Whoomp Earbud Enhancers
Developer: Hearing Components
Price: $20; $12 for replacement tips.
It’s no secret that lots of people hate the stock headphones that Apple includes with the iPod. Complaints have run the gamut, including among others, weak bass response, tinny audio, and poor fit.
My biggest personal complaint with them is their inability to stay in place while I’m running, a problem only partially solved by the easily lost foam-mesh covers included in the earbud package. And, as with many earbud-style headphones, Apple’s headphones don’t do a great job of isolating the listener from external sounds (for instance, an airplane’s engines).
Hearing Components developed the Whoomp Earbud Enhancers to solve all of the aforementioned problems. Let’s see how well it succeeded.
The Whoomp Earbud Enhancers slip over the stock Apple earbuds, providing a soft foam earpiece that holds the earbuds securely in place.
While it’s not possible for an external add-on to change the acoustic properties of the speakers themselves, by blocking outside noise, the Whoomp enhancers do allow the Apple earbuds to deliver sound directly into the ears. To my ears, the bass was less muffled and the treble more subdued. For people whose primary complaint with the Apple earbuds is their weak bass response and/or their overly bright treble, this seems like a good solution.
However, I thought the overall sound suffered somewhat when listening to music with a large dynamic range (classical, for example), particularly in the higher frequencies. I suspect the foam tips are absorbing some of the energy of the music, and there’s not a lot the Whoomps can do to avoid that.
The Whoomps do a great job of holding the earbuds in place. I haven’t had any problems running with them, whereas I had to reset the bare earbuds about every mile or so. The foam, however, is somewhat absorbent of perspiration and earwax, and I can definitely tell I’ve worn mine off and on for a couple of months now. For $20, I expect a product not advertised as disposable to last a little longer than that, and I expect the replacements to be a lot cheaper than $12 per pair.
The fit, while generally good, is far from perfect. Some injection-molding flashing remains on the plastic and, at least in my case, it digs into my ears after awhile. Sure, I can trim it off with a knife—and I will—but this is reflective of poor quality control and again, for $20 I expect better.
You can see a small nub at about the one o’clock position that causes discomfort after wearing the “enhanced” earbuds for awhile.
Sound isolation compared to the bare earbuds is vastly improved. I travel a great deal on airplanes, and bulky noise-reducing headphones are simply not an option most of the time. The stock earbuds do an OK job, but when you end up in a window seat over the wing on an MD-82 and have to listen to not only the airflow noise in cruise (which is substantial) but also the drone of the engines, turning up the iPod to drown out that noise gets downright dangerous. The Whoomps allow a much more comfortable and reasonable volume level, though I have used similar devices in the past that did a better job of sound isolation. There’s definitely room for improvement.
A carrying case is included in the “starter pack” that you get for $20, along with a second pair of Whoomps with smaller (“slim”) tips on them. The carrying case is a particularly nice touch for frequent travelers, as headphone cords have a tendency to get horribly tangled if you simply toss your earbuds in a backpack. The case is big enough to carry a pair of earbuds with Whoomps attached, along with the second pair of Whoomps (or a couple of pairs of replacement tips).
The Whoomp Earbud Enhancers will enhance your stock Apple earbuds, yes. They improve the fit and the sound isolation at some minor expense of audio quality and come with a nice carrying case, but $20 seems awfully steep (and halfway toward a pair of really good earbuds with none of the problems) for what amounts to disposable earplugs with holes. Save your money and buy a better pair of earbuds in the first place rather than trying to jury-rig a pair you aren’t crazy about.