Never leave home without headphones.
If I leave my phone at home, I'm gonna kick myself for forgetting. If I forget my headphones at home, I'm going back to get them every time. Headphones are the key to my sanity in a world of obnoxious coworkers, crying kids at the supermarket, and ridiculous noises. A good pair of headphones is as important as a good phone, because I'll use the headphones just as much, if not more so.
I've bounced between different pairs of Bluetooth headphones for years, and while I initially had some misgivings about the Samsung Level On Pro Bluetooth headphones ($170), they've since won me over. Big and bulky though they may be, there's a lot here to love… as long as you don't mind giving up physical buttons.
The Samsung Level On Pro headphones look sleek, if a little generic. The two cups can be pulled out to adjust the fit for larger heads, but my more compact cranium fit the headphones without pulling out the cups and breaking up the clean profile.
The cups are wide, comfy, and even without active noise cancelling turned on they help block out a lot of ambient noise.
The cups on the Samsung Level On Pro headphones don't swivel as other headphones of this size and shape do, meaning that if you try to wear them around your neck between sessions they're going to feel bulky and get in the way.
The headband is quite well-padded, though: I can listen for hours on end and feel no soreness where the headband sits.
No buttons means having to rely on gestures, and they don't always work reliably.
One thing you'll rapidly notice on these headphones is the complete lack of buttons. There is a switch to turn on the headphones, and a switch to turn on the active noise cancelling, but that's it. So, how do you pause your music? How do you turn up the volume?! The panel on the back of the right earcup is a capacitive touch panel. You double-tap the panel to pause/play music and to accept/end phone calls, and you swipe up/down/left/right to change tracks and volume.
It's an adjustment, but once you're used to it, things are quite smooth. If your headphones (or your whole head) are at an angle while listening, such as reclining in your favorite chair, then your commands can get mixed up. When listening with my head down on my desk, I frequently restarted a track instead of turning the volume up as I intended. Once you've adapted, though, that panel is oddly satisfying to use.
One consequence of using cheap headphones for years and years: I can't quite distinguish the finer notes of a headphones' sound quality as some of my more audiophilic editors. These are the best headphones in my possession; they're clear and crisp, the bass doesn't get too muddy (not that I'm a big bass thumper), they keep their signal well across a room, and they block a decent amount of sound passively.
When active noise canceling is enabled, they can help me block out most of the harsh, noisy, volatile world, which makes me miss them terribly as I sit in a boisterous family gathering, or in a rowdy dive bar.
I'm no audiophile, but these sound really, really good.
Using the Level On Pro headphones with a Samsung phone like my Galaxy S8 allows you to crank up some super special sound enhancements…. But I abandoned those quickly. They hurt more than they helped, if they made a difference at all. So if you're not a Samsung user but are considering these headphones, relax: you're not missing anything. Samsung user or not, when you get the Level On Pro headphones, you'll want to install the Samsung Level app. It'll allow you to tweak the headphones' settings, and it's the only way to know what the battery level is before the dreaded "low battery" chimes start going off.
I'm enjoying every minute with the Samsung Level On Pro headphones. Active Noise Cancelling is amazing for blocking out crowd noise, kitchen noise, and whatever nonsense my family is chatting about.
If you're looking for good Bluetooth headphones with good noise cancelling, an excellent fit and build quality, and aren't quite as ridiculously expensive as the Bose QC 35 everyone seems to be in love with, it's hard to go wrong with a quality brand like Samsung, especially when they're half the price with just as many bells and whistles.
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