Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two IPods, No Decent Headphones: IBuds Hurt My Ears!

The Good: They work flawlessly with iPod products
The Bad: Expensive (to replace), No volume control on buds, Hard (hurt ears!)
The Basics: If you lose your iBuds, think carefully about paying full price from Apple to replace them: they offer no volume control, are expensive and hurt ears after prolonged use!

Today, I consider my Apple iBud earphones, which are now called “earbuds.” This is part of the whole Apple brand-name domination of the MP3 marketplace (the only thing I’ve ever seen with i-product name that was truly worthwhile was a MadTV sketch mocking it all with the I-rack – absolutely hilarious, by the way, check it out on YouTube!) and this is arguably the product that is both the most common, ubiquitous and necessary. The iBuds also seem to be the one product no one wants to write negatively, but I have no problem with doing so.

These annoying little things hurt my ears. I grew up in the 1980s, the decade that saw the big headphones of the prior decades made smaller into foam-covered headphones that cushioned the ear while pumping music right down the ear canal. Now, headphones are gone in favor of “earbuds,” which are hard plastic speakers that get shoved right into the ear canal. Well, I’ve worked very hard over the years to protect my ears. In fact, I didn’t go to my first rock and roll concert until I was twenty-one and when I went to see groups like Matchbox Twenty and Paramore, I brought industrial earplugs to dull the volume (lost nothing of the experience, by the way!). So, right off the bat, shoving something into my ear canal like the iBuds is not an experience I’m actually thrilled about.

The iBuds come with ever iPod I know about, but recently while I was at the library, I slammed mine into the DVD-ROM drive of the computer I was clandestinely listening to music on, severing the cord and rendering mine from my iPod Touch (click here for my review of that!) pretty much useless. IBuds come primarily in white and they end in a traditional portable music headphone jack. The male end of the iBud is a thin metal jack which fits into the “female” port on computers, MP3 players, portable stereos, portable c.d. players and anything else that used to accept small jack headphones (not like the big-60s and 70s headsets). White is the traditional iBud color and that does not fit my personal style (black all the way), but Apple seems obsessed with making this a product so instantly recognizable that no one associates them with personal style the way skins for cellphones and i-products are.

One is supposed to place the hard plastic and metal (there is a thin grille of metal that makes up the speaker on the iBud) directly into the ear and it generally remains in place for as long as one can stand it. The iBuds do not have volume control on the actual device. Instead, this is a thin white cord that is about a yard long; plenty long to reach to portable or stationary music source nearby, provided one does not drop it. If one drops or knocks over their music source, depending on the angle, the earbuds will either wrench out of your ear canal (painful!) or it will disconnect from the jack (seldom will the very durable cord actually snap).

In replacing the iBuds which came with my iPod Touch, compatibility issues were important to me. Because the iPod requires one go through Apple to load music onto and off of it, I figured that there might be some proprietary problems with using different headphones or earbuds (i.e. not Apple iBuds). There are not. Fortunately, a jack is a jack and while the iBuds come with the i-products, they do not seem to transmit music any better or worse than non-brand name products.

Ultimately, it was fairly easy for me to not recommend the iBuds for the following reasons: first, they are very expensive. At over twenty dollars, these are ridiculously priced and Apple is essentially charging for the brand name associated with iBud. If you’re not a teenager trying to impress your friends, you are likely to be fine with off-brand earbuds. Second, with these hard earbuds, I find I can only comfortably listen to music for about three hours before the hard plastic begins to irritate my ear canal. While I have no problem with adjusting the volume from the music source, the physical iBud hurts my ears.

As one who truly doesn’t care about style, fashion or the like, I’ve no problem paying less for something that doesn’t have “i” in front of it . . . or hurt my ears.

For other i-products and support products for them, please check out my reviews of:
Griffin Technologies Flexgrip Silicone Case for iPod Touch
iPod Shuffle (3rd Generation)
OrionGadgets Synch and Charge USB Cable For iPad


For other electronics products, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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