Rowkin Surge wireless headphones review
Are all wireless headphones born equal? Definitely not. With the arrival of Apple’s Airpods and numerous other competitors from Bose, Sony and Jabra to name a few, the competition is pretty stiff for high-end wireless headphones. Rowkin is making a new pair of sport-inspired wireless ear buds. The Rowkin Surge is specifically designed for sport performance with their rugged design. I had a chance to try out the Surge for a few weeks; here’s what I found.
Read Erin’s review of the Rowkin Mini truly wireless earbuds
Rowkin Surge Review: what’s in the box?
Inside the package I found a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. These headphones are in-ear models with a hook to help keep them in place on your ear. They are truly wireless, since there’s no neckband connecting them to each other. Also in the package, a dual charge micro-USB cable, extra silicone ear tips and of course a… Oh. Wait a minute, there’s no carrying case? We’ll get to that later.
Pairing Rowkin Surge: no pairing… individualing?
First thing’s first, the key to any pair of wireless headphones is the ease of pairing. I must admit, having used Apple’s Airpods, the bar has been raised pretty high with auto connections.
As with most Bluetooth devices, pairing the Rowkin Surge was pretty standard. The pairing buttons were easily accessible by holding down the middle button, waiting for the prompt and then matching on your phone. There is a catch to this. Since these are independently paired headphones (left and right) I had to pair them one at a time. This wasn’t terribly difficult but a bit of a nuisance. I was also a little disappointed that on my iPhone’s Bluetooth menu, the ear bud did not display specifically which one was left or right. It’s a minor thing I know, but it was still a bit of an annoyance.
As an aside, I did try listening with just one earbud just to see if it could perform the way other high end earbuds do or in case I happen to lose one. It did perform with just one but it honestly felt very strange. Imagine wearing just one sock. It’s awkward.
Rowkin Surge fit and feel
I found the fit to be very snug which was important to me since I have had issues with improperly fitting ear buds in the past. Nothing is worse than headphones falling out during a workout, but fortunately it seems there’s not much chance of this happening with the Rowkin Surge. The ear tips fit deeply into the ear canal, which helps get good quality sound. At the same time though, they are in there really deep. I think my mother told me never to stick anything bigger than my elbow in my ear. One final Pro Tip: make sure your ears are clean before shoving these in your ear canal.
Noise isolation is good: too good?
The extremely deep and tight fit completely cancels out all extraneous noise. Now this is fine and dandy if you don’t wish to be disturbed, but I honestly felt this was a bit of a safety issue, especially if you happen to be running on a busy pathway. Another potential hazard is if a cyclist was trying to alert you, I don’t think you would hear their bell even at a moderate volume. If you work out privately, it shouldn’t bother you but it’s something to consider before buying.
Sweat and water resistance
After a brisk run on the treadmill, I realized I was also testing out the Surge’s sweat proof capabilities. I found the Surge to be unaffected by sweat or moisture. Since they sit so deep in your ears, there shouldn’t be any interference with sweat as I have experienced in the past.
The Rowkin Surge did perform well in sweaty / humid conditions. I did not fully immerse them in water but if you decide to swim with these headphones it might distract you from the great white shark chasing after you. But seriously, the headphones are IPX5. To put this in perspective, an IPX rating of 5 is the equivalent of projecting water with a 6.3 mm nozzle against enclosure from any direction while showing no harmful effects.
Sound quality – Rowkin Surge
Overall the sound quality was exceptional. The bass was really thumping for sure. I have no concerns with the overall audio quality. I enjoyed them and didn’t feel anything was missing. I’m no master audiophile, so I think other average users would also like these.
Erin had an issue with a pair of Rowkin Minis she tried out being out of sync and disconnecting. Unfortunately I had the same problem. When watching videos using the Surge headphones the audio was noticeably out of sync with the video. I’d guess it was about half a second. It was definitely enough so that instead of enjoying the video I was constantly asking myself, “it’s out of sync, right? Is it ahead of the audio or behind?”
This is not uncommon with some fully wireless headphones (though it didn’t happen with the Jabra Elite Sport, read that review here), but it is frustrating and limits their usefulness.
Battery life & Charging – Rowkin Surge
Battery life was comparable to some other long-life wireless headphones today. The Rowkin Surge provides about 5 hours of music on a single full charge and about 1 full hour of playback on only a 10 minute charge which is handy for those days when you forget to charge your headphones and want to do a quick workout.
I have to say I didn’t love the charging experience with the Surge.
The Surge does not come with a charging case or even a case at all. Included is a micro-USB Y-Splitter that is a little cumbersome. You need to charge each earbud separately.
I’ve never been a fan of having to pry open those silly little rubber seals in order to plug a micro-USB charger in and of course initially inserting upside down the first try. I can’t say I blame Rowkin for this issue; if you want your headphones to be water/sweat proof you need the seals. And of course to have them work independently they need to be charged independently, I just found it awkward.
I understand that these are not the high end earbuds that come in a fancy self-charging case. For that you’d need to upgrade to some of Rowkin’s other wireless buds like the Micro or the Bit.
Rowkin Surge – Why no case? Not even a pouch?
Accessories were a bit of a disappointment for me. Wireless headphones tend to wander off, and since these are designed for the sports enthusiast, I can see these ending up at the bottom of the gym bag. At the very least a case or pouch would have been nice.
There are a number of earbud replacements that come in the package, but that’s about it. I would also recommend picking up either a longer micro-USB splitter or an extension cord because the one included is a little short for my liking.
Overall thoughts on Rowkin Surge wireless headphones
Overall I was pretty happy with the Rowkin Surge, but I did note some areas that could be improved.
While the fit was more than secure, I found them a bit of a trick to get into my ears. Yes, you get used to that, but they are a bit of a production to get them in and then get the over-ear hooks to line up just right.
I did have another issue with these headphones. For starters, that lack of case or pouch. With the Surge, there’s simply nowhere to put them when not in use other than your pocket I suppose. Maybe I need a change purse or an Altoids tin?
Since the Surge fit so securely and have such excellent noise cancellation, I would be very careful when jogging along pathways or anywhere hazardous.
With that serious noise isolation, you will also need to remove one of the headphones to talk to fellow gym rats, pedestrians, or your mother in law.
Compared to most earbuds, the Surge isn’t super lightweight but I honestly didn’t mind this. They are not flimsy and felt very secure in my ears. They do seem capable of moderate wear and tear which is again significant because there isn’t a case included.
Other notable features of the Rowkin Surge include Siri Activation or Google Assistant with a couple of quick taps. The Surge also has a built in microphone that was surprisingly very clear on phone calls. The Bluetooth 4.2 range of almost 30 feet was also impressive.
The sync issue when watching videos was disappointing. Yeah, it’s not uncommon, but it seems like a few years into fully wireless headphones, this issue would have been largely solved by now.
Overall if you’re looking for a pair of headphones that sound good and fit really well, with superior noise isolation at a low price (and you can find your own Altoids tin to use as a case), and you won’t be using them to watch a lot of videos, these will be a great choice.
The Rowkin Surge retails for $99.99US on amazon.com or $129 US from Rowkin’s website , which is decent deal for wireless headphones if you are not into paying for premium headphones.