Summer is here, which means that we’re traveling more and enjoying the sun and outdoors. We’re bringing more and more of our devices with us on our trips, from phones to gaming portables to tablets. All of these often require different and unique accessories to realize their broader potentials. Finding accessories that are universal can be a pain.
The Flips Social Headphones are an interesting set of headphones, fitting in that latter category. At first glance they look like any pair of headphones that you’d find on the rack of an electronics store. Flip the cans around and they become a set of speakers that negate the need for a separate piece of hardware.
It’s a nice idea, and it works as advertised.
The audio quality is fine when on my ears, though they don’t hit the high highs or the thumping lows as much as others do. Flipping the cans around — both need to be flipped before the outward speaker function activates — creates a surprising amount of audio. It’s not going to replace a boombox by any means, phasing out about 12 feet away or so, but it’s much more than many small speakers and it’s far better than nothing. The treble is a bit muffled and outward bass is nonexistent. But, it works. It gets the job done.
That’s not the issue I had with the Flips, though.
The problem with the Flips is that they fall in this weird product category that doesn’t exist (yet). And because of that there is no baseline as to what the quality level should be for the product, causing one blatant issue: it wants to be too many things, and doesn’t quite succeed at any of them.
It will be judged against similar-costing headphones and against less-expensive portable speakers. Both of those categories have been fine-tuned over the years (decades?) and the Flips needs to be at the apex of them. Why? Well for one, people will usually stick to one mode or the other, and only utilize the opposite mode on rarer occasions. In those cases, they’d much rather have great quality for that specific instance than mediocre quality for both.
And because the Flips try to stay affordable, the technology used in the cans for both modes had to be affordable, which means that it wasn’t going to excel in either way.
The other issue is the build quality of the headphones. The polyurethane lining on the cans and the strap is comfortable (and does a great job of blocking outside noise, surprisingly) though the plastic that makes up the rest of the product comes off as extremely cheap, right down to the build quality. The exposed screws don’t help either, lessening the effect of a simple and clean product design.
The one use I found to be effective was to flip the headphones to the outward mode, wrap them around my neck, and work on some sketches. This allowed me to hear my phone ring or coworkers chat with me while I listened to podcasts. The packaging of the product was nice, as the headphones can be folded and placed into a nice formed zip-up case.
There’s unrealized potential with the Flips Headphones. While they do function as they’re supposed to, I guess my expectations were higher than what was delivered in the final product. The product feels like it’s still a beta for the next actual iteration. They won’t make you change away from using a Beats/portable speaker combination, but they might make a decent holiday gift for someone when you’ve completely run out of ideas.
This review was based on a retail product sent to SideQuesting by the manufacturer.
[Edit: The Flips Audio folks have informed us that they're offering 10% off of the purchase of the headphones through their website, www.flipsaudio.com, if you use the discount code: FA0010INT ]