iHome bluetooth earbuds sacrifice small size for unhindered wireless (December 13th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: iHome
- - Snug fit - Considerations for ear cups and stabilizers - Sweat resistant
- - Small control buttons - Connecting cord isn't long enough - Awkward to put on
Finding a good pair of headphones for a midnight jog is hard. An over the ear set is either flopping around on your head, falling off, or collecting pools of sweat. Earbuds pierce ear canals in order to assure a tight grip -- or the troublesome cord that gets caught in your arm or cuts off your windpipe as it has somehow wrapped itself around your neck after the earbuds have fallen out several times. Looking to get at least one piece of trouble out of the way, iHome has put out a new Bluetooth set of earbuds -- the iHome Bluetooth Wireless Sports Earphones aim to couple the need for workout music with a durable, cordless experience. Will the Sports Earphones be a necessarily piece of equipment for an athlete? Or are they destined to be left in the locker room to collect dust?
The iHome Bluetooth Wireless Sports Earphones (model iB75) look somewhat out of place to be labelled as a "sport" edition. With each bud being 40mm tall and 18mm wide (1.6 by 0.7 inches), they are quite large when nested into the ear. Prior to the review, we thought that the design would be somewhat minimal and rugged in order to meet the demands of an athlete or 40-something trying to shed a few pounds. Instead, the earphones are large simply because of the Bluetooth feature of the device.
Since there has to be a space for the lithium-ion battery, a Bluetooth radio, a mini USB charging port, two volume buttons, forward and backward track buttons, and a large multipurpose button, the size had to go up somewhat to accommodate all the necessary bits. Most of these buttons are mounted on the sides of the right earbud where there is only about 8mm of material to work with. The volume and track buttons end up being rather small to practically work with. There is adequate distance between them for identification, but the surface area and tactile feedback leaves a bit to be desired.
The Sports Earphones are still paired together by a cable, as there is no discrete host receiver external to the buds. It is intended to wrap around the back of the head when the earphones are being worn, but for people with larger heads and/or long hair, this may not be possible. The headphones will stay in, but turning the head will cause the cord to bind a little and tug on the earbuds, resulting in some discomfort. For maximum freedom of movement, we recommend in these cases that the cord is worn under the chin instead. It isn't a stylish look (the word "dork" was thrown about the test environment), but functionality is what counts. The earphones are sweat-resistant, and the included ear cups and fins are washable. Anything short of submersion in a water bottle shouldn't be an issue. They are also light, coming in at 16 grams (half an ounce).
The reason the Sports Earphones will stay in the ear even when tugged has a lot to do with the stabilizer fins and ear cups that are integral to the casing. iHome provides three different sizes of each in order to afford the user the best fit possible. Placing an earbud in the ear canal, one has to maneuver and bend the fin into place in the concha. There are rests, pressing on the walls under the antihelix to ensure a snug fit. The different sizes of cups also allow a tight seal in the ear canal. The earphones will come loose with a solid tug, but average movements or a swift pace won't dislodge them.
Like many earbuds, there are some issues with the sound. Testing on a MacBook Pro yielded a very minimal drop in decibel levels coming from the earcups across the board. Only seeing an approximate drop in decibels from 14-16 dBs at 100 percent to 25 percent volume ranges, the iB75s have a lot of room at the top and very little at the bottom. The high notes in the Sports Earphones stand out the most, overshadowing the low bass output. The overall sound signature is somewhat flat, but it largely depends on the music and volume being applied. "Notorious" was the clearest song of the ones tested, but that has much to do with it being a dynamic recording.
A larger problem is that it doesn't take much to start causing sharp pain from the high notes. The reviewer noted ear pain from "Welcome Home" at anything more than 30 percent volume on the laptop. It's important to note that even though the decibels recorded are within safe listening ranges, the volume in ear will be much louder due to the design and nature of earphones. Considering that the drivers are only 9mm (0.35 inches), they are quite powerful but still manageable.
Phone conversations with the Sports Headphones don't offer anything different from many other Bluetooth devices. It should be noted that one shouldn't aggressively press the multifunction button for safety reasons, since it sits right behind the earbud on the right. Sound quality is acceptable -- but the wearer, if not in an enclosed space, can sound a little distant to the person on the other end. However, it isn't enough to interfere with the call.
The stated range of the Sports Earphones is 30 feet from the device they are paired to, but the signal starts to break up well before then. At around 15 feet, breakup in the sound was observed. When hitting the 30-foot mark, the signal was so bad that music became difficult to decipher. In consideration for the product's intended active use, this is of little concern. It is hard to imagine that one would have the paired device further away than a few feet when in use.
Outside of the looks, iHome has made a good set of earphones that should be good for anyone looking for a solution that will keep up with their exercise routine without the tangle of cords. Even though the Sport Earphones appear to be quite large, their weight and array of ear cups and stabilizers ensure that they are something that will fit well on a large number of people -- unless you have a skull like Bigfoot.
The price isn't anything to scoff at either, coming in at $99 directly from iHome. Compared to buying a sweat-resistant phone armband and a traditional set of sports headphones, there is some cost savings built in. If you were putting off your promise to start working out until the right set of Bluetooth headphones came around, you no longer have an excuse -- the iHome Bluetooth Wireless Sports Earphones are good enough to go the distance.