Samsung Level U review: A super comfortable in-ear Bluetooth headphone for in-ear haters

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The Good The Samsung Level U wireless Bluetooth headphone offers offers a very comfortable fit along with decent sound and battery life (up to 11 hours) in a lightweight, around-the-neck design. It vibrates when a call comes in and has well-placed buttons.

The Bad The open design lets sound leak in; some distortion at higher volumes; not sweatproof.

The Bottom Line If you're not a stickler for sound quality, the lightweight and well-designed Samsung Level U wireless Bluetooth headphone is very comfortable to wear and a good in-ear option for people who don't like to have eartips jammed in their ears.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

After the success of LG's Tone Bluetooth headphones we're seeing an onslaught of around-the-neck Bluetooth wireless headphones, including this one from Samsung, the Level U, which comes in two colors and retails for $70 (£50, AU $100). Like all Bluetooth headphones, the Level U connects wirelessly to your smartphone (or tablet), doubling up for enjoying music and as a headset for taking calls.

Since the this headphone's earbuds are designed to sit loosely in your ears, the best way to describe the Level U is a cross between a Bose in-ear headphone and an LG Tone. Like the Bose Freestyle and SoundTrue In-Ear , the Level U is designed for someone who doesn't like having eartips jammed in their ears, and it's a very comfortable in-ear headphone (the flexible neckband is a lightweight "horseshoe" that sits comfortably around the back of your neck).

I started out using the standard Hybrid Gels (they are simply a soft silicone earbud cover). They were fine but the buds didn't stay in my ears quite as well as I'd hoped. However, that issue was resolved when I switched over to the Stabilizing Wing Ear Gels, which created a more secure fit. Both sets of Gels only come in one size but they seem to fit a variety of ear sizes so you could label them one-size-fits-all.

Like the aforementioned LG Tone headphones, the Level U's earbuds are magnetic and clasp together to help "reduce clutter when not in use." That said, when I wasn't using them, I left the buds dangling on my chest, unclasped, and sometimes forgot I was wearing the headphone. 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.

The Level U comes in back sapphire (pictured) and white. Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung says the Level U has dual-mic noise reduction to prevent outside noise from interfering with your music or with calls. That noise reduction helps, but the open design of the earbuds does allow plenty of sound to leak in so I can't say these are the best for noisier environments (along with some office and home use I also tested them on the streets of New York and also wore them on the subway).

Battery life is decent; it's rated for 10 hours of music playback and you get voice prompts telling you that the headphone is on and in pairing mode. The back of the neckband also vibrates, alerting you to incoming calls, a nice feature.

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 easy enough to operate by feel alone.

The integrated control buttons. Sarah Tew/CNET

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