Solar-powered gadgets aren’t new — Logitech has been selling keyboards you never have to plug in for over a decade now. But headphones where the solar cells barely blend into the design? Until this week, we had only tried one. Now there are at least four.
On Tuesday, Adidas announced the RPT-02 SOL, a $230 pair of self-charging Bluetooth cans with Exeger’s Powerfoyle solar cells built right into the recycled plastic headband (via Engadget). It’s the exact same tech found in the Urbanista Los Angeles solar-powered headphones we reviewed last year, and they also quote the same 80 hours of ‘standby’ battery life, even in a dark room.
We haven’t tried the Adidas helmet yet, but the solar tech totally worked when my colleague Jon Porter tried it out in the Urbanistas. Even indoors, without letting them charge in the sun, we experienced incredibly low battery drain. “The beauty of Los Angeles headphones is that you don’t really have to think about them,” Jon wrote. Adidas makes no mention of active noise cancellation (something Los Angeles has) or any fancy audio codecs, but it does have IPX4 water resistance, a microphone, and a USB-C port for backup charging. . And Engadget writes that their predecessor, made by Zound, sounded remarkably good.
Urbanista is also now bringing the Powerfoyle panels to a set of true wireless headphones (well, technically, their charging case), and a company called Blue Tiger has also just put on what it claims is the “first energy communication headset solar in the world” on sale late last month, again with Powerfoyle cells and a noise-canceling boom mic. The Blue Tiger Solare cost $220.
I also spotted this upcoming POC Omne Eternal bike helmet, which uses the cells to power a flashing rear safety flasher.
It was not certain that this technology would take off, even at this preliminary stage. JBL funded a pair of headphones like these on Indiegogo in 2019, but ended up canceling the project and handing out refunds. Another Indiegogo campaign for solar-powered headphones by a company called Pearl Audio is currently “under review”.
But the technology actually works, at least for low-power devices like these. And it’s really nice when you don’t have to think about charging gadgets.