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Do Will.i.am’s premium headphones stack up against the rest?

With Buttons, it’s clear that i.am+ have made a set of premium headphones, an eye-catching, iconic, must-have item.

Or at least that’s what they’ve tried to do.

Will.i.am, a seven-time Grammy winner has tried (and failed) to produce some show-stopping products with his infamously clunky iPhone case and smart watch – neither of which cut the mustard.

It’s a tad unfair to lump the Buttons in with those two; they’re certainly a better product, although the desire to be iconic still remains. Fashion is clearly a priority for i.am+.

With vinyl-inspired ‘medallions’ (which are about the size of a 20 cent coin) attached to the headphones, the Buttons certainly are eye-catching. They come in four different colours, all of which match the iPhone 7, and the size of the outer earpiece means you won’t be inconspicuous wearing them on your daily commute.

Whether they’re considered fashionable or not is up to each individual user, but the claim that clasping the two magnetic pieces around your neck creates a “stylish necklace” is wishful thinking. It’s a useful feature – a convenient way to store your headphones when you’re on the move – but the resulting contraption just looks like a pair of headphones on a string.

On to a far more important topic: the sound. The Buttons aren’t as bass-heavy as one would imagine, but you’ll still get a pretty deep sound out of them. The treble is clear enough, but anything relying on a healthy dose of mid-range tones won’t be done justice by the headphones.

They sound fine, but for a product that will set you back the best part of $300 (the Buttons retail for AU$289.99 in Australia) the quality is lacking. Compare them to a stock-standard pair of Apple headphones, and, outside of deeper bass, you can’t help but wonder where the extra money has gone.

Closeup of Buttons volume control

This no doubt some of those funds have gone towards the fashion-oriented design. The volume controls, for example, look good but it can be difficult to work out which button your finger is on. On more than one occasion, I went to turn the Buttons off, only to inadvertently turn the sound up to deafening levels.

The rest of the features are far more premium. The Bluetooth connectivity does the job solidly, the controls are simple and intuitive – once you’ve worked out which of the three buttons you’re holding – and I’ve never had an issue with the microphone while making calls.

The advertised six-hour battery life is bang on the money, although it won’t work too well for long flights and it would have been better had the Buttons come with a plug-in charger, rather than just the lone USB cable.

The range of rubber ear pads included with the Buttons is excellent. With two different configurations – a standard single-piece set-up and a noise-cancelling two-piece arrangement – both of which come in both small, medium and large options, you’re just about guaranteed to get a snug fit.

All in all, whether the Buttons are for you comes down to your priorities in a set of wireless headphones. If you’re after something stylish and eye-catching that sound fine – and you think the Buttons look great – they’re the option for you. But if sound quality is the be all and end all for you, you’d be better off spending your $300 elsewhere.

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