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Zipbuds Fresh review: Headphones you can zip up

The higher-end Zipbuds Fresh earphones have a unique tangle-free zipper cord that's compromised by a few drawbacks.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
2 min read

Zipbuds have been around for a few years, and their claim to fame is that their cord is integrated into a zipper. The company's 2012 models, dubbed "Fresh" and "Juiced," come in a variety of colors as well as versions that add a microphone/remote for making calls.

Zipbuds Fresh (Green)

Zipbuds Fresh

The Good

The <b>Zipbuds Fresh</b> offer decent sound quality, and the zipper-design of the cord makes it truly tangle free.

The Bad

The zipper cord is comparatively heavy and makes some noise when it rubs against your clothing. Also, when rolled up, the cord is relatively bulky compared with other earphones' cords.

The Bottom Line

The Zipbuds Fresh offer respectable sound, but the pluses of the tangle-free cord design are compromised by a few drawbacks.

The $40 Zipbuds Fresh reviewed here is the premium model, with better sound and bass response than the Juiced, which starts at $20.

As with all noise-isolation style earphone, sound quality is affected by just how tight a seal you can get. The earphones come with three different-size eartips (small, medium, and large) and you'll want to pick the one that offers the snuggest fit (I went with the large).

The Zipbuds Fresh are available in multiple color options. Sarah Tew/CNET

In all, they sound pretty decent, though they're a little bright, which means they're pushing the treble a bit. I can't say they outperform other earphones in this price class or will wow you, but so long as you get a tight seal, they deliver respectable enough sound with good clarity and ample bass.

The zipper design really does help prevent tangles and it certainly will appeal to younger users who are after a cute, eye-catching design. To adjust how they hang, you simply unzip the cord to whatever length you desire. When you're finished using them, you zip the cord all the way up and then roll the cord up. Alas, no carrying case is included.

The zipper cord is sturdy but makes noise when it rubs against your clothing. Zipbuds

While the cord seems sturdy and the design has its pluses, it also has some noticeable drawbacks. For starters, it's a bit heavy, which means you probably won't want to use these earphones for running outside (they might be suitable for gym use, however).

The other problem is that since these are noise-isolating earphones that passively block out ambient noise, you will hear the cord rubbing against your clothing, with the zipper design magnifying that noise (you can hear a traditional thin cord with a cloth or rubber casing brushing up against your clothing, but the noise is muffled compared with the noise this cord produces).

Finally, when you roll these earphones up for storage, the ring they make is not so compact; they're just bulkier than other earphones. That said, they don't tangle and are very easy to unravel.

The Zipbuds Fresh have their pros and cons. They sound decent and they truly are tangle-free. But the zipper design creates other issues, including excess noise from the cord rubbing against your clothing. Some people won't mind this as much as others, and they're fine for stationary use.

From a comparison standpoint, there are certainly other earphones in this price class -- and some much cheaper models, including Panasonic's $17 RP-HJE355 -- that sound as good or better (see our list of headphones for under $50 for more options). So I'd say the only reason to buy these is if you can't resist the novelty of the zipper cord design, or if having a tangle-free earphone cord is a big priority.

Zipbuds Fresh (Green)

Zipbuds Fresh

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 7