Hands up if you’ve ever heard of Friendie, the makers of the Air Duo Wireless headphones? No? No worries mate because I hadn’t heard of them before and it’s generally my business to know these things. Friendie are an Aussie audio company that believes in doing good with a motto to always do better than before. They back up this with plenty of charitable contributions such as partnerships with Beyond Blue, a company dedicated to wellbeing of Aussies battling with anxiety, depression and suicide.
Now regarding headphones, I don’t know what they’ve done before but the new Air Duo certainly makes an impression with the bold Rose Gold colorway, RGB lighting and they can literally shake your head. Seriously, the headphones have a vibration mode which allows you to feel the bass rattling your ears. Yes, it is a little bit of a gimmick but what isn’t a gimmick is the rated 54 hours of battery life.
All well and good but at $300 RRP, the Air Duo sets itself up to compete with the likes of Sony, Bose, EPOS, SteelSeries or HyperX who all make some truly exceptional headphones. So how well does it do?
Friendie Air Duo Review
Friendie says it designed the Air Duo Wireless Headphones for serious work and gaming. Honestly though, my ostentatious Rose Gold review unit would look much more at home on a Instagram influencer than a Zoom call. The outer housing is all Rose Gold while the cushions are a light bubblegum pink that compliments well. There is a Matte Black version too for people like me who don’t like my headphones to bling.
The headphones are an over ear design with slightly oblong cups that fold for easy storage. They are a smidge too small which caused some discomfort on the outer ridges of my ears, requiring that I keep shifting them around often. Thankfully, they are comfy and provide some passive noise cancelling though you’ll still be able to hear what’s going on around you.
The same foam lines the headband so you don’t get any pressure on your noggin. The folding hinge is sturdy but I didn’t like the cheap look of the plastic Friendie used. When folded, the Air Duo fit snugly in possibly the smallest carrying case of any headphone I’ve encountered. It’s so easy to dump this in a ladies handbag.
Lastly, the Air Duo has RGB lighting on the ear cups and before you close this browser tab in protest, I have to say this is a surprisingly slick implementation. It’s limited to the Friendie logo and a thin oval skirting around the ear cups. The lighting isn’t very bright and you could almost miss it on the Rose Gold variant which doesn’t offer much contrast. The Matte Black variant probably shows off this lighting much better but I think it’s a really smart look unlike say, the Roccat Elo Air 7.1.
The lighting is not customizable though, so if you don’t like the swirling rainbow wave of oscillating color, then just turn it off. Overall, I think the Air Duo are a good looking pair of headphones that are a bit too hipster for my taste. The Rose Gold might not appeal to most but seeing how all the women in my household reacted, it’s bound to be a hit with the ladies.
Air Duo controls & connectivity
The Air Duo are primarily Bluetooth headphones and connection is generally fine with a decent range. They use the older Bluetooth 4.1 so you won’t get many of the benefits that newer devices will offer. They connect easily to most devices and the connection is strong and stable. However, you can also use it wired with the bundled 3.5mm audio cable but you will lose the RGB and on ear controls. Wired mode makes the Air Duo compatible with all mainstream gaming consoles including the shiny new Xbox Series X| S and PlayStation 5.
Now because it’s a wireless headphone, all your controls are located on the left ear cup. The main controls for media control consist of three identical buttons for power/ pairing with volume and playback navigation split between either ends of the two. I don’t like this design at all because the buttons are really tiny and yet have split functions depending on which edge you press.
Additionally, some functions like toggling the RGB lighting or changing the EQ profile require pressing two button edges simultaneously. Given how small they are, that’s not the most ergonomic experience and I found it easier to ignore them altogether and just manually control my media through whatever device the headphones are connected to.
Below those three buttons is a slider switch for toggling the vibration mode I mentioned earlier. Following this is a Micro-USB charging port, a 3.5mm audio connection port and the microphone connection port. The microphone is detachable with a limited amount of flex. It also has a handy mute button on the tip.
Air Duo Audio Performance
Whichever way you choose to connect, the Air Duo’s sound pretty average to be honest. That’s not necessarily a knock on them but at $300, you need to sound great. These headphones favor a neutral sound signature that’s slightly warm with clear highs, plenty of mid tone but the bass is a whole other level of interesting. By default, it’s subdued but turn on the vibration mode and things change drastically.
The vibration mode truly boosts the bass making for a much richer sound and not just thudding. It uses a 30mm vibration driver to physically shake the ear cups creating a subtle but odd sensation — as if someone is lightly drumming on the backs of your ears. It’s kinda ticklish and annoying at the same time which suggests Friendie needed to do some more fine tuning on this haptic engine.
The vibration effect is also entirely dependent on how loud you’re willing to set the volume; the louder, the more vibration but ultimately, it’s still fairly subtle. This means in games, you’ll then feel the explosions and gunshots. It’s not a new concept, the excellent Razer Nari Ultimate does this much better. In my testing, it was just too subtle in games to the point of obscurity that there really wasn’t any point.
I found it more useful when listening to music though; the improvement in bass response is quite apparent and makes music sound so much better. It’s weird to feel percussive instruments like drums thumping but over time, it does get slightly irritating — like an itch you can’t scratch enough.
The other aspect of audio is of course the microphone. Friendie wants you to use the Air Duo for all your work Zoom calls as well as chat with your mates after work while you play CoD: Warzone. So the Air Duo has two mics; one built-in and one detachable mic. The boom mic is for serious application but you can get away with using the built-in mic for on-the-go phone calls.
I can’t say either microphone sounds fantastic but you’d definitely get more out of the detachable mic. Thanks to its positioning near your mouth, audio pickup is much better across the board. Here’s a sample:
Air Duo Battery Life
One area the Air Duo excels is the battery life. Rated for 54 hours of battery, there are few other headphones that can match. Only the black magic of the EPOS GSP 370 with it’s ridiculous 100 hour battery comes to mind. I used the Air Duo daily for Zoom calls, music listening and late night gaming for about five days straight before the battery gave up the ghost.
If you turn off the vibration mode and RGB lighting, I suspect you can get over 60 hours. This one aspect alone might be worth the asking price. It could be better though. For instance, the Air Duo doesn’t have an auto-shutdown feature. Headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 automatically turn themselves off when they detect no signal for a couple of minutes or even when you take them off.
The Air Duo remains on until you manually turn it off and I can’t tell you how many times I took them off to go do something only to return three hours later and find them still happily glowing.
Another irritation is Micro-USB charging which I just don’t understand why it still exists. It’s really inconvenient to reach for my phone charger to plug in the headphones only to realise I have to go find another cable. Sure, it’s not an insurmountable problem but irritating nonetheless. Also, Friendie claims that the headsets have fast charge but doesn’t give the specifics to what that means in the real world.
I didn’t have very high expectations going into this review but after my experience with equally unknown but incredible EKSA E900 Pro’s — I’ve learned to keep an open mind. I wish I could say the Air Duo impressed me as much as those headphones but they haven’t.
Yes, the Air Duo are good but not $300 kinda good. You gotta remember, that at this price there’s major competition from the likes of the legendary Bose QC 25, Sony WH1000XM3 and Beats Studio. And that’s not even considering gaming headsets like the Steelseries Arctis 9 and Razer Blackshark V2 Pro. The Air Duo’s 50+ hour battery is a huge selling point but the overall comfort and audio performance simply isn’t enough to compete.
The Air Duo strikes me as $150 headphone and at the price, I’d tell you to go for it. But alas, at its current price, you really can get much better for your money.
Friendie provided the Air Duo to PowerUp for the purpose of this review.