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A budget-friendly alternative to the BC01 – MBReviews

Haylou has been relatively successful with its first bone conduction headphones and it has now released the Haylou PURFREE Lite, a sort of successor to the BC01. But, as the Lite in the name suggests, the manufacturer has focused towards maintaining the sound quality, while cutting back a bit in other areas to maintain an affordable price tag.

That’s something that I have seen with the OpenRock S and OneOdio they managed to make a low-cost working solution. As expected, the Haylou PURFREE Lite look a bit less refined than the BC01, but they’ve kept that sporty design. Additionally, they kept the Bluetooth Multipoint support and I have seen that it actually promises a better battery life than the BC01.

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Haylou PurFree Lite Bone Conduction Headphones.

Plus, you can now use the aptX codec for a far better audio quality, as long as the audio source supports it. The bone conduction technology remains the central part of the Haylou PURFREE Lite. And it does function in the same manner, relying on your jaw bone to send vibrations towards the inner ear, bypassing the outer ear entirely (no more irritations).

The BC01 managed to deliver a good sound experience (within the limitations of this technology), becoming a veritable competitor to the Shokz headphones, but now a lot more players have entered this narrow niche, so let’s see if the Haylou PURFREE Lite is able to stand above the crowd.

Build Quality and Design

I liked the look and feel of the BC01 and, as I mentioned, the Haylou PURFREE Lite is not as refined, lacking the soft rubbery finish. Even so, design wise, the bone conduction headphones look sporty enough, having a green glossy finish on the parts that house the controls and the batteries. These parts and the driver sections are interconnected by titanium wires and they’re flexible enough to not put any unnecessary pressure points on your ears.

The headphones have lost a bit of weight, going from the 1oz (28g) of the BC01 to 0.9oz (26g) and while I would love to tell you that I felt a difference between the two, I did not. But I did feel the joints between the wire and the plastic pressing against my outer ear, something that was impossible with the BC01 due to the soft transition between its various sections. There were no shape angles, but here, we do get a few. So, if we were to talk about comfort, the BC01 was better, but I guess the Haylou PURFREE Lite is not that far behind.

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Haylou PurFree Lite buttons.

The physical controls remain on the right side of the bone conduction headphones, one button for Volume up and Power, the other for Volume down, but what impressed me was the USB-C charging port with a small protective cover above it. The BC01 had pins and I had to worry about not losing the cable (I ended up losing the headphones, but that’s another story). So, seeing that Haylou went with the universal charging port is heart warming. It was curious to see that the buttons don’t serve additional purposes and that Haylou has added a multi-function button on the other side, within the green section.

A single click will Play or Pause a track, a double-click will skip to the next track and a triple click will go back to the previous track. Additionally, if you receive a call, a single click will answer / hang up the call and you can also reject it if you click and hold for a couple of seconds (this is also how you enable the voice assistant when not in a call). I have been complaining that the OneOdio OpenRock S did not add volume buttons and it seems that Haylou has included these controls even if they’re separate from the MFB button.

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The multifunction button (MFB) on the Haylou PurFree Lite.

I think it’s actually better to have the controls separated in this manner. Moving forward, let’s talk about the IP55 rating. I know that some of you will think that this is some cost-cutting approach, considering that the BC01 was IP67-rated, but I think it’s a bit more than that. The Haylou PURFREE Lite has a USB-C port and it’s more expensive to implement, and even more costly to have it waterproof when completely exposed to water. So, the more budget-oriented approach was to keep using USB-C, but add a cover which, in turn lowered the water resistance of the device.

It’s a tradeoff at this price point, so do keep in mind that you can’t swim or take a shower while wearing the Haylou PURFREE Lite, but sweat should not harm them, at least in the short term. Will they fall off while jogging? Absolutely not, these headphones will stay on your head regardless of the activity you do – they won’t be that great in the gym (when having to lay on the bench), but that’s to be expected.

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Closer view of the Haylou PurFree Lite.

Internal Hardware and Connectivity

I know that the PurFree BC01 was equipped with the QC3044 chip, but does the less expensive Haylou PURFREE Lite use the same SoC? Haylou has submitted some internal photos on the FCC ID website and yes, the Lite does indeed use the same Qualcomm QC3044 power-efficient SoC and the Bluetooth version remains the 5.2, same as with the BC01. Would the newer v5.3 made a significant difference? Not in range since it remains 30 feet with some expected interference (no LoS) and the bitrate is also unaffected even when using the aptX.

I suppose the only notable difference would be the extra efficiency when using v5.3, but even so, the Haylou PURFREE Lite still manages to offer a good battery life. As I already have mentioned, there is support for aptX, so it is possible to get a better sound quality, just make sure that the phone you’re using (or any other audio source) does support it as well – for example, the iPhone 12 does not, while the much older Pixel 2 XL does support it.

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Source: FCC ID website.

The Haylou PURFREE Lite supports Multipoint?

Indeed it does, but the dual-pairing requires some extra steps to what I was accustomed with and that’s because this function is disabled by default. To enable it, you need to put the Haylou PURFREE Lite in pairing mode and then hold the MFB button along the Volume up key until the LED flashes white once.

Then pair the headphones to the first device, turn the Haylou PURFREE Lite off and put it into pairing mode once again. Now, pair it to the second device and then re-connect to the first. That’s about it. What I found interesting was how fast the switch between the devices was. It’s less than a second, a performance rivaling headphones of a much higher cost.

The Sound Quality

To get the best sound quality, I paired the Haylou PURFREE Lite with a smartphone that supports aptX and streamed songs from the Amazon Music app (currently most likely offering the highest quality audio available). At the same time, know that you will not get an audiophile level of sound reproduction with bone conduction technology. It’s just not possible at this time, but the main point is to get some sound fidelity and a high enough volume when you’re outdoors without causing any fatigue.

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Source: Haylou official website.

Ideally, you would have your ears covered, which is actually advisable when you’re in a plane, but it’s not really an option while cycling or jogging. That being said, I first ran the two technical tests, one checking the driver quality, the other the driver matching. The volume was set at 80% and while playing the sweeping tone which moved from low to high frequencies and back, I realized that the low frequency portions were barely reproduced at all – the good news is that there was no buzzing.

The driver matching test has revealed that the sound will play straight in the middle, so the drivers are evenly matched. Moving forward, I played a few binaural songs for an early idea about the sound quality. And I could immediately tell that the imaging is good (I could differentiate between instruments and the position of the singers was clear). The sound stage is about as wide as on the BC01, but I noticed a better reproduction of the female voice (before, it was a bit forward). Moving forward, I had to go through my test songs playlist, the first being Zhu – Faded.

It’s a low-bass-focused song and I know that neither air conduction, nor bone conduction headphones are particularly great for this type of frequencies. And it was a very different experience than with the PurFree BC01. When the low-bass portion of the song was played, the volume seemed to go lower, while the vibrations in my cheekbones would get more noticeable.

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Using Amazon Music for the higher sound fidelity.

Immediately after other frequencies dominated the song, the volume seems to go back up and the track would resume normally. I noticed that there is a different mode available which would help with this particular situation (called Outdoors), but, since it’s enabled via the mobile app and I can’t use it – I couldn’t test this part of the headphones. Moving forward, I played a mid-bass dominated song called Morph the cat by Donald Fagen and it was a less unusual experience. The mid-bass is far better reproduced, the instruments were clear, the male voice was excellent, all the details are there.

Oh, and my cheeks weren’t vibrating as much as before which is nice. All in all, every mid-bass song should sound excellent with the Haylou PURFREE Lite. Afterwards, I wanted to put a bit of pressure on the headphones, so I played Mr Jack my System of a Down which is a busy song, easily sounding muddy on budget-friendly headphones, regardless of the used technology. The low-bass again made the song a bit weird, but at least there was some consistency since the volume remained the same throughout the song. The sound never got muddy regardless of what’s going on in the song, the voices were clear and well differentiated from the instruments. Overall, the song was clear and detailed, with a very novel take on bass representation, I guess.

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Haylou PurFree Lite – Source: Haylou official website.

Next, I played She burns by Foy Vance and the bass can’t be heard, just left in the cheeks. The male voice is properly positioned, there is a lot of detail and the song is colorful, as it should be. I also wanted to get a better idea about the female voice reproduction, so I played Breathin by Ariana Grande. Just like the male voice, the female voice is also properly positioned, the song is clear and fairly detailed – the bass is again felt as a vibration, not actually reaching the inner ear.

Lastly, I had to check a treble-focused song, so I played Sweet Child o Mine by Guns n Roses. This song, along with Morph the Cat seem to be the better reproduced ones. Axl’s voice is not dominating the song, but remains well placed, alongside the well differentiated instruments. Also, the song is not fatiguing at all.

There’s an App?

Yes, but I have some issues with it. The app is called Haylou Sound and you do need to create an account or use a previously created Haylou account (can be from the Fun app as well). And, after accepting the terms, as well as the privacy agreement (data collection, lots of it), I was asked to give access to the app to my location. There is no way around it, which I disliked with passion. But the annoying part was that I still had to select the headphones from a list (Well? Detect it!) and, for some reason, the app could not see the headphones.

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Setting up the mobile application.

And I did try on two separate devices, both using Android OS with no success. I will update this section as soon as I figure out what’s going on.

The Call Quality

Unfortunately, I think that the call quality is one of the main weaknesses of the Haylou PURFREE Lite. While I could clearly hear the voice of the caller, the person could not hear my voice that well. It wasn’t echo-y or anything like that, but the words seemed like they were partially cut off. I mean, you could tell what I was saying, but you had to focus quite a bit, so it’s not a fun experience.

The Battery Life

Just like the BC01, each Haylou PURFREE Lite earbud is equipped with a 165mAh battery (as shown by the FCC ID website) and the manufacturer claims that we could get up to 10 hours on a single charge, two hours more than with the BC01.

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SourceL FCC ID website.

With the battery set to 70% most of the time, I got about 8 hours and 20 minutes, which is pretty much the same as with the BC01. And yes, it’s a good result.

The Conclusion

I made it clear that I consider the BC01 some of the best bone conduction headphones in their price range, but can I say the same about the Haylou PURFREE Lite? In a sense, yes, but there are a few things that I need to mention. The Lite do sell for under $50 a lot of times, so I suppose they could be considered entry-level in pretty much every respect. The sound quality is not as good as with the BC01, but there are a few cases when it can be on par with it and even better. The controls are excellent and the addition of Bluetooth Multipoint is more than welcomed.

I also do appreciate the addition of the aptX codec to help with the sound quality a bit (as much as it’s possible when using the bone conduction tech) and the battery life remains good. So, if you’re tight on the budget, but want to use bone conduction headphones, I am not sure you’re going to be able to find something better than the Haylou PURFREE Lite.

Haylou PURFREE Lite

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Pros

  • USB-C charging port.
  • Support for Bluetooth Multipoint.
  • aptX codec support.
  • The battery life is good
  • Doesn’t irritate the ear canal

Cons

  • Very strange representation of low-bass.
  • Subpar call quality.
  • Couldn’t connect to the app.

Author

Silence Dogood

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