The Zero by Future Sound Lab (FLS) are very good sounding Bluetooth wireless headphones for a reasonable price.
Priced at £49.99 the FSL Zero is a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones that promise to deliver crystal clear HD quality sound without the burden of messy wires. The Zero's build quality is modest; the headphones feel quite light and plastic with a touch of fake leather on the large ear pads and headband. Luckily there are nice looking metal plates on each ear cup which spruce things up a bit. See also: Audio reviews.
The headphones use a closed back design, enclosing your ears entirely within each cup. We found the Zero comfortable and the design blocks out external noise suiting the headphones well for a noisy office or a commute, for example. However, our ears did get very warm before long due to a lack of airflow.
One of the main features on offer from the Zero headphones are controls mounted on the ear cups. This means you can leave your source device in a pocket or bag and still control playback. Pause/play and skip track forward and back are found on the left side, while you will find the power and volume up and down buttons on the right side.
We found these a little awkward to use as you need to rely on your touch alone to find the one you want to press. After a few uses we managed to learn what each button was so stopped needing to take the headphones off to have a look.
A tiny LED on the right hand headphone gives feedback to the buttons pressed. You will also hear a beep when the internal batteries need to be recharged, or you've cranked the volume all the way up to 100 percent.
There is also a mini jack connection on the left side for charging the Zero with the provided USB cable. We found the charging time pretty accurate to what FSL states -a full charge in about two hours. We used the Zero for two days on our commute to and from work as well as at home while doing house chores with the batteries still going strong.
We tested the FSL Zero connected to an iPhone 4 and it was very easy to set up and start using. Unfortunately our iMac could not find the Zero's in the setup. Unlike some headphones, the Zero is compatible with any smartphone including Android devices.
Future Sound Lab claims that even though the Zero uses Bluetooth for its wireless transfer, it manages to get premium "HD" sound quality. Listening to Apple lossless tracks, we were pleasantly surprised to find the sound quality way above the typical sounding Bluetooth headphone.
We were especially impressed by the huge soundstage, good high frequency and decent low frequency response. Instruments seemed very well separated and the bass was good, although not very well controlled with some bass heavy tracks.
The bad news is that unfortunately, as with most wireless headphones using Bluetooth technology, some detail does get lost in the compression and decompression stages. The music starts to sound a bit digital and flat, while voices do not sound as natural as on the original recording.
We also found that the signal would cut-out occasionally, even when we had our source less than half a meter away. Signal dropout also got worse when obstructed by large objects and interior walls.
The good news is that the Zero still sounds better than most Bluetooth headphones we've listened to and if you're not as fussy as we are about the sound, you will enjoy them.
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