House of Marley Smile Jamaica wireless headphones review

Good sounding inexpensive earphones are rare. Good sound inexpensive wireless earphones are practically nonexistent. So when we tried the Smile Jamaica Wireless from House of Marley and found it to be a great combination of price and performance, we had to do a full review.

The Smile Jamaica Wireless is a wireless version of the Smile Jamaica wired earphones. The wireless model has a neckband design that dangles from your neck. Between the complexity of fully wireless earphones, such as the AirPods, and something with longer cables, the neckband style is a good compromise and slowly gaining popularity.

The Smile Jamaica Wireless has a flexible rubberized body with enlarged ends. The left end houses all the controls, the LED light, microphone and the charging port. The right end has nothing important on the outside but likely houses the battery. Both ends are equally weighted.

The cables for the earphones are tucked away in a grove that runs along the rubber band and can be pulled out to the length you desire. The cables are covered in braided fiber and sturdy despite being thin.

The earphones make use of FSC certified wood on the neckband ends and the earphone body. Depending upon the color you choose, the wood can be one of three finishes. The earphones themselves come in four colors – Brass, Denim, Copper, and Signature Black.

To get started, we first had to pair these. We tested them with a OnePlus 5, iPhone 7 Plus and a MacBook Air. The first time pairing requires you to just turn them on. Subsequent pairings require you to press and hold both volume buttons, which is unconventional. The status LED is annoyingly on the other side of the controls and not easy to see. NFC would have made this process a lot easier but then again, this is a fairly inexpensive pair of wireless earphones.

Once paired, we were able to control playback with the buttons on the side. Once again, instead of using conventional navigation methods (two clicks on play/pause button to skip track, three clicks to go back), you have to double click volume up to skip and volume down to go back. Good thing is you can control the volume on the device using the controls on the headset, regardless of the platform you are connected to.

Once you get used to all the quirks and settle down to listen to music, you are greeted by a warm, pleasant sound. While most earphones in this price range will just blast ear splitting bass at you, the Smile Jamaica Wireless is far more reserved in that aspect. The bass isn’t lean by any means and there is a good amount of warmth and volume to it but it never gets boomy or overpowering. The mids are somewhat recessed and not as upfront as we would have liked them to be. The sound does pick up again in the upper mid-range and the high end has some sparkle to it without being harsh or unpleasant.

To be clear, the Smile Jamaica Wireless is not exactly audiophile grade. There isn’t a lot of resolution to the audio and the details aren’t fully fleshed out and the sound signature is more fun than balanced. The fact that the headset doesn’t support high resolution codecs like aptX or LDAC doesn’t help either, so you are somewhat crippled at the source itself before it even reaches the drivers. Still, for casual listening we found the Smile Jamaica Wireless to be more than adequate. In fact, we appreciated the smooth, well-rounded sound that worked with a lot of genres but really came into its own with EDM and other electronic music genres. When paired with modern, bass heavy music, the Smile Jamaica Wireless is really in its elements, belting out punchy, addictive bass and crisp, clanging highs.

The microphone quality is unexceptional. Both sides were able to hear each other during a call without shouting and the mic worked fine for simple voice calls.

In terms of comfort, once you pick the right eartip size for you and put them on, you almost tend to forget you are wearing them. That is until one of the end slides down if you lean on either side. The neckband has a hard time staying put sometimes and will lean down one side or the other. The earphones are IPX4 sweat-proof so you are technically free to wear them during workouts but we don’t see that working out too well.

The rated battery life of the Smile Jamaica Wireless is 8 hours and in our testing it lasted for about 6-7 hours. Unfortunately, the headset does not report its battery life status to the connected device like some of the other Bluetooth devices on the market, and we doubt it would have cost a lot to implement. The headset charges over microUSB and takes about two hours to charge fully. a microUSB cable is provided in the box to charge off a computer USB port but you will need to use your own adapter to plug it into the wall.

In the end, the Smile Jamaica Wireless is a pair of good quality inexpensive Bluetooth earphones. It is well built, comfortable and performs really well for the price. It has some design quirks but nothing you can’t get used to. If you find the design appealing then this is one of the best Bluetooth earphones you can pick up on a budget.

The Smile Jamaica Wireless is priced at $59.99 but you can get it for cheaper in some markets.

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