Of almost all gadgets, earbuds have the least surface area to work with, which means external design innovations are often incremental and minute. Color and style are the most noticeable physical characteristics that manufacturers tweak, but neither has an effect on the performance of an earphone. So, what's a new company to do in order to stand out? Make an earbud with an innovative design that influences sound quality. That's precisely what Amazing Tech Products has done with the Purebuds earphones, a $50 product with uniquely shaped eartips that affect audio output. Add to that some internal technology that purports to protect your hearing, and you've got a pretty intriguing set of earphones.
On first glance, the Purebuds earphones don't look that different from your standard iPod earbuds. Two round, white discs contain each miniature speaker, and a 45-inch white cable descends to a 3.5mm L-plug. Unlike most stock earbuds, these 'phones feature an uneven Y cable meant to be worn behind the neck, which may or may not appeal to you. Also, rather than chintzy foam sleeves, the Purebuds include three sets of silicone tips, each in a different shape. The varied design is meant to offer diverse sound profiles. There's a flat, donut-shaped sleeve to simulate surround sound; a double-flange-style tip for bass boosting; and a narrowing, contoured fitting that offers more general or full-range sound.
Each eartips only come in one size, meaning not everyone will be able to achieve a comfortable, secure fit. During testing, we found the Purebuds to be reasonably comfortable, but not necessarily secure--particularly with the surround-sound sleeve attached. The earphones are probably not the best choice for active users, but then again, that's not necessarily what they're made for. They're certainly not sweat-resistant; slits in the earbuds reveal the inner speaker in a couple of spots, which no doubt contributes to their open sound, but also ensures that moisture will find its way to the speaker. It also means there's a little bit of sound leakage, though no more so than with stock earbuds.
The Purebuds generally sound better than the average pair of headphones packaged with an MP3 player. And--call us cynical--but we were shocked to discover that the different eartips do indeed offer varying sound profiles. The surround-sound sleeves make audio sound more open and outside of the head, while the bass-boost tips give music a heavier low-end. Unfortunately, they also tended to give music a muddy quality overall. Predictably, the full-range fittings offer the most balanced response, and were the favorites due to the fit and sound. While we wouldn't want to be constantly switching the sleeves, we appreciate the ability to tweak our listening experience easily by way of the earphones alone.