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Samsung's new wireless headphones are a worthy contender

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Last summer, I spent some time getting to know the first four entries in Samsung's "Level" audio line. There's a new item this year, though: a wireless version of the original Level On headphones. In case you missed the first roundup, this model is an on-ear option, and it ended up being my favorite of the bunch. But with the bulk of the features being the same, is the extra $80 worth it to go wireless?

Gallery: Samsung Level On Wireless headphones | 22 Photos

In terms of aesthetics, the Level On and Level On Wireless are identical. The only way to tell the difference -- save for the expanded color options -- is the "Level" branding on the outside of the wireless model's earcups. Aside from that, you're looking at the same plastic construction and metallic accents. Speaking of colors, this new model comes in red, blue, white and sapphire -- the last of which is the one I've been testing. Unlike on the original, the earpads and headband match the rest of the unit. On the older wired model, Samsung went with a white and tan color scheme, a design that made the Level On look a bit more high end. The headphones also still fold up nicely for easy storage in a backpack pocket. That may be table stakes for audio gear these days, but the ability to fold up a set is still much appreciated.

As you might expect, the addition of Bluetooth connectivity means a few extra buttons as well as a charging port. The two sliders that power on the headphones and toggle the active noise cancellation are on the edge of the right earcup. In particular, they're toward the back, which makes them easily accessible with your thumb. Honestly, it's kind of the perfect location for those. Touch controls reside on the outside of the right earcup for controlling volume, skipping tracks and pausing songs. The touchpad works quite well, though in practice I only used a vertical swipe to adjust the volume.

The charging port uses micro-USB for powering the wireless and sound-enhancing tech. There's only a cord included for that task, though, so you'll have to use your own plug or free up a port on your laptop to get the job done. Bluetooth pairing is a breeze, and after my recent issues with Sennheiser's Momentum wireless headphones, I'm quite grateful for that.

I mentioned last time how comfortable the Level On is, and the wireless option thankfully carries the same degree of wearability. The headphones feel light and nice padding on the earcups keeps things comfy, even during longer listening sessions. The headband has nice flex to it, too, so unlike the Beats Solo2, you won't have to worry about feeling like your head is being pinched. Extended listens are possible thanks to an internal battery that easily made it through a full work day. Samsung claims 11 hours of battery life with both Bluetooth and noise cancellation on. Indeed, in a typical 9-hour day, I didn't get a single low battery warning. Most of the time I switched off the active noise cancellation while listening to podcasts, though, as it seemed unnecessary in the confines of my home office.

Let's discuss sound quality, shall we? Like I said before, I thought the original Level On was the best-sounding of the original bunch, and I really like the sound of the wireless model, too. Everything is crisp and clear, and the headphones are tuned well by default. When testing cans, I usually run through a gamut of genres to properly put the accessory through its paces. Rock, metal, bluegrass and jazz all sound great, but when it comes to styles that demand a little more thumping bass, the Level On is lacking. There is a Level Audio app for making tweaks, and while it does offer some improvement, it doesn't add enough kick for my liking. What can I say, I favor a solid dose of bass when it comes to hip hop, especially while listening to tracks like Ace Hood's "Bugatti." Just like the regular version, these can get painfully loud, too. I kept that level about halfway on my MacBook Air and it was plenty, but there's a bit more gas in the tank for those who prefer to listen at a deafening volume.

Is the Level On Wireless worth the extra cash? If you haven't already splurged for the wired model, go for it. To me, it's a better option than the Beats Solo2 Wireless just for how comfortable it is. I kinda dig the sound of the newer Beats gear, but in this case, I'd rather not feel like my head is in a vice after 15 minutes or so. For folks who think Dr. Dre and co. pack in too much bass, you'll probably like the sound here. Unfortunately, having to look elsewhere to tweak the EQ won't entice me to give up my B&O H6s even though I still have to use a cord with them.

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