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Samsung Level U Pro review - collar Bluetooth headphones

Richard Easton
31 Mar 2016
Samsung Level U Pro lead image 2
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
80
inc VAT

The Samsung Level U Pro are decent headphones if you like collar-style designs

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Specifications

Headphones subtype: In-ear collar, Plug type: N/A, Weight: 45.7g, Cable length: N/A

In the past, I’ve always found ‘collar’ headphones a little strange. Unlike conventional wireless neckband headphones which have a flexible headband, collar models have a rigid band that goes round the back of your neck. This then houses more conventional earbuds, which are attached to it by short cables. 

They're rarely preferable to headphones with flexible bands, but this is the design Samsung's chosen for its new Level U Pro buds. Design-wise, they're not too dissimilar from Motorola’s Moto Surround or the LG HBS 900 Tone Infinim, but it doesn't make them any more comfortable to actually wear, particularly if you have a penchant for wearing shirts, suit jackets, or anything with a collar. Finding a good position for the neckband proved difficult during my time with the Level U Pro, especially when the hard plastic rubbed against my clothing or got caught up in my collar.

While the plastic is reasonably rigid, its shape and design make me worry about its overall durability. These aren’t the kind of headphones you throw nonchalantly into a bag, and I feel like it might snap in two if you’re not careful with how you carry them around.  

For anyone looking for a pair of wireless headphones suitable for exercise or running, these probably aren’t for you either. Runners, in particular, will find the plastic neckband distracting as it jumps around behind their neck.

Samsung Level U Pro back

The rigid neckband does house one moderately useful feature, however, in the form of its vibration motor. You can pair the Level U Pro with its companion app for Android (iOS users are out of luck, sadly) and configure them to vibrate when you get a notification or a phone call on your smartphone. How useful you’ll find this is debatable, though, as it’s all well and good knowing you’ve got a notification, but you’ll still need to get your smartphone out to find out what it is. 

The Samsung Level App can also be used to configure the earbuds' clasp control magnets. These allow them to be attached to one another when not in use and stop them from flailing around, but you can also have the Level U Pro automatically play or pause your music, or answer and reject your calls when it detects the two earbuds are paired or unpaired. The magnets need to be attached in a specific way, however, so some attention is required. There’s also a Sound Share feature that lets you share your music with a second Level U Pro for communal listening.

Samsung Level U Pro power

The placement of the power and pairing switch is another puzzling design decision. It’s located towards the centre of the neckband, which means it's ends up behind your neck when you put the Level U Pro on. If you regularly turn the headphones on and off throughout the day while keeping them around your neck, reaching the tiny and easily missed switch requires a stretch that resembles something from a PE class. Why the switch couldn’t be placed towards the front of the band so it’s on your collarbone is beyond me.

The volume and play pause buttons are located on the right-hand side, so the power switch could have been on the left. The media playback and volume controls can, at least, be used to skip tracks as well as accept and reject incoming phone calls. There are dual-microphones, too, with echo and noise cancellation for calls, which works very well for hands-free phone calls.

Samsung Level U Pro buttons

Provided you get a good fit, the sound quality is actually surprisingly respectable. Inside are 13mm dynamic and Piezo drivers that deliver a good level clarity in the mids and treble and have nicely balanced bass. There was plenty of detail in the cymbals and a comfortable amount of energy from the bass in Warren G’s Regulate, and the soundstage in Menahan Street Band’s Three Faces had good separation of the individual instruments. The trumpets did occasionally sound a little harsh, but for the most part the Level U Pro provided a comfortable listening experience.

That’s just part of the story where it comes to sound, however. The Level U Pro also support ‘Ultra High Quality Audio’ (UHQA) and - surprise, surprise - only certain Samsung Galaxy smartphones are compatible. You can think of UHQA as an upscaler that improves the sound quality of lossy audio by estimating and restoring the lost detail, but when I tried the Level U Pro with a Samsung Galaxy S6, it only sounded marginally cleaner. Is the effect pronounced enough to pick the Level U Pro over any other headphones if you have a compatible device? Probably not.

Samsung Level U Pro top down

At £70, the Level U Pro are a reasonably good pair of headphones with respectable sound quality for their price. With a battery life rated at around 9 hours, the Level U Pro will last a fraction longer than most neckband style Bluetooth wireless headphones, but its design creates its fair share of issues.

By the end of my testing period, I actually found myself getting used to the collar design, but it was often highly dependent on what items of clothing I had on. Admittedly, it was nice to be able to have the headphone sit around my neck and not worry about them falling off, but transportation is still going to be an issue. Provided you don’t have any aversions to collar-style headphones, the Level U Pro are a decent enough buy, but we're still waiting to find a truly excellent pair of neckband-style headphones.

Hardware
Headphones subtypeIn-ear collar
Headphones driverClosed
Active noise-cancellingNo
Power sourceNone
Headphones sensitivityNot disclosed
Frequency responseNot disclosed
Headphones impedenceNot disclosed
Plug typeN/A
Inline volumeYes
Weight45.7g
Cable lengthN/A
AccessoriesSilicone tips
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Supplierwww.amazon.co.uk
Detailswww.samsung.com/uk
Part codeEO-B920

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