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HC-1 wireless earphones: The best you could get on a budget

How much do the earphones justify the ‘Sport’ suffix? and are they worth paying Rs 700 for them? We find out.

Players such as INSMA have lately emerged to take care of budget-conscious buyers.
Gone are those days when you had to spend precious moments of your life untangling your earphones. With wireless technology thriving each passing day, the tangling wired earphones have given way to wireless ones. However, with convenience, comes the higher cost — a decent pair of Bluetooth earphones certainly isn’t cheap.
That said, Chinese OEMs try their best to serve the budget-conscious group of buyers. The HC-1 is a pair of wireless earphone that costs only Rs 700 (USD $8.9) (similar to a wired earphone). The company adds the ‘Sport’ suffix to the name, which conveys they are suitable for use during physical activities too.
In our lab, we have an OEM wireless earbuds that came in for a consideration from China, and its model name states HC-1. The wireless earphones retails for Rs 700 on the Indian market and is branded under different names. These earphones are sold by the OEM manufacturer (minimum order would be around 500 pieces) to different manufacturers and companies under different brand names yet keeping the overall design the same. These earphones are also good for corporate as gift items to guests and employees. Each earphone costs around USD $8.9, and a bulk offer will go for even cheaper. The OEM manufacturer in China is Weifang Jing Meng Foreign Trade Import & Export Corporation. More products, information and contacts can be found on the link to the manufacturer.
But, how much do the earphones justify the suffix, and are they worth paying Rs 700 for them? We find out.

Design, Build
The HC-1 sport Bluetooth earphones are lightweight, which makes it convenient to carry around and wear as well. However, the plastic material used on the ear hooks and remote control feel fragile; therefore, one needs to exercise caution. The neckband is comfortable on the skin and doesn’t bother even if you wear it for longer sessions. The silicon ear tips are comfy too, but the hooks do a poor job of keeping them planted — they are a bit uncomfortable, even while putting them on.
During a workout, the earphone’s lower weight makes it almost non-existent during movements. However, the controller is slightly heavy and is close to the right earbud, which often pulls it out while sudden vigorous movements. Therefore, one needs to continuously keep adjusting it. Lastly, the earphone is susceptible to sweat and water damage, so stay away from the rains.

The control module consists of three buttons — one for play/call and two separate ones for volume up and down each. Possessing a tactile feel, they are easily operable. Long press on the play/call button switches the earphones ON. Weirdly, it didn’t work most of the times and the same happens when you try to switch it OFF. The same key pauses an ongoing track, but the second press doesn’t resume it — in fact, it replays the soundtrack from the beginning.
There’s a tiny LED above the volume rocker that indicates the power and connectivity status. However, it also keeps informed about the status through pre-recorded audio.
By default, the voice language is Chinese, but you can change it to English by pressing the power and volume up button together. The clarity of the commands is low, but is legible enough and non-intrusive.
Coming to the most important aspect of the earphone, the audio quality comes across as average, with an inclination towards bass. The higher bass compromises the higher frequencies to a considerable extent. We listened to different genres, including Hip Hop, EDM and Rock, and the treble kind of hurts. This often feels like all the sound is directed to the centre of your head, which could be intrusive. Overall, the earphone struggles to balance the audio quality evenly.

While making phone calls, audio performance is also average. We never found a considerable issue while on calls, but the crispness lacks here as well. The microphone is weak, i.e. the sensitivity is pretty low. Therefore, you need to bring the mic closer to your mouth to make it audible to the receiver. Additionally, noise isolation can be at best termed as average.
When topped up completely, it delivers up to more than four hours of playback. The earphones can be charged with a micro USB cable (one is bundled along with the earphones. Starting at zero per cent, the charging time required to completely fill up the battery was close to two hours.
The HC-1 earphones are meant to be your outdoor companion and for Rs 700, it’s a great deal for the budget conscious. However, all is not well with the product — the hard plastic hooks are uncomfortable and the odd placement of the controller is an irritation while working out. The audio quality is just average and lacks crispness — it’s definitely not meant for an audiophile.

All in all, the HC-1 Sports earphones, if not the first, could be one of the options for earphone seekers on a budget. Consider these only if you require wireless experience at the lowest price possible.

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