Developer: Griffin Technology
Price: $20 (list); $18 (street)
Requirements: audio device with mini-phone jack
I am not an audiophile. By that I mean I am not one of those folks who can tell the difference between one high-end sound system and another. I use inexpensive ($12) headphones with my iPods and slightly more expensive ones ($29) with my portable DVD player, because there is more noise to block out where I use it. But I have never owned fancy expensive earphones or headphones.
These EarThumps made me feel as if I’ve stepped it up a notch, or even several notches. The audio folks may sneer, but for us regular folks who don’t know the difference, these earphones are terrific.
Griffin Technology is the first place I go to look for iPod accessories. Its branding has been successful in that regard. EarThumps are designed for use with iPods, although I had great experiences with them with my cheap portable DVD player as well. I had been using a set of behind-the-head headphones, which were functional enough at the gym. My first trip with EarThumps relegated those old headphones to the scrap heap, or would have if I had a scrap heap.
I have not been a fan of in-ear phones in the past. The buds that come with iPods have always given me a headache—it is something about the way they change the shape of your ear because they are metal. The EarThumps, though, have soft rubber on each post, which adapts itself to the contours of your ear. Griffin thoughtfully includes three sizes so you can find the right fit. The coolest part of the whole deal, for me, is the little case that comes with it, so I can wrap up the cords and keep them from getting tangled. I am easily impressed.
The soft carrying case with webbed pockets protects your EarThumps.
There is something about the in-ear experience that screens out most of the external sounds, in ways the cheap headphones never will. It was so protective that it made Jon Secada sound good. The high points seem to be comfort and the blocking out of external sound. Griffin sent two pairs for review, so I had a friend who uses Apple earbuds try the EarThumps. He says they were comfortable, and the proper size did keep out more street noise. He was not uncomfortable with the Apple buds, though, and does not use them often enough to keep them, so I get two pairs!
I’m glad I have two pairs, because I did not look forward to using the same pair for exercising at the gym and for watching movies on the portable DVD player. These are separate locations, and it’s handy to keep the listening devices separate, too. I want to describe the DVD experience, because it was much more profound a difference than the gym experience. It is what sold me on the product.
Without going into too much detail, the place where I watch movies is very loud sometimes. The speakers on the unit are cheap, so it is not designed to go very loud. I needed headphones to be able to hear it at all. Then I found that the unit just would not go beyond a certain loudness, and it was insufficient. I gave in and bought some $39 headphones with padded earpieces that blocked out most of the noise.
Then I tried the EarThumps and had to turn down the volume on the DVD player. These earpieces are so good at keeping out ambient noise that the volume was too high! I was delighted. Now I leave a pair of EarThumps at that location and keep a pair in the car for the gym.
They do not keep out so much sound that you can’t hear a car horn or fire alarm; I don’t mean to say they could be dangerous. I rated them Very Nice because I have a nagging suspicion that folks who know sound systems would find them inadequate. But for me, for my everyday use, they are excellent—and a great value.