Finding those extra moments in a day can be challenging sometimes. With an unlimited amount of media and the same 24 hour time cycle in a day we have always had, how do you balance finding time to consume more, while not neglecting your regular responsibilities? One of our answers…wearable speakers. We are not sure if that is even the correct term for them, but it sums up what they are. We have also heard them called around the neck speakers, neckbands, wearable headphones. Whatever you want to call them though they have appeal if you can get over the look of them which we hope to convince you that you can and should!
Why Do You Want Something Like This?- This kind of product is for those that don’t want to disengage from the world when they listen to audio. Whether you mean to do this or not, when you have headphones in your ears, you are giving the signal to others that you are in your own world and give off the impression that you don’t want to talk. The other downside to you personally is that you are not as aware of what is going on in your surroundings. With a wearable speaker, not only can you clearly hear the sound since it is right around your neck, but you can be fully aware of your surroundings and what is going on. While this might not be ideal all the time (we still have Bluetooth earbuds and we do not look at those as replacements, but more of a complement), it leads us to our next point.
Keep Your Hands Free and Productivity High- While you can make the argument that earbud headphones are also hands free, you still have to worry about them falling out and again not being present in your environment. Wearable speakers are great for tasks like cooking, cleaning, walking, and answering phone calls while moving around to name a few examples. You can even still hold a conversation with a real person, something that is much harder when having earbuds in. Those little pockets of time are easier to come by to listen to audio books, podcasts, music, YouTube videos, or just to connect more and make phone calls while doing other things. These can be great for conference calls to take to different rooms or even outside. Even something like exercising can be enhanced while wearing these vs earbuds.
If you have never heard of wearable speakers before then we will give a quick overview of what we think are the key features needed for a device like this. We have in total tried out 4 different models and have been using them since 2017. We will highlight what we think are the top 3 available right now. After using this style for over 3 years, we think these are the key areas/features that are needed to be considered a top wearable speaker.
Our first wearable speaker was an LG model back in 2017. The appeal was that it had earbuds as well and you could easily switch from one mode to the other. The speaker sound was low but still functional and we were sold on the idea. When we heard about the newer, more premium model, the LG Tone Studio, we were very intrigued. Call quality on the original LG was not great, one of the earbuds stopped working, and we wanted better sound quality. The Tone Studio did not disappoint. It improved on everything! Over time though there were some issues and our use cases changed which leads us to these reviews and this article. We will be looking at the LG Tone Studio, the Bose Soundwear, and the Monster Boomerang.
Sound Quality- 1. Bose Soundwear 2. Monster Boomerang 3. LG Tone Studio
Did anyone really think Bose was going to lose this category? The Bose Soundwear has the best sound quality and is the loudest by far. It is pretty amazing the sound quality that they can produce. If this is your #1 concern then we would say go with the Bose. Bose has an app where you can adjust the bass for music or spoken word. None of the others do anything like that. The Monster Boomerang and LG Tone Studio do not sound bad by any means, but the clarity is not the same especially as you go up in volume. One knock against the Bose is that with these kinds of speakers, you may not ever want to have it that loud, in fact, you might want it just loud enough for you to hear it, but not disturb those around you or have them hear what you are listening to. One pro for the LG Tone Studio which at first we thought was a con is the volume slider button on the headset is actually a separate volume from your device. You may think, well that is pointless and adds an extra layer of complexity, but really it gives you complete customization as to how loud or quiet you want your volume. You could have the volume of your device turned up all the way and still adjust it on your headset speaker.
One thing we have noticed with the Bose Soundwear and Monster Boomerang is that the volume (because of device levels) can go from just able to hear it for yourself, to being too loud and now everyone near you can hear it. That balance that you can find with the LG Tone Studio is much harder or almost impossible to find with the other two options. We are trying out some apps to hopefully fix it, but we run into the problem with the other two speakers that they are either too loud or too quiet. This may or may not be an issue for you depending on your environment or use case, but it is a major annoyance for us. Luckily on Android, there are some volume apps we are testing to help address the problem. It looks like there is an app for IOS that may help with this problem too.
Design/Weight- 1. Monster Boomerang 2. LG Tone Studio 3. Bose Soundwear
While the Monster Boomerang is the longest, we actually like this design as if you are doing something that has more motion like exercising, these have the least chance of falling off of your neck. They are also sweat and water-resistant too. The LG Tone Studio is the smallest of the three and you can easily forget that they are there around your neck. The Monster Boomerang weighs just enough to notice it, but not enough to be uncomfortable. It is a nice balance. This is in our opinion where the Bose Soundwear fails the most. They are the biggest and heaviest of the three by far. While exercising and moving these have fallen off and have come close many other times. They just don’t sit that well on your neck. Now, this could be different for others, but for us sometimes we were not playing any audio through it and our neck pain would remind us that they were still on. This has NEVER happened with the LG Tone Studio and rarely happens with the Monster Boomerang. In our opinion, the Bose are best used when sitting down which defeats a lot of the purpose of wearing them in our opinion.
Buttons/Bluetooth Connectivity- 1. LG Tone Studio 2. Bose Soundwear 3. Monster Boomerang
Here is where this comparison gets really interesting. The LG Tone Studio has the button layout perfect. A dedicated volume slider button, voice assistant/answer and end call button, and the slider to switch from speaker mode to headphone mode. All of these buttons are on the left side. On the right side you have Play/pause, skip forward/backward on the right side. The buttons work flawlessly and you can connect to two devices. The LG we have zero complaints about the layout and functions of the buttons. The Bose is the easiest and fastest to connect. If you have two devices synced, it automatically syncs to both of them. On the left side, there is the power button and Bluetooth button. On the right side are just three buttons. Volume up and down and a multi-function button. Here is another design decision that baffles us that Bose made. This teeny-tiny middle button is supposed to play/pause, answer calls/bring up voice assistants, and fast forward/backward. For instance, to go back, you have to triple tap the button. If you only double-tap by mistake now you just went forward instead of backward and have to triple triple tap to get back. It isn’t even worth it in our opinion. Now one advantage Bose does have is an app that allows you to change the auto-shutoff settings, change the bass to make it easier to hear spoken word, turn off the voice when turning on the device or connecting to a device, and allows the headphones to get updated in the future. It is nice to have this companion app and it does add some cool features. The Monster Boomerang has 4 buttons on the right side. A call answer/end and play/pause button, the power button, and a volume up/fast forward/ volume down/rewind button. These buttons sometimes don’t register and to move the track forward, you need to hold down the volume up or down button. Not as annoying as the Bose Soundwear, but still not as easy as the LG Tone Studio. These buttons are not terrible, but they are not great either. Like we said, sometimes it seems like our press did not register. The call/end and play/pause button always have worked though.
Use Case and Final Review- If you could not tell from our rankings we are very split on all of these. In all honesty, all three of these headsets have fatal flaws that stop them from being perfect. The LG Tone Studio has awful call quality, the Monster Boomerang can only connect to one device and has some weird sound connection issues when you first connect (still working through this to see if this is a user error), and the Bose Soundwear, while they have many things going for them, are just not that comfortable. Price and availability may vary with these 3 devices and there are other options, but we would argue these are the 3 best you can get on the market right now. LG does have some new models, but they have a little different design and also carry a higher price point. Let’s point out some use cases.
Best Sound/Mostly Stationary- The Bose Soundwear is the best option here. They sound the best, can get the loudest, and have the most settings to customize. If this is what you care about and maybe only plan to use them in some cases moving around we would recommend these.
Active/Great Design- The Monster Boomerang win here. Being IPX67 water and sweat-resistant mean they can take more of a beating. They also charge using USB C which means you won’t have to carry around a more old-school mico USB cable. They feel secure around your neck and have the most ability to bend. They have just enough weight to notice, but not be an issue.
Best Controls/Comfort- The LG Tone Studio win here. You can control EVERYTHING audio-wise directly from the headset with ease which the other two can not say. These are the most lightweight and very stylish too. These truly feel like there is nothing around your neck.
So we can’t really give a clear winner to any headset. We want to give it to the LG Tone Studio, but the call quality just ruins it. If you don’t make a lot of phone calls then this is a great option. If you only need to connect to one device, that makes the Monster Boomerang more appealing. If your greatest concern is sound quality and customization, and do not plan to be too active, then the Bose Soundwear is the best option. While the LG also has headphones we would still say that owning a regular pair of headphones is probably easier. Both sets of the earbuds on our LG ones had one ear stop having sound.
To sum up, we think wearable speakers can keep you more productive, more active, and more connected to your external settings while still being connected to your audio. We hope more people start to see the value of these great devices.
Here is another article that goes into some more detail about these kinds of headsets-