Over the past couple months I have had the opportunity to spend some time with new AXUM Gear earbuds while getting in my regular training runs. If other runners are like me, they have a box full of earbuds that have either failed or just did not work out for some reason. Over the last couple years, the technology for earbuds has moved firmly into to the wireless realm, no doubt helped along by phone manufacturers abandoning 3.5mm audio jacks. Even wireless earbuds have moved to not having a wire between the two earbuds. AXUM specifically targets users who want small, unobtrusive earbuds for working out. Did they figure out a winner?
AXUM claims that their earbuds are superior to a lot of what is on the market due to the design. They spent a lot of time and effort to create earbuds that would stay secured in a user’s ear despite being engaged in vigorous activity. The key to this is the “hook” that is designed to slide underneath the closest available ear fold to the canal. Using the ear folds and an interior hook design is one way manufacturers tackle the problem of keeping earbuds in. The other alternative is to use a piece that hooks over the whole ear.
In my testing, I found the design of the AXUM Gear to be the best that I have come across. The design of the hook really locks the earbuds in place. I have a set of Jaybird earbuds that uses a similar concept, but find the AXUM Gear earbuds do a better job. At least part of this success can also be attribute to the earbuds being very lightweight, which means there is not a lot of stress to have to deal with. Besides keeping the earbuds in place, I also found that they fit well down into my ear canal and stayed there throughout a workout.
In terms of performance, this is where I found the trade-off for small size manifested itself. Overall, the earbuds did a good job of establishing a Bluetooth connection with my smartphone. I did have to go through the process of manually pairing the individual earbuds up since they did not automatically handle that, but the instructions were on point. The one issue I did have was they would not establish the initial connection until they were fully charged. Since pairing them though, I have experienced zero problems as far as the phone or the earbuds forgetting they were paired to each other.
Once connected though, I have discovered two problems. One, if I put my smartphone in my shorts’ pocket – my typical carrying spot – they are just at the edge of the range for maintaining a strong, solid connection. This problem is made worse if I happen to turn my head at all. The result of this is a case of sound playback cutting in and out. I’ve had this same problem with other earbuds in the past and I think the problem is due to companies trying to keep the size of devices as small as possible as it always seems to be an issue with smaller earbuds.
Along with the connection to the phone itself, I find the earbuds seem to have trouble keeping their stereo connection with each other intact as well. Again, I suspect this is a problem with weaker hardware being employed in an effort to keep weight down.
Another problem I have discovered has to do with battery life. AXUM claims 3 hours or more of play time with the earbuds. However, in my testing I find that they cutoff after 2 hours and 10 minutes. Yes, I can be that specific as I was able to replicate that on several occasions. This may or may not be an issue for individual users. In my case, runs can be longer than that on a regular basis, so the inability of the AXUM Gear to last for an entire workout is disappointing.
The AXUM Gear earbuds do come with a case that can hold its own charge and will recharge the earbuds when they are placed inside. AXUM says the case can provide up to 6 recharges before it needs to be recharged itself. I found this to be a very convenient and useful feature as I did not have to tie up a charger with the AXUM case on a regular basis.
Finally, according to AXUM the buttons on the earbuds are supposed to be able to provide some level of control for the smartphone including things like answering calls, adjusting volume or skipping ahead or back through tracks. I have not been able to get any of that to work during my testing. Which means I have to set my volume using the phone when I start. The good part of that is it helps keep me from getting distracted.
When the AXUM Gear earbuds are working, I found that they worked quite well. I’m not an audiophile, but for my use I felt like they are probably the best sounding earbuds I’ve ever used. The thing that struck me the most on initial use was the great bass sound. Some of that may be due to how well they fit in the ear, but AXUM did go through the trouble of putting in a slightly larger than typical speaker that measures 8mm. That paid off in my opinion. AXUM also uses noise-cancelling technology to help improve things. I’m not real sure how well that works since I rarely experience the kind of noise the technology is good for while I’m running.
From a drawer full of earbuds that I can choose to use when working out, where do the AXUM Gear earbuds fall out? They easily have the best sound quality of the earbuds I have available to me and I really would prefer to use them for my workouts. However, the inconsistent Bluetooth connection – both to my phone and to each other – is quite annoying and takes away from the superior sound quality. As noted, the relatively poor battery life is disappointing as well when I have options that easily last 8 hours at a time, meaning they will last an entire long workout and do not need to be recharged so often. AXUM hit the mark for sound and for earbuds that stay in place. Despite that, I’ve gone back to some others that I have available despite putting up with an extra cord between the two sides and slightly worse fit.
AXUM is currently taking pre-orders for a new batch of the earbuds. They list the retail price at $299 with a current markdown to $189 for a pair. That is quite expensive for earbuds and at that price point, I expect more in terms of battery life and the ability to keep a strong Bluetooth connection maintained.
Buy it now: AXUM