Portable headphones come in two main styles: in-ear and on-ear. The former comprises the ultratiny earbuds and canalbuds that you place at least somewhat inside your ears, while the latter often features a headband and circular earpads that rest over the ears. iPod accessories maker iFrogz offers several models in both varieties, but the in-ear Ear Pollution Plugz headphones are the subject of this review. Unfortunately, this $15 set rather lives up to its name, offering audio quality about on par with the stock 'buds included with most MP3 players. On the plus side, the earphones offer a hint of style, an ultracompact design, and a comfortable fit, so they could work in a pinch for those on a budget, but the similarly-priced Griffin TuneBuds are a better option for those who like bass.
Let's start with the positive. The Ear Pollution Plugz earphones are a step up from stock earbuds in the fit and comfort department; anyone who finds the hard plastic of standard 'buds uncomfortable will consider the Plugz an improvement. Also, the earpieces are very small and canal-style, which offers some passive sound isolation--always a plus, as it allows you to listen to music at low volumes. Finally, the Plugz come in seven color combos--red and black, silver and black, gold and black, pink and black, blue and black, blue and brown, and pink and white--all of which feature a stylish little radiation logo on the earbuds.
On the downside, the Ear Pollution Plugz definitely feel cheap, which isn't terribly surprising given the price point. We'd consider this set "throwaway" tech; that is, you're probably only going to get a couple months out of the earphones. The cable is thin and feels prone to breakage, especially the Y portion. One of the silicone sleeves in our sealed package was torn before we ever laid a finger on it, and the others (iFrogz includes three sets, from small to large) appear equally thin and fragile.
Sound quality also proved to be rather unimpressive in testing. The Ear Pollution Plugz earphones' main offense is harsh-sounding audio. On more than one occasion, we had to turn down the music because it came through jarring and overly bright. Also, the Plugz offer very little low-end, and the high-end sounds brittle at times. However, not all music sounds awful. Classical performs decently, as do dark and mellow tracks. All in all, though not our top choice in the price range, they will do in a pinch and may be a decent option to abuse at the gym.