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January 29, 2014
7 x 2.5 x 7 inches
Buy now from Amazon.com ($69.95)
In January, Photive released two new pairs of Bluetooth headphones — the BTH3 and BTX6. Despite the suspiciously low prices for the features offered and Photive’s relatively low brand-recognition, buyers seemed to love them. Seeing the reaction on Amazon end elsewhere, we decided we had to check them out for ourselves.
The BTX6 are the more expensive of the two. While both pairs of headphones offer similar features, the BTX6 are collapsible, offer more cushioning and are generally flashier looking than the BTH3. They also have a very different sound — the X-Bass logo emblazoned on the side of these ’phones should be your first clue.
What’s In The Box?
Much like the BTH3, the first and only thing you’ll see when opening the box is the included hard-shell travel case; everything else is tucked away inside. Zip open the case and you’ll find the headphones, manual, USB charging cable, and a 3.5 mm audio cable.
Build & Design
One of the clearest differences between the Photive BTX6 and BTH3 is the build quality. While the BTH3 certainly don’t feel cheap or flimsy, the BTX6 are obviously much more solidly built. From the chunky feel to the solid weight to the metal plate on the back of each ear cup, this is fairly tough-feeling pair of headphones.
The look is probably going to be more of a matter of preference. Photive calls them stylish but me? Well, I just think they’re kind of weird looking. Totally eschewing the curvy look that most headphones go for, the BTX6 go for a more jagged, angular look. While V-Moda, for example, uses similar designs, theirs still have a much more refined look. The BTX6 look more like heavy duty equipment than they do a fashion accessory.
Luckily, though they may not look it, the Photive BTX6s are fairly comfortable. While they do feel heavier than their cheaper cousin, this never became uncomfortable during testing. Yes, you’ll be able to feel that you’re wearing headphones, but you won’t feel like you’ve attached a weight to your head.
Unlike the BTH3, the BTX6 are collapsible, which makes them easier to carry around without using the included case. For quick trips, this is a very good thing, as the design means that the ear cups cannot be rotated, making for a rather bulky package when they’re inside their case.
Like the BTH3, pairing the Photive BTX6 with your device is a fairly quick, easy and painless process. These feature built-in voice prompts that will let you quickly gauge the status while you’re pairing. One minor complaint is that this voice is fairly loud — it startled me the first time I turned these headphones on, as I was wearing them already at the time. There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn this down, either. At least, not that I was able to find.
Unlike the BTH3s, which come loaded with every sort of button you could possibly want, the BTX6 uses a more traditional, simplified layout. A multi-function button handles power as well as pausing and resuming playback plus answering and ending calls. A pair of buttons labeled with + and – handle skipping forward and backward as well as controlling the volume. There isn’t anything to knock here, as this is how many headphones handle it, but it’s worth mentioning the difference between these and the BTH3.
As with the BTH3, the microphone is decent. Outgoing voice quality was always as clear as could be expected. As with all headsets of this type, the placement of the mic can make your voice sound a little more far away than if you were just speaking directly into the phone, but that’s to be expected.
The quoted battery life for the Photive BTX6 is either 10 or 12 hours, depending on where you look. Amazon lists 12 hours, but the manual only lists 10. According to our testing, it seems like the manual is the more accurate of the two, but errs on the side of caution. In testing, I got just over 10 hours. Granted, this included a lot of disconnecting and reconnecting and other battery-killing activities that most listeners won’t be doing, so take that with a grain of salt.
Charge time is quick. I found it took about 2 hours to charge the battery to full after a complete battery discharge.
Both the Photive BTX6 and BTH3 use 40 mm drivers, but that’s about the only thing they share in common when it comes to sound. As the X-Bass branding hints, these have much more of an emphasis on low end. They’re also much more effective at noise isolation than the BTH3. When these are on your head and music is playing, you won’t hear much else.
In testing the BTX6, I played music both over Bluetooth and via the 3.5 mm audio cable. In the latter case I played music from both CDs and lossless FLAC files through a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 audio interface.
The Photive BTX6 offers plenty of booming low end, though the definition isn’t as tight as you’d find in higher-priced headphones. Play music with any reasonable amount of bass frequencies and these will seriously boost it. For a lot of music this is a plus, but if you’re listening to podcasts or audiobooks, you might have to resort to EQ to bring down the bass a bit.
The mids have a scooped sound — pulled out of the way to make room for the bass and the high end. There is a boost in the upper midrange, around 4–5 kHz, which gives an extra snap to kick drums in metal and snare drums in most other music. Frequencies lower in the range — male vocals for example — can be somewhat subdued.
Though the highs are definitely more present than the midrange, I got a sense that the very highest frequencies were being rolled off slightly. This isn’t a bad thing as it kept the high end from being harsh, but I did find myself struggling to make out certain bits of high end detail that are more present in other headphones.
Soundstage isn’t bad by any means, but it doesn’t seem to be as three dimensional sounding as the BTH3, which surprised me. Overall the sonic signature of the BTX6 isn’t as balanced as the BTH3, and this is very much by design.
The price of these headphones tends to fluctuate a bit — we’ve seen them available on Amazon ranging from $69 – $89 in just the past few weeks. Even assuming the higher price, this is still a decent pair of headphones, especially if bass is the most important frequency to you when it comes to music. But how do they compare with the BTH3?
Both pairs of headphones have their pros and cons. The BTX6 have more bass, are collapsible, and are a tad more comfortable. The BTH3 sound more balanced, are lighter, and are more adjustable. Which pair of headphones is best for you is likely going to depend on one or more of those above factors, but in general, our recommendation for most people would be the BTH3, especially if price is a concern.
Buy now from Amazon.com ($69.95)