July 28, 2008

Review: Griffin’s Tune Buds Mobile

I’ve been looking for a pair of 3.5mm stereo headphones with in-line mic for quite some time. I wanted something with value & performance and willing to go up to $50. There are some serious contenders when it comes to headphones but to require built-in mic and set a cap at $50, this is where it filters down to zero. While most multimedia phones come with OEM stereo headphones/mic (ie. Nokia N95 and iPhone) the quality is just not quite what I am looking for.

Background: For a long time, I’ve been pretty satisfied pairing up a set of Sony Fontopia (EX51LP)with my classic iPods. They have a good in-ear design, sounds great and is very good value for the performance (Amazon.com has them for $20, MSRP $35). If only the Fontopia is available with an inline mic.

Griffin Tune Buds Mobile: Griffin Technology decided to get into the game with their Tune Buds Mobile. It offers in-ear design which is something I must have for plane rides to block out ambient noise and a built-in mic to take calls. The 3.5mm jack design is slim to fit the poorly designed first generation iPhones. It, of course, will work with any smart phones with a 3.5mm jack. The built quality is decent, with a nylon-woven-braided material to cover the cords. The cords length are no different than any standard headphones, however, I do miss the Fontopia’s wrap-around-neck design where the right ear bud is a little longer and sits behind my neck instead of hanging in front of my chest. I like the black finish as it matches up quite nicely with my iPhone using a black protector (ClearBoost). The glossy finish on the buds tops off the Darth Vader style I am going after. At $39.99 MSRP (some vendors on Amazon has it for $30), this product fits all of my search criteria, so it looks like we have a potential winner here.

Performance: The sound quality is good; the bass is low and the highs are crystal clear. The in-ear design is important to block out ambient noise which heightens the music playback fidelity. The package comes with three sets of bud adaptors (small, medium and large). By default, it has the medium size installed, while inserting the buds to my ear, I can ear some funny rubbing noise which I believe comes from where the rubber adaptors rubbing against the base of the buds. No harm here, just something I have to get used to. I like the nylon-woven-braided cords; it feels more industrial and being black, it obviously hides dirt and stain marks better than the white/rubbery cords I am used to. The high sensitivity mic worked as promised with a button in the cord which lets me receive calls at will. I noticed I have to hold the mic unit closer to my cheeks or turn my head towards it to provide a better sound for my recipients. This could just be me as I am not known to be a loudmouth while speaking on phones in public.

Conclusion: I find Griffin’s new Tune Buds Mobile a very good alternative to OEM headphones providing high quality sound range and a built-in mic. In this price range, there isn’t anything on the market so I would recommend this earphones for those interested in something better than what your phone comes with. As for me, I refuse to use Bluetooth Headsets, simply because they are counter-productive, both the Bluetooth headset and device will end up draining battery faster than what I would like. That said, these headphones are great for mobile warriors, the package even comes with a little carrying pouch to protect your investment on the go.

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