Back in October 2008, ZAGG sent us a prototype of their iPhone Z.Buds earbuds promising the best buds for your money. A lot of companies make the same promise but this is one product I think is worth a look if you’re willing to buy outside Apple’s utopian product design and brand control. Hit the jump for my full review.
Earbuds are a love ’em – hate ’em thing for me. I love the portability but usually at the detriment of sound quality unless I throw down hundreds for premium brands. The Z.Buds fit right in the middle between budget conscious consumers and audiophiles. The first thing I noticed was the incredibly long cord, 54 inches! It’s funny because the Apple branded earbuds are notoriously short and these are a bit too long. Fortunately tangled messes are kept at bay with sliding ball clasps that keep the cords neatly bundled. The cord itself is covered in woven nylon which is a huge improvement over the rubber/plastic ones found on most earbuds. It gives it a bit more style and also helps to prevent those magical tangles.
Since we received a prototype it didn’t come with any various sized silicon caps but the retail version does have them. Therefor I can’t comment too much on fit but even the stock medium sized ones held snug in my ear especially if you wear it reverse-back like the photograph at the bottom. The buds are metal but super lightweight, I’m talking featherweight here. The silicon ear caps are very soft so prolonged use shouldn’t irritate.
The Z.Buds also double as a handsfree set for calls. A little toggle on the cord lets your seamlessly switch from music to phone calls. Call quality came in loud and clear with no crackling or static hissing. Further down the cord is a jog wheel for volume control tho I wonder why ZAGG just didn’t integrate it into the toggle switch itself.
Most people will probably use it for music and I was pleasantly surprised. Treble sounded crisp, bass very responsive at both the low and high ends. At the lower end bass was slightly muffled but you can control that directly on the iPhone’s iPod UI. ZAGG claims the Z.Buds have noise canceling technology but I couldn’t tell especially compared directly to ones from Shure.
They cost a very reasonable $80 and sound quality is superior to the Apple branded ones. There’s no wonder why they are a 2009 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Showcase Honoree so if you were going to upgrade to the $80 Apple earbuds, take a look at these first. They’re not as sexy as the earbuds from V-Moda but they sound just as good.
What we liked:
- Comfortable earbuds and interchangeable silicon ear caps
- Premium length cord and reverse-back (Hangin’ Tight as ZAGG says) style
- Volume and call answer controls
- Responsive treble and bass
- Woven braided cord
What could be improved:
- Only black and red are available. I suggest white and silver
- Volume and call answer controls should be integrated
- Noise canceling features