Zipbuds Pro Mic – Review
There are a number of problems with in-ear headphones, ranging from ear discomfort and quality issues to distracting microphonic noise and the tangled mess they can quickly become. Earbuds usually fail to match the quality and comfort expected from over-the-ear headphones. However, it isn’t practical to tote along bulky headphones, and in those instances, it’s important to have a reliable pair of earbuds to listen to music or take phone calls.
A San Diego tech company, Zipbuds, sought to tackle the issue of cord entanglement with a unique concept: a cord with individual cables that can be partially unzipped for use and zipped back up for stowage and transport. The concept is actually quite straightforward; a tangle-resistant bottom half of the Zipbuds keeps to itself, and the zipped top half keeps the individual cables from tangling.
My general issues with earbud discomfort were not alleviated by the standard rubberized nodes on the Zipbuds Pro Mic, although the headphones are provided with three sizes to ensure a comfortable fit. While sitting at my desk, the discomfort was not overtly objectionable, but walking was another matter.
The Zipbuds generate inordinate amounts of microphonic noise. With every step, the vibrations from the cables brushing against my clothing translated to bumps and thumps, marring the music. Touching the cables in any manner created obtrusive noise, and it wasn’t long before I took out the earbuds and walked in silence.
The noise-canceling microphone on the Zipbuds Pro Mic functioned reasonably well – the recipients of phone calls opined that I came through loud and clear. The microphone, located just under the right earbud, is perfectly placed to pick up the wearer’s speech, but that makes reaching for the pause/play/call/hang-up button a little awkward as it is out of sight. There are no in-line controls for volume or track seeking, although a long press of the single button will activate the voice command function on most smartphones.
The buds have 11 mm drivers with a sensitivity of 104 +/- 3 dB, an impedance of 16 Ohms and a frequency range of 20Hz – 20kHz. These numbers are typical for stock earphones and translate to standard audio quality – nothing outstanding but acceptable for earbuds. I wasn’t expecting the Zipbuds to perform on the same level as Bose earbuds, but was hoping to find the quality a notch above stock earphones from Apple or Samsung. They’ll do fine for casual listening and making phone calls, but audiophiles should look elsewhere.
While the design of the Zipbuds is clever and original, comfort and quality need some work. One benefit of the Zipbuds is that if you’re the type subject to tech accidents, Zipbuds has you covered – any broken headphones within the first year can be replaced for 50% off.
The Zipbuds Pro Mic are more than a gimmick: their unique selling proposition has a utilitarian function that delivers exactly what it promises. Unfortunately, the microphonic noise makes the Zipbuds nearly unusable while walking. The Zipbuds Pro Mic may be a convenient backup for listening to music or for telephone use, but they’re far from ideal for regular travel use.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)