REVIEW: ClarityOne Earbuds By PureSound Technology – The Non-Audiophile’s Experience
Note: This review was actually written in mid-March 2011. I can’t tell you exactly why it wasn’t published but needless to say it wasn’t until now. I have made some edits to it but it largely remains the same as when it was written in March of 2011. I wasn’t sent these earbuds directly by the company themselves but was expected to write a review on them. I do not consider this a sponsored blog post but in the interests of full disclosure I wanted to let you all know everything I could about my interaction with the company that makes this product.
When I got these earphones from a new Toronto company, PureSound Technology, my first thought was, “They look pretty much like almost every other pair of earbuds I’ve seen,” this would all change upon closer examination and through daily usage of the earbuds. To be clear, I am not an audiophile. My thoughts, therefore, are taken from the vantage point of a guy who usually just uses headphones because they work.
Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to music and am actually quite eclectic in my tastes and I consume an inordinate amount of audio-visual media on a daily basis but I have always been the kind of guy who will just buy a set of headphones and use them until I broke them or I lost them. I never invested in the premier types of headphones that more hardcore audio freaks might choose. I can appreciate, of course, better or worse sound quality that are produced by different headphones and, as a gadget geek, loved the vibrating Shockwave headphones when they were brought out by Panasonic back in the day just because they were so freaking cool. I also was very excited when I got my first set of A2DP Bluetooth stereo headphones which I could use with my phone, again, because of the cool factor.
All this changed when I got to try these earbuds. The folks over at PureSound Technology weren’t lying when they told me these were one awesome set of headphones they brought to the market. You could tell just by looking at the headphones that they put a lot of time and effort into the presentation which is often indicative of a top of the line product. In fact, the technology and the earbuds themselves are TWELVE YEARS in the making.
Design of Earbuds & Included Accessories
The protective case is easy to use and really does a great job protecting the earphones, the carabineer on the outside of the case makes them a pleasure to store almost anywhere and maintain their availability for all day, every day use. The coating on the wires that they chose to use is said to be “tangle-free” and it most certainly is – I have had many sets of headphones that I wrap the wires up in a tight circle around my fingers, pop them in a pocket and then have to sit for a couple of minutes unraveling when I want to listen to music and with the coating on the wires of the ClarityOne Earbuds this never was a problem, they really do perform as advertised – they’ve stayed tangle-free since day one. The entire earbud itself – save for the tip – is made from solid casing aluminum which, I believe, aids in sound quality but either way gives them a nice, solid feel.
Finally, I really appreciated the intelligent place they chose to put the R & L indicators on the earbuds: not in the side placement that I’ve seen on most of my headphones in the past but they’re right up ON TOP of each earbud. Granted, the standard placement of the R & L doesn’t ever inconvenience me for more than a second or two but, as I said, the attention to detail of the user experience is apparent on the ClarityOne Earbuds and was most appreciated by me. You may be wondering why this is so important to me. Well, oftentimes the reason I am using the headphones is because I don’t want to disrupt someone else’s sleep or walking home at night so I am using them in a dark environment and getting a light out would be disruptive to the person sleeping (and defeat the purpose of using the headphones) or just annoying when you’re trying to walk somewhere and/or it is really cold outside. Note: the review unit I got seems to be unique in this placement of the R & L indicators. Judging by pictures of the earbuds seen on the ClarityOne website the placement has been moved to the back of the earbud, directly opposite the tip. This, in my mind, is just as efficient – if not more efficient placement – for the indicators and my opinion on the placement stands as above.)
Now, on to the actual experience of using the earbuds in my daily life for listening to music, watching videos, and making phone calls – yes, they have a microphone built into the headphone wire so these babies are begging to be used with your cellphone on the go. The earbuds come with 3 sets of easily interchangeable different sized earbud tips to fit ears of all sizes – I personally left the medium-sized tips on mine and was ready to rock. I popped the earbud tips into my ears and just wore them without any music playing for a while to test their comfort as well how much ambient sound they would block out. Were they comfortable to wear all day? Yup! I quickly almost forgot I had them in my ears as they fit so comfortably in there and were very light as well. This comes from a person who has usually shunned the non-earhook Bluetooth headsets simply because on most I have tried after wearing it for a while I’d begin to get a dull ache in that ear. As well, they did a good job blocking out enough ambient noise that when I left music running on my computer with the earbuds in my ears but not connected I was asked to turn it down by people nearby when I already thought the volume was at a somewhat low-level, or at least from what I could hear.
The microphone on the headset’s left wire ended up positioned at around collarbone level for me and everyone I spoke to on the phone said they could hear me clear as day so good work there, ClarityOne! My question is if there are going to be ‘lefty’ and ‘righty’ sets of headphones or if there was research done into what the best placement for the mic is and the decision was made to put it on the left side on all models. Noise cancellation of the mic wasn’t at the same standard as some of the better Bluetooth headsets I have used but remember these earbuds do not have their own power.
Now we move onto the sound quality of the actual headphones themselves. They’re great! Just looking at them I wouldn’t have expected such superb sound quality but everything was crisp and clear. The bass was bumping and the audio experience was superb. I used the headset on the bus, on the street, on the subway, around the office, and at home and they performed extremely well everywhere. I never needed to turn the volume above the 60% mark on my BlackBerry Torch even on the loud subway and listening to quieter rock without heavy bass (which often helps blocking out exterior noise and doesn’t need to be kept as loud much as we all might like it to be!). In fact, I am using the earbuds to listen to some music on my computer right now and in the picture below you can see the settings I have my volume set to – all the way up in Windows Media Player but almost all the way down on the main computer volume – and I could have it lower and still be able to hear the music fine, I just felt like ‘pumping it up.’
From a technical standpoint, the ClarityOne Earbuds use 8 ohms whereas the industry regular is 16-32 ohms in headphones. The fact that the Earbuds use 8 ohms is beneficial to us, the end users in two ways. First, it means they sound better because there is less distortion which is what forces other manufacturers to make their headphones use 16 or 32 ohms to compensate. Second, using fewer ohms means less power consumption by the earphones which means your cellphone or media device’s battery will last longer. DISCLAIMER: As a non-audiophile I am parroting what I have been told and have read about ohms via PureSound Technology. I have independently gone to a few other industry websites and checked technical specifications of products and the use of 16-32 ohms in headphones IS standard.
“The Crunch Test”
One of the huge tests for me with any headphones which the ClarityOne Earbuds were honestly the first ones in my memory to pass is what I call the “Crunch Test” – don’t worry, I didn’t put these beauties through some sort of physical stress test or anything of the sort. For me, the “Crunch Test” is when I try to eat something while listening to anything using earbuds. Have you ever been wearing a set of headphones and tried to eat something that’s crunchy like chips or cookies or – for you health nuts – fruits and vegetables? More often than not, I find I miss out on at least part of the music I am listening to as the crunching noise of my chewing noise drowns it out. I find this to be especially problematic when I am watching a TV show or movie on my laptop or BlackBerry or even trying to listen to a podcast/radio show which is predominantly people speaking. I find that, with most other headsets, I can’t keep both ears plugged in and STILL have to turn up the volume so I can still catch what the characters/hosts are saying. Not so with the ClarityOne Earbuds! These headphones were quite honestly the first headphones I have ever tried which I could wear while watching a show on my laptop AND eating a crunchy snack and not have to worry about the dialog being drowned out by my chewing. Epic win PureSound Technology! I don’t know how you folks did it; be it the clarity of the sound due to the separate processors inside each earbud, the way the earbud tips are designed, or a combination of the two but I was finally able to do what everyone loves to do while watching media – SNACK! No longer am I relegated to only able to consume ice cream or soup and media simultaneously thanks to the ClarityOne Earbuds. I can eat chips, crackers, salads, and peanuts and still understand what’s being said on screen. This pleases me to no end.
The one main thing I thought I was going to take issue with when I first was given the ClarityOne Earbuds is the price. As I said above, I am no audiophile. I’ve used many a pair of $7-$20 earbuds for years without understanding what it is that people pay the big bucks for when they buy headphones in the range of $100 or above. I now understand and feel bad that I’ve been missing out all this time. Especially as these exquisite pieces of audio technology also do double duty as a cellphone headset. This is very important because more and more our cellphones are becoming our all in one portable media devices as well as communications device.
The ONLY concern I had in this regard was that I wanted to use the ClarityOne Earbuds more! I wanted an audio accessory that would allow me to split the audio output part of the earbuds’ jack (for the headphones) from the audio input part of the jack (for the mic). The reason I want this is so I could plug the ClarityOne Earbuds into my laptop (which, unlike cellphones, has the audio out and audio in as separate ports) and be able to use the earbuds for Skype, GoogleTalk, or any other VOIP videoconferencing software. I even called a well-known Toronto shop at the corner of Bay & Bloor – which ‘High Fidelity’ magazine rated one of the five best hi-fi shops in the world and asked about the availability of such an accessory I was told that, to their knowledge, it didn’t exist.
So a big thumbs up to these little wonders of the audio world. Thanks a lot PureSound Technology for the ClarityOne Earbuds to review and with which to fall in love. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for this company as it is pretty clear they are going to be doing great things for our listening pleasure.
The earbuds are available for order on the PureSound Technology/ClarityOne website at http://www.clarityoneaudio.com for only $118.99 right now.