In 1979, Sony introduced the Walkman — the world’s first portable music-listening device — with the Madison Avenue‑generated advertising slogan “There’s a Revolution in the Streets.” It was a prescient tagline; the gadget forever changed how people consume music. Its invention also prompted engineers to reimagine headset designs, which were commonly clunky, heavy, and uncomfortable. Today, stereophonic headphones come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of quality. In fact, the selection is so expansive, it’s hard to decide which ones to purchase — in-ear buds or noise-canceling headphones, tethered headsets or Bluetooth-capable ones? To help music lovers whittle down the choices, I tried out two mid-priced Bluetooth earbuds on the market, Rowkin Earbuds and FRESHeBUDS Pro.
Rowkin Bit Stereo
If gorgeous design tickles your fancy, then you’ll love Rowkin Bit Stereo earbuds. Not only are they easy on the eyes, they are a technological marvel. “Our goal was to create the world’s smallest earbuds using true wireless technology,” said Anson Liang, Rowkin president. The petite devices fit nicely into your ear canal (three sizes of tips are included) and the absence of wires gives them a super-cool James Bond feel. Although diminutive, they provide an excellent aural experience — a pleasing mix of high-end and bass tones come through. The most challenging aspect of creating the compact earbuds? “Fitting all of the features (like great sound and battery life) you would find in a set of full, over-head headphones into two of the world’s smallest earbuds,” Liang said. “You won’t find smaller earbuds on the market today with such high-end materials and the look and feel of a luxury item at an affordable price.”
Pros: Small; comfortable; superior design; good sound quality. Can control music by tapping the earbud.
Cons: Occasionally fell out when walking.
Cost: $109.99; see rowkin.com.
There’s nothing quite like having music swirling around in your head as if it’s being generated there. Thanks to their secure fit, FRESHeBUDS Pro offer that experience in spades. Made by FRESHeTECH, the Bluetooth-enabled device is designed to hook over your outer ear, which keeps the bud from shifting when you’re active. Although the earphones are connected by a wire, it rests unobtrusively behind your neck. “There is so much competition,” said Adam Schwartz, CEO at FRESHeTECH. “You often see companies try to ‘Swiss Army Knife’ features into their earbuds. That strategy makes Bluetooth earbuds too expensive and results in poor sales. We said, ‘Let’s make a great-quality pair of Bluetooth earbuds with a cool design and sell directly to consumers to lower the price.’” What makes FRESHeBUDS stand out from the crowd? “A few things,” according to Schwartz. “Our earbuds have all the controls on the actual earpiece so they are easy to get to, are exactly weighted evenly so you will find a great balance while running, and turn on/off by taking the magnets apart or reconnecting them.”
Pros: Snug fit; excellent sound quality; no ambient noise intrusion. Great for workouts.
Cons: Apparatus over outer ear; connected by wire.
Cost: $119.95; see freshetech.com.