Hands-on review: Yevo 1 true wireless earbuds
Image credit: Yevo Labs
Truly wireless earphone systems have had a bumpy ride to date. Sweden's Yevo Labs hopes to set a new benchmark for all-round performance with its Yevo 1 earbuds.
A lot of people were rudely shoved in the direction of wireless headphones when the iPhone 7 (and all subsequent iPhone models) dropped the traditional and widely enjoyed 3.5mm headphone jack carried over from every cassette Walkman we ever owned (thanks, Apple). Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, this move came in conjunction with Apple acquiring Beats, the fashionista’s headphone of choice, whose product line happened - quelle surprise! - to contain a number of deliciously expensive wireless headphone options. What a stroke of luck, eh?
Whatever Apple’s commercial or technical motivation, we are now moving inexorably towards a wireless world and - aside from the sonic arguments for Bluetooth audio being inferior to a proper hard-wired connection - the true wireless experience is, for many people, headphone nirvana. No more tangled cables, no more snagging your headphones on door handles or train seats. You’re free to dance, twirl, skate - or just move about normally - without hesitation or encumbrance.
It is quite a magical sensation, knowing there’s nothing in the way of any movement you care to make. The only slight drawback is that you occasionally have to self-consciously tap your ear with one finger, or hold it there for several seconds, like a World Cup referee receving VAR instructions, in order to adjust volume, skip tracks or power on/off. In actual fact, with the companion Yevo app, you don’t even need to do this with the Yevo 1s: you can control all aspects of these earbuds from your phone, including L/R balance, EQ tweaks, audio transparency and power on/off.
Designed in Stockholm, Sweden, the Yevo 1 earbuds strike an admirable balance between being beautifully designed and feature-rich without being too wildly overpriced - at least for true wireless earbuds. It is the ‘true wireless’ aspect that pushes the price of such products if not actually through the roof then definitely up into the rafters.
The Yevo 1 earbuds come packaged like the luxury product they are positioned to be (and at this price, they’re definitely a luxury). We’ve had the black with gold accents model on test (Onyx Black); white with gold (Ivory White) or an all-black pair (Jet Black) are the alternate styles currently available.
Still, the Yevo 1s do at least look like they could be worth the money you just paid for them. Small and light, each bud weighing just 8g and the charging case 80g, and designed to withstand sweat (at the gym) and weather (regular rain; no monsoons), the Bluetooth 4.1 buds also employ NFMI (Near Field Magnetic Induction Communication) technology from NXP for minimised latency and a bud-to-bud connection.
The Yevo 1s use a balanced armature driver type from Knowles, rather than a dynamic driver type, rated at 105dB speaker sensitivity, 32Ω impedance. Frequency range is the classic 20Hz-20kHz. The audio codec is SBC; there’s no support for anything higher-def, such as aptX. There are also three omnidirectional microphones with CVC noise cancellation for making and taking voice calls or video chats. This aspect of the Yevo 1s worked just fine: speech both ways was clear and intelligible, including in relatively busy environments. The voice feature also allow you to chat with your favourite virtual friend, be it Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now or Microsoft’s Cortana. Amazon’s Alexa is not yet on the list, but this may be added in future. For an iPhone user, Siri is the obvious choice.
Wireless range of the earbuds is stated as being 10m/30ft, although this is presumably in direct line of sight, in an empty room. Sometimes even when carrying the connected phone in our bag as we walked to work, the sound occasionally cut out for a second. We learned to keep the playback device closer to the earbuds, e.g. in a shirt or jacket pocket, to avoid any dropouts.
Battery life of the 60mAh rechargeable earbuds is stated as being between three and four hours for playback, with 90 minutes required to recharge once flat. The 600mAh charging case offers around four recharge cycles, connected via its included micro-USB cable, and the case itself takes two hours to fully recharge.
In real-world use we could complete a two-hour commute without running out of battery, then give our ears a rest on arrival and recharge the earbuds, ready for the return journey. On a longer journey, such as a transatlantic flight, you’d definitely run out of charge once or twice, so you’d have to take that enforced 90 minute time-out before starting over. There is obviously no way of listening to the Yevo 1s if they’re out of charge; there’s no wired option.
The rectangular charging case, a big larger than a Chanel lipstick (and possibly taking stylistic cues from same), is easily small and slim enough to slip into jeans or jacket pocket, for the convenience of recharging with you throughout the day. Point of fact: if you want to recharge the earbuds, you can only do it by placing them inside the charging case, so you really don’t want to lose it.
When you open the case, the lights on top indicate how charged the case is. After you’ve securely placed the earbuds inside (and we got used to giving them an extra squeeze once in place, just to be sure the charging connection was made), you slide the case drawer closed and the lights on top then indicate that the earbuds are charging, turning off when the charge is complete.
There is a lot to like about the Yevo 1s. We’ve been using them for several months now and we like the way they’ve settled in. The quality of sound has matured nicely - burn-in time is crucial when assessing headphones - and our test pair of buds have opened up, the sound gaining more weight and warmth.
The sound experience was further enhanced by swapping out the rubber ear tips (six are supplied with the Yevo 1s) for some Comply memory foam tips that we had lying around. This snugger fit in the ear really helps isolate the sound inside our head and acts as more effective passive noise reduction. The overall benefit of this simple, cheap modification is richer music playback and it’s a top tip for any in-ear bud.
While we delayed this review to allow the earbuds to bloom, it’s also true to say that it took us a while to get used to the Yevo 1’s operational quirks. Sometimes they’d run flat and we’d put them back in the charging case. Next day, we’d pop them out of the case as we settled into a long commuting journey, in anticipation of immersing our troubled soul in a couple of hours’ worth of soothing aural balm - only for nothing to happen. The earbuds would be dead.
Were we supposed to turn them off before charging them in the case? The solution/hack seemed to be to simply swap the earbuds around in the charging case and then they would charge fine; we’d just have to wait for that charge cycle to complete.
On other occasions, we were never quite sure if the earbuds would auto-shutoff if we took them out of our ears and left them on the table, or if they’d simply run down the power and go flat, theoretically still being ‘on’. It’s hard to give a definitive answer on this. Sometimes it would be fine and we could put them back in our ears after a few hours’ rest and press-hold the right ear to turn them back on (cue Chinese lady voiceover: “Yevo 1... connected”) and we could pick up where we left off. At other times, nothing.
Sometimes, we were required to turn both earbuds on individually, with the four-second press’n’hold on each bud; at other times, just powering up the right ear activated both buds.
Likewise, taking the right earbud out of one’s ear has been designed to automatically pause the music, courtesy of the NXP NFMI semiconductor technology, as the proximity of the right earbud has a direct relationship to its left-ear counterpart.
Mostly, this works very well and it’s a neat feature, although it almost works too well, given that if you take both earbuds out of your ears the music stops playing while the right bud is far enough away from the left, but if you then put both buds down together on the desk, you’ll hear your music happily playing to itself as the NFMI proximity effect kicks in again.
It can get a trifle embarrassing sometimes sitting on a train, holding your finger to your ear for several seconds with a confused expression on your face, trying to determine exactly what state the system is in. Powered up? Powered down? In some sort of halfway-house limbo state, one ear up and one ear down? As with many functions available on the Yevo 1s, the only tried and true method was to press and hope and see what that nice Chinese lady had to say about the matter.
That same lady also delivers the killer message: “Battery low”. The Yevo 1 earbuds operate on a hardline ‘three strikes and you’re out of battery’ approach - and you’ll be lucky to make it through even a four-minute song from first warning to total shutdown. Strict is hardly the word. There’s nothing you can do to mitigate the shutdown: you can’t go to half power, nor does the system duck the volume to eek out a bit more juice. You get the virtual voice in your head once, twice and then before ‘The Sound of Silence’, for example, is over, you’ll be enjoying the sound of silence for real.
This might all sound as if we’re not wholly enamoured with the Yevo 1 earbuds. Actually, far from it. When they’re working and we’re enjoying that mercurial feeling of complete wireless freedom, they’re brilliant. We found it simplest to largely forget about the Yevo app (it’s nice to have, but not essential) and just power the earbuds up, pop them in and run them flat. Repeat. However, the next time we came to use them, it could become a confusing, frustrating, two-star experience.
They’re also not cheap. Yevo Labs have pitched the Yevo 1s as a premium product, which would be a perfectly reasonable proposition if they seamlessly and consistently delivered a premium experience. The fact that they don’t might explain some of the snippy comments made about them in other online reviews.
True wireless is expensive - it’s mostly that convenience and magic that you’re paying for - but if the price were to come down to a sub-£200 price point, this would make the Yevo 1s much more appealing and easier to justify. At their current price of over £200, Yevo is competing with the likes of e.g. Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay E8, which are both super-luxurious and super-reliable. B&O, of course, is already a long-established, well-respected brand name with a rich legacy of amazing audio products behind it. Yevo Labs are not, yet.
All that said, if you’ve a hankering for a truly wireless pair of earbuds to simplify your mobile music world, we can cautiously recommend the Yevo 1s, with all the caveats highlighted above. When they’re working as intended, they’re as beautifully invisible as you want them to be.