BT5200 Bluetooth Stereo Headphone Review
$130 U.S. Available in black or tan.
Sources: iPhone6s+ with Oppo HA-2/FiiO E17k DAC/amps, various computers using the Audioquest Dragonfly-2 DAC/amp.
Going right to the sound. In Bluetooth mode, the BT5200’s bass is not especially emphasized as are many popular headphones, but that bass goes ultra-deep with a strong weight, even to 16 Hz. The mids aren’t forward, and are slightly soft, as is the treble (slightly, with good detail).
When you read the comments in the 25 music selections below, you’ll understand how good this sound is. For portable use, it couldn’t be better, and many audiophiles can be willing to use the BT5200 at home as-is, or with minor tone control adjustments to suit their personal taste.
In passive (wired) mode, the bass is emphasized and the treble softer, and I would not describe that sound as audiophile necessarily, although for portable use, even the passive-mode sound is decent. Note: This is a good result for a $200-$250 Bluetooth headphone, and simply fabulous at the BT5200’s $130 price. I haven’t even gotten to the build quality and accessories yet.
To test the BT5200 Bluetooth quality, I paired it with my iPhone 6s Plus, and placed the phone at one end of my apartment. I walked into several other rooms including laundry and bath rooms, up to 35 feet from the phone, and the signal was clean and perfect, except for one momentary glitch in the farthest room 35 feet away. I’ve used a couple other Bluetooth headphones, and only one (the pricy one) could do as well. In all other locations with this review unit, within 30 feet at least, I’ve never gotten even a small glitch in the sound.
Isolation is average or better for a good-quality closed headphone, so if I’m walking in a park close to a busy freeway, as long as I’m a reasonable distance from the traffic (75 yards or so), I can have a good low-noise listening experience. There are headphones that aren’t noise-canceling that have higher isolation, but those are not at all comfortable. Leakage is low enough that the BT5200 can be used in a public library or quiet office if the playback volume isn’t extreme.
For wired use, the BT5200 includes a flat-ribbon cable about 3.5 feet long. The left earcup has a jack for the included charging cord (USB-A to Micro-USB) and headphone cable, as well as the Bluetooth on-off switch and volume up-down buttons. Also on the left earcup is a large round Bluetooth button, but what purpose it serves I don’t know since I always got quick pairing with just the on-off switch. I’ve read where a few users have had trouble pairing the BT5200, but I’ve had no problem or any delays, so I’d suggest for them that they consult the headphone forums and try to find what’s going on with their gear.
The headband has some spongy padding, and the on-ear type earpads are very soft and squishy, covered in a high-quality pleather. The clamping force is enough to make the headphone secure on the head for average movements, and even though the BT5200 is very light for its high-quality build, users who aren’t familiar with the better on-ear headphones may feel some pressure until they get used to it.
I rate the BT5200 near the top of my list of comfortable headphones, and I’ve had no need to do anything to the headband for a better fit. Some users of other brands report that their headphones’ headbands put too much pressure on their heads, and I have two suggestions just in case. One, place the earpads on your ears and then rotate the headband back and forth slightly until you hit the right spot. Two, pull the earcups down just a tad extra to let them carry more of the already light weight, so less is carried by the headband. The headband’s range of adjustment is 1/2 inch smaller on each side and 3/4 inch larger on each side from where it fits my average size head, and that’s an excellent range of adjustment.
A zippered hard-shell carrycase is included for portability when you don’t want to wear it around your neck. I don’t use the case unless I’m traveling, because it’s much more convenient to carry the headphone around my neck when not listening. Voice quality is good at both ends of a phone, FaceTime, and Skype conversation.
MyMac Review Rating is 9 out of 10.
Youtube review link.
In previous reviews I’ve included music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to other reviews containing those tracks and see how the BT5200 compares with each individual track. NOTE: The BT5200 was evaluated above and below in Bluetooth mode, without any tone controls or equalization.
Animotion – Obsession (1980’s New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The BT5200 plays this very well.
Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects. This is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled very well by the BT5200.
Beethoven – Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the BT5200.
Black Sabbath – Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The BT5200 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn’t unbalance the treble.
Boz Scaggs – Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality. This is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the BT5200.
Cantus – Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The BT5200 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.
Cath Carroll – Moves Like You (1980’s New Wave/Techno): This track’s percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there’s a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The BT5200 reproduces the space and detail very well.
Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones. I like this since it’s a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the BT5200 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The BT5200 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly. The voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy — very musical in fact.
Chromatics – I’m On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable.
David Hazeltine – Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The BT5200 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are extended and detailed.
Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) – Peer Gynt-Solveig’s Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950s) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg’s amazing voice are as close to “being there” as I’ve heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The BT5200 plays this music perfectly.
Hans Zimmer – Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep “shuddery” kind of sound that indicates a solid deep-bass response. The BT5200’s response is ideal here.
Heaven 17 – Let Me Go (1980’s New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a “you are there” quality that’s uncommon in early 1980’s pop music. The BT5200 plays this track perfectly.
Hugo Audiophile – 15-16 (Electronic): I’m not sure what the 15-16 stands for; perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the BT5200. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone’s bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.
Jimmy Smith – Basin Street Blues (early 60’s): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don’t sound clean and musical with some headphones. The BT5200 provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I’d like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the BT5200 does those very well.
Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) – Pedal, 32′, Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 Hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won’t “hear” the tone — you’ll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any “feel,” so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 Hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of “rumble” that’s similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The BT5200 plays the fundamental tone with a very solid weight and surprisingly good detail.
Mantovani – Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani’s accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn’t tolerate the notion of “light classics” or “semi-classical” music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960s through mid-1970s had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2016, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it’s not always the case. This track as played on the BT5200 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.
**Mantovani developed the “Cascading Strings” sonic effect circa 1950, a famous “Wall of Sound” effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector’s own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.
Michael Tilson Thomas – Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is appreciable with the BT5200.
Pinback – Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with “crunchy guitars and bashing drums” The BT5200 renders this music as perfectly as I’ve heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.
Porcupine Tree – Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of “clip-clop” effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The BT5200 reproduction of the “clop” effect is very good.
Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) – Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I’ve heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The BT5200 conveys as much of that experience as I’ve heard with a typical $400 headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.
Scarlatti-Kipnis – Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is normally fairly bright and detailed, but the BT5200 softens the tones and transients somewhat.
Tiger Okoshi – Bootsman’s Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and has a significant “bite.” The BT5200’s reproduction is very good, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.
Trombone Shorty – Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The BT5200 delivers the impacts with good weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.