The Tokyoflash Kisai Escape C is a Bluetooth receiver that turns any set of headphones or earphones into a Bluetooth headset or a pair of stereo wireless earphones. It’s a great idea and perfect for people who want stereo options with their Bluetooth headsets or just want to use their favourite headphones, wirelessly. Here’s my take on it.
The Kisai Escape C is a Bluetooth receiver that allows you to plug in any 3.5mm stereo headphones to listen to music or to make phone calls. It can be used in either Stereo Headphone or Mono Headset Bluetooth profiles meaning it will just play stereo music and give you control over your music player (Back, Play/Pause, Next and Volume) or as a headset allowing you to make and answer phone calls if it’s paired with a phone or a PC. Pairing is simple, you just hold the power button down for an extra few seconds and it drops into pairing mode. Hooray for no bizarre three finger button combinations to remember.
The Escape C isn’t just for small in-earphones either, it had no trouble driving a pair of full size Beyer-Dynamic headphones to very respectable volumes. The included pair of earbuds seemed to work adequately but I detest earbuds and didn’t use them. For me, the whole point of the Escape C is so you can use your own headphones and for this it works really well.
Being a Tokyoflash product it also doubles as an incomprehensible watch. There is a dedicated button on the side, which causes the front to light up like a rave. Somewhere in there is the time. The clock function works whether the Escape C is on or off, and whether or not the unit is in use.
Included bits and pieces include a mini-USB charging cable, a set of earbud-type earphones and a choice of straps, either a thin leather band (thong?) or a wider Cordura lanyard that could hold both your phone and the Escape C if you wish. When you purchase the Escape C you can choose the type of straps you want included.
I was quite surprised at how good the sound was from the Escape C, especially the almost inaudible levels of background hiss. Compared to my Blueant X5 and Plantronics 590E Bluetooth headphones, the Kisai is almost silent. It still has the annoying audio slow-down that plagues all stereo Bluetooth things when the connection gets weak, but the quality of the sound coming out of the Escape C was quite remarkable.
The microphone is located in the centre of the unit just above the power button. Being on the front it didn’t pick up rustling noises caused by the unit rubbing against a shirt while walking, however it did tend to pick up the noise as it banged against my chest as I walked. Some people found this quite distracting, not overly loud, just annoying. The length of the lanyards mean the mic is quite far away and further than your typical hands-free headset I didn’t have any complaints from people I spoke too however I tended to speaker louder than normal to ensure I was heard. It’s also easy to pick up the Escape C and hold it closer to you mouth if you don’t want to be one of those people who SHOUTS WHILE THEY’RE ON THE PHONE, TYPICALLY IN QUIET AND CONFINED PLACES!
The AVRCP controls worked with all the phones I paired it, with including an iPhone 4 and a 2.1 Android phone. My trusty old Nokia N82 worked in stereo mode, however the audio controls weren’t supported.
The other great thing about the Escape C with its 3.5mm stereo socket, is that it’s so darn versatile. Plug in a set of 3.5mm-to-RCA plugs and you can beam tunes straight into your amp from your phone or your PC. Hook it up to one of those 90’s car stereo tape-adapter things or use it as a nifty VoIP headset. It sure makes a change from using the computer’s built-in microphone and having to shout at the screen.
I found the battery life a little disappointing, most stereo Bluetooth headphones I’ve used tend to last 10-12 hours against the Escape-C’s six hours. Considering it could have been almost any size or shape, six hours seems a little miserly to me. Sure it should get you through both halves of a daily commute, but you’ll have to charge it if you plan on using it through the day. One upside is that you can still use the Escape-C while it’s charging via USB.
The controls can be a bit hard to find by feel and to find the button you want you have to look at the controls. After a while you know roughly where things are but you still can’t find them accurately by feel. Lastly, and this a little odd, but my review unit seems to be wired the wrong way; the left channel comes out the right ear etc. This made watching videos annoying as footsteps moved off-screen in the wrong direction, but I guess it’s fine if you can swap your earphones around. All my earphones are handed (earred?) so this annoyed me.
The other gripe is the price, US$99 seems a little steep to me, but as well as a being a very useful Bluetooth headphone thing, it’s also a Tokyoflash watch. That has to be worth something, right?
The Escape C is a fabulous little gadget, it’s tiny, weightless, can be used in a whole bunch of different ways and produces great sound. The bottom line is if you want to turn any pair of headphones, in-ear phones or earbuds into a good pair of Bluetooth headphones or just a headset, the Kisai Escape C is hard to beat. Highly recommended.