For the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Zagg.com had a super sell. Just about everything in their store was 50% off or more. I am a big fan of Zagg’s InvisibleSHIELD screen protectors and ZaggWipes so I thought I would take advantage of their sale.
The normal retail price for the headphones is around $50 but the sale brought them down to $25.
Typically I only review products that I have purchased for myself and typically those products have been heavily researched before I make that purchase. Thus, most of my reviews are positive, glowing even. This is not one of those reviews.
If you learn one thing from this review it will be that the Zagg SmartBuds are perhaps the worst headphones I have ever purchased. Want to know why?
After twenty-five years in production, and five years of absence of ownership, the Koss PortaPro headphones still kick ass. I’ve encountered no headphone in their price range that unseats them from their highest of pedestals. The Sennheiser PX100s come very close with superior comfort and a more streamlined design but simply don’t have the same passion in their reproduction of music.
Before I had my Sennheiser HD600s, my Grado SR60s, any of my Shure, UltimateEars, EtymoticResearch or Klipsch headphones, I had these Koss PortaPros, until their untimely loss while moving from California, back to Missouri.
My new set arrived today with only a change in packaging from when I bought mine my junior year in high school. There’s a sort of comfort in that, just as the Klipsch Heresy speakers I have still sold today have changed very little since mine came off the assembly line around 1984.
If you are in the market for a sub $100 on-the-ear, open-air headphone, this is the one I’d recommend. I got mine from Amazon.com with free shipping for under $35. It’s a steal and it feels oh so good to have them back.
It’s been nearly five years since I had my first set of Comply headphone tips. They came with my UltimateEars SuperFi 5 Pro dual-driver, in-ear headphones. My first impressions were nothing too spectacular.
The UltimateEars headphones are large and never really felt secure. The noise isolation was great but only if they were in just right. Since the diameter of the ear tip was so wide, getting a deep placement was difficult and I soon found the headphones falling out or losing their proper seal.
I switched to the rubber or silicon ear tips that came with the headphones and found that while the seal wasn’t necessarily that much better, if the seal broke, I could easily remedy the situation. Eventually I got so good at putting on the headphones that losing a seal was no longer a problem.
Now to the present. The inevitable finally happened with me UltimateEars SuperFI 5 Pro headphones, they became tip-less (really surprised I didn’t lose them faster). Meanwhile my new favorite in-ear headphones, the Klipsch Image S4i have proven their ability to kick ass, take names and leave all my other headphones getting dusty. I went to the Klipsch Bulletin Board to do a bit of tech help for my fellow audiophiles and saw a few people discussing ways to further improve their Klipsch investment.
One thing that popped up a few too many times to be ignored was the inclusion of Comply foam ear tips. I bit the bullet and, with the generosity of Comply giving me a review discount (full disclosure for all those Federal Trade Commission agents reading my blog…), I bought two sets (6 pair) for my two favorite in-ear-monitors.
For those who don’t know, Comply makes memory-foam ear tips for many popular in-ear headphones, as well as their own line of sound isolating headphones. They the brand of ear tips to buy, period. Here is why…
My Comply headphone tips came in the other day, a set for my UltimateEars and another for the Klipsch headphones.
So what are my thoughts?
Well, first off, it’s a definite upgrade to the UltimateEars branded options and seem to be an improvement on the Comply models I had several years ago.
As I wrote above, the UltimateEars have a really wide sound channel that is probably too wide for most people’s ears. That being said, the Comply tips make a significantly better seal than the rubber ones from UltimateEars, despite the physical obstacles of the sound port of the headphones.
The fit on the Klipsch S4i is just perfect, they seemed to just disappear once in my ears. Klipsch made noise when they released their first headsets and a good deal was written regarding their unprecedented comfort for in-ear-monitors. Klipsch’s oval tips (instead of round) fit the ear more naturally. I would love to see Comply incorporate this design element with a future model of their ear tips for even an even better fit.
The sound isolation is dangerously good. I missed several phone calls and a couple knocks on my door! They completely silenced my local Starbucks. On the flight from St. Louis to Austin, not even the roar of the jets next to my window interfered with my music listening. Eyes closed, you’re in a different world.
When you get these tips you’re doing so for really three reasons. Replacement for lost tips, sound isolation and comfort. UltimateEars SuperFi 5 Pro owners will enjoy a significant increase in comfort and sound isolation with the Comply ear tips. However, if you have the Klipsch S4i, you probably already enjoy amazing comfort and decent sound isolation so if sound isolation is your need, the Comply headphone tips will fill any gaps left by your current tips. However, if comfort is your biggest concern, the double-flange tips from Klipsch are just as comfortable and perhaps better, to me.
In regards to any improvement in audio performance… You will certainly notice an increase in bass response which decreases your desire to turn up the volume. The sound isolation coupled with a nearly airtight seal in your ear really makes the bass lines in songs like Muse’sUndisclosed Desires perform at its best. Lower volumes means less stress on your ears which allows a longer listening with less fatigue and hearing damage.
There are really only three downsides I see to the Comply ear tips.
Price – At $5-7 a pair, it’s not overwhelmingly expensive but an extra cost not associated with most headphones.
Ease of Use – Putting the headphones on and off becomes a hassle. Definitely not something you want to keep doing. I got so frustrated with people coming up to me to talk causing me to redo my headphones every few minutes that I went back to the regular tips at one point. Definitely not as easy to take in and out than the original ear tips.
Sanitation – you have to replace the ear tips at least once every three months. Though to me, there is something kinda gross about putting these in your ears even after a couple of weeks use. You can wipe them down with a moist rag after use to keep them clean. Make sure they are dry before you use them again, and of course, clean ears means cleaner tips.
Let’s break it down.
Isolation – 9.5/10
Comfort – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Value – 9/10
Overall – 9.1/10
Will this improvement in audio quality, comfort and sound isolation have you taking a second listen to your music catalogue? No. But it might be that small difference that takes a 9 out of 10 headphone closer to a 10.
One a lesser set of headphones, such as the Griffin TuneBuds you will notice a significant improvement in audio quality, isolation and comfort with the Comply headphone tips.