Few things are more jarring than getting your headphone cord yanked out of your ears, but Outdoor Technology's Bluetooth Tags put an end to tangles with a wireless signal that eliminates the need for a dangling wire. The plastic clips keep the headphones securely attached to your ears (so they're also ideal for athletes), and you can navigate your music library using the small controls on the right earpiece. The Tags don't sound as clear as wired headphones, but if you're willing to sacrifice fidelity to cut the cord, these $80 headphones are a worthwhile purchase.
Design and features
Most of the Bluetooth headphones we review take the shape of on-ear, or supra-aural, headphones like the AKG K 830 BT wireless headphones. We rarely see wireless earbuds, which is why we're excited about the OT Bluetooth Tags, which are also cord-free but more compact and easier to travel with.
The individual earpieces are roughly 1 inch long and 0.5 inch wide, and the two earbuds are joined by a long cord that wraps around the back of your neck. A small plastic clip lets you link the two together, and Outdoor Technology encourages letting the two earpieces hang down when you're not listening, hence the "Tags" moniker that comes from the company's design inspiration: the military identification tags known as dog tags.
With the OT Bluetooth Tags come two extra sizes of rubber fittings (in addition to the medium size that comes installed) that cover the speakers, and each size is color-coded to make things easier. We recommend trying all the sizes to determine which one gives you the best seal, and ultimately the best sound.
You also get a Mini-USB cable in the box that you need to charge the headset, so you'll also need a computer with a USB port if you're listening on the go; there's no AC charger, which may not be convenient for travelers. The bottom of the right earpiece has a small blinking LED that indicates the status of a charge, and for us the first run took about 2 hours before it finished. Outdoor Technology tells us that fully charged Tags should provide up to 5 hours of stereo playback and 120 hours of standby time, and our drain test supports that claim.
The two plastic ear clips attach directly below the silicone fittings and rotate forward and backward so you can achieve a secure fit while you're actively listening. The extra slack on the 31.5-inch cable connecting the two earpieces has a tendency to gather and pull on the earpieces, making the clips that much more crucial to the design. We thought the stiff cord would eventually loosen up with prolonged use, but it hasn't changed over our three-week evaluation period and we're hoping the next version will come with a shorter connection.
In addition to the Mini-USB port, the right earpiece features a large multifunction button in the center that puts the headset in pairing mode, and OT provides easy instructions on how to pair the Tags with any device that has an A2DP profile. Coupling is easy enough: just hold down the multifunction button until the LED alternately flashes green and red, then select the Tags in your music player's Bluetooth setup menu.