Gadget Review: Z.Buds
Picking up a design honoree award at this year’s CES, Z.Buds are one step ahead of the game. Tailored for iPhone use and chalk full of more features than I’ve ever seen in a pair of earbuds, it’s no wonder that they’re back ordered on Zagg’s website. So are they all that?
For the most part, Z.buds are great, but only in certain scenarios. As with all reviews being opinionated, what I’m about to detail may or may not have anything to do with you. First off the sound is robust at best, with the frequency spectrum being fairly represented through strong bass response and balanced mid range and treble attack. I’d say the sound is very worthy. Most of the time earbuds don’t have the bass people are looking for, but not the case with Z.Buds. I listen to mostly metal, which garners a great tonal showcase, and I was pleasantly pleased with the Z.Buds accuracy.
Gripe time! Just another pair of earbuds that don’t fit me. I’m getting so sick of this! I know I’m special but my ear canals can’t be that unique? Anyway, Z.Buds comes with an array of inserts: 3 sizes of standard “rubberized”, 2 malleable foam sizes, and one pair of Etymotic style. The Etymotic inserts had such tiny holes I couldn’t even get them around the buds. I tried a couple times and gave up. Of the 3 “rubberized” inserts the smallest ones just barely fit me, but any yawn or animated facial expression would require readjustment. They sounded decent enough, if they would just stay in my ear! The smaller of the two foam inserts fit well and sounded the best, but only when there was no ambient noise present. I wore them on the train downtown and they were useless, letting every possible sound in and becoming more tinny than botulism. All in all, it will depend on your setting and the girth of your ear canal in order for you to enjoy these earbuds.
On to the features. As I mentioned before, these earbuds were designed purely with iPhone users in mind. Here’s a short list of the many Z.Bud features:
- Nylon braided tangle free cord
- Tethered beads for cord and slack management and lanyard style wearing
- Inline volume control
- Recessed 3.5mm jack for 1st gen iPhone compatability
- Dedicated iPhone music controls
- Multiple inserts for a custom fit
- Mystery feature
I loved the “V-Moda” style braided cord. It never tangled and felt extra durable. The beaded tether system is also nice and insures the proper amount of slack to keep the earbuds in your ears. Sort of. In my case not so much. The inline volume control had static when adjusted, but only here and there. I think it’s better used to monitor volume when talking on the phone. I did take a phone call on the Z.Buds and they sounded distant and low volume, even with the inline volume cranked. I’ve never been the type of dude who used that feature, probably because the regular iPhone earbuds were such crap, so no biggie for me there.
The dedicated music controls were responsive and worked fine except they were hard to find. Depending on your tether slack, you are sort of reaching blindly for the controls and subsequently dislocate the earbud because of it. The Gadgetell review I read shows a pic with the controls on the back of the dudes head. What is that? The Z.Buds were void of any Left/Right speaker markings which I found odd given the amount of thought put into the design. Then there is the mystery feature. I couldn’t find a picture or any info about it on their site. At the end of the tether system around where the cord meets the inline volume control, there’s this other small cord loop. I can’t figure out. At first I thought it was part of the tether system. I mean I didn’t go to grad school or anything but…? You could definitely strangle yourself with it, or hang it on the buttons of your polo shirt. I’m sure I will find out after this review posts!
It’s obvious that Z.Buds have a lot going for them. Though not all bases are covered, they are probably the best iPhone specific earbuds I have seen yet. If you don’t care about the features, then Z.buds may not be what your looking for. As with anything though, you’ll never know until you try.
- Many features, some not found in other iPhone specific earbuds
- Quality sound though nothing amazing
- Many inserts for a custom fit
- Inserts don’t fit all that well
- When tethered, music controls are hard to find
- Weird aspects in design, notably the mystery feature
Buy them for $64.99 here
Read my review of ZaggPhones here