One aspect of daily bike commuting I really enjoy is using the time on the bike to listen to podcasts. I rarely watch news on TV anymore; I get most of my news while pedaling. I stick one earbud in my right ear and leave my left ear, which is most often on the "side" of traffic, open to listen to what is going on around me.
I was describing this to someone who commutes by car the other day and he said, "I don't know if I could do that, I don't think I could concentrate on both riding and listening at the same time." I asked him if that meant he could not listen to the radio while driving. He confidently responded by saying, "Oh no, driving and listening to the radio is no problem." I guess there are some paradoxes in life I will never understand.
While I have not been loyal to one brand of earbud, I am loyal to a type. I apparently have small ears and the earbuds that come in a single size that cannot be modified have never fit my ear. I need a set that comes with those little removable silicon rubber pieces that come in different sizes, and I always need the smallest size of said piece for the earbud to fit and stay in my ear.
Recently I received an email from the folks at a company I had never heard of before, Audio-Technica. They sent along the following description of a product and asked me if I wanted to do a review. I said yes, and also asked if we could get them to send set to a reader to review and they agreed. Here is the description -
Audio-Technica's ATH-CKX5iS SonicFuel™ In-ear Headphones with In-line Mic & Control offer 4 different size eartips (XS, S, M, L), and three c-tips (S, M, L) for a customized fit designed to stay in place, no matter what you're doing. These unique eartips rotate a full 360° to automatically align with the angle of your ear canal, directing the sound towards your inner ear to avoid pressure and discomfort, while the c-tips fit the curvature of your ear for maximum stability.
Thanks to an in-line microphone and controller, the ATH-CKX5iS headphones function as an extension of your smart device and allow you to quickly answer a call, then return right back to your music. Perfect for hands-free calling on your morning commute!
Here are a few pictures of the earbuds after I took them out of the box. You can see the rubber doohickey they refer to as a "c-tip" that serves to stabilize the earbud and keep it from falling out. The c-tips come in three different sizes.
Here are extra sizes of both the c-tips and the eartip covers.
And here is a picture from their website showing the different colors offerings.
I do not have what I would describe as super sophisticated hearing ability so I cannot give a scientific breakdown of the sound produced, however when I ran my own test the audio-technica did not seem to me to pick up bass as much as my current headphones (Sennheiser CX 300II). I did what any logical person would do, I queued up Hot For Teacher by Van Halen and cranked it. Don't get me wrong, the audio-technica set sounds great, I just noticed a bit less of Michael Anthony's bass behind Eddie's ripping solo when making the comparison.
Here are a few other items of note . . .
First, the text sent along by the rep noted the earbuds are "designed to stay in place, no matter what you're doing." Well, this is kind of true. If you are engaged in normal motions (walking, pedaling, etc.) the earbuds stay in place quite well. However, when I am getting on and off my bike and locking it up at times, my cord will catch on one thing or another and no matter how snug the earbud is, is it going to come out or be dislodged. For example, I commonly catch the cord on my handlebars while looping my chain though my front tire to lock up and have jerked the earbuds out. But, I will say these headphones stay in my ear much better than standard earbuds. My standard buds are prone to slowly loosen and I have to push them in occasionally. I have not had this issue with the audio-technica model.
Second, you might ask if the c-tips are necessary and the answer is yes. Take a look at the audio-technica next my other "standard" earbuds.
In the picture above the c-tip is removed and you can see that the earbud design is not going to stay in unless you are using the c-tip. It is designed that way and must be used that way. I have had no problems with c-tip durability. I have worn them for some time and have bent them all over, ridden in the rain, and jammed them in my pockets and they have not suffered any. Also, they stay on. There are little cutouts in the main until that match the curvature of the c-tip and there is no fear of them coming off unless you want them to.
Third, one thing I LOVE about this product is that it has a volume control on the cord as well as a button you can push to answer calls and hang up, along with a microphone to speak into. As funny as it may sound, in all of my years I have never had a headphone set that has this feature and I absolutely love it. I do not want to turn into one of those people who use it constantly and talk at obnoxiously loud levels while walking around, but if I am on my bike and someone calls, I can quickly stop and put a foot down and answer the call without having to fish my phone out of whatever pocket it is in. I did this for years and missed almost every single call (no great tragedy, but a little inconvenient). Yes, I was woefully behind in using such a feature and now I know what I have been missing.
Fourth, the earbud does rotate on a little ball which is kind of cool. This gives greater flexibility with the fit.
So in sum, this is a great product that I would highly recommend for bike commuting. They fit well, are durable, and the "on cord" microphone and button to answer and hang up are super sweet. Now to the fun part . . .
We are going to give a set of the earbuds to a reader to review. We'll keep the entry process simple, but there is one downside, the product can only be shipped within the continental United States. So if you live in the continental United States and are interested in doing a review, leave a comment on this post with the following -
1. The name of the band and first song you will crank up if you receive the earbuds to review.
2. The city and state where you live.
3. Your first name or a nickname.
We will take comments until June 19, 2015 at midnight EST. We will randomly select a winner and the winner will be announced in a blog post after the deadline passes. By entering the contest you agree to write a review that will be published on bikehacks.com. Rock on!
Oh, and if your comment does not appear right away, do not worry, I have my site set up for manual approval of comments due to spammers and it might take me a bit of time to approve.