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Zipbuds Juiced review: Basic earphones you can zip up

Despite their tangle-free qualities and sub-$20 price tag, the only reason to buy these is if you can't resist the novelty of the zipper cord design.

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
3 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 for $10 more.

Zipbuds Juiced (Blue)

Zipbuds Juiced

The Good

The <b>Zipbuds Juiced</b> are relatively inexpensive 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

Despite its tangle-free qualities and sub-$20 price tag, the only reason to buy these is if you can't resist the novelty of the zipper cord design.

The $19.99 Zipbuds Juiced reviewed here is the entry-level model, while the step-up Fresh ($40) offers better bass response and overall sound.

As with all noise-isolation style earphones, 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 Juiced are available in multiple color options. Sarah Tew/CNET

In all, they sound OK, though I didn't find them terribly comfortable to wear when I jammed the tips into my ears in order to get a tight enough seal (if I lost the seal, they sounded very thin). In terms of sound quality, they're what you'd expect from an inexpensive set of earbuds. For some folks, that sound will be acceptable. For others, it just won't cut it, and these guys just don't outperform other earphones in this price class.

On a positive note, 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. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

This Juiced model doesn't have as much bass as the step-up Zipbuds Fresh. Sarah Tew/CNET

Though I didn't think the higher-end Fresh Zipbuds were a good deal at $40, I did like them better than this model. They just seem a little better built and more comfortable to wear (and yes, they sound better, though still not great). Both models are truly 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 the earphones are 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 better and are more comfortable to wear (see our list of headphones for under $50 for more options). So I'll say the same thing I said about the Fresh Zipbuds: 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 Juiced (Blue)

Zipbuds Juiced

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 5