So I got my hands on pair of brand new Fiil Carat. These are marketed as premium headphones with unique design and „audiophile quality“ sound – there I’m not sure, if this is feature of just the PRO version or even the regular ones.
Fiil is not very well known brand, at least not in Europe, so let’s see what these have to offer 🙂
The packaging is, simply put, beautiful – even from first look, you’d expect to receive premium product. Headphones are visible right away, which is great to show off unique design on store shelves.
Contents on the other hand are pretty standard – you get headphones itself, some earwings and eartips (4 pairs of each, including the ones on the headphones), over the ear clip for better hold, microUSB cable, cable clip to shorten the cable connecting each earpiece, replacement USB port cover (more on this **** later) and nylon/neoprene carrying pouch. I’d prefer hard case, considering that headphones offer magnetic design to hold each other together, which also turns them off. And you know what happens, when you clip the headphones together to turn it off and put it in a cloth bag? Yeah, those get separated, turned on and connected to phone again… So if you use the bag, you’ll still need to turn the headphones off using the physical button.
That’s it, nothing else, but honestly, you don’t need anything else .)
Design, build, fit and so on
Design wise, it depends on what you like. I must say, in reality, these look much better than in the pictures. The set has premium feel, the ceramic black version, even though it’s plastic, seems like ceramic on first sight. All the parts look strong enough, everything fits. Even the remote feels like it will hold for a long time. And it should as it has some IP65 rating for shock, dust and water resistance.
Cable connecting both earpieces is pretty long in my opinion, so you’ll most probably need the included clip to shorten it. This leaves some cable dangling down your neck and back – I’d personally prefer 2 clip version so you could fold it in one line like with other wireless headphones. But that’s just minor annoyance/personal preference.
There is one very bad thing about the design thou. MicroUSB port and it’s cover… it’s covered by a miniature plastic plug, which DOES NOT hold to the headphones itself. You remove it, place it somewhere, lose it and… profit? And I bet YOU’LL lose it. First charge, I was looking for mine for half an hour on the table, mistaking it for some junk at least 3 times…
Good thing is, there is one spare plug in the package… because… you know… FIIL knows you’ll lose it 🙂 But after this one? Yep, you are done and so is your IPsixtysomething rating… At first, I thought there are 2 replacements as I found extra one lying on the floor after getting all the accessories back in the case, but then I realized, it was the extra one from package I happened to drop somehow and did not notice it… And as you’ll be charging those quite often, the chances of losing it go up. Hopefully it will not get loose over time so you’ll not lose it just by jogging around.
If Fill decided, for whatever reason to go with this design, there should have been whole bag of these in the package, considering it costs probably c1 for 1000 pieces… or even better, make it part of the headphones so it’s not a separate piece.
There is a reason, every other manufacturer makes this either pretty large (covered by earwing like my Jabra Pulse) or tied to the headphones itself (pretty much every other wireless headphones on the market).
One more flaw are the eartips and earwings – those are made of transparent silicone… and you know what is seen visible between transparent silicone and black plastic? Yeah, pretty much every single piece of dust and dirt you can find. And as silicone tends to be a little sticky, you’ll eventually get some dirt there, making it pretty hard to clean it. I know, it’s not much of hassle for someone, but with headphones, that are so much focused on design, I’d expect something better. I can imagine red silicone matching with the cable hold.
Cable connecting the headphones seems pretty durable, also, it’s not sticky so you won’t be pulling headphones out when you move your head.
When I saw the pictures, I was a little bit worried about how it will fit, as large portion of the earpiece is out of your ear. I was pleasantly surprised, that it fits perfectly and even when jogging, it rests reliably in your ear.
As looks go, it seems little big in your ear, as well as hanging out of it… it will depend on your personal preference how you like it:
And now to the most important part – sound. Technologically speaking, these headphones are marketed as really really good, when it comes to sound quality. It features APT-X support, which is nice feature and will pump the sound up a little bit.
The sound is pretty impressive. It’s little heavier on the bass (but not as much, that it would be annoying), which I think is a good thing, as most wireless in-ear headphones (and Carat is not an exception) are targeted for sport use. Whole spectrum, high-mids-lows sounds very good and clear. I noticed some sound pitches in the mids, especially where there was some singing on sibilants, but it was nothing unpleasant and as my experience goes, this tends to get away over time, as the headphones get burned in – later on burn in in the APP section.
There is some low noise, when you pause the music and are not listening anything. Most other headphones „turned down“ after a second or two to minimize this. But this noise is normal, this could be fixed by minor firmware update I guess. Also, who wears headphones while not listening to them? :))
Bigger issue I had was with wireless connectivity – while having the phone in my jeans I occasionally had music dropouts when I had a hand in my pocket with the phone as well. This is fairly important issue suggesting the bluetooth receiver in the earpiece is not that strong. I had this issue with my first wireless headphones (Nokia BH-503, about 15 years back, still working to this day, btw :)), when I covered BOTH phone and headphones.
Not sure, if this is just the issue with compatibility (was testing this with OP3) or wrong piece I received, but this needs to be fixed ASAP. Never had such an issue with any other in-ear wireless headphones.
Controls, other features and app
Controls of the headphones are pretty basic, there are 3 buttons on the remote, with pretty standard functionality (play/pause, volume, next/prev song, answer/reject call,…) and extra one on the right earpiece, dedicated to app control.
On the other hand, controls are a bit unusual. Probably all the headphones with remote I had, used long press on volume buttons to go to prev/next. On Carat, this is done using 2 or 3 presses on play/pause button. I actually thought, that it’s not possible to skip a song till I looked in the app, where it’s explained:
As other features go, non-PRO version of CARAT is pretty basic. Carat PRO features better sound driver, heart rate monitor, accelerometer, 4GB of storage and so on… Only extra feature that made it to regular CARAT is accelerometer. And I honestly cannot think about any reason WHY…
This is completely useless feature in these headphones. I have seen and tested headphones, that had accelerometer presenet (Jabra Coach) and it was usefull – it could couch you in circuit training, based on your head position. Only thing, that CARAT can do is count steps and distance based on it.
This could be useful if the headphones had internal memory like the PRO, so you could get your run stats even without the phone, but that is not the case. CARAT is just regular headphones, so you have to carry around your phone every time. And one feature every today’s phone has is accelerometer, step counting and so much more, making this feature obsolete. It’s a shame that CARAT cannot use this more like Jabra, as the accelerometer in your ear is much more accurate during circuit workouts than the one in your phone in your pocket.
Hopefully this will come with some update.
CARAT App does not really offer much these days – there is help, how to use the headphones, equalizer/3D sound options and beforementioned accelerometer info.
It also displays battery, which tops at about 5,5 hours, which seems pretty accurate and well about industry average (every in-ear wireless headphones I had had about 4-6 hours of battery life). Nice feature is, that you can use headphones while charging – I have not seen this with other in-ear wireless hp.
Interesting feature of the app is heaphone burn in, which send white noise as the sound to headphones, to prepare them for listening – it’s said, that about 100 hours of music is recommended to let the sound driver settle.
The app also requires a LOT of permissions while installing, some of which are not used I guess… I have seen this with some apps from chinese manufaturers and I cannot say, that it makes me happy, especially without explanation:
For now, I don’t see a single reason why to have the app installed…
- pretty good sound
- quality build
- unique design
- magnetic hold around the neck
- microUSB port cover …and future lost plugs…
- music drop outs
- sometimes noise in mids
- headphones may look weird in the ear as the big part is out of your ear
- app (useless)
- accelerometer (useless)
These are pretty decent headphones, but selling it will be pretty hard.
Now, these are available on kickstarter ( https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fiil/carat-pro-audiophile-quality-stylish-sport-earbuds
) ranging from $59 (regular) to $169 (PRO) which I think is a very reasonable price.
Unforutantely, retail price should be $99 ($249 for PRO). And this seems very, very much to me. You can get another wireless headphones from probably every major electronic / audio company (or even cheaper). Only extra feature Carat offers is accelerometer, which is completely useless if you ask me. I have tested my share of wireless headphones, most in the same price range as these and sound quality was very good as well, so it all comes down to design – do you love it against all quirks for the price? Go and buy those. You don’t? Go and buy something else.
Also, if you happen to snatch it for the discount kickstarter price, it will be a very good budget choice.