Review: QAK Thump Blu Headphones

Gear

The OAK Thump Blu behind the neck headphones are light, wireless, comfortable, long playing, have good fidelity, and if the volume is kept to a reasonable level, you can hear environmental sounds with good acuity. The earphones are operated by six buttons, powered by an internal battery, and they wirelessly converse via Bluetooth to your phone or any Bluetooth-enabled device, allowing you to listen to music or have a hands-free headset. The Thump Blu comes with a USB cable, and is available in white, blue, green, pink, red and black colors and retails for $79.99.

Most of the headphones and earbuds on the market block out most of the exterior noise from the world, which is fine when you are in a safe environment and just want to immerse yourself in your music. In the world of sports, whether it’s running, hiking, walking, or biking, you need to pick up the ambient sounds and spatial cues in the world around you. For safety reasons, you want to be fully cognizant of your surroundings, so you can hear cars, traffic, dogs, wild animals, and other trail and road users. The design of the Thump Blu is sort of a cusp between open ear headphones and earbuds that just barely sit in your ear. The bend of the unit and the slight adhesion of the rubber tips of the ear pieces keep them in place, but it’s not enough to block out exterior sounds nor too hard for ear discomfort. Although you can crank the tunes up and really enjoy the music on a ride, if you want to be able to have a conversation and hear more subtle spacial environmental cues for safety reasons, then you need to keep the volume at a respectable level.

Left: QAK Thump Blu buttons are the previous, play/pause, next. Right: Buttons are volume up, on/off/answer, volume down.

The Thump Blu is comprised of the neck band with its attached ear pieces, a USB port, three LED indicators on the rear bottom, and six rubberized control buttons on the outside of the ear pieces. Once the unit was paired with the phone for Bluetooth communication, subsequent paring wasn’t required, and you only had to turn the unit on and start the music from the phone to begin operation. The buttons by each ear piece are hard to locate sometimes, especially with gloved fingers, but the difficulty was lessened with some practice. Once you have the button locations memorized, you can play, pause, choose the next or previous song, adjust the volume, and answer calls. The Play/Pause and Answer buttons were the easiest to locate since they sit in the middle and have a raised bump, so you can use their positions to find the other buttons.

QAK Thump Blu – showing the LED indicator lights and USB port.

I liked that it used the typical mini B USB connector on the device itself for charging, since you always have those laying around the house. It quickly charged in around an hour’s time, and the battery life was 6-8 hours, which gave me at least a couple of rides before it started to die.

The ear piece’s adjustable rubber tips were comfortable and worked well, even when I got sweaty, or they got rained on, and although the bend kept them firmly in place, it was never enough to feel pinched or wedged into the ears. The inside edge of the band is rubberized for comfort, and helps alleviate any irritation from head movement. They fit nicely over or under the straps of all the helmets I wore, and depending on what type of eyewear you were using; the headband might be slightly altered in position, and the bend force decreased. I have found it was easier to leave it sitting around your neck when not listening to music, instead of jamming it into a pack, and it was never bothersome wearing it in that manner.

I thought they had pretty good fidelity and acoustics for a small Bluetooth device, and I enjoyed listening to a variety of music, from bombastic Black Sabbath to mellow Patty Griffith. They had decent bass, good midrange and had a slight roll off at the higher frequencies. The hands-free feature was useful, but I found it sounded hollow and lacking clarity in both directions, so I only used it for short periods of time. They had good wind noise reduction due to the light seal of the ear pieces, unless you were going Mach 1, or it was extremely windy out. The earphones stayed in place and retained the same fidelity on really rough terrain, and even though they might bounce around occasionally, it was never bothersome.

QAK Thump Blu – showing the headphone being worn, note the ear piece, over the ear placement and rubber padding by neck.

Bottom Line

I have really enjoyed my time with the Thump Blu behind the neck headphones. The lack of wires due to the Bluetooth connection is very beneficial for biking, especially when wearing a pack and dealing with rough terrain, or heavily wooded areas, since there is nothing to get snagged on. The Thump Blu has good fidelity, was light and comfortable, and stayed in place on any sort of terrain. Although the buttons were sometimes hard to locate, they provided the ability to play, pause, choose the next or previous song, adjust the volume, and answer calls. The hands-free feature was nice to have, but I found its quality somewhat lackluster. Its earphone design allows you to hear outside environmental cues, although you are most cognizant of things if the volume is kept to a respectable level. Of course, these suckers can crank if you want them to!

The QAK Thump Blu provides wireless Bluetooth connection to any capable device, has a quick charging battery with a long life, and it offers good fidelity and excellent comfort.

Pros
  • Good fidelity with volume levels from ear bleeding to quiet
  • Good battery life and quick charging
  • Awareness of outside noises if volume is at a reasonable level
  • Comfortable and light
  • Stays in place on rough terrain
Cons
  • Buttons can be hard to locate with gloved fingers
  • Hands-free headset quality is lackluster
  • Not quite high-end sound
Overall Rating

4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

For more information, visit jointhumpnation.com/products/thump-blu.

Review: QAK Thump Blu Headphones Gallery
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QAK Thump Blu

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QAK Thump Blu - buttons on left picture are the previous, play/pause, next, buttons on right are volume +, on/off/answer,volume -
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QAK Thump Blu

QAK Thump Blu - showing the LED indicator lights and USB port
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QAK Thump Blu

QAK Thump Blu - showing the headphone being worn, note the ear piece, over the ear placement and rubber padding on neck
About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • Robert F says:

    The look like the motorala S9 headphone and I have a set. I do not like them for riding. If you wear glasses or sunglasses when you ride there is not enough room on your ear for both. Also audio quality is not great. Also using blue tooth drains the phone batter way faster then corded methods. I would just stick to a good set of earbuds.

  • Paul Lehman says:

    Was there any issue with the sweat/moisture interfering with the control buttons after prolonged use. I would agree these look like rebranded Motorola S10s. They were (are) notorious for losing controls after several months of use. I personally went through two pair of the Motorola S10s with this issue. Would be great to have a new model that works better.

  • David West says:

    This reminds me of the Motorola S11-Flex HD. Based on your review the Motorola might be a better buy. See the review and the images here computer-s.com/headsets/motorola-s11-flex-hd-review/, and you be the judge as to who copied who.

  • Susan C says:

    I am on pair number 3 and that pair has just died. It’s been less than a year and they have repeatedly died on me. I like the way the work when they do work, but they are unreliable. The Qak does not get back to you very quickly and when they do they rave about the customer service, which is terrible. I only hope that on return 3 I can actually get my money back instead of pair 4 which will die in a couple months. I do not recommend these headphones at all!

  • Mike Franco says:

    Terrible company, terrible product, stay away! These people are crooks!

  • Steve Watanabe says:

    I’ve had problems with their new Xtreme model. Their customer service is snarky and issues remain unresolved.

    • Steve Watanabe says:

      Here’s more details on my issue with the Xtreme model.

      I purchased a Thump Xtreme at a Rock n Roll marathon expo. I previously used the LG LBS-730 but found that the ear plugs on the LG block out all external sound which isn’t good when running on the street. I thus bought the Thump Xtreme as it provided a looser fit. I had never heard of Thump so bought them on the basis of trying them at the expo. I’ve found that when running they tend to “cut out” at times even though my iPhone is only two feet away (the iPhone is in a flipbelt).

      I notified the manufacturer (previously qakgear.com) and they said…”We are very sorry you are experiencing this.” and “We have included Todd in this email for advice in regards to your clipping issue that is occurring from two feet away from the headphones.”

      After a month I hadn’t heard anything further so I sent:

      It’s been a month and I haven’t received any further emails. The Thump Extreme still suffers from “clipping”. I’ve found that it is usable if the iPhone is on my back (I use a flip belt to do so). Anyways, I believe I either have a defective unit or this is a systemic design flaw.

      to which I received this response:

      “The Thump Xtreme is a bluetooth headphone.
      Bluetooth is a wave between items.
      If there is not a clear line of sight between the headset and pairing item clipping can occur.
      Clipping will occur more often when you are in the open.
      The bluetooth wave needs to bounce off objects to then pair with your headset.
      The design flaw is with bluetooth.
      It probably works better when it is on your back or arm wrap.”

      So far I’m living with the “clipping” as I can position the iPhone on my back and not move my head too far forward which seems to break the signal.

      Also, the blue/red light is very dim and hard to see in lighted areas. You can hold the on/off button for five seconds and the unit will turn on/off even if you can’t see the light change.

      The sound quality is good while allowing external sound to be heard (e.g. cars).

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