The question of how to share a song still eludes many of us; so much so that Muzik is banking on a social-sharing feature it’s developed to drive sales of its new $299 “smart” headphones. In addition to sharing songs to Twitter or Facebook directly from the headphones, you can also use one of four customizable buttons to favorite a song, answer incoming calls, or share music via email or text message.
While the Muzik headphones sound good enough, the real question is whether these feature-rich cans provide a social-centric experience worth a premium price.
Out of the box
Upon opening the Muzik headphone’s box, the company greets you with a quote from Plato: “Music gives a sound to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Indeed, Muzik, music is good stuff, but if that’s supposed to get us more excited about our pending headphone experience, it’s going to take more than Plato. Thanks, though.
The Muzik headphones come pre-packed in a compact, zippered case fashioned of sturdy silicone rubber – the stuff you imagine Batman’s suspiciously fake-looking abs are made of. Taking the headphones out, you can’t help but notice they’re heavy. This indicates solid build quality, sure, but how will all that weight feel on your head after an hour?
In the case with the headphones, we found a USB charging cable and standard 3.5mm headphone cable that can be used in case of dead battery. A product manual and quick-start guide will get you set up, but most of the operational instructions are also located inside the Muzik headphones mobile app — the software is a key part of Muzik’s pitch.
You’ll need to download Muzik’s free app, available for iOS and coming soon to Android, to customize the headphones and control additional features.
Those control features take the form of four capacitive touch buttons marked by concave circles on the right eacup. From the app, you can set any button to share the song you’re currently listening to via text, email, tweet, or Facebook status. You can also set any button to add the playing song to favorites, or speed dial any of your contacts. Swiping on the earcup will control volume and skip tracks: Up and down motions control the volume, while left and right skip track tracks forward and back.
The four identical circles can be a little hard to identify strictly from touch, since there’s no tactile way to differentiate them from each other. That’s a definite barrier to entry when it comes to the social-sharing features we think ought to be addressed.
For those who enjoy using headphones for phone calls, an integrated microphone makes the Musik are as good as anything out there, perhaps better. Answering and ending calls requires a press of the power button. Pressing the same button twice will activate voice interaction with Siri or other digital assistants.
Song sharing is a great idea in theory. There were times we loved what we were listening to and wanted to tell people all about it, but in practice, problems and complications kept that feature from working as advertised.
Share the song you’re currently listening to via text, email, tweet, or Facebook status.
The first major issue you’ll run into is that (at least on iOS) you have to listen to songs through Muzik’s app to be able to share them – an app which plays to the lowest common denominator when it comes to music playback experiences. It currently supports only locally stored music, premium Rdio accounts, and featured songs from SoundCloud. This will be a deal breaker for Spotify subscribers (of which there are many).
If you’re still interested, keep in mind there are other problems as well. The iOS app isn’t updated for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which means everything looks big and lacks the proper scaling. The app is also a huge battery hog. After just an hour of use, it used more juice than any of our other apps have in a 24-hour period. We also ran into little software issues, too.
After connecting to our unlimited Rdio subscription, we were still presented with a 30-second countdown timer on tracks, even though the full song played. On the local music side, we were constantly getting pop-up messages saying there was no music in our local music section, even though iTunes Match music populated and played fine. Both of those bugs were ultimately corrected in a software update, though.
Although billed as smart headphones, we have a tough time calling the Muzik headphones smart — in any context. At best, we’d call these headphones connected. They’re connected to social media through the company’s own app, but they aren’t fully integrated. They don’t do anything predictive in nature, nor do they provide clever interactions for the user — they just aren’t smart.
Earbuds which can measure a listener’s heart rate through the ears and use software to change the music based on pulse? Now that’s smart.
The Muzik headphone app and software will most likely be updated to work on newer phones, but I’m not sure any the company can fix the issue of needing to be inside the battery-sucking Muzik app to share a song.
On the audio quality side, the Muzik headphones are perfectly adequate. They don’t do anything offensive, but they also don’t do anything exceptional. Bass is solid and musical, treble is laid back, but clear. Our only real complaint is a pinching in the upper midrange. Otherwise, we found the Muzik headphones performed consistently, treating all genres equally, never favoring one over the other.
The headphones were tough to wear for much longer than an hour or so.
These cans don’t exhibit the sort of thump Beats headphones are known for, but there is some force in the low end. The deepest frequencies get a fair amount of attention, with some bass lines seeming almost bottomless as they drop to the lower limit of what is audible. D’Angelo’s new track “Really Love” provided a great example of this.
Perhaps our biggest complaint is that the Muzik headphones tend to break up when pushed. There’s a good amount of low-level distortion which isn’t immediately apparent, but causes the sound to become compressed and a little noisy. As such, it’s hard to get lost in the music. Still, sound quality is not the Muzik’s problem, it’s really the best thing they have going.
Comfort is Muzik’s downfall, even moreso than the terrible software. The combination of being heavy on the top of the head and tight on the ears made the headphones tough to wear for much longer than an hour or so.
Looking at the Muzik headphones, the ear pads appear thick, but half of that space is taken up by the headphone driver’s frame, leaving less room for padding than you’d think. Still, they do provide a moderate amount of passive noise isolation.
The Muzik headphones sound pretty good, but they aren’t especially comfortable, and, worse still, the so-called “smart” social sharing features get usurped by a poorly-designed app. That major flaw steals away from the product’s appeal, and calls into question the premium $300 price.
The idea is a strong one, but Muzik’s execution lacks enough that we’ve got to take a pass on these headphones. At $300, they simply need to deliver more. For now, sharing music remains the same conundrum it was before, but if Muzik can get its app together, perhaps they’ll be worth another look.
- Tasteful treble
- Rock-solid bass
- Cool aesthetics
- Solid build quality
- Uncomfortable headband
- Unreliable social features
- Lacking mobile app
- Pinched upper midrange