I get lots of gadgets sent to me and one type has, over the last few months, landed on my doorstep with surprising frequency: Earbuds.
I’ve mentioned a few brands of earbuds here in Gearhead which have included really expensive Bluetooth headsets and top-end wired versions but generally I’ve stayed away from the lower priced end because, quite honestly, most of them are just OK in both design and sound quality.
What exactly is the lower end of pricing, you might ask … I’d say anything under perhaps $80. Consider Apple’s In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic at $79.00; nice looking, clean design, good sound, essentially utilitarian.
What's top end pricing? The Bose MIE2i Mobile Headset headset at around $130 or Bang & Olufsen’s EarSet 3i Headphones at $200. These products have great design and excellent sound and you get what you pay for.
But today I have in-ear earbuds product I really like that, with a built-in mic, will cost just $50. Yep, Zipbuds, currently an active Kickstarter campaign, has managed to impress me. Why? First, the sound quality is surprisingly solid. The bass is good, the treble isn’t too bright, and the whole audio profile sounds balanced. Second, the design is really good, especially if you travel.
The main cable up to the “Y” has a square cross-section, no-tangle design that works great and - and this is the thing I really like - the “Y” section has a “zipper”. This is a slider that runs from the junction of the left and right cable branches to the earbuds so when you’ve had enough phat sounds or the flight attendent asks you to put your electronics away (because they want you fully aware should the plane crash … I’ve never quite understood how this will help) you slide it up and wind up with what becomes a single cable. Actually one of the cables that pass through the zipper has a U-shaped cross section and the other cable a T-shaped cross-section so as they pass through the zipper the interlock to effectively become a single cable. Very clever.
The only thing I don’t like about the design is the right-angled 3.5 mm audio plug which isn’t long enough to fit into the socket of an iPhone when it’s in a power boosting case. This might seem like an edge case (if you’ll excuse the pun) but when I’m on an airplane I always have my iPhone in case that provide extra power.
As I noted above, with the mic, Zipbuds will retail for $50 and for $40 (available in blue, black, and yellow) without but lower pricing is available if you decide to back their Kickstarter campaign (the campaign ends Friday, September 19, 2014 at 11:59 PM PDT). And unlike a lot of Kickstarter tech campaigns, this product already exists so the risk is essentially zero. Zipbuds get a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.
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