This article was edited on 13 May 2013 I’ve written reviews about wireless headphones before specifically the Motorola S9 HD (two models back from the Motorola S11-Flex HD) and I also compared the S9 with the Jabra Sport Stereo Headset. To me, exercise is important and it’s part of the self-sufficient culture and lifestyle I try to lead.
Wireless headphones can be extremely frustrating if they do not work properly and I’m a stickler for expecting products to perform as they are marketed. In the past, I’ve used wireless headphones which have had poor connectivity, narrow device support, and terrible durability.
Thankfully, I can prelude this review by stating the Motorola S11 Flex HD Wireless Stereo Headphones don’t frustrate me at all; in fact, I think they are a cracker of a product and I’m going to mostly sing its praises. [Edit: Unfortunately, since writing this article my Motorola headset developed a fading speaker fault on one side, which seems to be common with other users – I now do not recommend these headsets and have returned to using the more reliable Jabra Sports.] Nevertheless, I have noticed some minor flaws which I will elaborate on later, but it’s nice to know that finally a company has created wireless headphones, which actually work as described for people with an active lifestyle.
Unboxing the S11 – comes with spare and different sized ear bud covers, an optional inner band, and a charger (image above)
Motorola S11-Flex HD Wireless Stereo Headphones
Comfort and fit
The first thing I noticed was how more flexible the Motorola S11 Headphones were compared with my old Motorola S9 HD Headphones. The S11 HD still is a one piece full plastic mould wrap around style but it isn’t as heavy or thick as past models. Plus, the weight distribution is slightly more concentrated around the earpieces (rather than the “headband”) unlike the earlier S9 HD, which had a heavier back end. This change has made the headphones heaps more comfortable and remarkably more stable – you would really have to throw your head around violently to dislodge them from your ears.
Motorola has really done their research in this area and in my opinion has created the most universally fitting wireless sports headphones on the market today. The earpieces have been designed with telescopic stems so they can be pulled out up to 10 mils to fit the biggest ears and the bud assembly (apart from being naturally angled inwards) is also able to be rotated to exactly fit the ear canal. The fit is unbelievable and after 30 years of exercising with headphones in my ears the Motorola S11 HD is definitely the best fit I’ve ever experienced.
The back wrap-around head band is designed to sit slightly clear of the neck and back of the head; however, if the fit doesn’t feel quite right Motorola has included an adjustable inner-band which can easily be attached to the outer headband. Once attached the inner band rests on the back of the neck or at the base of the head and keeps the whole headset stable. Personally, I prefer to leave the inner band off and let the outer band “hover” about an inch from the base of my head/neck and I find the fit perfect with hardly any movement.
The Motorola S11-Felx stays on and doesn’t slip out of the ears when I get sweaty or if sunscreen accidently comes in contact with them. Other headphones (every other set I’ve owned actually) do have a tendency to wiggle out during exercise and if you’re constantly pushing them back in during a workout it can become irritating, to say the least. The S11-Flex with its custom fit and one piece, spring-plastic mould is secure and comfortable.
Sound and operation
Personally, I think the sound quality of the S11-Flex is great and an improvement over past Motorola headsets.
But, I must confess I’m no technical sound expert; therefore, my assessment of what the sound quality is like may not be to the acoustic standard of an orchestra conductor. However, I do love music and I have my own ideas and standards to judge the sound quality adequately (I believe). And, I have to say this is a review of sports headphones so if you’re looking for overpriced headphones with amazing sound for your daily train ride into the city, then perhaps “Dr Dre” buds might be better for you.
Having said that, I reckon the sound quality of the Motorola S11-Flex is awesome! I would go as far to say it’s the best sounding headset I’ve ever owned (wired or wireless). The pre-set equaliser options are a nice bonus too but just the default sound alone gets me “bopping along” to my favour music with pleasure.
Ear bud covers – The one thing I don’t like about the S11-Flex Wireless Headphones is the soft bubble plastic ear bud covers. I had hoped Motorola would do away with the soft plastic bubble covers altogether and just have a standard rubber mould earpiece (similar to the Jabra Sports) with interchangeable slimline rubber covers to fit different inner ears but they have kept with the previous designs.
The issues I find with the soft plastic bubble cover over the ear bud assembly/speaker are the covers filling with sweat and an audible “squeaking” sound as the hollow plastic bubble rubs against my ear canal with the jolt of each foot hitting the ground. Still, it’s not that bad and I don’t find it overly distracting but I do think the ear buds could be improved.
Controls – The Motorola S11-Flex Wireless Stereo Headphones controls are a big improvement over past models, which tended to be hard to find and difficult to press. On the S11-Flex, there’s really only three buttons to remember: an on/off; volume rocker; and multi-function button (MFB). The on/off and volume are located on the top right ear assembly arm and the MFB is under the left ear assembly arm (on the bottom).
The orange multi-function button (image above) is easy to use on the run
When the headset is turned on it plays a “turning-on” sound and then a programmed voice indicates how much battery life is remaining – For example, “there is more than 5 hours of playtime remaining.” I love this feature because now I know for sure if my headphones are going to last through my workout or if they need a charge before I go.
The MFB acts as a skip back and forward between songs and an answer button for incoming calls. Also, the MFB via a long press can adjust the headphones equaliser by toggling through the 5 pre-set modes.
The volume rocker has a high nodule on each end to make it easy to feel and adjust volume up or down. During a call or as a call is incoming a long press on the volume button will hang-up.
The Motorola S11-Flex Headphones connect via Bluetooth. Unlike other Bluetooth wireless headphones I have used, the S11 has excellent connectivity with my phone and other devices. Dropouts for various reasons are almost non-existent and likely to be the phones problem and not the S11.
I have held my phone in either hand whilst running, placed my phone in a waterproof case (DryCase), and even chucked it in my backpack whilst working out and connectivity hasn’t wavered – it’s impressive!
Call clarity – There are two small microphones (one on each earpiece), which pickup your voice when you are on a call. To date, I’ve taken many calls during my workouts with the S11-Flex and I have received no complaints from callers about the clarity of my voice etc (apart from my huffing and puffing). As for incoming, call quality on my end is fabulous and better than holding my actual mobile phone to my ear.
Edit: Contrary to the following paragraphs my headset didn't last the distance… The Motorola s11-Flex headphones are marketed as “sweat proof” which in my mind means they must be able to take a reasonable amount of water because that’s what sweat is isn’t it? Therefore, they should be water resistant at least, even though, technically Motorola don’t make this claim. This is exactly what they do say on Motorola's website:
"DURABILITY: SWEATPROOF. STRONG
The S11-FLEX HD is armed with a protective coating and moisture-repellant mesh for maximum durability. Sweat, humidity, or a damp gym bag — nothing will get in the way of your music. So go ahead, move, sweat and rock hard."
I have used the S11 in the rain several times and I sweat profusely – so far, my headset is holding up to my mistreatment (just like the S9 did).
Here's yours truly with my own Motorola S11-Flex HD Headphones on whilst going for a 10k run in the rain (image below)
Again, battery life has been a pet hate of mine in wireless headphones; however, Motorola have always been better in this area than any other maker. Jabra Sports headphones for instance wouldn’t last me more than one workout so they practically stay on the charger. Whereas, the Motorola S11-Flex HD Headphones are able to power on for several workouts before recharging.
If I had to put a figure on the battery time, depending on usage and standby, fully charged the unit should last around 6 hours. As mentioned earlier the audio voice announcing how much playtime is left when the headphones are turned on is a top initiative and very handy indeed.
But wait there's more – the S11 fast recharges and Motorola claims just 15 minutes of charging gets 3 hours of playtime! Now, that's the ducks guts…
Where can you get the Motorola S11-Flex?
If you are in the USA then there are plenty of options and places to purchase the S11-Flex Headphones. For me here in Australia, I found it difficult to get the S11 anywhere and ended up importing my headphones from the USA through eBay. I paid $118 (this included postage) for the S11-Flex. Also, being an American product the charger was not suitable for an Australian power socket so I used an adapter, which is no problem, but something people should be aware of when buying electrical items from different countries.
What are others saying?
If you bother looking you'll see plenty of reviews on the S11 all over the internet and a great deal of athletes love them. However, not everyone rates these headphones as highly as I do and some mini-reviews have reported sound faults like speaker fade, which I should have taken heed of myself.
Nevertheless, I have seen several complaints about the flex band cracking around the middle but is it due to people bending them backwards or being too rough? Hard to tell.
These headphones come with a manufactures warranty so if they fail within 12 months then just replace them for goodness sake, even the best products fail occasionally. Also, just to reiterate these are SPORTS headphones to be used for exercise buffs NOT music buffs so to make them water resistant and durable sound does need to be traded off somewhat – still, I think they sound great. (until the sound fades away)
I reckon the Motorola S11-Flex HD Wireless Stereo Headphones are worth every penny and I stand by saying it's a "cracker" of a product Until now, sorry. Finally, wireless headphones that tick all the boxes. My only gripe was the bubble ear bud covers but that is a minor point in what is an exceptional set of headphones. Personally, I recommend the Jarbra Sports over the S11.
We should give credit where credit is due and Motorola should be commended for creating such a well-engineered product – they have obviously tested the S11-Flex extensively and listened carefully to what their customers wanted.
Motorola has delivered the best sports wireless headphones on the market to date and I recommend them. I'll be interested to see what the S12 are like whenever they are released as the Motorola range of wireless headphones just keeps getting better.
After review "encore" for those interested in more reading
For some of us, getting motivated to exercise, or go for a run etc, isn’t always the easiest thing to do. If we’re not careful, we can excuse the window of exercise opportunity away with trivial justifications and end up dismissing our workout completely – then feel guilty later.
In humanity’s early years, we didn’t need to “exercise” (not in a structured sense anyway) because we chased down mammoths and foraged for our food; however, most modern humans do need structured exercise because modern living is so physically easy. Going hungry and survival isn’t really a motivating factor to exercise in the western world, so we channel vanity and health instead.
One of the tricks to staying motivated and not missing workouts is to work through those excuses for not getting off the sofa and eliminate them. For me, (in the post prehistoric age) gadgets play a big role these days in keeping me motivated to exercise – yes, gadgets… When I was in the army, I had other ways and reasons to keep motivated but as a civilian and as age catches up with me, it helps if I have other “tangible” motivating factors to help keep me interested in staying fit and healthy.
Probably the main gadget I have when I go for a run or other exercise is my mobile phone. Like most people it chaperons me wherever I go and it’s not just because I need to be contactable – not at all, well, a little I guess. Rather, it’s because I use my mobile as a safely device in case something happens to me whilst I’m out, and also (more importantly) my smart phone logs my route and run statistics via GPS, and plays my music library.
To get this real-time motivational feedback about my run speed, how far I’ve gone, and to play my tunes, I use headphones; otherwise, I’d have to basically hold the phone to my ear as I run with the phone speaker on loud and that’s a bit silly. I really wish wireless headphones were invented 20 years ago as it would have made my thousands of workouts so much more enjoyable.
Anyway, I love using wireless headphones for the following reasons:
No twisted cord around my sweaty neck or tied in knots,
No pulling the cord accidently with my arm or hand and yanking the ear pieces out,
No corroded and faulty 3.5 phone jack which makes the sound intermittently cut out,
Easy operation controls are on the headset, and
Push button call answer without touching my phone.
Not only do I recommend the Motorola S11-Flex HD Wireless Stereo Headphones as a product (not any more I don't), I also believe gadgets like these help immensely to keep people motivated for continuing with their regular exercise routine.
Used in conjunction with a good portable music player or mobile phone, wireless headphones are a valuable asset. And if used with a good exercise application, like Endomondo Sports Tracker, the gadget trio can turn your mobile phone into a personal trainer at your fingertips for whenever you want.
If you would like to talk more about fitness and the article then leave a comment below or join our forum at Self Sufficient Culture and check out the Exercise section.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your support.
Mark Valencia Editor SSM
Respect your body and keep it healthy through regular exercise
You might also like to read – Motorola and Jabra Sports Wireless Headsets Compared