It’s been a while since Bluetooth headphones brought innovation to their design. I dare to say, that most of them from recognisable brands will meet your needs. This month, I was asked to try bone conductive Haylou Purfree and OLEAP Pilot which offers something that on the surface sounds like a very bad idea. Any other brand tries to jam the drivers as close to your eardrum as possible – OLEAP Pilot does the exact opposite…
Are they insane? Or are they right?
Not once in my life, had I thought that moving the speaker away from my ear channel would provide me with a sound I’d enjoy. Everyone is familiar with a drop in bass and subsequent sound quality when an earbud isn’t fitted correctly. How is that even a main feature of the OLEAP Pilot?
I agreed to this review hoping to roast the idea. After all, OLEAP Pilot is pitched via Kickstarter and these are right up there with “that can’t possibly work“. The problem is – it works. It works better than I would ever give it a credit for. Where is the magic? Let’s take a closer look.
Inside the box
Personally, I’m glad we moved away from earbuds connected by the band or a cable. Bluetooth is finally good enough to enjoy true wireless freedom, therefore the presence of the elastic band connecting each side feels like a step backwards. Except this isn’t true for: sports, gaming, and professional use. The non-detachable microphone which swivels back may not encourage sports use, but gamers and professionals will rejoice for sure. Plus, OLEAP Pilot are harder to misplace.
The OLEAP Pilot set came with the headset itself, Bluetooth USB dongle (optional if your machine has Bluetooth) a foldable case and a charging stand (purchased separately). The magnetic and foldable storage case reminds me of my reMarkable 2 folio and will probably look good on the table together. It’s not exactly a portable case (not a pocket fit) but will prevent your headphones from being crushed in your bag.
The charging stand is one of these accessories that will look great on your desk in the office, but it’s just a fancy-shaped USB-C plug to keep your OLEAP Pilot in place. It’s unlikely I’d ever use it at home considering how much crap I have on my desk already, but I can see the stand reserving some space on my office desk.
And the Bluetooth dongle… While completely optional, it’s nice to have the option to plug your headphones quickly into any computer without going through Windows Bluetooth pairing menus each time. It’s optional as you are likely to have Bluetooth on your machine but handy in work situations.
The OLEAP Pilot’s bands wrap around the ears to keep the drivers in the optimal position over your ear channels. The battery and most of the controls are placed slightly behind your ear. Something that I need to get used to. Overall, OLEAP Pilot feel comfortable, as long as you don’t have a headrest. The neckband sticks out quite a bit at the back, making it impossible to rest your head without knocking the headphones out of position.
The right side has a multi-function button to work with your assistant and mute mic while the left side has a boom mic and 3 buttons to take care of volume, pairing and switching tracks. It’s a headset grounded in the 21st century thanks to the USB-C charging port.
Here comes the shocker. OLEAP Pilot sound actually better than I would ever expect them to be. The unique design of the sound drivers sends the music directly down your ear channel. The resulting sound is rich, with depth and bass. It’s the presence of the bass that was most head-scratching, as years of playing with various headphones conditioned me to believe otherwise.
The bone conductive technology of Haylou Purfree allows external sounds to be heard clearly. Despite OLEAP Pilot being placed directly over the ears, the gap between the driver and the ear channel allows for the same awareness. The advantage of the OLEAP Pilot is very clear – the quality of the sound is simply miles better.
Don’t get me wrong, these are not audiophile-level headphones, but sound like a pair of decent earbuds. The only disadvantage I can think of is the maximum volume level. I’d say they are about 80% of what I usually get on more traditional headsets. It’s more than enough for me. I typically listen to my music at 50% volume. With OLEAP Pilot I have to set these to about 70% to get a similar volume level.
One of the most prominent features of the OLEAP Pilot is the boom mike and how well it uses the array of microphones to cancel the noise out when the main microphone is used. The microphone sounds recorded are decent (Bluetooth mics are generally not impressive, compared to dedicated options for computers) but the ability to cancel out a vacuum cleaner buzzing behind me or office noises around me is definitely impressive.
The resulting sound recorded by OLEAP Pilot is clearer, background noise free and punches above the line of your usual Bluetooth headset. I’m impressed.
Getting active with OLEAP Pilot
The presence of a non-detachable boom mic will prevent many of you from using OLEAP Pilot for sport, however, I decided to take mine for a run and cycle anyway.
The experience was very pleasant. OLEAP Pilot stay on your head in the right position to deliver great sound throughout the exercise. As they don’t block my ears, I could hear the traffic around me or have a conversation with someone without taking them off (volume permitting). The only annoyance was the boom mic getting in the way of adjusting the volume or changing tracks.
That was a massive bust! I thought they would fair better than Haylou Purfree, however, the shape of the OLEAP Pilot and the fact that the headphones are hoovering over your ear created a lot of air turbulence. The air resistance from cycling over 20km/h would simply cancel out the music sent down my ears.
To add insult to injury, as the neckband is rather large, it would get in the way of the helmet each time I would get into more aero position. Haylou Purfree were better designed in that respect.
Battery & Range
From promised 10h of use, I got over 9h and a change in my Bluetooth battery test set to 50% of the max volume. That’s way over 175 tracks on a single charge. It’s a very good result for OLEAP Pilot. These will serve you well.
What’s even more impressive is the range. Moving around my open-plan office space at work the Bluetooth connection started to break up at the 45m range. I was about to leave the building! No matter what you do, you’ll stay connected.
I played some content online to check if headphones would introduce lag when watching YouTube or videos. I’m pleased to report that the sound is synchronised with the played video (there is a tiny lag but only noticeable when focusing on it) and I didn’t experience unpleasant delays associated with some cheaper Bluetooth headphones.
It’s settled. OLEAP Pilot is simply perfect for office & professional use. It’s comfortable to wear, excels at mic clarity and doesn’t compromise on sound (in case you want to watch a cheeky video on your break). I’d welcome a detachable boom microphone but that’s about the only complaint I have about OLEAP Pilot. I was sceptical about this design. I’m thankful that OLEAP Pilot convinced me otherwise. Turns out, you can have a decent listening experience with the drives away from your ears. Got questions? Let me know in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈💵 – See the transparency note for details.