a bud, since they're connected 8-)
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at