Review: iMuffs Wireless Headphones

Unleash your ears (October 27th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: Wi-Gear

Price: $179.99 US

The Good

  • Excellent sound. Innovative and easy to use interface. Works with dock-enabled iPods. Light weight.

The Bad

  • One size doesn't quite fit all. First charge may take a long time.

Now anyone who lives in cold climates recognizes the name iMuffs as a take-off on earmuffs, but a number of more juvenile writers across the web seem to find the name a giggle. There is no accounting for bad taste. Thankfully, the iMuffs wireless headphones are very tastefully made.

Simple Design

Simplicity is the key behind the updated iMuffs MB210 by Wi-Gear. A flexible plastic band circles your neck or head and the round speakers fit over your ears comfortably. All the iPod controls are nested into the right headset, and are remarkably easy to use. The mini USB port and microphone are also in the right speaker. I expected a lot of fumbling around to find the correct control, but that was not the case. This well-designed interface takes less than a minute to learn. The wraparound neckpiece can suffer through quite a lot of twists and bends, but I am sure folding it would snap it. I am not going to test that though.

Everything in the Box

The iMuffs ship with everything you need including, the headphones, an iPod Bluetooth adapter, a small power outlet charger, USB iPod charging cable, a second set of foam speaker covers, and handy manual. The advertised built-in noise reduction is for voice use only, not for music. According to Wi-Gear President Mark Pundsack noise cancellation technology for music was left out because of the danger it presents when listening to headphones while in traffic or on the street. As we all know, it is important to be aware of your surroundings, especially when listening to music in public. The Bluetooth adapter uses an Apple-designed friction lock, so there are no buttons to release it from the iPod.

Great Sound

The 44kHz CD quality sound, produced by the iMuffs is very nice. I especially liked the drive-wheel volume control built-in to the headset. Each push-click is a volume reduction or amplification; so there is no way to accidentally blow your ears out by pushing the dial too far. When I asked about the cost, Mark explained that they use high-end components inside the earphones. In addition, they use stereo Bluetooth with an advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP), which is not used in most devices. The profile they use does not compress the music so heavily that quality is compromised, and consequently delivers better sound. Better sound than many other headphones I have tried.

Minor Glitches

I did run across a few problems with the iMuffs. First, they must be charged before use, but I found no information on how long the first charge should take. The orange light supposedly shuts off when they headset is fully charged, but after 12 hours, the light was still on. After speaking with Mark Pundsack, I found out that after the initial charge, the unit drops into trickle charging. Sometimes this trickle takes a very long time. After the first couple of charges, it charges about 80% in the first hour, and it may take about five hours to fully recharge the unit. Second, the headset is not size-adjustable. The speakers sat too far forward on my head, and even moving them around just made the band that connects them sit pretty far away from me. That means if I sit still the iMuffs are fine, but if I move around they slipped a bit. I guess they are made for larger heads than I sport. On a positive note, they did not interfere with my glasses or vice versa.

Adapters and range

Apple Computers do not support stereo Bluetooth, so the headset only produces mono sound when paired with a Macintosh. I did find out that Jensen makes an external adapter that will deliver stereo Bluetooth support to that Mac, but Jensen does not advertise it as Mac-compatible. I was not even able to find this adapter on their site. The new iPod adapter for the iMuffs is more robust than the original one, and has more range too. Although the iMuffs are advertised with a 30-foot range, depending on obstructing objects, you may find that you can get almost double that range, in a clear field.

Although I was not able to test the voice sound on the headset, there is information on the site about the Clear Voice Capture (CVC) technology used. Plus, while cruising comments around the web, users reported good success with Bluetooth enabled stereo phones.

Most iPods Supported

The iMuffs MB210 works with any dock-enabled iPod, including 3rd generation through today's new iPods. If you own an older model, you can purchase just the new adapter for $59.99. I was skeptical about fumbling around with controls on my ears until I tried them. These are well designed indeed. Now, they only need develop a headset for us more petite folks and include some kind of carry bag.

by ilene hoffman, Reviews Editor


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