Samsung Level U Pro review: A collar-style wireless headphone that offers a comfortable fit and improved performance
LG remains the sales leader in collar-style "neckband" wireless Bluetooth headphones, but plenty of competitors are available, including Samsung's Level U Pro ($100; £120; AU$130). This is a noise-isolating headphone, which means you jam the tips into your ear canal and seal out the outside world. That's different from the more affordable Level U, which has buds that sit loosely in your ears, like Bose's SoundTrue In-Ear wired headphone.
As with all Bluetooth headphones, the Level U Pro connects wirelessly to your smartphone (or tablet), doubling up for enjoying music and as a headset for taking calls.
A set of buttons on the right side of the neck band allow you to pause and play your music, answer/end calls, skip tracks forward and back and raise and lower the volume. The buttons are well placed and easy enough to operate by feel alone.
Like the aforementioned LG Tone headphones, the Level U Pro's earbuds are magnetic and clasp together to help "reduce clutter when not in use." However, they don't retract like they do on some LG collar-style headphones. When I wasn't using them, I often left the buds dangling on my chest, unclasped, and sometimes forgot I was wearing the headphone (it's lightweight). And that's why people like this type of Bluetooth headphone: You simply leave it around your neck and stick the earbuds -- or often just a single bud if you're taking a call -- in your ears when you need to.
If you do have a Samsung phone, this does support Samsung's UHQ Audio standard, which is supposed to provide (wait for it) "Ultra-High Quality" Audio over Bluetooth. The jury's out on how much of a difference it actually makes, but it's a small plus to use the headset with one of Samsung's latest Galaxy phones that support UHQ Audio.
It's also worth noting that if you have an Android phone, you can download the free Level App to access and control advanced settings of the headphones which include the ability to have the headphones read text notifications to you. There's also a volume monitor and an equalizer that allows you to tweak the sound.
As for other extras, the headset is water-resistant (the standard Level U isn't). Battery life is rated at 9 hours for music playback at moderate volume levels. That's decent though not exceptionally good.
I used the headphone with an iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6 alternating between the Spotify and Tidal streaming services (Tidal has a lossless setting). Except for a few Bluetooth hiccups, I didn't have any issues staying connected to the headset.
As I said, the headphones offer decent clarity and plump but not over accentuated bass. There's a little bit of treble push so you get some sibilance in the high end that also creeps into the vocals (mid-range). Walking around New York I didn't notice it as much, but sitting in a quiet spot, it was more evident.
You really hear it in the high hat strikes on such tracks as George Michael's "John and Elvis Are Dead" and Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day," and the tambourines in Spoon's "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" tend to overwhelm the song a bit. Throw more complicated or highly dynamic tracks at this headphone and it starts to lose definition. But that's par for the course for the majority of Bluetooth headphones. They've gotten better but they're still not as good as wired headphones.
To be clear, this is a sub-$100 Bluetooth headphone, so we don't expect the greatest sound from it -- and it doesn't deliver the greatest sound -- but at least it sounds fairly natural and doesn't distort (badly) at high volumes like the standard Level U does.
A good neckband wireless headphone
I like the Level U Pro. I think it sounds relatively good, is well designed, lightweight, comfortable to wear, and performed well as a headset for making calls. My only gripes are that the buds themselves look and feel a little cheap (read: plastic-y) and I would have liked if Samsung had included some form of the Stabilizing Wing Ear Gels that come with the Level U. A little more secure fit would make these headphones more suitable for running; they stay in your ears pretty well, but don't lock into place.
Apart from that, this is a solid in-ear Bluetooth headphone that's worth considering, particularly if the price comes down to $75 USD or less.