The mission: an affordable in-ear headset that actually stays in place and sounds decent. For the sports enthusiast on a budget, it’s pretty much the holy grail of headsets. Philips electronics is attempting to fill that elusive gap with its Action Fit Sports Earhook SHQ3205 (3205). Layered in a bright orange, water resistant sheath, the 3205’s sweat resistant, anti-microbial, wrap-around earpieces are designed to stay put and take on the elements – including those emitted from your body. And here’s the kicker: they cost less than forty bucks. Wondering if anything that cheap could actually perform as advertised, we decided to take the 3205 out for a spin. Here’s what happened.
Out of the box
Pulling the 3205 from the box revealed a light headset, covered in a vivid pattern of traffic cone-orange with charcoal-grey accents. The translucent over-ear hooks were sturdy yet flexible and wrapped with a gripping, rubberized coating. Also in the box was a small carrying pouch, a clothing clip, and three sizes of silicone ear tips.
Features and design
The 3205 is light, sporty, and – did we mention? – orange. They are very orange. At first glance they look almost like ear protection for a construction worker, or possibly a prison-issue headset – if orange really is the new black, these things are ready for the red carpet.
The SHQ3205 are light, sporty, and – did we mention? – orange…very orange…
The earpieces are shaped similarly to most wrap-around in-ears we’ve tested, borrowing a design point from professional stage monitors, but with a patented trick up their sleeves. The plastic tube that makes up the inner earpiece slides up and down inside the protective outer layer, allowing for size adjustment to fit even the smallest (or largest) pair of ears.
At the base of each earpiece is a soft pad, etched with a criss-cross pattern of sweat-resistant webbing to provide grip as you put the ‘phones in place. The small grey buds at the opposing end extend at a slight angle to reveal a stubby protrusion from the base, harboring 9mm neodymium drivers capped with orange silicone tips.
The headset’s bifurcated cable runs through the wrap-around frames to meet in the middle at a single-button inline microphone with a rubberized grey exterior and a slim stripe of reflective paint on the front. The cable is reinforced with Kevlar and runs 1.2 meters in total length. It terminates at a rubberized 90-degree angled jack, which is plated in gold.
For a sport headset, a secure and comfortable fit is critical, and the 3205 passed our action tests with ease. It takes a while to get them set, but once we were strapped in we had very little trouble keeping them in place. Sweat, dirt, and wind were of little deterrence, and the headset is actually one of the most comfortable pairs of in-ears we’ve tried on. In fact, at the risk of reinforcing Philips’ own hype machine, we have to agree that the earpieces are so light and comfortable, we barely noticed them in our ears.
Those looking for a grand spectacle of audiophile-grade accuracy and definition won’t find it here – or in any headphone we’ve tested within earshot of this price range. That said, while the 3205 provided a mere fly-by reproduction of the finer details, we were genuinely impressed with the sound signature. The headphones brought a warm and balanced approach to music, providing easy access to all genres. Bass was thick and powerful, and the upper register was clear without introducing the sharp sibilance we find to be prominent on cheaper models.
…the SHQ3205 passed our action tests with ease.
The 3205 was at its best on simple rock and pop numbers, where there were fewer details to miss. Though we heard a lot of roll-off at the sparkle frequencies in the high end, there was more than enough clarity in the midrange, showcasing vocals and guitar with good presence, and bringing plenty of life to the percussion. The relaxed, lathed-over sound signature was particularly adept at rendering rich and smoky electric instruments. The B3 in the right side of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” had a sweet, mellow burn that was pleasant. And George’s guitar on “Come Together” had a brassy, splattered tone that lay nicely in the rusty tape hiss of the production.
The 3205 also did well with hip-hop, ushering powerful force in the bass that was full and relatively smooth. Though the midrange and treble tended to muddy quickly in the wake of 60Hz grooves, tracks like Lil Wayne’s “Landslide” brought massive kick hits that rarely got out of balance to the point of being uncomfortable. The bass wasn’t tight or refined, but it had plenty of punch.
The 3205’s flat frontal plane perfectly facilitates getting in a good run or hike with a pleasant background. However, not surprisingly, the sound breaks down quickly with a critical ear. Complex electronic music like Radiohead and Depeche Mode lost massive amounts of information from their swirling depths, with entire synth patches and effects being obscured. And the richer textures of instrumental timbres were stripped away, as if flattening the brush strokes of a masterpiece into a cheap print. That said, it’s unfair to dig too deep into a water-resistant sports headset that costs less than a good pair of running shorts. And we mostly just enjoyed the headset’s Dude-like approach to the sound.
With its comfortable, rugged design, and smooth sonic canvas, the Philips Sports Earhook SHQ3205 is easily one of the best in-ear headsets we’ve encountered below the $50 line. While it won’t impress the audiophile sportsters, those just looking to rock out while they get their burn on may just find the headset to be an indispensable accessory. If you’ve been searching for great value on a tight budget (and who isn’t?), we recommend checking out the Philips SHQ3205.
- Secure, comfortable fit
- Clear midrange
- Powerful bass
- Affordable, rugged design
- Liner note approach to detail
- Sound gets muddy at times