Here One Truly Wireless Smart Earbuds - Review

August 16, 2017

Truly wireless buds made their entrance to the mainstream in 2016 to much fanfare thanks to offerings from big manufacturers (Apple, Samsung) and others that have established themselves in the niche (Bragi). It's an exciting space that has room for growth and Doppler Labs is a company that sees the potential in the hearables sector for bigger things than just the 'primitive' function of listening to music. 

We reviewed the Here Active Listening system, their first commercially available buds exactly a year back and now, Doppler Labs' has added music playback capability. After attending Here One's Singapore launch back in June, we bring you a full review! 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Read - 
Advent of Truly Wireless Earbuds
Here Active Listening System review

Type - Truly Wireless Earphones 
Price - USD 299 / SGD 459

Pros (+): Remarkably vibrant sound quality; Pass-through listening; Highly customizable audio features; Great fit.
Cons (-): Pairing may take a while to work; Battery life.

In The Box
The Here One truly wireless buds come in 2 color combinations - Black and White. For purposes of this review, we obtained the latter. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

The box is undoubtedly sturdy, something that you'd associate with a company that rhymes with 'Zappel'. Popping open the top gives you the charging case with the buds enclosed. Taking off this layer gives access to the rest of the accessories that are neatly presented. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

On taking out the packaging contents, we get:
  • Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds
  • Charging Case
  • 3 x Silicon Buds (S / M / L)
  • 3 x Foam Buds (S / M / L)
  • Charging Cable (USB to micro-USB)
  • Quick Start Guide and Safety Information
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Design
The Here One buds weigh a reasonable 12g (for both), comparable to other truly wireless buds like the Samsung Gear IconX (12g), though are slightly heavier than the Apple AirPods (8g). The overall aesthetic is almost the same as its predecessor with exception of more contact points to link with the Charging Case. The outer edge is a touch panel that allows finger taps to actuate certain functions while the inner portion has five contact points that link to the case for charging purposes.
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Charging Case:
The case measures a lengthy 98 x 36 x 29mm and when the buds are stored, it doubles as a charger. On the practical side, there are four LEDs within that indicate the battery life of the buds at any time. There's absolutely no worry that the case will spill the buds out when stashed in a bag as the magnetic clasp that shuts the case is incredibly strong. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Features

Playback / Voice Commands:
While there may be no physical buttons on the Here One, you perform taps to the buds to activate certain features. A single touch takes calls or stops music playback (if already started) and allows ambient sound to pass-through. Now, this feature, while not entirely new, is interestingly one that triggered Doppler Labs to file a lawsuit against Bose. Either way, it works as it should and it's mighty useful. As for a double tap, it activates Apple Siri or Google Now depending on your smartphone, so you can give voice commands. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Layered Listening / App Support:
This feature was what made the Here Active Listening System interesting. Once you install the app (compatible with iOS 9.0+ / Android 5.0+), you can tune environmental sound to your preference and then fuse it with your music. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

To give some examples, there's db adjustment, live EQ mixes and noise filters. For potential usage, you can listen to music while fully able to hear / block your surroundings, ideal for bus commuters that require a measure of safety when crossing roads while wanting to isolate noise while on a bus. If you want to amplify speech, just select this filter option and this will give increased focus on chatter directly in front which we found to be mighty useful in situations such as standing at a bus stop.
Doppler Labs Here One app

Pairing:
Doppler Labs' pairing of buds with smartphones did not appear to be extensively tested. I had some intermittent issues when trying them out with the Sony Xperia XA (running on Android 6.0) where I had to reinstall the app twice as it was stuck in the 'Connecting to buds' screen for quite a while. Once it works, you just need to open the app and Bluetooth activates once the prompt is acknowledged. 

Tip - Should there be problems when pairing, there's a tiny hole on the underside that allows a full reset of the buds. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Performance

Sound Quality:
The improvement to its experimental predecessor, the Here Active Listening System, is clearly the addition of music playback. Putting it on its paces, the Here One's sound quality is remarkably vibrant, especially when using the silicon tips. A sample of Kygo & Selena Gomez's It Ain't Me gives a really good balancing act of the treble (the snapping alongside Selena's vocals) and especially when the bass from Kygo's wizardry kicks in. For slower tracks like Craig Armstrong & Elizabeth Fraser's This Love, the instrumentation and vocals sound completely natural. It's not overly bright nor muffled like you'd hear from other buds. If you are wondering about sound drop offs inherent in some truly wireless buds, there was no such problem here. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Noise Isolation / Fit:
You have a choice of silicon tips and foam tips that come in the box. If it's noise isolation, use the foam tips (which pretty much function like Comply tips). If you want a good fit, both the types of tips insert snugly into your ear, though if you choose to jog, foam may add that added assurance. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Charging:
A full charge of the Here One through the provided micro-USB cable will give 2 hours playback that is subpar when considering buds like Bragi The Headphone (6 hours) and Apple AirPods (5 hours) though slightly higher than the feature-packed Samsung Gear IconX (1.5 hours).  

On the flipside, a quick charge of 15 minutes promises a very decent 1 hour (50% of the full charge). The buds themselves are rated at 60mAh and if the power isn't enough to last your commute, the case has a rating of 560mAh which potentially gives 3 additional full charges once you plonk the buds in to charge. They'll emit a (soothing) pulsating orange light from the front when charging takes place. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds

Overall

The Here One buds are remarkable in many ways. As a music playback device, it performs unexpectedly well and the ear fit is excellent. The one thing that could be improved is the consistency of the app pairing with the buds, but the layered listening feature set offered by the app provides a highly customizable listening experience that is highly unique.

The Future
The Here One highlights the potential of the hearables market and how it can evolve to cater to folks who want the flexibility to tune out certain noises to focus on other sounds like voices. That's where you see that Doppler Labs is not just an audio hardware company but one where innovation is part of its mantra. Should Doppler Labs venture into audiology, which it very well could based on the Here One feature set, perhaps future product iterations may even extend to provide the elderly an alternative hearing device for those in need. 
Doppler Labs Here One Wireless Smart Earbuds


Credit to Doppler Labs and Leader Radio Technologies for an evaluation unit.

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