Gadget Guru Review: Audio Awesomeness
Make sure you read to the end, there’s a special treat!
Headphones aren’t the type of thing you’d expect from EMS, I get that. If you’re the type of person who likes to source run-of-the-mill personal noise conductors, aka headphones, then you should stop here.
If you prefer to learn with your eyes about awesome things to shove in or around your ears from a company that is big on using your feet (hiking, biking, climbing, etc), please read on.
We recently added a couple of headphone brands to our assortment – Yurbuds and thinksound – that I just spent a fair amount of time testing. Adding these brands was a lengthy process, and one that the product manager, Chris and I debated for a while. We both had hesitations on how our customers would feel about headphones in an outdoor store when they can go to an Apple Store, Best Buy, B&H or J&R (in NYC) or any number of other specialty electronics places to get them In the past, we carried SkullCandy, but found that this didn’t resonate with some of you.
Ultimately, these brands were impressive to Chris and me, and we want to give this another go-around because these two brands are producing unique products that differentiate them from the stuff you can get anywhere (it’s important to note, these brands are available in some other locations, but not many).
To go on a self-indulgent tangent for a moment, I obsess about audio quality in my life. I have a heavy musical background that won me awards when I was younger (no, not the ones everybody wins), contributed to a lot of my travel around the world and also opened me up to the band camp jokes. I once got to stand on stage with the timpani players from the New York Philharmonic as they rehearsed. As a result of being a musician, I test audio products with a level of cynicism and skepticism that forces me to develop an extreme opinion: good or bad.
Before we get into the products themselves, it’s important to know a bit about headphones though: they conduct sound to the hearing pods in your brain, also known as ears. This accomplished in a variety of ways:
- surrounding your ears completely so you can look like Princess Leia
- covering your ears to replace your earmuffs
- sealing your ear canals to prevent those creepy things from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan from controlling your brain
- jamming them into your ear canals to help clean the earwax that’s been accumulating
Once the mode of transportation has been selected, we get to the communication, how does it sound. More importantly, how is the sound quality measured? The long and short answer is in a lot of different ways.
To keep this brief:
There’s the frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz), that gives the range of tones possible in the headphones. Most human beings can only hear 20Hz – 20,000 Hz (20 kHz). Some people can hear slightly outside this range, pushing the lows to 12 Hz. The high end decreases over time due to aging & the effects of excessive volume over time, which is measured in decibels (dB). The maximum tolerance for humans is approximately 100dB, but everybody is different, and exposure to 80dB can also be damaging. Instant deafness is at approximately 130dB. The electrical characteristics of headphones are measure in Impedance (ohms – Ω), which measure the resistance of the frequencies traveling the wire, and Watts (W), or power, used, which is applied to the sensitivity, frequently measured in dB/mW.
The point of all of this is while everything here is important, none of this will tell you how something sounds.
Yurbuds’ products are based off of the concept that jamming an ear bud into the ear canal is not the best option because you end up having to turn up the volume (dB) of your music to block out the surrounding noise, which puts pressure on your ears and your cranial & jaw bones. Their medical-grade silicone ear cushions go over a pair of ear buds (like the ones you get with an iPod) to fit snugly on your ear, filtering all the sound into your ear canal without actually being inside of it. This allows you to keep the volume slightly lower, while collecting the full range of sounds that sometimes are lost with those style buds. The silicone sits in the concha, the hollowed out area outside of the ear canal, on the pinna, the visible part of the ear. This silicone cushion is sweat-proof and water resistant (not water-proof), and gently locks into place so it won’t slip out of place. You can feel free to be as intensely active as your heart desires, these should stay put. The sound quality is quite impressive in the buds that come in the Ironman series. They are balanced across all frequencies, not being heavy bass or treble. At $49.95, these are fantastic sport headphones with great sound and fit. Check them out here.
thinksound came out of extensive industry expertise from its co-founders, who decided to create a product with the smallest impact on the environment without compromising sound or quality. That’s exactly what they achieved. There buds are of the jam-in-your-ear style, and use recycled wood to get the crispest acoustics possible, while using PVC-free cables, recycled cardboard in their minimalist packaging, and a cotton sack to store the buds. The most impressive characteristic of these headphones, other than the environmentally minimal impact these make in comparison to other headphones, is the sound. Every range comes in crystal clear., whether you listen to Jazz, Classical, The Beatles, Lady Gaga or Jay-Z. Recycled materials are typically more expensive than processed materials, but the TS-01 Sport comes in at $69.95 and the TS-02 Mic is only $10 more, at $79.95. For how they sound, they could easily cost 2-3 times what they are at. If you’re someone who wants a versatile pair of headphones to wear in nearly any situation, and want to reduce your carbon footprint and negative impact on the environment, an important mission of Eastern Mountain Sports, then this is a pair you need to check out!
Both brands are in our stores, and especially SoHo, because they are highly functional and have great sound. While all of their headphone styles are aesthetically pleasing, we are continuing to focus in on functionality over fashionability, based on the feedback of Guides and customers, that want the best products available at the best prices. For headphones, Yurbuds and thinksound are it. If the store closest to you doesn’t have them in stock, ask them to locate a pair for you in one of our other locations. Just in case that wasn’t enticing enough, here’s an extra special bonus…
Add a comment in reply to this Gadget Guru Review discussing how you feel about these products, or about headphones in general. Help us get an idea on what we should make available for you, and you can WIN a free pair of headphones courtesy of Yurbuds and thinksound. Both brands have generously donated some headphones to give to some random commenters, replies to another person’s comment are acceptable.