Blue has been building quite a selection of headphones over the past year or so. The company just recently launched its full lineup of wired headphones, including the Blue Ella, Blue Sadie, and Blue Lola headphones. Now, however, it’s back with a wireless pair — The Blue Satellite headphones.
The Satellite looks a little different than the other headphones Blue has on offer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not of the same caliber of quality — in fact, like some of Blue’s other headphones they feature a built-in headphone amplifier. But are they worth the $399? We put them to the test to find out.
The first thing you’ll notice when you get the headphones out of the box is their design, and they look quite good. They come in black-and-silver or white-and-brown, and both look premium and well built. As was the case with Blue’s other recent headphone releases, they’re quite bulky — and while that’s not inherently a bad thing, it is something to keep in mind if you’re looking for something ultra-portable.
The Satellite headphones feature buttons on both sides for controlling your listening experience, with the buttons placed around the edge of the Blue logo. The placement of those buttons looks good from a design perspective, but unfortunately it’s a little confusing when you’re not looking at the headphones and instead trying to control them while you’re wearing them. You will get used to it after some use, but the learning curve is a little steeper than it should be. Another issue with the buttons seems to be that the labels on them rub off quite easily. Out of the box the “AMP” button was wearing off, and other reviewers note that issue being present for them too.
Apart from that, however, the headphones look nice and are quite well-built. While they’re largely built out of plastic rather than metal, that plastic seems to be strong enough to withstand some abuse — although if you’re taking them on the road we still recommend using the included case.
On the left earcup, you’ll find the Bluetooth pairing button, noise cancelling activation button, and a button to engage the built-in headphone amplifier. On the bottom, you’ll also find a power button and a microUSB port for charging the headphones. On the right earcup, you’ll see the volume controls, and a multi-use button for controlling incoming phone calls and managing playback. On the bottom, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, which allows you to use the headphones in passive mode — perfect for if they run out of juice while you’re listening.
In the box, you’ll find the headphones themselves, along with a nice hard-case, a microUSB charging cable, and a nice and long 3.5mm audio cable. It’s really a good selection of accessories, and there’s not much more you’d need to come with the cans.
In general, the Blue Satellite headphones look pretty nice, and while the placement of all the buttons and controls isn’t the most intuitive, it’s also not a deal-breaker.
There’s quite a lot of padding on the headphones when it comes to both the earpads and the headband, and it turns out that padding is pretty necessary. Not only are the Blue Satellite headphones quite heavy, making the padding on the headband important, but they feature a pretty hard clamp too. It would have been nice if the headphones didn’t clamp down on your head quite as hard.
Still, in general the Blue Satellite headphones are comfortable, and you will get used to the way they fit the longer you wear them. We found that after an hour or so of listening they were substantially more comfortable than when we first put them on.
Blue is known for delivering an excellent sound quality, something that’s only expected to continue with the Blue Satellite headphones. Thankfully, they performed quite well.
For starters the bass on these headphones is deep and thick, and it’s clear a lot of attention to detail has been put into the bass response here. Eminem’s Lose Yourself boasts a ton of rumble in the low end, while even tracks with a little less bass emphasis get a nice kick.
The low-mids continue the trend of being quite boosted in the low-end, and overall it gives the headphones quite a warm feel. There are times when that low-end boost gets a little muddy, but it’s not unbearable, and certainly not a deal-breaker. The high-mids seem a little more toned down compared to the low-mids, though there’s still plenty of room for things like vocals and guitars to shine through a mix.
The high end is clear and concise, which is good to hear. Cymbals shine through quite well and vocals are crisp and cutting. Strings on orchestral music get a nice timbre to them too.
It’s important to note that these headphones aren’t aimed at sounding overly natural. Audiophiles out there may not be too impressed with the sound these have on offer — they boost the lows, and tune the highs. That being said, if all you want is a great listening experience and don’t care much about how natural they sound, then the Blue Satellite’s have a lot to offer.
The soundstage on these headphones is nice and wide, and the headphones didn’t distort easily at all, no matter whether the amplifier was activated or not. Speaking of deactivating the amplifier, we found that doing so caused the sound to be slightly less bass-heavy and slightly less clear in the high-end — but the headphones still sounded great, so if you find yourself with no battery life left, don’t worry too much.
These headphones don’t just have a built-in amplifier, they also have noise cancellation, which works quite well. The large majority of outside noise is toned down at least a little — even hard to predict sounds like talking. It’s not the best noise cancellation in the business — but it’s pretty good and helps make the headphones great for things like long flights.
There is a small issue with the sound of the Blue Satellite headphones, and that’s that the Bluetooth connection seems to be quite noisy — more so than other headphones. That issue varies depending on whether or not you have the amplifier and noise cancellation activated, but it’s still audible. The only was we found to get rid of it is to disconnect Bluetooth. It’s important to note that the buzzing introduced is very quiet, and you won’t hear it at all when you’re listening to music — but it’s certainly noticeable when you’re not.
The battery life on the Blue Satellite headphones is quite good, though as is to be expected things like the amplifier and noise cancellation take quite a heavy toll. The headphones will last 8 hours of listening time with Bluetooth, the amp, and ANC activated — though if only Bluetooth is active you’ll get a much more substantial 24 hours out of them. That’s not bad at all.
When it comes to the listening distance, the headphones feature a pretty standard Bluetooth 4.1 connection, which offers a 10 meter — or 33ft — distance. We found that was more or less true in our tests, though obstacles like walls significantly impact that figure.
The Blue Satellite headphones are an experiment for Blue, and we suspect they’re an experiment the company will learn a lot from. That’s not to say they’re not great headphones — they are. They just suffer from some minor yet totally avoidable issues. For example, the clamp could be lighter, the button placement could be simplified, and the labels could be stamped a little better.
In the end, however, none of those issues are deal-breakers. You don’t see many Bluetooth headphones out there with a built-in amplifier and active noise cancellation, and Blue has managed to pull it off. Redeeming qualities include the interesting design and the fact that ultimately they sound great. If sound is the most important thing for you, then these are a great option.
Is there anything better for the price? Well, that depends. We haven’t reviewed any other headphones with Bluetooth, an amp, and noise cancellation, so if you want headphones with all three of those options, then these are the ones for you. The JBL Everest Elite 700’s, however, come in at $299 and offer both noise cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity. Of course, they’re not as audiophile-friendly as these are, and they don’t feature the amplifier.
In any case, the Blue Satellite headphones are a good pair, and because of their high-quality audio and large number of features, they’ve been awarded the Headphone Review Bronze Medal.
|Frequency response||16Hz – 22kHz||Active noise cancellation
|Driver size||44mm||Noise attenuation||Up to 25dB (with ANC)|
|Sensitivity||-32dB||Earpad material||Memory foam|
|Total harmonic distortion
|Rated input power
||Unknown||Battery life||8 Hours (With Bluetooth, ANC, and amp)|
|Maximum input power
||Unknown||Wireless distance||10m (33ft)|
||Bluetooth 4.1||Cable length||3m (9.8ft)|
||3.5mm||Case type||Hard case|