Based in Victoria, the company was started in 2015 by Jane & Phil Sahhar. They currently produce in ear, over ear and on ear headphones, audio sunglasses, speakers and a wide range of accessories. The company takes a committed stance on improving their business’ environmental impact, and supporting a variety of charities – 2020’s charity was Beyond Blue. They come across as very friendly, as their name suggests, down to earth and approachable.
What’s in the box
As well as what is inside it, the box itself is noteworthy. As part of their environmental efforts Friendie is trying to reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging, so the headphones come in their protective case inside a strong cardboard box rather than wrapped in plastic.
In addition to the headphones themselves there is a carry/storage case, a micro usb charging cable, a 3.5mm audio cable and a detachable microphone.
Design, fit & comfort
For most of us the visual aesthetic of a product is generally what we notice first, and the Friendie AIR Duo’s do not disappoint. They come in matte black or rose gold and in both cases it’s obvious that plenty of attention was paid to ensuring they look amazing. The only let down in the overall aesthetic is the buttons. With the rest of the unit looking very lux the buttons feel very cheap and plasticky, similar to what you might find on a children’s toy.
Setup was really really simple, turn on the headphones, turn on your Bluetooth, and select the Friendie AIR Duo. That simple.
The headphones are very lightweight – coming in at only 240g and sit on your head comfortably. There is vertical adjustment in the arms of the headphones, but no lateral adjustment. I found the fit to be slightly loose in part because of this, which resulted in an imperfect seal around my ears. This loose fit then resulted in a notable amount of rustling if my head moved.
Friendie call the AIR Duos over ear headphones, but I found the centre space to be quite small – 5cm x 3.5cm – which made them feel more like on ear headphones rather than over ear. Initially they felt quite comfortable to wear, however as they pressed my ear flat rather than fitting my ear inside the centre space, I found after an extended period of wear – approx 1.5 hours – they started to become slightly uncomfortable.
Personally I have steered away from over ear headphones in the past because of the issues I have with wearing them at the same time as my glasses. Unfortunately for me the Friendies presented me with this exact problem. The arms of my sunglasses are not flush with my head and the padding on each earpiece doesn’t soften enough to surround the arms. This results in a 1 cm gap all the way around, making the headphones almost unwearable. The arms of my regular glasses are flexible so the padding can actually cause a slight distortion in my vision so that I have to adjust my glasses and the headphones quite a lot to get both settled correctly.
Given quite a lot of people wear glasses and sunglasses hopefully this is something Friendie may look into improving in the future.
There are only three buttons and they make them do a lot of work, with each button having multiple functions. The combination of functions using long or short presses can be a bit confusing to read in the manual, but when you are actually using them it becomes straightforward fairly quickly.
The removable microphone is quite flexible but doesn’t really retain the shape its bent into, just settles into a slight curve. It does however, markedly increase the sound quality when compared to the inbuilt microphone.
Sound quality was very good, and the mid to high range audio was really clean. I was primarily listening to either audiobooks, music or YouTube videos and there was no distortion or crackle in the sound even when the headphones were at their outer range of the Bluetooth connection.
There is nothing lacking in sound depth and quality produced by these headphones, no matter the audio type, and overall they provide a really good listening experience. With headphones you tend to notice only when the quality is poor or the range is lacking. If the quality is good then you just have a seamless listening experience.
The sound quality on the recipient’s end during a phone call was quite clear and crisp. Using the removable microphone gave significantly better results, however the inbuilt microphone picked up and transmitted significantly more background noise. This is not unexpected and in fact the instructions for the unit do specifically recommend using the removable microphone.
The vibration mode was a surprise. In reality it doesn’t add anything to the bass sound reproduction but it tricks your brain into thinking that it has. The vibration adds depth to the sound without increasing the volume and adds a dimension to the listening experience that is quite unexpected and enjoyable.
They take approx 4 hours to fully charge but will then allow you up to 54 hours of playback/talk time and 300 hours in standby. Friendie recommends using a computer to charge the headphones due to a computer’s ability to adjust the amount of voltage provided to match what is required by the device. These headphones need 3.7V, any wall charger of a higher voltage must be able to limit the amount of flow or you risk overheating and potential damage to the headphones.
Another point of note is Friendie’s policy on accidental breakage. Most companies don’t have an accidental breakage policy – “You broke your headphones? Sucks to be you.” Friendie however, offers a 50% off coupon for anyone who contacts them, and I quote “tell us ‘My dog did it’”. They don’t even ask for the broken pair to be returned.
Good vs Bad
The Friendie AIR Duos are labelled as ‘noise isolating’ rather than ‘noise cancelling’. This in my opinion is both good and bad. Wearing these headphones you can still hear the world around you – if you want to hear only the audio you are listening to it’s bad, if you need to be able to still hear your kids while listening to your NSFK audio then it’s great.
Friendie’s website states:
“Over-ear design containing high density foam to reduce and isolate exterior noise, whilst avoiding sound manipulation/loss caused by noise cancelling technology”
To some this might seem like they are calling a bug a feature and for the price point of $350 the lack of noise cancelling technology may deter some buyers.
- Great sound quality
- Handy when kids are watching 2 different things (TV and iPad) – I can still hear my music/video/audiobook
- Good for slightly noisy environments where, without headphones, you’d struggle to hear your audio clearly
- Certified RoHS compliant, which isn’t currently required under Australian law, and means they are free from certain hazardous chemical substances.
- Removable microphone allows for superior sound quality on calls but also allows you to simply use them as headphones
- Beautifully designed but let down a little by plastic-y buttons
- LED’s are a fun design element and add to the overall aesthetic.
- It uses a micro usb charger.
- Billed as great for low impact exercise, they certainly aren’t suited for more than a walk or perhaps a yoga flow since with every movement the headphones shift slightly on your head and you get rustling noises from that movement.
- They won’t turn on while charging – they will work still as passive headphones – this means however that you will be using them with 2 cords attached. Also, if you touch the USB charging cable while it’s plugged in you will get static noises through the headphones.
- The 3.5mm audio cable is twice as long as the USB cable. Realistically the only time you are going to be using them as passive headphones is when they are plugged in charging – the 3.5mm cable being so long compared with the USB will just mean you have a lot more cable in your way while being unable to use the extra cable length to move away from your computer.
- The headphones were not a snug fit, only partly because of issues with glasses/sunnies, and because of the looser fit I kept hearing rustling noises whenever I was moving.
As stated previously I don’t generally prefer on or over ear headphones, however if I were looking for a pair, Friendies would definitely make the shortlist.
If you are listening to hours of audio at a time, need total sound isolation or need them to exercise with then I don’t think these particular headphones will do the job. However, If like me, you want something that gives good sound without blocking out the rest of the world, that are comfy to pop on and off throughout the day and you want to support a company that ticks a lot of ethical boxes, then I would urge you to seriously consider a pair of Friendies.
The company itself is a big selling point – Aussie owned and run, environmentally-conscious past the point required by law and a supporter of charities. Add to that a friendly and approachable demeanour online, their attitude towards accidental breakage and their overall product quality and Friendie is a company worthy of supporting.
Friendie Air Duos are available for purchase online direct from Friendie.
From now until the 31st of December Friendie have created a special discount code for Ausdroid readers. For 50% off your purchase use the coupon code: ‘Ausdroid’ at the checkout.
Due to hygiene reasons the units can not be returned for reuse.