What do you do when you only have one iPod and one set of headphones, but you and a friend want to listen at the same time? The common solution is for each person to take one bud each and listen in dreary mono. Sure, people do it, but it's just doesn't sound good.
Well, Mida Interactive has taken the dual-listening experience to a new level with its ShareBuds Twin MX Stereo Earphones, which includes two pairs of stereo earbuds integrated into one product. The good news is they fit comfortably (you get three rubber tip sizes to choose from: small, medium, and large) and sound OK. While they're not going to blow you away with rich tonal qualities or tight, deep bass, they deliver sound that measures up to what you'd get from basic soft-tipped earbuds that cost around $25. Considering you're getting twin headphones, you can see how Mida would come up with a price of $49.99. (Alternatively, of course, you could buy two sets of earbuds and a cheap $2 headphone-jack splitter for dual-listening, but the ShareBuds are clearly designed for serial music or movie sharers).
However, we were disappointed by the retractable-cord design. It's a good idea in theory--two sets of headphones do require some cord management--but we found that the cord just doesn't retract as smoothly as it should and sometimes gets a bit tangled. The retracting mechanism is also cheaply built. While it's not a total dealbreaker, just be forewarned you'll probably have to spend some time getting the cord to roll up just right, which rather takes away from the appeal of the retractable model.
That major gripe aside, we see how this product could be a good fit for kids who like to share their music with friends or a family who doesn't want to carry two sets of headphones on a trip for one DVD player, especially when you consider the ShareBuds' overall size when retracted is pretty compact. It is worth noting, however, that at this price the headphones should have come with some sort of carrying case, even a cheap felt or neoprene one.
In the final analysis, we find the retractable ShareBuds tough to recommend at their current price of $49.99. But if you see them for $25 or less, they're worth considering if dual-listening is your thing. The step-down, nonretractable version of the ShareBuds retails for $10 less and could be a better deal if you don't mind spending a touch more time on cable management.