May 30, 2006

Griffin EarThumps Review

So in the year and a half since I got my iPod, I've gone through several pairs of earbuds. The ones I got with it sounded great, but I quickly blew the left driver. Thinking it was a dud, when my housemate got a new iPod (Apple replaced his when the hard drive went), he gave me his new earbuds, since he didn't use them anyhow. No joke, within a month I had blown the driver in the left earbud again. (Seriously, what is up with that? It doesn't make much sense to me that the left side is always getting destroyed)

Since then, I've been using this pair I've had for probably 5 years, branded by RIO (I got them with an mp3 CD player once upon a time). The presence leaves something to be desired, and they don't stay in my ears very well (most earbuds don't for me), but they're okay. And they haven't broken yet.

So this last week, I ordered a pair of Griffin EarThumps. They're light, and they actually fit into your ear, so they're supposed to have good bass, and noise cancellation. And the drivers are made out of the same stuff as the iPod earbuds (Neodymium), so hopefully they maintain the same clarity and presence. I'm also not crazy about the white earbuds, so I got them in black.

That all sounds great (which is why I bought them), but how are they really? Well, I got them last week. I was excited, I really was. All in all, they're okay. Nothing special, and probably not worth the $20 (plus shipping) I paid for them.

To begin with, they live up to their name. They do thump. The amount of bass they kick is quite a bit for a pair of earbuds, but they're in-canal, so that's to be expected. But the high-end and presence is worse than the RIOs I was using before. Also, since they're in-canal, they do a decent job of noise cancellation, but not so much that I can't hear what's going on around me at all.

As for comfort, they do give you three different size pads that you can swap, depending on how big your ear canal is. The medium ones (that came on them initially) seemed best at first, but after a few days of use, I might give the small ones a try again. On the plus side, they don't fall out of my ears like a lot of ear buds.

All told, I'm kind of dissapointed.

They're not too comfortable, but they don't fall out on my bike ride to work, and I actually get to hear more of my music, and less of the road noise around me. Luckily I can still hear sirens if they're going on nearby.

In the office, I can hear Eric or Dave say something to me, so I don't feel bad, like I'm ignoring them or anything. They still make me wish I had a spare pair of cans I could spare to leave here at the office to listen with.

With some tweaking of the EQ on iTunes, I can get a good sound from the computer, but the iPod presets leave something to be desired. They need a treble/presence boost, and I can tweak it pretty well with a 10-band EQ (and they sound surprisingly good then), but less than that, and I'm not exactly happy.

For the most part, I'd say don't spend your money on them, unless all you like is a lot of low end, or if you really want a pair that won't move around in your ears.

EDIT: After a little more than a week with them, I find them to sound a little better. I guess I just got used to them, and on my iPod one of the EQ settings sounded a lot better (I believe it was the "Rock" setting). They're still not perfect, but I like them more than I did before.

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