Happy Plugs Air 1 Zen – headphones that kill 99.9% of bacteria and sound great too (review)
The Happy Plugs Air 1 Zen comes in five cool colors and uses new Biomaster antimicrobial technology to kill 99.9% of germs that can cause discoloration, stains and odors.
Happy Plugs Air 1 Zen is from a Swedish company, so any complaint must respect the harsh truth of the European Union in advertising laws. The protection is embedded in the bud material and lasts a lifetime (regardless of how long a bud lives).
Apart from this USP, here is an overview of what the Air 1 Zen Happy Plugs are
|AirPod style with rods|
|Colors: rose gold, mint, white, black, silver|
|Six sets of silicone ear tips to ensure a secure fit|
|Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC and AAC codec (no aptX for Qualcomm) – stores eight device connections|
|Super light at 4.9g each|
|Passive noise cancellation (not active)|
|20Hz-20kHz and 107dB SPL (around 80dB speaker equivalent)|
|Two microphones per button for background noise reduction|
|Up to 6 hours of gaming with a 45mA battery|
|USB-C charging box with 600mAh battery for 24 hours of charging. Charging time 1.8 hours|
|One year warranty and 30 day return policy|
The Air 1 Zen (US $ 79.99) is part of the Air 1 line, including an ANC version (Air 1 ANC US $ 119.99) and a Qualcomm True Wireless aptX version (Air 1 Plus US $ 99.99 ).
But here is the problem. They are currently only available from Happy Plugs in Stockholm, and the landed cost is around $ 150A. That’s still a reasonable value with the antibacterial feature. But there is considerable competition from Skull Candy Dime (see 8.10 and $ 69.95 here) and the plethora of true wireless headphones from JBL ($ 70-150), the excellent 65t and Active from Jabra ($ 119-149). ), Bluetant ($ 139), SkullCandy and more. So I hope after reading this review you will at least consider them.
I don’t like AirPod’s dorky storks – but obviously some do, so we won’t blame them.
They are well packaged, especially for retail, with a clear cover and recyclable packaging. The interesting feature is the Biomaster antimicrobial technology baked into the stork and shell. It is proven to kill many germs, but it is not a substitute for physical cleansing. And the choice of five colors is great.
Fit and comfort – all day use
But what’s more interesting are the six pairs of different sized ear tips – except they’re not the size listed. It looks like large, medium and small sets and less “depth” (flatter). Because it relies on noise isolation (not ANC) all you need is a tight fit that keeps them from falling out of your ears.
Prolonged use was good – they’re light and comfortable. We can’t recommend them for exercise as they aren’t rated IPX4 at least – but great for walkers.
On a Windows PC, it will find them in stereo (SBC codec) and AG Audio (mono with mic channel). Be sure to use SBC mode because otherwise the sound is mono and clipped to around 6 kHz max. PS – Windows has some quasi EQ sound settings which can improve the sound – play around with them.
On Android, it will automatically switch between SBC and hands-free. On iOS, it uses the AAC codec.
They don’t claim any, but the right-sized mouthpiece will eliminate ambient background noise while still allowing awareness of voice and traffic noise to pass through.
Hands free – reasonable
Two mics per stork means it can reduce outside noise like wind during a call. The calls were clear and didn’t sound like I was in a tunnel. There is no side voice (lets you hear your voice).
Let’s just say you have to spend an extra $ 100 to get a significantly better result.
Battery – 6 hours is workable
All of this only needs to power a DAC and transducers, so a small battery gives up to 6 hours of use at 50% volume. We found the ideal volume to be around 65%. The USB-C charging box has an additional charge of 3 × 6 = 24 hours.
We tested them for a week – 1 hour of walking per day and a single extended use until the battery was exhausted. We had almost 5 x 1 hour of walking and 5 hours of continuous use. The bud load in the case was a little over an hour. Not far from their claim.
How do they sound? Pretty good!
As with most BT headphones, it depends on the quality of the audio content. They seem to have a reasonably flat (good) response that doesn’t add or subtract original music. But without an EQ, that flat response can feel a bit lackluster at times.
We tested with a white noise generator, and the bass starts at around 50Hz, and we get a pretty strong signal up to 10kHz, where it starts to drop.
Our Blues Brothers reference track Peter Gunn Theme was quite “satisfying” – it has reasonable bass with the upper treble just missing the high trumpet notes.
The Beach Boys Fun Fun Fun (uses a lot of treble) was a bit hollow but still okay.
We also use Manhattan Transfer Twilight Zone because it has a fantastic mix of synth music and vocals – very satisfying.
The soundstage was as wide as you might expect – it’s inside your ears and has excellent left / right separation. If you want to learn more about a sound signature, read our guide here.
GadgetGuy’s point of view
The Happy Plugs Air 1 Zen is an example of the global economy at work. Designed in Stockholm, made in China and shipped worldwide – borderless. This direct online sales model means reasonable prices – it’s just the freight and taxes that can get you paid. I would be much more enthusiastic if Happy Plugs had an Amazon Store (for warranty reasons etc.), but that adds 40% to the price !!!
Would I buy them? No, because I already use the much more expensive Sennheiser Momentum 2 BT ANC, Sony WF-1000XM4 and more and I don’t mind spending more.
But if you’re Joe and Jane Average and want a good quality pair of headphones at a reasonable price for general listening, these are the perfect fit.
Happy Plugs Air 1 Zen is perfect for Joe and Jane Average who want reasonably priced, great-sounding buds.
Biomaster antimicrobial technology to kill 99.9% of germs
Good sound signature and soundstage
Order online from Stockholm – no storefront