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Surround sound headphones aren't exactly a new concept, though not many of them come in the form of earbuds. This is likely because placing a speaker directly inside your ear makes it difficult to remove the sound from inside your head, which is what surround sound headphones aspire to do. All of this is at the aim of reducing listener fatigue, and while I'm not sure yet that Brookstone's Surround Sound Earbuds accomplish that, I can attest that the earbuds reasonably affect an open listening experience--and for the reasonable price of $35.
The Brookstone Surround Sound Earbuds offer a relatively basic design with two exceptions: a small, oblong mic built into the cable and dual 3.5mm plugs at the end. In fact, one of the plugs (colored pink) is specifically for a mic jack on your computer. The other one--colored green and labeled "SPK"--is for headphone ports. Unfortunately, from ear to plugs, the cable is only about 42-inches long, which made it impossible for me to sit up at my desk while having the plugs connected to the computer. Like many users, I keep my computer box on the ground, so if your system is up on your desk--or an all in one, like the iMac--you might not have a problem. Still, considering the earbuds are marketed for use with VoIP, I'm surprised the cable isn't adequately long. At least it's an easy fix: just pick up a headphone extender.
The earpieces of the Brookstone Surround Sound Earbuds are adequately comfortable. The earbuds come with a rubber fitting that helps them fit securely inside the ear; a couple standard foam covers are also included for added comfort. Integrated ear loops aim to keep the earbuds in place even during activity, but they are not adjustable and so might not work that well for those with non-average size ears. However, thanks to a lightweight design, the Surround Sound Earbuds will probably stay on most users just fine.
Brookstone uses something called "reverse sound" technology to provide the surround sound effect. Basically, this means that the speakers are designed to direct sound out away from the head and then bounce it back into the ear, thereby offering a more open listening experience. When tested against the Shure E420, the Surround Sound Earbuds did indeed offer a more out-of-the-head sound quality. Yet they've got nothing on the E420's low-end response and overall richness and depth. Of course, the Shures cost 10 times as much, so that's really no comparison. For $35, the Brookstone Surround Sound Earbuds offer decent audio quality with no muddiness and a good overall balance of sound. If anything, they sound a bit hollow, but this shouldn't be a deterrent for most users. If you're prone to listener fatigue, definitely give these a look.