- Balanced sound is great for the price
- Good build quality
- Poor battery life
- Not for fans of big bass
- Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity
- 8-hour play time
- Wireless 3-button controls
- Noise isolating in-line mic
- Flexible, conforming neck band with cable management
- Sweatproof (IPX4)
- 2 sizes of silicone earbud tips
- Wood and Aluminum construction
What are the House of Marley Smile Jamaica Wireless?
In an age where the headphone jack is increasingly endangered, a number of headphone manufacturers are releasing wireless options for those who find themselves lacking the 3.5mm port. Many companies have opted to offer wireless versions of their existing products – which is exactly what The House of Marley has done with the new Smile Jamaica Wireless.
At £40/$52, these in-ears sit at the budget end of the Bluetooth headphone spectrum. Although this may cause some to hesitate at first, there’s no need. These are fine wireless earbuds, and will likely surprise you with their sound quality. It’s only a shame that the battery life isn’t all that great.
Design and comfort
Like the regular Smile Jamaica, the wireless versions of these in-ear headphones make use of your standard earbud. They come with a rubber neck band, so you can take the earbuds out and put them back in without having to worry about the set falling off your person. On either end of the rubber band sit two pods that weigh down the set enough to keep the neckband resting firmly in place.
One of these pods hosts the raised rubber pairing and power button, with the volume controls/track skipping buttons on either side. Double-clicking the volume up and down buttons allows you to skip tracks, while the middle button also lets you pick up calls and, when attached to a device featuring Siri, lets you activate the virtual assistant. On the other side of the left-hand pod is a micro-USB charging port, hidden behind a rubber flap.
Of course, these are Marley headphones, so the company had to add a touch of the island vibe with which its name is associated. This comes by way of a few wooden bits on the end of the neckband and on the backs of the earbuds. It’s actually like being in Jamaica! Oh, and those earbuds come with two different tip sizes, which should happily cater for most ears.
In fact, overall these headphones feel more premium than the price would suggest. The Smile Jamaica Wireless aren’t luxury headphones, but the rubber doesn’t feel cheap, and the woven cord that extends from the neckband to the earbuds is designed to prevent tangled cables, which is a nice touch. You can also stash that woven cable along the groove of the neckband to make the set easier to store – although it’s a little fiddly and not really worth the effort.
The Smile Jamaica wireless feel like a solid, well-made pair of headphones, and the little extras – such as the aforementioned wooden caps, gold trim on the ends of the neckband and earbuds, and the woven cables – give the impression that some effort has gone into Marley’s latest. You also have a choice of colour options: Denim, Signature Black and Copper. I’d recommend the black finish to those who like their tech to look as un-gaudy as possible.
Also surprising is how lightweight and comfortable these headphones feel. The Smile Jamaica Wireless seem weighted enough to stay in place, but not so heavy so as to make them unwieldy – as is the case with some cheap wireless headphones. This lightweight feel, coupled with the simple design, makes for a clean and impressive set of earphones for the price.
The Smile Jamaica Wireless don’t come packed with features, but there are a few nice extras such as the on-board mic for call handling. Marley has also ensured that the in-ears are IPX4 sweat-resistant, so they’ll easily handle being taken out jogging or for sessions at the gym.
The wireless tech itself is of the standard Bluetooth 4 variety, with 10 metres of range. This means they’ll work perfectly fine if you’re moving around with your phone as the paired device, but if you’re using them with, say, a laptop, and you leave the room, the sound will cut out pretty quickly.
Pairing is as straightforward as you’d hope for. Simply hold down the power button until the Smile Jamaica go into pairing mode, with a notification popping up on your phone, or whatever device you’re using, immediately. I experienced no issues with the pairing process at all.
As you’d expect of a budget set of headphones, there’s no active noise cancelling, and as such the in-ear design doesn’t do much to drown out the surrounding environment. If this feature is a necessity then you might consider the KitSound Immerse Active. As it stands, listening to the Smile Jamaica Wireless – or any pair of in-ear phones without noise cancelling – on the London Underground proved futile.
But perhaps the biggest disappointment here is the paltry battery life. The Smile Jamaica Wireless will last only eight hours on a single charge. Although this might seem okay for a budget set of headphones, when you consider that companies such as KitSound offer budget models for £35/$46 with lengthy 30-hour batteries, it’s disappointing. Eight hours will get you through the day, of course, but if you’re travelling and have a long flight, or will be away from a power outlet for a prolonged period, you might want to opt for a set of headphones that offer more on-time.
Compared to the more expensive (and terrible) Urbanista Rome, these are a fantastic offering. Urbanista’s equivalent are one of the worst pairs of headphones I’ve used, with Marley’s set miles ahead of their more expensive rival. The difference really does make the Smile Jamaicas sound like a top-end set of earphones.
Of course, these are a budget product and as such the sound is by no means the finest you’ll hear. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the balanced and detailed sound produced. I listened to several music styles to try to pinpoint a glaring weak spot, and I have to say the Smiles performed admirably throughout.
Bass wasn’t pushed too much, which is surprising considering the recent trend for a boosted low-end. Many won’t like this aspect of the Smile Jamaica, and if you’re used to Beats, you may want to think twice about Marley’s wireless pair. But for me, a more subdued low-end made for a refreshing sound signature. That isn’t to say the bass is lacking; I actually found the mid-bass frequencies to be quite detailed. There’s just a lot less of the punchy bass to which our modern ears have become accustomed.
Again, some may find this makes for a comparatively thin sound, but I didn’t find the treble overpowering at all. Mids and trebles seemed to sit in the overall sound well, making for a generally impressive performance all-round. Again, this isn’t top-end audio quality, but for £40/$52, you could do a lot worse.
That said, if you’re going from a bass-heavy set of over-ears to the Smile Jamaica, you’ll immediately notice the lack of low-end.
Listening to a track with plenty of bass on a cheap pair of KitSound headphones, I switched to the Marleys and initially thought there was a problem with the Bluetooth connection not playing the sound at full quality. In reality, the drop in bass enhancement highlighted the lack of low-end on the Smile Jamaica.
Should I buy the House of Marley Smile Jamaica Wireless?
Looking for a decent set of budget wireless headphones? Well, before you shell out £40/$52 for the Smile Jamaica Wireless, there are a few niggles of which you should be aware. First, the lack of isolation; these are an in-ear pair of headphones that won’t fair well on public transport, or in any environment where there’s a lot of noise.
Second, prepare for pretty disappointing battery life. This is the Smile Jamaica’s biggest failing, and although eight hours of on-time is enough to get you through a few days if you’re listening only while you commute to work, it’s still a pretty poor offering.
Finally, if you’re looking for big bass, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Marley’s latest set have a good sound signature for the price, but the low-end isn’t as punchy as that demonstrated by other models.
If you can deal with all of the above then the Smile Jamaica Wireless offer genuinely good sound for £40/$52. They’re well-designed, lightweight, and do an excellent job of keeping the wireless connection going – I didn’t experience any drop-outs at all.
A surprisingly competent budget offering from Marley that provides great sound, even if the battery life isn’t what it could be.