UPDATED Review: Blue Mic’s Satellite headphones are good but...
UPDATE: Blue Microphones have reached out to me to apologise for the "unfortunate set of coincidences" I laid out at the end of this review. They have said they will be taking action to remedy the buttons issue on the Satellites. Kudos to the company for taking user feedback on-board.
I recently reviewed Blue Microphones' first two attempts at headphones, the Ella and the Lola, and found myself with fairly mixed, but overall positive feelings.
The Satellites, retailing at NZ$699 (AU$599), seemed as though they were going to address all of my issues - the aesthetic design is significantly better, they are lighter, they are wireless with a wired option, the price is less terrifying than the Ellas.
The Satellites come with noise cancelling and a built-in amp, both of which can be toggled on and off.
When the battery runs dry, you can plug in the (insanely long) 3.5mm cable and continue to listen.
Useful/inconvenient depending on your view, but easy to replace.
The sound is nice and clean without the amp, and when you toggle it on it really does make a difference to the depth and range that comes through.
Comfort is not an issue, even with my strangely small head I can wear them for hours and only have to adjust them a little every now and again.
The noise cancelling is odd. It blocks out ambient noise very well, the droning of an aeroplane for example, but doesn't seem to affect people's voices or other prominent noises.
I assume this is because when you are playing music, it tends to drown those things out anyway but as a podcast listener and someone who uses noise cancelling to help me sleep on flights, I found it a little wanting.
My biggest complaint is that even though the headphones fold down to a more compact form, the carry case is as big as they could have possibly made it. I cannot for the life of me understand why.
Left: Folded down. Right: a lot of wasted space.
Overall, I really liked the Satellites in general and used them on the regular, but on a grander scale I can't help but feel that something is amiss at Blue Microphones that has left me pretty cold on them.
There seems to be a lack of quality control, as though they are seeing the product roll off the line, glancing over it and then just stamping APPROVED without any testing. I'll explain.
A few years ago, when I got my Blue Yeti USB microphone, the USB cable it shipped with was faulty and I was told that I'd have to send it back to get a replacement.
Then, to give you a quick peek behind the curtain, I must have been last in line to review the Ella's because they said I could hold onto them - I was particularly stoked because I loved the sound and could see myself using them for years as a piece of kit that would meet near-studio standards for my personal projects.
But about two days later, the 3.5mm socket on the headphones crapped out rendering them completely useless. As a review unit, they obviously aren't under warranty so I just shrugged and figured I would try to get them fixed at some point down the line.
Then, after a couple of weeks of using the Satellites, I noticed that the graphics on the buttons, indicating what each one did, had almost totally worn off.
You can kind of see the remains of one of the graphics here.
Once is a coincidence, twice is excusable, three times is a pattern.
Blue Mic are trying to portray itself as a high-end product manufacturer but its attention to detail just does not back that up. I genuinely hope that they manage to fix these issues because I am always one to root for smaller, niche companies.
If you have any recommendations of brands at the same level (not the Sennheisers and Boses of the world) that you think are worth looking at, let me know.
Pretty nice headphones but get it together, Blue. Sloppiness will ostracise your target market.
The carry case on top of my day to day backpack