LTB Q-Bean U
Reviewed by: nismozcar
Reviewed on: September 3, 2007
: LTB Audio
: LTB Audio
Over the years, there have been many great innovations in personal audio. The revolution began with the Walkman, and then the portable CD player was introduced. Followed by the MiniDisc (which never caught on in the US), and most recently, the popular iPod and Zune. But for those of us audio/videophiles whose collection of media is so extensive that it cannot fit into one device, where do we turn? Our computer of course! Like most of you, no matter how much hard drive space I have, I can always find new movies and music to fill it to capacity. So how would it be possible for us to enjoy all that wonderful media without being confined to one room? Or listen to our music and movies at night without having to keep it down? Looks like LTB Audio thought the same thing and has produced a product that will help set you free. That product is called the Q-Bean. "The LTB Q-Bean Wireless 2.0 Headphone link system lets you move in your world so your music and media can follow."
"LTB® Audio Systems, Inc. has quickly become widely recognized as the true leader in Digital Headphone Technology. LTB®, which stands for Listen To Believe, offers a unique, ever growing line of audio products providing leading edge technology to meet the optimal demands of the latest Digital Media. Our technology focuses on users of Games, and Movies, Music and Hi Definition Audio. The LTB® laboratory implements various key patents and technologies found no where else to create a superior product for consumers with technical advances and function that far surpass standards set by others. Patents like SafeBass® and I.S.C. we developed to add unique value in our products. At LTB® Audio Systems we produce cutting edge technology from the ground up. Unlike many of our competition, our labs develop and design the IC products and circuit modules that we use to solve problems and help us provide a better audio experience. Our assembly line process has no tolerance for quality less than perfect. Our standards are only matched by the upper most top tier headphone manufacturers. This is why LTB® backs each product with a one year warranty from date of purchase."
Immediately upon removing the plastic wrap from the package, you discover a very unique style of box. The wings of the box swing open, revealing the main components of the package. As you can see in the first couple of photos, the Q-Bean, the earphones, and the puck transmitter are placed on trays that rest over the top of the remaining items.
The package includes the Q-Bean, a puck transmitter, a pair of noise-canceling earphones, a USB charge cord (Q-Bean), a neck strap, the product guide, and a pouch for transportation.
The product guide is very simple and easy to understand, although it is only printed in English. It details all the features, multi-key functions, technical specifications, and the necessary info needed for getting started.
Pictured is the puck transmitter. It will remain at your computer, but it still has a very sleek, stylish design. LTB has placed its logo on top of the pairing button located at the center of the transmitter.
The earphones have a heavy, well-made quality to them. They are designed to fit snugly inside your ear canal, providing a noise-canceling effect that helps to further immerse you into your media. The Q-Bean comes with a neck strap that helps keep the device near your ears, which is necessary since the earphones have such a short cable (about 2 feet). Not pictured is a clip on the backside of the unit that allows you to hang it from your shirt collar or cuff.
One creative and useful aspect of the Q-Bean is the way that the multi-function keys work. Below is a close-up view of the front, the left, and the right side of the Q-Bean. The button on the left side is the Power key. Press it to turn the device on. Toward the top of the Q-Bean on the same side is the input jack for the earphones. The tiny hole next to the jack is the location of the microphone. The other button on the opposite side is the Reset button. Use this to reset the device if it is not functioning properly. Also pictured is the USB port that allows you to recharge the battery. The three buttons on the face are as follows: Vol- (Press 1 second)/Reverse (Hold 3 Seconds); Pair (only used when the device is fist installed)/Play (Press 1 second)/Pause (Press 1 second)/Power off (Hold 5 seconds); and finally the Vol+ (Press 1 second)/Forward (Hold 3 Seconds). The addition of the multi-function keys definitely helps to streamline the interface while keeping the Q-Bean simple and easy to use.
Installation couldn't be easier. Simply plug the Q-Bean and the transmitter puck into any open USB 2.0 ports. The Q-Bean will initially need to charge for 4 hours. Upon insertion, the transmitter puck will be recognized and a small balloon will pop up and inform you that new hardware has been found. Windows will automatically install the latest drivers for the component and when completed, it will be recognized as the "3-Avnera Audio" device. The Q-Bean is now ready for use. To adjust the Sound properties of the Q-Bean, you can right click the Sound icon in the taskbar and select either playback or recording devices. Another way to get into the Sound properties is to go to the Control Panel, select the Hardware and Sound icon, and select the Sound folder.
Once in the Sound menu, you can choose to configure the device or to change its properties.
If you click on the "Configure" button in the playback tab with the 3-Avnera Audio highlighted, you will be taken to the Speaker setup. From here, you can select either mono or stereo playback. On the next screen, you can enable full-range speakers. You will want to have this option enabled since you will not be using a subwoofer in conjuction with the Q-Bean.
If you click on the "Properties" button in the playback tab, you will be taken to the Speaker properties menu. If you click the "Enhancements" tab, a list of Microsoft enhancements will be available. The items that pertain to the Q-Bean are the Bass Management (reduces loss or distortion of bass signals) and Loudness Equalization (reduces percieved volume differences) enhancements.
If you click on the "Properties" button in the recording tab, you will be taken to the Speech Recognition Options. In this menu you can setup your microphone or even train your computer to follow voice commands.
If you click on the "Properties" button in the recording tab, you will be taken to the Headset Microphone properties. If you select the Levels tab, you will be able to set the volume at which the Q-Bean picks up your voice.
- 9mm Speakers
- Charge through USB
- Lithium Polymer battery
- Q-Bean Weight(1 ounce)
- 2.4GHz Digital Transmission
- 2-Hour Recharge(4 Hour Initial)
- Frequency Response(20-20,000Hz)
- Effective Distance(30 meters/100 feet)
- Audio Quality(16bit,44100Hz/CD-quality)
- Works with Windows XP/Vista 32/64 bit, Mac and Linux
- USB Plug & Play 2.4GHz Transmitter for PC & Mac
- Remotely control Media Player, MCE or iTunes
- True Digital Non-Compressed Audio
- 8 hours of continuous usage
- Noise-canceling earphones
- Integrated microphone
- Scroll forward/back
- Volume up/down
- Pause track
- Neck strap
Testing for the Q-Bean will consist of seven categories: Music, Gaming, Media Playback, VoIP, Comfort, Range and Battery Life. For the majority of the tests, I will be comparing the Q-Bean to a pair of Sennheiser RS140 wireless headphones. For the VoIP test, I will be comparing it to the Plantronics X30 connected to an XBOX360 controller. In each of these tests, the devices will run through the same set of songs, video files, and gaming sequences. At the end of each test, I will graphically represent what I thought each had scored in the specific task. It is on a scale of 1-100, with 1 being the lowest, taking into account all the factors involved with each test and then giving a final rating.
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6300
- EVGA 680i SLi A1
- 2GB OCZ DDR2 800 Platinum
- XFX 8600GTS
- Antec Smartpower2.0 500w PSU
- Hitachi Deskstar 80GB SataII x 4(RAID 0)
- Samsung SH-S183L DVD-RW
- Windows Vista x64
Bechmarks & Apps:
- Call of Duty 2(Gaming)
- PowerDVD7(Media Playback)
- Team Speak(Voice Application)
- Comfort(After 2 hours)
- Range(Distance & Clarity)
- Battery Life(Hours)
It's hard to imagine that you can enjoy your music with the same quality coming from a set of earphones or headphones. As has been seen in the past, most lack the dynamic range that regular desktop speakers are capable of. I chose a selection of songs from different music genres and listened to the tracks in succession with both devices. I had hoped to detect subtle differences in the to audio clarity between the two. Let me say that the differences were not subtle. The Q-Bean packs a tremendous amount of sound into a tiny package. While the Sennheiser's performance was good, the Q-Bean's earphones hit the whole dynamic range spectrum. The deep rich bass tones are not overpowering. They didn't cloud or distort the song, but further enhanced the entire track as a good bass line should. The treble was crisp and never, throughout the duration of the test, caused me to cringe or scramble to reduce the volume.
The best innovation the Q-Bean possesses is its ability to control iTunes remotely. Having the capability to pause and play comes in handy when your phone rings or you need to answer the door. Just press the Play/Pause button and don't miss a second of your favorite song. Then press it again and get back to rocking out. With my Sennheisers, leaving the room meant that I was stuck listening to whatever was next in my library. This means that you run risk of eventually getting stuck listening to a track on an album that you'd rather not. Q-Bean to the rescue. When those tracks come on or you just can't wait to hear the next track, simply hold the Forward/Vol+ button for three seconds and instantly you are rewarded with a new track. This feature proves invaluable in times of need.
Call Of Duty 2:
After running through the an entire level (Moscow 1941) on COD2, the subtle differences again begin to pop right out. When wearing the Sennheisers, I felt as though I was part of an enormous firefight with Nazi forces. But on my second run through with the Q-bean, I felt like I was a Russian soldier fighting to survive the Nazi defenses. The dynamic range of the earphones in the game were phenomenal. The conversation between characters was clear and changed accurately with each shift in position (relative to the character). When firing my weapon, I felt as though I was actually holding it in front of me. No explosion ever distorted the sound, which happened frequently with the Sennheisers, and the shrill cry of my enemies dying rang joyously through my ears.
Power DVD 7:
Having watched countless hours of TV and movies with my Sennheisers, I have a pretty good idea of its capabilites. I often stay up late, and as a courtesy to my roomates, I use them so nobody is disturbed. After watching hours of my favorite shows and movies, I did notice a slight hiss in the backround from both devices. But it was only noticable when the sound got quiet or there was a change of scene. The same thing occured with the Q-Bean, although it was a little more pronounced. It could possibly have to do with the way the sound is processed in PowerDVD, but it definitely didn't ruin the experience. The Q-Bean got a leg up from its unexpected and undocumented ability to use its remote functions in the program. Thus, I never needed to grab for the mouse to pause for a bathroom break or to skip to the next chapter or video. The dynamic range was good for both headphones and the dialog was clear and crisp. But the noise-cancelling earphones of the Q-Bean really helped imerse me in the moment without drawing my attention to distractions.
I decided to pop into an open channel in TeamSpeak and see how the Q-Bean (mic located at the top of the device) matched up against my Plantronics X30. I did notice that I had to adjust my voice activation level more toward whisper, due to the fact that the Q-Bean was hanging loosely around my neck. The audio from the earphones was exceptional. I was able to clearly understand others in the channel, but again, the proximity of the microphone from my mouth proved to strain its reception. I felt far more comfortable with the X30 because it kept my microphone exactly in the position I had set it. Thus, giving my voice more clarity and less fluctuation. I could achieve the same results from the Q-Bean, but it required me to hold it inches from my mouth. This was something I felt shouldn't be necessary when operating a wireless microphone.
I did this test in conjuction with the Media Playback test. After watching a couple of episodes of my favorite Showtime series Weeds, it was hard to say which headphones were more comfortable. That's because neither were uncomfortable, but it came down to which was more cumbersome or awkward. I wore the Q-Bean with the neck strap attached, and after a couple of minutes, I hardly noticed that it was there. Except for the fact that in a dark room, the LED on the Q-Bean (flashes while paired and working) made the slightest glow in my peripheral vision. This wasn't the most annoying thing ever, but it seems like LTB forgot I was wearing this around my neck. I gave the Sennheisers the edge because of their compact design and lack of flashing LED.
For this test I played the same track through iTunes and walked along a identical path through my house and outside. This is the only test where I felt the Q-Bean fell short of the competition. It might be contributed to the fact that the Sennheisers have a greater range (100m), but the Q-Bean had difficulty holding the signal the second I was out of the line of sight of the transmitter. The Sennheisers suffered the same issue, but kept a better signal for longer. The Q-Bean is rated to 30 feet, or 100 feet in the line of sight, and I was able to recieve a signal in excess of that limit. However, when an object came between me and the transmitter, I noticed slight digital feedback or garbling. The majority of the occurences happened while moving, and when I stopped momentarily, the signal improved. But when I returned to motion, the feedback started right back up. I have no doubt that if I had never broken the line of sight that I could indeed recieve a clear signal up to 100 feet. But whose home has a 100 foot room? Not many, and thus the rating for this category suffered.
The initial charging of the Q-Bean as per the manual's specification is 4 hours. When the USB charge cable is inserted into the USB port, the LED on the Q-Bean becomes steady red. When it has reached its capacity, the LED will no longer be lit. When the LED finally turned off on the Q-Bean I was testing, it had taken the Q-bean 4 hours and 10 minutes to complete its initial charge. As it states on the back of the box, the Q-Bean's Lithium Polymer battery supports a continuous use of up to 8 hours. Upon testing the Q-Bean through many hours of entertainment, it finally gave out at 7 hours and 30 minutes. After attempting to turn it back on, it quickly shut off again and it was obvious that it required a recharge. I timed the recharge and found that it took 2 hours and 20 minutes, not that bad considering you get 8 hours from each recharge.
As the results have shown, LTB has successfully manufactured for itself a quality product. The simplicity of the installation, the abillities, and the design really speak for themselves. Being able to control multiple programs in a Windows platform is what really sets this product apart from the rest. It also boasts a fantastic dynamic range; that, in conjuction with the noise-cancelling earphones, will totally immerse you in whatever you are into. From music to movies to games, the Q-Bean delivers with excellent sound and control. It's amazing how sophisticated the Q-Bean is, considering how truly small it is. Another big bonus is the fact that it is compatible with both Windows Vista and XP 32/64-bit, as well as Mac and Linux. One thing that never gets old is the ability to enjoy digital sound while walking wirelessly through your home. The reception through walls was not as clear as my pair of Sennheisers, but when in the line of sight of the transmitter, the reception was clear and crisp. Whether hanging from your neck or clipped to your shirt collar, the Q-Bean allows you to "move in your world so your music and media can follow". The Q-Bean is a revolutionary product, and I have a feeling that we haven't seen anything yet.
- Neck strap
- Small & Compact
- Use time (8 hours)
- Rich dynamic range
- Charge time (2 hours)
- Noise-cancelling earphones
- Ability to control multiple programs
- Windows XP & Vista 32/64-bit compatible
- Reception through walls
- Microphone location