Review, Teardown: Ausdom M06 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

To most, Ausdom is not a highly recognizable brand. In fact, it is another one of those Chinese Shenzhen-based companies with lofty ambitions, currently focused on headsets, speakers, surveillance and automotive accessories. Such companies are often operating in highly price-sensitive markets, and can only survive by offering a high quality product at a competitive price.

In this post, we will look at the Ausdom M06 Bluetooth Stereo Headset, a middle-of-the-range headset from Ausdom that slots in-between their bottom end M04 and their top end M08. It advertises support for Bluetooth 3.0 with EDR, with a 10m range, a 20 hour active/250 hour standby battery life with 400mAh integrated rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Some of the key features claimed include deep bass and high fidelity courtesy of their “DWS Technology”, advanced microphone and super comfort. With such a list of superlatives, it certainly deserves a critical test and review.

This review was made possible thanks to Gearbest, who currently sell the product and have generously supplied a unit for review under review challenge terms.

Unboxing

The unit itself certainly seemed to endure a little bit of rough handling along the way, with its matte black finish colour cardboard outer taking a crushing at one side. Luckily, the unit was safely packaged inside, so no harm came of it.

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The packaging is simple, and relatively clean with silver accents and a list of key features on the front, along with an image that clearly shows you what to expect from the product inside – for example, a brushed metal look with logo print on the cups.

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The rear features a multi-lingual short-list of specifications, along with package content list and links for support. The unit is Made in China. More marketing blurb can be found on the side.

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The box itself has a plastic tape seal, however, the seal on mine was already opened. I can only assume this was done by GearBest as part of their quality control process, to possibly test the unit prior to acceptance or shipment. Inside, you will find the headphones packaged in a blow-molded plastic tray, with the ear cups folded 90 degrees in the “compact” position.

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A quick look at it sees some physical resemblance to travel-style headphones, such as the Audio Technica ANC9’s which I travel with on a regular basis. In fact, the ear cup size, band size and swiveling is virtually identical, although the depth of the cups on the Ausdom is somewhat less.

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Also included in the set is a 3.5mm stereo male to male cable to use the headphones in a wired configuration, a charge-only micro USB B lead and a user’s manual with English and Chinese. An omission, especially relevant for commuters and travellers, is that of a carry case or pouch to protect the unit while travelling, although I suspect at this price point, I’d be a bit too greedy if I were expecting that.

Removing the unit from the tray, it has a relatively balanced feel to it, not too heavy and not too light, with a good amount of stiffness to the rotating joints that connect the earcups and a good range of swivel (about 120 degrees) to accommodate different head-shapes and sizes. The top of the band also has an adequate amount of padding to keep from being uncomfortable.

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The earcups are circumaural – that is, they fit around your ear rather than on it, which is a more comfortable configuration that helps to exclude noise.

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The material itself is somewhat textured to resemble leather, but it is an all synthetically made material. It feels supple with sufficient depth of foam to sit nicely on the ears, with the cotton fabric inside the cups also being a very nice touch.

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The headband itself is extendable with detents to accommodate various head sizes, similar to other travel headphones.

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Each earcup has a row of three buttons on the bottom for AVRCP controls and for powering the unit on and off. Dimples are added to the buttons to help identify them by feel. The charging port is covered behind a rubber flap to help exclude dust, whereas the 3.5mm line-in external jack is open and facing the rear.

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As a result, the cable does stick out at an awkward angle, as does the charging cable if you opt to use it while wearing the unit. There is a grille for the microphone and a hole for an indicator LED.

Teardown

This wouldn’t be a Gough-style review if I didn’t take the time to try and take it apart, and thankfully, the Ausdom M06 is not a difficult unit to take apart and put back together again. Part of the reason is the extensive use of screws in the construction, which is a boon if you intend to repair, replace or modify the unit.

To take it apart, you first start by removing the ear cushions which use a relatively traditional “wrap around lip” style mounting. Replacing these can be quite challenging, so I don’t suggest you do this unless you have to, but it is nice to see that the ear cushions can be replaced if they wear out – although whether you would want to is another story.

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This exposes the front surface to which the drivers are attached to, with a piece of foam glued in front of the driver, possibly to alter frequency response and diffuse the audio a little. The front plates are attached to the cups by three Phillips head screws, which can be removed to allow access to the internals. Lets start with the left ear-cup.

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Opening the left ear-cup, we can see a relatively anonymous, unbranded 40mm driver, labelled with SJL-0653 with an impedance of 32 ohms. Inside is also a mostly blank PCB where the buttons and USB charge port are attached. It is secured to the rear of the ear cup by three more Philips head screws. A piece of foam rubber tape is used to stop the connection cable from vibrating around inside the earcup.

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The underside of the board does not have much either, but it claims to be made in Week 30 of 2015, with a project ID code of 11930401702 304N(IS1681-2B). Underneath is the lithium-polymer cell with protection board, of code JHY503030 with a printed capacity of 3.7v 400mAh as claimed by the product literature. From the coding, we can conclude that the battery is likely to be from Shenzhen JuHeYuan Science & Technology Co. The majority of this PCB isn’t really necessary, however, it was likely sized this way to ensure weight balance across the two ears to ensure comfort.

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The right side ear cup is houses the same driver, with a very similar method of construction using foam rubber tape and screwed down PCB. A little bit of excess glue can be seen around the driver, and the PCB can be seen to have several test points. The microphone can also be seen, where it sits behind the grille insulated by a shaped rubber gasket.

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The reverse of the PCB is coded with 11986000000 860N(IS1681-1A) and a date code of Week 29 of 2015. The heart of the device can be seen to be based around an ISSC IS1681S chipset from Microchip/ISSC Technologies Corporation. The chipset claims compliancy to BT 3.0 + EDR with 4dBm transmit power and -91dBm sensitivity, integrating a 94dB SNR DAC, 85dB SNR ADC and lithium ion charger. The module itself is an MY81SPK02M2 from Myland Limited which claims a slightly more conservative 2dBm transmit power with 250mAh max charging circuitry (which they somehow just used with a 400mAh cell anyway). The module claims support for the following profiles: HSP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP (GAVDP, PBAP). It only supports SBC audio coding which is most basic lowest-common-denominator with Bluetooth Stereo applications. The use of pre-made modules is likely to reduce the burden on radio frequency certification in many countries.

The line-in jack which allows for the headset to be used without Bluetooth or power can just be seen to be directly wired to the drivers through a pair of DC blocking surface mount tantalum capacitor and an inductor/fuses. This does not seem to be a great design as the AC voltage induced in parallel with the Bluetooth module’s outputs could cause damage to the module over time, especially if both sources are run at loud volumes concurrently, but it also presents a possible potential to use this to drive the earcups and an external set of speakers or headphones simultaneously (albeit reducing the output impedance by paralleling two speakers on each channel’s output).

I suppose the construction from the inside seems clean and relatively straightforward, with honest claims on battery capacity. The screw-based design makes repair and modification relatively simple, although the performance is yet to be determined, with those generic-looking drivers looking to be a potential let-down.

Testing and Subjective Opinions

Ergonomics and Build Quality

The unit itself is fairly comfortable to wear, with the textured pleather being non-irritating, although it can get a little warm due to the lack of breathability. The foam itself is a regular foam which can make the clamping pressure feel a little higher than normal, but this has a side benefit of improving the isolation (exclusion of outside noise). To that effect, the unit itself is a closed, sealed style design, and in my experience, the clamping pressure seems to average, and the noise exclusion fairly average for a regular non-noise cancelling headset as well. The weight was measured to be 208gm, which is a relatively comfortable weight which you don’t really notice on your head.

Physically, the unit feels relatively well built, although the swivel hinges can be a little stiff to turn, and the rubber charging port cover is a little difficult to remove. The earpads are removable and replaceable which is a bonus. The earcups, however, are so well sealed that when putting the unit on or taking it off you can often hear the crinkling of the plastic diaphragm of the drivers which is both distracting and distressing as it can indicate damage to the drivers over prolonged periods.

Voice feedback is available for the most popular operations, which beats looking at LEDs or listening for coded beeps only, although some other warnings are only illustrated by coded beeps. A synthesized voice happily tells you when you have powered on, put into pairing mode, and powered off the unit. Of course, an LED is also provided to indicate power status, pairing status (blue-red alternating), connected (blue flashes), charging (solid red) and off.

Buttons are placed on the bottom side of the earcups, and have a smooth slippery texture. The small size of the buttons, along with the small dimples, makes it slightly difficult at first to navigate the buttons by feel while the headset is on your head. As some buttons (e.g. power) have different functions depending on press duration, some care is required to make sure your finger doesn’t slip during a long press, otherwise you might find yourself redialling the last number rather than powering the headset off (as I have several times).

Ports for external audio input as a wired headset and for USB charging are provided, although their positioning makes them slightly awkward to use while on your head as the cable exits towards the rear instead of straight down, increasing the risk of cable damage or headset getting yanked off your head in case the cable snags. The cable itself is a very thin cable, and while this may be good for weight and space concerns, it also is a concern for durability in the case it gets snagged. The unit is capable of operating while being charged, although charge times will lengthen accordingly.

Pairing with Devices

Pairing with a variety of devices was generally achieved without any major issues indicating good compatibility of the ISSC chipset used. Pairing mode is activated by pressing and holding down the power button until the pairing voice prompt is heard and the LED flashes alternately between red and blue. Because of the use of newer Bluetooth Secure Simple Pairing, a passkey was not required.

CSR Harmony Stack on Windows 7

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Broadcom Bluetooth Stack on Windows 7

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Microsoft Bluetooth Stack on Windows 10

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Android 4.4.2

Pairing was accomplished with no difficulties, but switching between stereo media operation and phone headset call audio presents issues on my particular phone. I’m not sure if this is a compatibility issue.

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iOS 9.0.1

Pairing with iOS seemed to have an issue the first time, resulting in an error message, but retrying the pairing operation completed successfully. Under iOS, the battery status of the headphones is visible in the taskbar as well, which is very convenient.

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In all cases, it was determined that the range of the Ausdom M06 was commendable, in all cases reaching slightly further (2-3m) than that of my CSR based products, allowing comfortable roaming through a few rooms (15-18m) distance from a CSR Class-1 Bluetooth dongle.

Audio Quality

I shall start by first explaining that I am a bit of an audiophile in the sense that I absolutely care about the quality of the audio in a “more than average” way, and headphone resume (in terms of ownership alone) includes the likes of Sennheiser HD212pro, HD215, HD555, Audio-technica ANC23, ANC7, ANC7b, ANC9, M50x, A900, Sony MDR-10R, Technics RP-DJ1210. I participate in blind-listening tests for lossy codecs, and I can tell the difference between different sound cards, headsets and encodings (especially at low bit-rates). As a result, what I will say comes from the perspective of someone who does enjoy FLACs and knows what they should sound like.

To expect high fidelity audio of the likes of a $200-300 set of headphones would be unfair, to say the least, but in my subjective opinion, the Ausdom M06 manages a barely “passable” rendition of the audio. Sure, it is better than your average $10-15 variety store cabled headset, and if you don’t mind the kind of sound you get from those, then you would be plenty happy with the M06. However, compared to a $30 set of wired in-ears or a $50-60 wired set of cans, it is completely outpaced.

The audio can be described in several ways. The packaging claims “deep bass” and there is an element of truth to this. Especially at higher volumes, the treble is completely outdone by the low-end, resulting in a “bassy” balance. It seems to have certain ranges of frequencies where it is especially resonant, resulting in a boomy but unclear bass rendition, especially noticeable on a song such as The Weeknd – The Hills. However, the depth of the bass, at least frequency wise, seems to be nothing too special although the closed sealed nature does help.

The midrange itself is somewhat more passable, although it is a little muffled at the high end, resulting in vocals that seem unclear at the high end, and a loss of crispness in sharp instruments. I suppose if you’re happy to listen to the average speaker on a radio, then you probably wouldn’t notice this so much.

The treble however, is mostly lacking. There seems to be a few bits here and there, but with noticeable gaps. On the whole, it seems it is recessed especially when playing at louder volumes as the bass takes over with its boomy character.

After a long and noisy commute, the need to run decently high volumes to obscure sound leaking in and the boomy nature of the audio does result in a bit of listening fatigue. Although, that being said, the unit does play plenty loud for all intents, and the distortion doesn’t sound too much worse at higher volumes.

Listening in quiet environments seems to show the ISSC solution does actually have an audible level of background hiss, which is mostly non-distracting. During periods of transition from decoding audio to standby, there is a quiet and noticeable pop as the hiss ceases. Sometimes, especially when processing is required for button presses, the background noise does have a tonal quality to it, but only transiently. On the whole, the ISSC chipset does provide satisfactory audio quality on its own.

Testing of the unit by feeding external audio by the included cable did not really reveal any differences, which implies that the performance of the headset is really mostly let down by the unbranded drivers and the geometry of the unit itself. Interestingly, it was discovered that the jack is wired in parallel with the drivers, so it is actually possible to plug in another set of headphones and use it as an audio out from the Bluetooth chipset, and in doing this, it was determined that the ISSC chipset used in the product isn’t half bad, with pretty good quality audio when used with a proper set of headphones. However, audio does continue to play out of the headphones when you do this … and it probably wasn’t designed for this sort of use … so I’d avoid it unless you modify the unit to just be a receiver. Using the cable does allow you to listen to audio even if the Bluetooth unit has depleted its batteries, but it will not let you access the microphone due to the use of a 3-pole jack.

As a result, I suppose this would be a suitable headset for an average person that doesn’t really know the difference from earbud to earbud and will buy a $10-15 variety store headphone and “that will do”. In fact, they might actually be quite satisfied especially due to the good fit and closed nature of the unit. However, if you’ve been spoilt by relatively mid to high-end equipment and you’re the sort to actually notice the difference between FM radio and a CD, then perhaps you should spend a little more on something of higher quality.

Microphone Quality

A test of the microphone quality was done by wearing the headset on my head and speaking at a comfortable volume inside a quiet environment. In these subjectively ideal conditions, it seems that the voice is intelligible, if a little robotic. Unfortunately, the major issue was that under two of the three tested Bluetooth stacks, the audio amplitude was low. When tested with my LG D686 on a real life GSM call, the caller at the other end complained that I was too soft and difficult to understand. It seems the CSR Harmony stack does some pre-amplification of the incoming data, resulting in an acceptable volume but increased background noise pick-up.

As a result, it is not a headset I would recommend if you are primarily using it for voice conversation as the low audio level might pose a problem, however, the inclusion of a microphone can be seen as a small “bonus” in the case you are desperate and need to use it for a voice call.

Run and Charge Time

The unit claims a run time of approximately 20 hours, with 250 hours of standby time. In a real-life run-down test over several days with intermittent usage, a total of 22 hours and 56 minutes was achieved from a full charge to completely dead, with the last 39 minutes of operation being continually warned of low battery by four quick beeps. This is ample warning, if not, even a little bit too conservative.

The unit claims a charge time of two to three hours, and is done by using a USB port or USB charger with the supplied microUSB-B cable. In testing using a USB Charger Doctor, it was determined that the charge current was approximately 210mA, and the charge time was 2 hours and 50 minutes, which is towards the long end of the claimed range. A plot of the charge current versus time shows the clear tapering off of charge current after the first hour and a half of charging representing roughly 80% charge, as expected when charging lithium ion chemistry based cells.

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Conclusion

The Ausdom M06 tries to be a good value-for-money Bluetooth Stereo headset, and exhibits fairly good build quality with very good comfort. The ISSC chipset solution used had good compatibility and better than expected range. Battery life and charge times were pretty much as specified.

Unfortunately, it seems that the audio quality was only “passable” especially if you are picky about your headphones and the microphone amplitude was too soft for reliable use as a Bluetooth headset on calls. For the average, less discerning person who is happy with an average radio speaker or is happy to buy unbranded variety-store headphones, this could be a worthwhile upgrade. Of course, for the price, compromises are necessary, and it would be unrealistic to expect audiophile quality at that price, but you will get much better audio quality at the price if you forego the Bluetooth functionality.

For those who are interested, the unit is currently selling at Gearbest for US$30.39/AU$42.84 with a 26% off discount. Thanks once again to Gearbest for providing the unit for review – hope you enjoyed it!

About lui_gough

I’m a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!

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3 Responses to Review, Teardown: Ausdom M06 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

  1. k lee says:

    Hi Lui do you think if I stuff the headphone with cotton do you think that can limit the leakage of the sound when wearing it?

    • lui_gough says:

      It may help a very limited amount, but it may also equally affect the sound quality due to changing the volume/impedance of the chamber of air behind the driver. I can’t really say for sure – it will depend on the sort of material. I wouldn’t recommend it though as the amount of space for it in one of the earcups with the circuitry is quite limited.

      – Gough

  2. john says:

    I am in need of your skills

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