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Arriva Leo (Black) review: Arriva Leo (Black)

Arriva Leo (Black)

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

Arriva, the small Colorado outfit that makes those funky, wire-free headphones for the iPod Shuffle second and fourth generation, is now selling an intriguing--and sporty--set of in-ear Bluetooth stereo headphones that go by the name Leo.

Arriva Leo Bluetooth Headphones (Black)

Arriva Leo (Black)

The Good

The <b>Arriva Leo</b> is a relatively lightweight wireless Bluetooth headphone that fits securely on your head and is designed for sports activities (it's water- and sweat-resistant). It also has a built-in microphone making calls.

The Bad

The "hard" earbuds won't be comfortable for all ears, and the battery life is shorter than we'd like.

The Bottom Line

If you like the round-the-head fit, the unique design of the Arriva Leo makes it worthy of consideration for joggers and other active listeners.

These guys have that secure, comfortable fit that Arriva is known for (I used the Shuffle version of the headphones for running before my Shuffle died), and they work wirelessly with any Bluetooth-enabled MP3 player or phone.

They're water- and sweat-resistant and have controls built into the back of the headphones that are easy to operate by feel. There's also a microphone in the earpiece for making and receiving calls while you're doing whatever "extreme" sport you're doing--or just walking around (note: using the earpiece, you get mono, not stereo).

The Arriva Leo uses Bluetooth to wirelessly pull music from your smartphone or audio player--but you'll need to reach behind your head for volume controls.

Battery life is rated at 5.2 hours (continuous listening time) and 20 days of standby time. Frankly, we think that's too short; we'd prefer something we can listen to all day.

The key thing the Leo ($69.95) has going for it is a secure fit. It's hard to find Bluetooth headphones that fit snuggly. Yes, the volume and power buttons are located directly behind your head while you're wearing it, but they're big enough to navigate by touch.

The only issue I had was that the hard-style earbuds (the kind that ship with your iPhone or iPod, for instance) just don't fit well in my ears. While the Leos come with a few different silicon covers, they weren't all that helpful in my case (they will be fine for a lot of ears).

When I presented the problem to Arriva, the company suggested I try Acoustibuds, silicon tips that slip over the top of hard earbuds and essentially turn them into soft earbuds. In my case, the Acoustibuds made a world of difference. The headphones became much more comfortable and I got a better seal, which had a big impact on improving bass performance.

About that sound: it's not great, but it's decent enough. Once I got a tight seal with the Acoustibuds, I was pretty happy with the sound, though these guys just don't offer a lot in the way of clarity. Some of that's simply because of the quality of the drivers and some of it's because of Bluetooth streaming, which compresses your audio. In any case, the Leo set is designed for gym and outdoor activity, where a secure fit rather than great sound is a higher priority.

The Leo will fit some ears snugly; others will need the Acoustibuds adapter, which the company will provide for free.

Starting in February, Arriva says it will ship a pair of medium-size Acoustibuds with the product and it will also offer Acoustibuds for sale on its site. But in the meantime it says it can offer the medium Acoustibuds to anyone who would like them ("free to all those who have ordered a Leo to date").

I mention all this because while I like the design of the Leo, it only becomes excellent for me with the Acoustibuds (as I said, others may get a perfectly good fit with the included silicon covers). So it's good to see that Arriva's willing to make good on its promise to have the Leo fit all ears well, not just most.

Arriva Leo Bluetooth Headphones (Black)

Arriva Leo (Black)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6