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iLuv IEP425BLK Earbuds

Price: $70.16
List Price: $99.99
You save: $29.83 (30%)

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Review of the iLuv IEP425BLK Earbuds, made by Acoustic Research

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


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The process of appreciation begins with the packaging. With most consumer products, you need a freshly-sharpened chainsaw and the Jaws of Life to open the package. Apparently, the companies who do this to their hapless customers don't consider the fact that people might actually want to use what's inside that impenetrable packaging.

The folks at iLuv took a different approach. The cellophane wrapping actually slides off. You just fold it back a little and pull. It's obvious that you do this, simply because of the shape of the wrapper. Next, you're looking at a box with a pull-out handle. What could be easier?

The bud tips are in recessed holes in a tray, and it's easy to pop them out individually. I do mean individually; popping one out does not cause the rest of them to fly out and immediately be lost forever. The difference is the tray is a soft material, instead of that hard plastic that just about everyone else uses.

The earbuds themselves, instead of being packaged so that only a brain surgeon could remove them without damaging the cords, are merely taped with a single strand of cellophane tape. A simple tug on the tape, and they are free.

Upon handling the earbud set, I noticed the cords have an unusual texture. My usual experience with earbuds is the cords tangle into knots that I, as an experienced climber, find hard to undo. I've often wondered if I should ask the manufacturers of these to send me a set made with climbing rope so I don't have to teach new climbers how to tie their knots; really strong knots are made automatically. But then the prospect of untying those makes me change my mind.

It seemed to me that the jacket on the cord would prevent tangling. I tried my darndest to make it tangle. I rolled it up, twisted it around, and even put it in my pocket. For the acid test, I did what leads to the gnarliest of knots in my other earbud cords. I just let it sit there unattended for a couple of hours. No knots!

Next, I tried listening to these on my MP3 player (note, I do not use this for music; I listen to audiobooks). I used the default earbud tips. The sound was clear. It was also louder than with the set of earbuds I was using prior to testing.

Unfortunately, the earbuds kept falling out. No problem, I thought. Just find a tip that fits. I tried all the tips that came with it, and could not solve this problem. I even put them on backwards (something I have not tried, before) to see if that would work. Nope. Could not get any sort of decent fit with these earbuds.

Next, I took the tips off another set of earbuds and put them on these. That solved the fit problem. In looking at the tips that came with these, I see their shoulder chambering has a steeper angle compared to the other tips in my rather large collection of earbud tips. There's just not enough material in the contact area to provide the needed grip.

It seems to me that if a set of earbuds retails for a hundred bucks then they ought to fit. This failure to fit changed my five-star impression to a three-star impression. The problem is solved by dropping $15 on a cheap set of earbuds, removing the tips, tossing the cheaper earbuds, and using the tips that came with it on these. A better solution would be for iLuv to make tips that actually work.

A small case comes with this earbud set, and it's perfect for carrying these around (along with the tips salvaged from other earbuds). There is no instruction manual, so anyone not familiar with the inline controls on earbuds (a "feature" I actually dislike, and strongly) won't know that there's a volume control. When that control is inadvertently adjusted, the user could conclude the earbuds have failed. The control on this one also allows you to skip tracks, something that audiobook users have no need to do. When this happens inadvertently, it's frustrating and annoying to try to find where you were before the skip took place.

There's also a cord clip, yet another "feature" I don't like. What are you supposed to clip this to? It's just more weight and yet another thing that you have to fuss with just to use the MP3 player. Rather than have to keep re-clipping this, I just take a pair of pliers to it and remove it.

These do come with a product line brochure, and iLUV needs to re-think the text in there for liability reasons and just common sense. Before I get to that, I'll comment on the typeface used. I can't read it, even with reading glasses. I have to use a magnifying glass AND reading glasses to make this out. I can read the dates on coins with the unaided eye, so that tells you something about how tiny this print is. It would be better to de-drivel the text (much of it is just pointless blather) and use a legible font than to cram a bunch of careless writing as possible onto a small page.

I suggest the writers obtain a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, read it three times, and then update the copy in this product line brochure. Or, just ditch the brochure entirely. Does anybody actually read these things and then go buy more products? I doubt it. There's nothing of value here to build the relationship with the customer. iLUV should have put those resources toward developing useful earbud tips.

Now, here's what the iLUV folks need to re-think (assuming they keep the brochure). On the inside cover, the text suggests that users should walk about deliberately oblivious to the sounds of automobile engines and horns. These are the very sounds that every pedestrian most needs to be tuned into. If you consider these danger signals to be distractions to your music, then go to a safe place where blocking them out doesn't endanger your safety. It isn't everyone else's job to be aware of your surroundings. It is your job to do that. The music comes second; not becoming a paraplegic or a corpse comes first.

As noted earlier, I don't use my MP3 player to listen to music. I generally do not listen to music (the content adds little or nothing to my character, knowledge, or value as a human being), period. What I use my MP3 player for is the brainbuilding experience of listening to nonfiction audio books, and the experience has the effect of continually being in university. And making me smarter. But instead of sitting through classroom lectures, I learn while doing housework, yardwork, and driving down the highway (among other activities). Famous fitness guru Bill Phillips listens to audio books while on his recumbent bike.

Because I respect my inner ear parts (I've had them for a long time and have grown fond of them), the sound coming to them from my MP3 player is at normal conversation level. So I didn't crank the volume to max to test for distortion. That is not, to me, a relevant test. The earphones would perform well for their intended use, if I could keep the buds from continually falling out.



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