Monday, 08 February 2021 16:57

Review: Frendie Air Duo


We get our hands – and ears – on the Friendie Air Duo over-the-ear wireless headphones.

Announced late last year, the Frendie Air Duo wireless headphones come from a company based in regional Victoria but are understandably made in China.

Headphones are generally about listening to music, so let's start there. We tried the Air Duo with a variety of music genres and other content, and the results were very pleasing. There are to equaliser settings: 'bass boost' and 'chart music,' and we were somewhat surprised that it was so difficult to predict which we'd prefer for any particular track.

When listening to speech (eg podcasts), we found chart music to be the clearer setting.

The vibration effect did nothing for us while listening to music, but it was a novelty when playing certain games.

Air Duo is an old-school ear-defender style headphone. Over-the-ear fitting can be more comfortable than on-the-ear designs, providing your ears are small enough to fit inside the cushions. The older you are, the bigger or droopier (scientific opinion seems divided on this point) your ears get, and perhaps because of this we didn't find the Air Duo particularly comfortable after an hour or so. To be fair, that's the case with most headphones we've used.

Another issue is that – just like ear defenders – they can make your head feel quite warm even if the temperature is only in the low 20s.

That said, we did wear them for a three-hour videoconference with no particular ill effects, and at 250g, they're around the same weight as other wireless headphones we've tried recently.

The padding does muffle some ambient noise, but unless the volume is turned up (too?) high you probably won't miss a phone ringing or someone talking to you.

The other main use for a headset is when making phone calls or participating in videoconferences. Air Duo has an inbuilt mic, plus another one on a short boom that can be plugged into the left cup. The optional mic does slightly improve the sound quality for the person on the other end of the call. However, ambient sound such as the whirr of a fan is picked up either way, so you'll probably be heard less clearly than when using your phone's built-in microphone.

There's a button on the boom to mute the mic, with a regular beep to remind you that it's been activated, but we found it results in your own voice being echoed disconcertingly through the headphones.

The cups are hinged and therefore fold away conveniently, and an egg-shaped carry case is included. We would have liked to see Inside pockets to hold the included USB (charging) and 3.5mm audio cables (for use with non-Bluetooth devices or if the battery runs flat), as well as the boom mic.

All the control buttons are on the left cup. As is common, the buttons have multiple functions, so power also serves as answer/hangup, while the volume up and down buttons are also used for next/previous track, EQ toggle, and lights on/off.

Ah, yes, the lights. "Gamer LED lights" on the faces of the cups fade between white, red, green and blue, which is OK if you like that sort of thing but is otherwise conspicuous and a waste of power. Annoyingly, they turned back on every time we powered up the headphones.

On the subject of power, Friendie reckons you'll get 54 hours of playback/talk time from one charge. We didn't specifically test that, but our experience was consistent with the claim. Charging is via a normal micro USB socket, so even if you're not carrying the cable Friendie supplies you're unlikely to have much trouble getting a top-up.

If black headphones aren't your thing, the alternative finish is rose gold.

So what's the verdict?

The lighting and vibration features are somewhat gimmicky, and if we were spending $300 or more on headphones we'd be looking for noise cancellation as one of the features.

However, we enjoyed the sound, and Air Duo is as comfortable as any over-the-ear headphones we've used recently, though we admit a preference for earbuds due to the greater comfort, lighter weight and general compactness when not in use. But if you prefer 'cans' – especially those with a touch of flamboyance – then Friendie's Air Duo is worth a listen. And do note that the original price of $350 has been trimmed to $300, and shipping is free.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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