Knit caps with wireless headphones sewn into the band make up Bluetooth beanies, which are remarkably simple devices. The SoundBot SB210 Wireless Musical Beanie could have been a standout in this category, but it has a few flaws that keep us from recommending it.
Design: Simple, but doesn’t always deliver
The SoundBot is a simple but welcome addition to most outdoor winter outfits as a fashion accessory. It doesn’t oversell the fact that it has Bluetooth speakers—most people won’t notice them when it’s turned off and the LED isn’t flashing.
Black, blue, gray, pink, ivory, and yellow are among the 13 colors and styles available for this wireless music beanie. There are a variety of styles to choose from, including some with a corded texture and others with a pom on top. There’s even a black version with an integrated LED flashlight. Although this is a good selection, other Bluetooth beanies we reviewed have up to 29 varieties.
We could never get more than a few feet away from the device before the Bluetooth connection sputtering and failing.
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A Bluetooth device should have a range of at least 30 feet in general. When we connected the SB210 to our iPhone X, the range was significantly reduced, but when we paired it with an iMac, the range was significantly reduced. We could never get more than a few feet away from the device before the Bluetooth connection sputtering and failing.
The built-in microphone allows you to make and receive wireless phone calls, but we found this feature to be unreliable when we tried it. When a phone call came in while we were listening to music, the hat disconnected from the phone. When we tried to make a phone call, it did the same thing. We discovered that the only way to speak through the hat was to pair it with the phone after the call had connected, which is more trouble than it’s worth in real life.
Setup Process: Try and try again
The SoundBot comes with the most comprehensive owner’s manual of any of the wireless beanies we tested. It provides detailed instructions and explanations for all of the product’s functions. While a tutorial on how to charge the beanie may appear useful, we liked that the instructions also tell you how to remove the speakers from the hat when it’s time to wash it, which no other beanie we tested does.
If you’ve ever paired a Bluetooth device before, pairing this wireless beanie with a smartphone or computer is simple. Unfortunately, connecting this Bluetooth beanie to a smartphone or computer takes a long time, around 15 seconds during our testing period. It also took several attempts to pair before a connection could be established.
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Battery Life: It doesn’t make promises it can’t keep
On a full battery charge, the SB210 claims to provide five hours of listening time, which our testing confirmed. SoundBot also claims to have a standby time of 60 hours. We charged it completely and put it away for two and a half days. It powered up and worked when we turned it on again, but only for a short time. We were only able to get about 45 minutes of listening time out of it.
In less than an hour, you can fully charge the SoundBot from a dead battery. During our testing, this was the quickest charging time we saw. It can take up to two and a half hours for other products to go from dead to full.
Comfort: Just fine
Your head will be kept toasty warm thanks to the SoundBot. While it isn’t particularly comfortable, it does not cause scratchiness or skin irritation when worn.
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Sound Quality: Good for music, awful for calls
We don’t expect Bluetooth beanies to deliver the same high-quality sound as high-end earbuds or headphones due to their size, price, and design. The SoundBot, on the other hand, produces the clearest, most enjoyable sound of all the wireless music hats we tested—at least when listening to music.
We had to turn up the volume to maximum just to understand what was being said on the other end of the line.
The sound was rich and full when we listened to the Beatles’ album Past Masters. Small details can be heard clearly, but depth and range are lacking in comparison to more expensive wireless audio products like the Apple AirPods.
Taking phone calls, on the other hand, was a completely different story. We had to turn up the volume to maximum just to understand the person on the other end of the line because the sound was very quiet and distant.
Price: In line with the competition
SoundBot SB210 Wireless Musical Beanie vs. Blueear Bluetooth Beanie Hat
The SoundBot was put to the test against the Blueear Bluetooth Beanie Hat, and aside from better sound quality and a faster charge time, the SoundBot fell short. The Blueear was able to pair on the first try, maintain a steady signal across the Bluetooth range (regardless of which device it was paired to), and maintain connection while on the phone. Blueear’s beanie was more dependable and gave a better real-world experience, and it comes in a variety of colors and styles that are less expensive than the SB210 line.
The Final Word
If the SoundBot SB210 Wireless Musical Beanie performed better in our tests, it would be worth considering. It produces high-quality sound, charges quickly, and has simple controls. It’s hampered by unreliability, which turns it from a useful convenience to a nagging annoyance, removing a significant portion of its value.