Good details to note here is the battery life, which manages somewhere between 26 or 30 hours, depending on whether you use ANC.
A tour around the Fairphone Fairbuds XL
Fairbuds XL comes in two colors, one black and one green, where we got the green one for testing. The green color matches the green version of the Fairphone 4.
If we look at the headset itself, there is not much that stands out from the multitude of over ear headsets that are already on the market. In our case, it is probably mostly the green color, with the individual orange elements, that stand out the most.
If you dive deeper into the details, however, there are things that stand out about the Fairbuds XL.
Something you might not be able to see on the surface is the choice of materials. Fairphone does a great job of making as sustainable products as possible. This means that all aluminum used for the metal parts of the headset are 100% recycled materials. For the plastic parts, 80% of the materials are recycled. In the same way, we are talking about Vegan Leather, which is used on the ear cushions.
The sustainable awareness also carries over to the working conditions of those who work to assemble and make the Fairphone products. Here, Fairphone guarantees safe working conditions and a fair salary.
The other great detail about the Fairphone products is that they are designed to be easy to repair for the users themselves. This means that it can be taken apart easily and Fairphone has spare parts, so you can replace the parts if something should break instead of replacing the whole headset.
At the time of writing, the list of spare parts includes virtually all parts of the headset, from battery and speakers to headbands, covers and cables. This means that you can replace all functional parts of the headset if the need arises.
Immediately, it is not something you can see on the headset when you stand with it in your hand. The clearest sign of the modular approach to things is that the cable connecting the two speakers can be removed and is actually a USB C cable.
The materials and build quality feel good all around the headset. The ear cushions are, as I said, with Vegan Leather over soft memory foam and feel very comfortable.
The size can be adjusted on the headband, and the two ear cups themselves are mounted in a way where they can give a little to adapt to the user.
It is possible to fold the set so that it takes up less space during transport. A cloth bag for transport is also included, which is of course also made from recycled materials.
Control of the headset is done on the right ear cup, where there is a button that can switch between ANC and Ambient Modes, or turn both off. A voice in the headset tells you which setting to switch to.
Media control is done on a small joystick, which can very practically control most things. One press is play/pause, up or down controls the volume, while forward or back changes the music track.
If you press the joystick twice, you get a message telling you how much battery you have left.
Finally, at the bottom of the right ear cup, there is a USB C connector for charging the 800 mAh large battery. The USB C port can also be used as a USB C to 3.5 mm plug if you would like to be able to use a wired connection. The cable for it is sold separately.
If you want to delve into the settings for your Fairbuds XL headset, you can download the Fairsound app on your smartphone.
Here you can see how much battery you have left and switch between four different EQ presets. Unfortunately, there is no option to customize them or create your own, so you just have to bet on one of the predefined ones matching your preferences.
Via the Fairsound app, it is also possible to check whether there is new Firmware. Very practical, you can also get an overview of the individual parts that make up your headset. Via the app, you can be linked directly to the Fairphone website, where you can order spare parts.
There is also the option of being linked to Fairphone's support website. Here there is a whole section for finding problems and fixing them if something is wrong. At the time of writing, however, that page does not include any help for the Fairbuds XL, but only for the Fairphone phones.
However, I would assume that will happen before long. The Fairbuds XL has only just been launched and hopefully no one needs repairs yet.
All in all, there's not much you can do with the Fairsound app, and I find it especially disappointing that you can't adapt the EQ settings there or make your own.
Similarly, there is no option to adjust the ANC or Ambient settings either.
I've had the Fairphone Fairbuds XL on my desk for a week now, and have been using it for a good combination of music and other media.
The comfort is really good on the set, which even during prolonged use has not become annoying to wear. Even as a spectacle wearer there have been no problems and the soft memory foam cushions adapt well and comfortably.
There is a good degree of passive noise reduction, as the set closes quite tightly around the ears. It might make me fear a little if it will be a hot set to use as we move into summer. However, it was not something I experienced as a problem here during my test.
In relation to being a new manufacturer on the market for headsets, Fairphone has managed to make a headset with a solid and delicious sound experience. I have tested on the standard EQ setting via the app, which Fairphone calls Amsterdam. The three other EQ profiles, Copenhagen, Tokyo and Boston, were not to my taste. I think they removed too much of the high details in the sound, at the expense of a very full bass bottom.
However, the standard setting does the job really well, with a good balance between low mids and highs. All the way through my rather mixed music setup for tests, the Fairbuds managed a really good level of detail across pop, classical and metal.
The call quality is also good, and the set manages to reproduce clear and pleasant voices when the set is used for calls.
The battery life that Fairphone states is around 30 hours without ANC and 26 with ANC, in my opinion it is very good. A charge takes about two and a half hours when it needs to be topped up again.
The active noise reduction (ANC) works sensibly to put a dampener on the most normal noise annoyances, if you are, for example, a passenger on a train or traveling by plane. The set does not manage to come up to the level of the best sets on the market, which remove the sound to a much higher degree. However, enough of a dampener has been put on that, together with any music gets a somewhat more undisturbed experience.
The Ambient setting lets in the sound around you, with a fairly clear focus on voices. However, I found that I shouldn't play very loud music until I really got the most out of Ambient Mode. So in relation to a general more open feeling, when driving in traffic, for example, I don't think the effect was that good.
For natural reasons, I have not needed to make use of the option to repair and replace parts on the Fairbuds XL myself. However, the whole set can be taken apart relatively easily, using a normal, albeit small, Phillips screwdriver.
However, that whole part of the selling point rests on Fairphone spare parts continuing to be available. Previous efforts by other manufacturers in that style have proven difficult to sustain in the long term. However, Fairphone's entire business is based on this particular approach to things, so there should be hope that they will maintain the plan. After all, they have been on the market since 2013.
At the time of writing, I cannot find any Danish online price for the Fairphone Fairbuds XL, as they have just been launched. However, the message from the manufacturer is that we can expect a price around DKK 300$.
This means that they are in a rental where there are many really good alternatives. In this connection, however, you must also remember that the objectives that Fairphone has in relation to fair wages, good working conditions and sustainability are things that come at a cost. Part of the price here is also the good conscience you get with it.
Fairphone Fairbuds XL is in many ways a sensible headset. There are no large and critical areas where the set falls through. There are minor details, but nothing critical.
Where the Fairbuds XL gets a little challenged is in the price. We land close to 300$, and at that price you can get alternatives from, for example, Sony and Sennheiser, which do better in several parameters.
With that in mind, you must take into account that Fairphone does a great job for sustainability and fair working conditions. It certainly helps to drive the price up and contributes to the fact that the Fairbuds XL are not directly competitive on a feature to feature comparison.
This means that you must be willing to pay for the measures and the work for a more sustainable solution if the Fairbuds XL is to make sense. So a very personal assessment.
Personally, I think that Fairphone deserves praise for their work for sustainability, and I wish more manufacturers had the same approach, both in relation to the environment, but also the people who work to make their products.
We end up with a final grade of 8 for a product that does the job really well, but which, however, has a higher price in order to be good for the environment and their workforce. They win big on principles and lose a little on features.