I have always been a headphones kind of guy. Actually, I’ve always been a speaker-system guy, then a headphones guy. I don’t like having things on my ears, but for the sake of convenience, I use headphones. Headphones, in many ways, are simply superior to earbuds in ways that new tech simply can’t match. Apple has spent God-knows how much money on special noise-canceling features for their Airpods that they could have been spending on mobile jackpot casinos, and while I have, admittedly, never tried a pair, it sounds like a feature that a simple set of headphones would have mostly by default. You know, because they cover your ears, and all that.
However, I do acknowledge the advantages that earbuds have over headphones. Since I’ve become an adult, portability and convenience have become exponentially more important to me. As a kid, when my parents handled travel, and I returned to the same house every day of the year, big bulky tech wasn’t so much an issue. Who cares if the desktop PC can’t be moved if you know that you can come home and play on it whenever?
As an adult, with my own finances and expenses and a significantly busier schedule to worry about, I’m sad to say that I’ve lost a lot of that convenience. Heck, as I’m writing these words, I’m sitting on a chair outside a classroom at my university, waiting for class to begin- something which is only possible because I have a laptop. I also traveled to university today by bus, and on that trip, what did I use? Not my headphones (which was, quite literally, being held together with ducktape from being crunched in my backpack every day), but a Bluetooth earbud.
The Baseline F-515.
Let’s start with, arguably, the most important feature of an earpiece. The sound quality. After all, if it sounds terrible, then the rest of the features are moot. Who cares if a pair of earbuds feel super comfortable to wear or have a slick form if “Ra Ra Rasputin“ comes out sounding like a pair of cats engaging in auto-asphyxiation. While being stabbed.
And to that end, the Baseline F-515 sounds… fine. It’s not particularly standout, but it could be worse. If you are an audiophile, you will despise it. If you’re a layman who doesn’t mind so much, you will find it meh.
The big thing to keep in mind is that it’s very quiet. The baseline F-515 doesn’t go over your ear, like headphones do, and doesn’t go into your ear, like how earbuds do. Since the sound lacks focus and / or direction (there’s probably a better term for it, but heck, if I know what it is), most of it likely gets lost to the environment. Since a lot of my experience with the Baseline F-515 has been on buses, meaning a lot of noise from vehicles and passengers, the lack of volume makes the Baseline nearly useless in high-noise areas.
However, if you’re in a room with moderate to low noise and just want to be able to hear what’s being played on your phone without disturbing others, the Baseline F-515 is… satisfactory, if not particularly good in any regard.
Wearing the Baseline F-515 has its positives and negatives when compared to earbuds. The first is that it doesn’t stick into your ear. While this does affect the overall volume, as mentioned above, I find this far more comfortable overall (but this is entirely a matter of personal taste rather than an objective measure of quality).
The Baseline F-515 has a thin, plastic piece that goes over the ear to hold it in place. One of the reasons that I personally dislike earbuds is because they have a tendency to fall out easily. This isn’t the base with the Baseline, which fastens fairly well to the ear. Whether it would hold up to a more strenuous experience, such as exercise, is another matter that I haven’t tested completely yet, although I have no doubt that it would stay on during simple calisthenics like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats.
I’m going to be blunt. The User Experience here is lousy. When turning on the Baseline, a helpful voice tells you what it’s doing. The problem is that the voice is in Chinese. So I opened the user manual to see if there was a way to swap the voice. To help you understand what I’m dealing with here, I’m going to add a section from the user manual verbatim:
- Answering the call
When the call in coming, the caller’s ID number with be reminded. And click MFB to answer the call.
- Redial the last call
Double click the MFB in connection status, the last call is redialed; click MFB again to cancel
- Call rejection
2-second hold MFB to reject the call when it’s coming
- Ending a call
Click the MFB to end the call during the talking.
- Play&pause music
- Voice dialing
Hold MFB for 2 seconds in stanby mode
- Voice switching
Hold MFB for 2 seconds (For IOS)”
First of all, this really is verbatim. It’s obvious that whoever made the manual did not speak English and simply ran the Chinese half of the manual through Google Translate.
Secondly, you might have noticed that there, apparently, isn’t a way to change the voice on Android?
And third, the MFB (which is the single button on the Baseline) has to do several different tasks based on how long it’s held, whether a call is incoming or just finished, and this list above doesn’t include the actions to power, the Baseline on, off, or to pair it to a device. It’s too much to ask of a single button!
Full disclosure: I got the Baseline F-515 for free. I had a relative who had bought it for one of her kids, but the kid didn’t end up using it, and when she heard me mention that I was interested in getting myself some Bluetooth headphones, she offered me her Baseline. Since it was nearly in new condition, I gratefully accepted it.
That being said, some quick googling shows that it goes for about 25 dollars in real money. It’s not even available on Amazon, which is hilarious. And sad.
Is the Baseline F-515 worth twenty-five dollars? Ehhh, probably not. I would value it around ten dollars or less. The more that I write about it, the more and more I realize just how much of a piece of junk this thing is.
Weirdly enough, I do like how it looks. While everybody these days has earbuds plugged in nearly all the time, the Baseline F-515 sticks out like a classic businessman’s earpiece. When I’m walking around in my baseball cap and black button up shirt, I look like a poorly disguised FBI agent- and I love it. Is it childish? Absolutely. I simply love strutting around with the thing in my ear, playing secret agent, as if I own the world. It’s just dumb fun that I had never expected to get out of the thing.
Anyone who thinks you can’t have a vivid and active imagination as an adult has clearly lost something precious in their life, and I pity such people.
Is that really praise for the Baseline F-515, though? Kind of. The aesthetic is pleasing to me. Does that add points in the Baseline’s favor? Kind of! Is it going to change my final recommendation? Eh, kind of?
In the end, I can’t recommend the Baseline F-515 as worth your time or money. The audio quality is poor, the volume is nearly inaudible in public areas, and the user manual is vague and poorly translated from Chinese. The only major benefits that the Baseline has over a typical pair of earbuds is the plastic bit that goes over the ear, and the fun aesthetic, which is completely subjective. Also, some earbuds do have such bits that go over the ear, to help hold them in place, so there’s really nothing unique that the Baseline offers that you couldn’t find for higher quality elsewhere.
Which leads to an interesting question: Am I going to stop using mine? The short answer to that is no. While I don’t recommend buying the Baseline, it is a functional piece of technology. When I want to listen to things on my phone, it accomplishes that job. I immensely dislike the idea of waste, especially wasting hardware, so I’ll probably keep using the Baseline until I’m forced to fork up some money for something better (such as when the device inevitably dies or I win the lottery).
In short, I think that covers just about everything-
“Hey, you never talked about the phone-call features, mister reviewer man! Aren’t you going to review those? Well? Aren’t you? Aren’t you? Mister reviewer man? Hey, where’d he go?”