There's no doubt that the earbuds that come packaged with the majority of MP3 players are subpar in both fit and sound quality, but it's tough to drop more cash on a new pair to go with a just-purchased device. The good news is that there are options that won't cost you a cent over $20. One such example are the new Auvio Pearl Buds, a colorful set of earbuds that will set you back only $15. Auvio is Radio Shack's latest foray into the earphone market, and the Pearl Buds represent the bottom of the line. It shows. Sound quality is merely passable and the superthin cable is practically begging to break, but these buds are still a step up from stock, especially in the bass department. They could be worth it for those on an incredibly tight budget.
The Pearl Buds have a typical earbud design: two small, round earpieces feature angled arms onto which you attach silicone eartips. Auvio includes three sizes, which for the sake of argument, we're calling extra-small, small, and large. The earpieces come in two shiny color options--light pink and deep purple--so these may not appeal to listeners of the male persuasion. Descending from each bud is a superthin black cord; its connection to the earpieces seems particularly fragile, so take heed. The Y-cable joins about 12-inches down and features a slider for preventing tangles when not in use. At the end, there's a standard 3.5 millimeter straight plug.
Sound quality from the Auvio Pearl Buds is about what you would expect from a $15 pair: not awesome. In general, music has a rather hollow, tinny quality to it, and there's no genre of music that really shines. But then there is no particular type of music that sounds overtly awful either, and the earphones do offer better bass response than what you get from stock 'buds. Of course, you'll need to get a decent fit with the ear to hear the low-end. We didn't have any trouble there, but the Pearl Buds still weren't particularly comfortable. Oddly, they made the insides of our ears itch, which is a first for earphones like these. Our best guess is that the silicone used for the eartips is extremely cheap.
In the final analysis, the Pearl Buds aren't going to satisfy discerning listeners, but for those who just want a bit better sound and noticeably more bass than what they're getting from stock earbuds, these Auvios are a reasonable option. Just be wary of potential itchy issues.