Arriva Leo Stereo Wireless Bluetooth Headset Review

My airline travel has recently picked up the past year and I find myself on planes for more hours than I can remember. And if you have ever spent any time in coach on an airline, you know the value of a good set of headphones. I have tried every earbud known to man and have come to the conclusion that there is no good earbud. So wanting to avoid wires altogether, I have recently been trying Bluetooth stereo headsets. My most recent foray into the wireless Bluetooth headset arena is the Leo Stereo Wireless Bluetooth Headset from Arriva. With a name like Leo, it better have some teeth, right?  Let’s find out if it does!

Before getting my hands on the Leo my day-to-day stereo Bluetooth headset was the Motorola S10-HD. This isn’t a review of that headset, but I will compare the Leo to that headset simply for the sake of those of you who may own that one.  I like the S10-HD, so I was really curious if the Arriva would take its place as my go-to headset.

Let’s start out with some photos:

The Arriva comes with a micro-USB charger, 3 sets of earbud covers in addition to 1 set already on the earbuds, and a hard foam round carrying case that holds the Arriva quite nicely. The headset folds up nicely in that case, and they are great for traveling because they take up so little space.

2 sets of the earbuds have a little loopy things (yes, that is a technical term) that extend from the earbud to push against the inside of your ear to hold the earbud in place.  I tried the foam and plain earbud covers and neither worked for me, so the loopy earbud covers were a must for my ears.

Here is a better picture of what it looks like on the back of my head. You can see the main unit rests at the base of your skull, allowing you to wear a helmet, glasses, hat, etc, and be unobstructed.

The next picture is a closeup shot of the main unit on the headset.

The micro-USB charging port is on the bottom of the unit.  It has a power button and a plus and minus button on the front. Each button performs several functions. Holding the power button turns the headset on, and if you keep holding it down for 7 seconds, the headset goes into pairing mode.  You hear some tones when it turns on, but oddly you don’t heard anything when it goes into pairing mode. Every Bluetooth headset I have ever owned makes a “pairing” sound, so when I first tried to pair it with something I thought something was wrong because I didn’t hear any tone or indications that I was pairing.  If you receive a phone call while listening to music,  pressing the power button will answer the call and when you hang up the music will start again. While listening to music a tap on the power button will pause the music.

The plus and minus buttons will increase and decrease the volume of the sound and long-pressing the buttons will advance to the next or previous songs in your playlist.

And here is a picture of the size comparison between the Arriva (left) and the Motorola S10-HD (right)

The Arriva, just like the Motorola, is one of those Bluetooth headsets that can also answer calls on your phone because it has a mic built into the left earbud. When I used it to talk on the phone I wasn’t that pleased with the results. The call quality to me was what I experienced with Bluetooth headsets a few years ago. It was susceptible to wind noise and more often than not the person on the other end of the call would ask me to repeat myself.  I used both headsets to call myself and leave a voicemail and then I listened to the messages.  While the Motorola provided slightly better sound quality than the Arriva, I just don’t think either one of these headsets are meant to be used for making calls all day. They are fine if you want to answer a quick call while you are listening to music, but I don’t think that long conversations are suited for this headset and I wouldn’t buy this one if that was your intention. There are many other Bluetooth headsets that are designed for making calls. For example, I can listen to music using my Plantronics Pro headset, but I wouldn’t do it because it sounds bad and that headset wasn’t designed for listening to music.

Where the Leo has no teeth:

When I first took it out of the package and tried to place it on my head I am glad someone wasn’t videotaping me. I initially thought that maybe I had received a defective unit because I couldn’t get the darn thing to stay on my head for more than a few seconds and it just looking all mangled and funny. After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I was able to bend and shape the Arrive to fit my head and my ears. So what started out as a big negative in my initial impression turned into a good experience when I realized I could bend and mold this thing to fit my head perfectly.  I can now wear it for hours and not realize I have it on. So you’ll need to be patient when you first start wearing it and find out what fits best for you.

I mentioned that I expected to hear some sort of audible tone when pairing the device, and I didn’t hear anything.  You also don’t hear anything after the headset connects to a device. I expect to hear something when that happens too, but I heard nothing. So I had to actually play some music to make sure that it was working with my tablet or phone.

With other Bluetooth headsets, for example, if I walk away from my phone beyond the range of the Bluetooth I get some sort of audible indication that my headset is no longer communicating with the phone. This has saved me countless times from leaving my phone someplace on accident. The Leo doesn’t do that either.

I experienced a big problem with my Verizon HTC Thunderbolt and the Leo. I won’t go into all the techy detail but here is the bottom line: if you own the Thunderbolt, then when using the Leo, don’t use the “LTE On/Off” app that allows you to turn off the 4G connection on the phone to save your battery. When you do that the Thunderbolt will lock up on an incoming call if you are using the Leo. When I used the Thunderbolt in normal mode (with the 4G connection on) then everything was fine. Not sure what that was about, but now I know, and so do you.

Where the Leo has some teeth:

The sound from this headset is top notch. It is quite literally the best sounding Bluetooth headset I have ever heard. The highs and the lows are wonderful. I couldn’t turn up the volume all the way on any device for fear of blowing out my eardrums, so you will enjoy the high quality sound. I’ve already mentioned how comfortable it is, so you should have no problems with getting this to fit.  While the Motorola is comfortable, the Arriva feels nice. I don’t do extreme sports of any kind, so I can’t speak to how well it would stay on my head while hang-gliding, but the headset stayed on my head while jogging and working out.

And the price is just right. It is now $69.95, which is cheaper than what I paid for the Motorola S10.

Miscellaneous information

While I experienced no problems with sweating while working out, Arriva does state that this is not a waterproof headset, so no swimming with this thing.  The battery (140mAh) lasts about 5 hours before needing a charge and it is supposed to last 20 days on standby. It takes about an hour and a half to fully charge and the battery, and the headset has an indicator light to let you know when it is done charging.  Their website also has some guides on how to pair with various phones and how to get the Leo adjusted to fit your head.

The bottom line

The Leo is the best sounding and most comfortable Bluetooth headset I have ever owned. I used it successfully with my HTC Android cellphone, my HTC Flyer tablet, my ASUS Eee Pad Transformer tablet, a Samsung Fascinate cellphone, an iPhone, and an iPod Touch.  Aside from the aforementioned issue with the phone-locking-up thing I already mentioned, it worked flawlessly.  I did not experience any skipping or signal dropping.

I should also mention that when I had the issue with the phone locking up I contacted Arriva via email (they have no published phone number) and they responded quickly and provided me ideas and suggestions about what might be happening.  They even offered to send me another headset, and they sent all the information I gave them to their technical folks to find a solution.  Their folks were really nice about the whole thing and they took my suggestions for how to improve the product and seemed genuinely interested in making me happy, so I give them props for that.

I like the Motorola S10 HD, I really do. It’s a good Bluetooth headset.  But I like the Arriva even more, so the Motorola will be delegated to the gadget drawer as my back-up device.  I am going to give the Arriva an 8 out of 10, so I do recommend it to anyone.

 

Product Information

Price:$69.95
Manufacturer:Arriva
Requirements:
  • Bluetooth 2.1 compatible device
Pros:
  • Very comfortable
  • Great highs and lows
  • Voice prompt if you move out of range
  • Big buttons to accommodate gloves
Cons:
  • Lots of initial wrangling to fit
  • No audible tones in certain instances
  • Phone locked up when receiving a call
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear, Bluetooth Gear, Reviews

{ 28 comments… add one }

  • Jerry Danzig November 8, 2011, 2:43 pm

    I just had the chance to review a pair of Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Ear Buds for Amazon, and I must say, they sound superb! They offer three modes of n.c. tailored to different environments, and provided you get a proper fit in your ears, they work VERY well. I’m afraid they’re a little pricey at $200, but for frequent travelers looking for A+ sound with effective noise reduction, they may be worth it. No Bluetooth, however…

    1
  • ruben November 8, 2011, 11:02 pm

    The pictures remind me of a scifi movie. Somekind of probing defice to control human mind LOL

    On the serious side, anybody ever done research on the effect of bluetooth device so close to the brain like that??

    2
  • Bryan November 13, 2011, 8:11 am

    It’s probably worth pointing out that most airlines would not allow this if they understood it was bluetooth-based. After buying a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, the first flight I was on I checked the in-flight-manual, and such devices (anything wireless, IIRC) were not allowed for use on the plane. Mind you, probably overly conservative, but I think most airlines will tell you not to use them.

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  • Steve Holt November 13, 2011, 9:52 am

    Good point Bryan, but I have flown 3 times with this and noone has said anything. It looks so different I guess they don’t know what it is!

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  • Eric November 13, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Are they noise canceling?

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  • Steve November 13, 2011, 8:22 pm

    @Eric, I have not seen any documentation about the Leo that states it is noise-cancelling. However, on their website they state that the Leo has a “Sending Noise Suspression : 80dB” feature. That sounds like what noise cancellation is, but then again it doesn’t state that. All I can tell you is that when I have these on, I don’t hear anything around me, which is why I really like them. I now have complete harmony on airline trips, which is what I have wanted for awhile!

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  • DougC-3 November 18, 2011, 2:21 am

    “Sending noise suppression” seems to imply that it’s just for the microphone and not the earphones. Now I’m wondering if that’s not the case for most “noise suppressing” headsets.

    I need a headset for news-talk/audiobook listening (not talking or calling) in a noisy environment and would like to know if some headsets can actually cancel out or at least physically block out loud ambient noise. I also need sweat resistance and am leaning toward the Leo now. Any extra info about this would be appreciated.

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  • Steve Holt November 18, 2011, 9:12 am

    Good point @DougC-3. As I said, i have used this headset on several airline flights and I couldn’t be happier. It blocks out everything around me… engine noise, screaming kids, etc. I don’t use the Leo on a regular basis in regard to exercising (wish I could get off my butt to do that), so I can’t speak to the long-term sweat proof capability.

    The key though is getting the right fit. You’ll feel like you’ve wrestled an alligator at first trying to get it to fit right, but you can bend it and shape it to your head. After that, it’s smooth sailing.

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  • DougC-3 November 18, 2011, 11:29 am

    @Steve Holt. Thanks, your added info about the noise blocking cinches it for me… I’m not really sweating the ..er.. sweat too much since, like you, I’m not working out that fanatically right now. Now to get them ordered before the price goes up.

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  • Steve Holt November 18, 2011, 11:42 am

    @DougC-3 Please come back here and post your experience with the Leo. I would be very interested in hearing about it!

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  • DougC-3 November 18, 2011, 11:06 pm

    @Steve Holt Will do, but it may be a week or so before I get a chance to test them under noisy conditions.

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  • Scott December 28, 2011, 9:16 pm

    I bought two pairs of these for Christmas based on good reviews. My wife and I have been running with them the past week. Pros: extremely comfortable, very lightweight, and excellent sound when they dont cut out.
    CONS: Mine skip constantly. I use them outdoors when I am running a track, while holding my phone in my hand. It constantly cuts out unless I hold it a certain way. Very frustrating. I use it with an HTC Inspire. It does work well indoors. I have read on some other sites that having the phone holstered on your back helps, but this is not really comfortable during a jog.

    If they werent the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn, I would return them immediately. Until then I will try to find a solution. Any ideas?

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  • Steve Holt December 29, 2011, 1:30 am

    @Scott I am guessing that the movement of the phone is the problem, not the distance from the headset. So maybe if you found something to attach it to your waist that might solve it…??

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  • Scott January 3, 2012, 11:38 pm

    Tried having the phone holstered on my back while running and almost completely gets rid of the skipping. Also, got wind that Arriva is giving away Accoustibuds to all current Leo owners. So I contacted them and they promptly mailed us two pairs for free. These adapters are amazing at handling sweat and greatly improve sound and inner ear comfort. They also add value to the headphones as they alone cost over $10. Im very happy with Arriva customer service. And thanks Steve for the tip. Got some new armbands on the way to hold my phone.

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  • Steve January 3, 2012, 11:48 pm

    @Scott I too had a good experience with Arrive customer service. As I mentioned in my review, I am disappointed that they don’t have an 800 number to talk to someone but they responded by email and helped me resolve the issue.

    Just as an FYI…. I have been using my Leo with my Verizon HTC Thunderbolt to work out and I simply put the phone in my shorts pocket. I don’t experience any skipping. My next suggestion for you Scott was to tell Arriva about your issue and they might send you another unit to try, but I am glad they responded to you.

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  • HoppingHedgehog April 23, 2012, 7:23 am

    I want a pair of wireless headphones to use with an electric guitar (to practice quietly and move around freely without being encumbered by a cable) and to play a Creative Zen MP3 player while jogging. The Arriva Leo wireless headphones look ideal for both uses. However, neither the guitar amplifier nor the Zen are bluetooth-enabled. Can I buy a bluetooth adaptor to plug into the amp output socket and/or the Zen headphone socket, that would allow me to use them with the Arriva Leo headphones? If so, can anyone recommend a suitable make of adaptor/dongle. Thanks

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  • Steve Holt April 23, 2012, 9:30 am

    @HoppingHeadgehog I found these on a quick search on Google: http://bit.ly/HVT0tC You have lots of choices it seems for connecting bluetooth to your Zen, but I don’t use any of those dongles so I can’t offer any suggestions. As far as connecting to your amp, I am clueless about that type of technology.

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  • richard April 24, 2012, 10:19 am

    hi steve,

    nice review! very clear and thorough.

    i have two minor questions here and i’m wondering if you could help.

    1) the connection. i heard that you literally need to put your iphone on your right armband in order to use some bluetooth headphone. how about this one?

    2) conform when laying your head on something. when you are in a airplane, i assume you lay the back of your head on the seat cushion or something like that? do the buttons get accidentally pressed?

    many thanks for your help!!!

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  • Steve Holt April 24, 2012, 10:31 am

    @richard I have found that all bluetooth devices don’t like sending signals through the body, or any other substance for that matter. So for example, with my Plantronics bluetooth headset on my left ear I need to place my cellphone in my left pocket for better reception. The Leo’s bluetooth receiver however is directly behind your head, so I have found that putting my phone in either pocket works for me because both pockets are equidistant from the Leo.

    I use the Leo all the time on airplanes and I have never had any issue with the buttons being pressed. It is far enough under the base of your skull that your head hits the seat before the Leo does. I will also add this… I use the Leo all the time on planes even when they tell us to turn off our electronic devices. The Leo looks like earplugs and not really like a headset, so I suppose flight attendants haven’t figured out yet that the Leo is a headset. So noone has ever asked me to turn it off, I suppose, because they think that I am just protecting my ears from popping during the decent. I know, I am such a rebel for not following directions. I suspect I will hear from the flight attendants now about what a jerk I am.

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  • Richard April 24, 2012, 10:47 am

    Thank for the really quick reply.

    I will get one pair of this baby.

    Just hope that I won’t look like a astronaut/weird geek when walking with it on the street. :)

    Thanks Again for helping.

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  • Steve Holt April 24, 2012, 10:55 am

    @Richard Make no mistake… you will look like a geek. Embrace your geek-ness my friend!

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  • Thebigbuds23 April 27, 2012, 2:13 am

    I am wondering how these stand up again jaybird freedom…please help?

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  • Steve Holt April 27, 2012, 8:13 am

    @thebigbuds23 I am not familiar with Jaybird Freedom.

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  • Jimmy S. August 17, 2012, 4:57 am

    Just ordered mine. Can’t wait to test them in the gym! They look and sound like they’ll be just what I’ve been looking for for years.

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  • Steve August 17, 2012, 10:01 am

    @Jimmy You are gonna like it! Just be patient when forming it to your head. It took me several days to bend it and twist it to fit just right.

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  • Jimmy S. August 17, 2012, 8:38 pm

    @Steve Thanks. Will do. Should have them in a few days. I’ll write more after I use them a few times. You’re review was very thorough and helped a lot with my decision. Much appreciated.

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  • Zan October 21, 2012, 11:19 am

    Do they come in various colours or just the black and grey?

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  • Steve October 21, 2012, 2:18 pm

    @Zan I just checked out their website to discover some neon colors coming soon: http://www.arriva.com/leo/leoincolors.htm

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