When we first received the Bell’O Digital BDH650s for review, we immediately thought “Good grief — another non headphone-related manufacturer getting into the headphone game.” You know this must be a smokin’ hot segment of the audio market if a company known for its A/V furniture decides to dip its toes into the headphone waters. Still, we figured if Bell’O put as much quality into its earphones as it does its furniture, it couldn’t hurt to give the BDH650s a listen. Read on for our findings.
Out of the box
Given some of the dreadful earphone packaging we’ve had to pry open lately — with tools, no less — the BDH650’s packaging was a refreshing change. We were pleased with their easy-to-open, clear plastic box and half-width slipcase cover. All that’s required to get at the earphones is to take off the slipcase, open one end of the box, and pull out the two-piece plastic tray. Other items inside the box included three full sets of different-sized ear tips and a semi-rigid storage case.
Features and design
Bell’O Digital seems quite proud of the BDH650’s build quality, prominently mentioning it on both its packaging and website. Given what we’ve seen from some other earphones in this price class, it should be.
The BDH650s are definitely finished to a high standard and feature a faux-metal, two-tone, gunmetal gray and copper paint scheme. No in-line mic or volume controls are provided.
We used the Bell’Os the way we figured most folks purchasing a $40 set of earphones would — straight from the headphone outputs of an iPhone 4, iPod shuffle, and Dell laptop. We also kept handy some stock iPod shuffle earbuds and a plethora of giveaway earbuds for comparison.
We then started our listening the way we figured most buyers would — straight out of the package without any break-in time. The Bell’Os sounded very good straight from the box and presented a clear and reasonably-detailed sound. We could listen to complex, densely-layered recordings like Strawberry Fields Forever, and hear all of the instruments present on the recording. Not bad for a pair of earphones priced below $40.
The Bell’Os also had impressive bass response, never too heavy or too light compared to the rest of the sonic spectrum. Listening to the old school jam When We Get By from D’Angelo’s neo-soul-laden, R&B debut, Brown Sugar, we could feel the acoustic bass appropriately resonating in our ear canals. This never sounded the least bit excessive however, and the BDH650s still delivered a good chunk of bass detail, such as the upright bass’ initial “pluck” sound and woody character.
Turning to the BDH650’s midrange and treble regions, both sounded commendably open and clear, even if it was a little emphasized overall. The Bell’Os reproduced D’Angelo’s falsetto with all of its smooth, smooth tone, and cymbals shimmered with enough transients intact to never sound harsh or shrill.
Unfortunately, this is where the sonic limitations of an entry level set of earphones become a factor. That mid and upper range emphasis also makes the BDH650s sound a little too bright and edgy at times. This was especially noticeable with things like violins and massed strings, where it’s clear the Bell’Os couldn’t reproduce some of the transient information and warmth much higher end earphones would deliver. Still, the BDH650s were very enjoyable overall, well exceeding the sound quality of any of the freebie buds we had on hand.
In terms of fit and comfort, we found the BDH650s about average — certainly not the most comfortable earphones we’ve tried, but not the worst, either. Note also that their fit affects bass performance to a noticeable degree: The BDH650’s can lose their deep bass response if they’re not deeply-seated within your ear canals, so be sure to experiment with their fit and the included ear tips for the best bass.
We also found the Bell’Os offered only an average level of security. They remained well-seated within our canals during normal head movements, but we wouldn’t recommend using them for jogging, cycling, or other sports activities. They never fell out, but they could unseat themselves a bit from time to time.
It’s a good thing Bell’O doesn’t list noise as one of the BDH650’s features: There really wasn’t much to speak of. We could clearly hear standard volume, in-room conversations and TV sound while trying to listening to the Bell’Os at average levels. Those who are interested more than a little mid- and high-frequency attenuation should look elsewhere.
Overall, the Bell’O Digital BDH650s are a great buy for the price. Their well-balanced and easily enjoyable sound puts them a cut above most other entry-level earphones, and they feature fine build quality to boot. Sure, we wish they were more comfortable and had a bit more noise isolation — but these are minor quibbles for something that costs this little. If you’re looking for a pair of low-priced earphones and sound quality is your main priority, the Bell’O BDH650s are definitely worth a listen.
- Highly enjoyable, well-detailed sound for a low-priced earphone
- Excellent bass weight and depth
- Good fit and finish
- High-quality, easy-to-open packaging
- Upper mids and lower treble can sound a little too bright
- Mediocre fit and comfort
- Sub-par noise isolation