Philips Action Fit SHQ3205 review

…easily one of the best in-ear headsets we’ve encountered below the $50 line.
…easily one of the best in-ear headsets we’ve encountered below the $50 line.
…easily one of the best in-ear headsets we’ve encountered below the $50 line.

Highs

  • Secure, comfortable fit
  • Clear midrange
  • Powerful bass
  • Affordable, rugged design

Lows

  • Liner note approach to detail
  • Sound gets muddy at times

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.

Philips-SHQ3205-earbuds-bud-solo-2

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.

Comfort

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.

Performance

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.

Conclusion

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.

Highs

  • Secure, comfortable fit
  • Clear midrange
  • Powerful bass
  • Affordable, rugged design

Lows

  • Liner note approach to detail
  • Sound gets muddy at times
Home Theater

Say goodbye to the box: The future of home theater has no use for receivers

One of the most intriguing new trends to come out of CES 2019 this year comes from a technology that has been around for years. WiSA, now in new LG TVs, has the potential to cut the wires and change the home theater landscape forever.
Home Theater

Wireless headphones are finally awesome, and these are our favorites

With sleek form factors, prime audio quality, and the freedom of untethered listening, there has never been a better time to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. These are the best ones currently available.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

QLED and OLED may have similar names, but they're totally different technologies

The names may look almost identical, but OLED and QLED are two entirely different beasts. In our QLED vs. OLED battle, we dissect the differences between these dueling TV technologies, and help determine which might be best for you.
Home Theater

Amazon’s updated base model Fire TV stick now comes with an Alexa remote

If you're looking to take your older TV into the streaming era, Amazon's most basic Fire TV Stick model just got more compelling than ever: Buyers can now get a free Alexa voice remote with their Fire TV Stick purchase.
Home Theater

Leave the charger behind: Wireless headphones will get epic battery life in 2019

From wireless in-ears to noise-canceling over-ears, virtually every headphone manufacturer has seriously improved wireless headphone battery capacity, making fears about charging up for long listening sessions a thing of the past.
Home Theater

Banish the bunny ears (and monthly bills) with these excellent HD antennas

When transitioning away from cable and satellite, finding the best HDTV antenna for your area can be touch. To help, we've compiled our picks of the best indoor HDTV antennas you can buy.
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Home Theater

Roku adds automatic sign-out mode, for those with regular houseguests

Being able to use a Roku device while staying at a hotel or Airbnb is awesome. What is less awesome is leaving yourself signed in after you leave. With a new automatic sign-out feature, Roku is making it easier to relax.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Apple

Apple may be developing a new iPod Touch to woo younger users

Apple may be developing its first new iPod touch model since 2015 as it aims to capture younger users who are not yet ready for their own smartphone, and expand its overall listening base in the future.
Home Theater

Cord-cutting has grown by 48 percent in 8 years, according to Nielsen

People are continuing to ditch cable but not all cord-cutters are the same. In fact, there are two distinct groups within the cord-cutting universe, with a very small, yet growing third group that's worth paying attention to.