I live in Colorado, where it can get cold on occasion. That means that when I go for a walk in the snow or am otherwise out in chilly weather, listening to tunes can be an exercise in futility. I'll wear my Apple Earbuds under a knit hat on occasion, but I'm not a real fan of those buds anyway. So what about a warm knit hat with a pair of speakers and a Bluetooth transceiver built into it? That's the idea behind the Archos Music Beany (US$29.99), which gives you all of the connection to your music and phone of those earbuds without the wires.
Dimensions: 8.7 x 9.0 x 1.2 inches (220 x 230 x 30 mm)
Weight: 5 ounces (140 grams)
Washable: Yes, electronics are removable
Rating: IP55 (dust protected, protected against water jets)
Battery: Li-Ion 3.7V/120 mAh, 6 hour talk time, charged with micro-USB cable (2.5 hour charging time)
Materials: 50% acrylic, 50% polyester
Hey, it looks like a hat my Mom would have knitted for me when I was a kid. It's warm, and the only thing that sets it apart is a tiny leather patch that goes over one ear. That patch has an LED inside, volume up/down buttons, and a play/pause button.
The review hat came in basic black, but you'll also be able to get this in blue, white and grey.
What do I want a music beany to do? Keep my ears and balding head warm, let me listen to music from my iPhone, and make and receive calls.
First, it's comfortable and keeps my head warm, so in that respect, the Archos Music Beany fits the bill. I have a big head (size 7-3/4 hat), and the beany stretches easily to fit my monstrous noggin.
So, how about pairing? You just press the play/pause button for five seconds, wait for the LED to flash red/blue, and then wait for Bluetooth Headwear to show up in your Bluetooth settings. Tap it, and you're connected. After this point, the LED will flash blue every five seconds to let you know that the hat is connected.
Placing the hat on my head, I found that it placed the speakers directly over my ears when I had the beany on with the controls on the right side, but ahead of my ears when the controls were on the left. While the speakers don't provide what I'd exactly call the highest-quality sound I've ever heard, they do a passable job and there's surprisingly good stereo separation.
The controls worked pretty well, although on occasion I would have the device accidentally jump to the next song in a playlist instead of increasing volume.
How about receiving a phone call? Tapping the play/pause button is supposed to let you answer or hang up an incoming call. I'm not sure what happened when I received a call and got a loud buzzing sound in my headset instead of being able to answer it. My guess? I'm using OS X Yosemite beta, to which I can shift phone calls coming in on the iPhone. I think the iPhone was trying to "talk" to my Mac and not the headset.
With fairly good sound quality, the ability to keep your head warm in cold weather, and a relatively low price tag, the Archos Music Beany is a good and innovative idea. But be aware that while it's great for listening to music, you might find answering phone calls to be problematic, and the controls can be somewhat cranky and sometimes don't do what you want them to do.
Rating: 2-1/2 stars out of 4 stars possible