Friday, February 10, 2012

Product Review: Yurbuds

As someone who enjoys technology, I am always looking for products that address issues with the majority of other products on the market. I was recommended Yurbuds by a fellow athlete, so after a little investigation and a few emails, the folks at Yurbuds agreed to send me a pair of Yurbud Ironman Inspire Headphones to review for my readers.




I was excited to receive these headphones and I must say I am not one to normally run with headphones, but I was intrigued by the design and what they "claim."  I think the reason I do not use headphones when running more often is due to the issue that Yurbuds is supposed to solve... falling out while running. I will start the review off by saying my review is going to be all-inclusive from all aspects of the headphones.

Functionality:
This is where Yurbuds shine. The unique design is a bridge between an in ear headphone (think iPod earphone) versus an in-ear, noise isolating headphone that fits into your ear canal. Yurbuds are designed like an outer ear headphone for comfort, but include a rubber gasket that fits over the headphone and channels the sound into the inner ear canal. This unique design allows Yurbuds to "lock" into place. When inserting the earbuds, you place the narrow tube into the inner ear, and rotate the speaker base/wire end to lock them in your ear. This design allows the earbuds to stay in place when the cord shuffles around with your body movement.



You can see in the first picture, the Yurbud is inserted at a 90 degree angle to how it is worn, or parallel to the ground.  A simple rotation, and you end up locking it into place.  The next picture shows me pulling on the cord to show the tension and the Yurbud still in place.  


I have never been a fan of behind the ear headphones, as they typically make the tops of my ears hurt, so I have always been an in-ear person.  Regardless if I use the noise isolating or outer ear bud style, they always seem to come loose as I run, causing degraded sound performance as well as distracting me to re-adjust on the go.  At some point, I will just get frustrated and pull them out of my ears to go without.  

My test runs have resulted in amazing results so far. I have done some harder interval workouts as well as some long runs with zero issues of Yurbuds falling out or feeling like they are slipping.  I am one who sweats a fair amount, so having the buds slip out is something that happens quickly and quite often. I was surprised to never encounter any issues with Yurbuds feeling like they were slipping out of my ears.

Note these runs include both treadmill and outdoor run.  I also have used them with multiple layers, a hat, or without a shirt.  All cases resulted in the same result, uninterrupted music!  I typically run the cable up my shirt and out the neck of the shirt, but tested with the cord both inside and outside of my shirt.  All cases are equal.  The only complaint I had with the cord outside my shirt, is just the movement you would typically get.  Occasionally I would catch the cord with my hand, and even in this case, the buds did not pop out like an in-ear bud would have.

Another note about the cord.  It is constructed with a Kevlar cable.  This is another piece that some people may not think about, but you do notice after using for a while.  I did a number of runs outside when it was bitter cold.  The typical rubber cords get very stiff and rigid in the cold weather.  The Kevlar cord did stiffen up a little, but it was always quite flexible and never froze.  A small detail, but when someone puts this kind of attention into a small detail, you know you are on to something!



A+ for performance and functionality!

Comfort:
I am used to a set of in-ear noise isolating set of headphones that I typically use. As many know, an in-ear headphone can sometimes cause discomfort after extended use, even if sized properly. In order to isolate noise, it has to create a seal in the inner ear canal. Whlie Yurbuds are NOT noise-isolating, they do port the music to the inner ear, so you get some noise reduction. I believe the design is specifically built to allow the user to still hear their surroundings for safety. I am not one who condones using headphones while on the bike, so that case does not apply for me.  I understand the reasoning about wanting to hear your surroundings, but personally, I would rather take the responsibility and be more observant and have isolated music.




After some of my longer runs, I did feel a little discomfort in my ear due to the size of the ear-buds. It was not significant, I could just tell that something had been in my ear. I would rate comfort right in the middle of the range. The Yurbuds are not overly comfortable or un-comfortable. I am happy with how they feel after extended lengths of time.

Sound:
Here is where things are going to get ugly. I am somewhat of an audiophile. While I am not as extreme as some people get, I have always been a big fan of music.  I like to listen to good quality music. If you go out an purchase an iPod, iPhone, etc. You get the white headphones which work if you do not want to spend money.  I am also one to watch for good deals and for 10-15 dollars more I can get a pair of headphones/earbuds that are many times better than what you get with your first purchase. I have a set of noise-isolating earbuds that I purchased about 3 years ago for 20 dollars. They have been awesome and are what I use for a benchmark. The sound they create is phenomenal for the price.

I understand that Yurbuds are not aimed at the audiophile, but more the athlete, so sound quality is compromised with functionality to hit a price point.

My feedback to the folks at Yurbuds would be to re-design the inner ear canal section of the cover. I would love to see this become noise-isolating. I think the headphones could also benefit from a better driver. I have found that I am missing some punch from the bass in most cases. The sound often seems muffled. I will say it is better than 95% of stock headphones I have used, there is a good room for improvement in order to better provide sound quality.  

Overall:
Yurbuds go out to solve a problem for athletes and accomplish it hands down. If your concern is having your headphones secure in your ears, Yurbuds are for you. While they make a few different models, my review focuses specifically on the Ironman Inspire model. The Inspire Pro model includes a mic that can be used as a headset for your phone. 

One thing that crossed my mind was to find another pair of ear-bud headpones with better sound quality and remove the gasket found on Yurbuds to use on those. The biggest trick would be finding something with good sound at a reasonable price point that is also the same form factor as the Yurbud units. All in all, this could get to be quite costly, but could get you the best of both worlds. I hope that they hear feedback and redesign a unit to be noise-isolating for those of us who like to tune out and enjoy the music.


2 comments:

Hollywood February 11, 2012 at 8:57 AM  

I bought a pair, and maybe it's just bc I'm a pretty awesome sweater, but mine don't stay in. Even sent them back and got a size up, that just makes the sound even worse than to already was. I've had a 12$ pair of wrap-around headphones from Walmart for the past year, and they're great. Not a Yourbud fan.

Colleen February 19, 2012 at 6:59 PM  

Great review Jeff. I've seen these around and didn't know if they were worth the hype. Appreciate your honesty about all aspects of them!

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