Review: Griffin Technology TuneBuds Earbuds and Lanyard for iPod nano
Pros: An all-in-one combo of silicone-tipped in-canal earphones and an iPod nano lanyard necklace, available in black or white versions, at lower-than-Apple prices, and with comparable-to-Apple looks and comfort.
Cons: Sound quality is no better, and arguably worse than company’s earlier EarThumps, which we found muddy and bassy in an unpleasant way.
Like standard headphones, lanyard earphones vary a lot from pair to pair - even when they look very similar to models we’ve seen and heard before. Along those lines, Griffin’s TuneBuds for iPod nano ($35) will look very familiar if you’ve seen either Griffin’s earlier EarThumps (iLounge rating: B-) or Apple’s iPod nano In-Ear Lanyard Headphones, the latter an accessory designed to let you wear your nano on your neck without significant dangling from a headphone cord. But surprisingly, they don’t sound quite the same.
On one hand, Griffin has developed the ultimate alternative to Apple’s lanyard headphone offerings: not only are the TuneBuds more affordable than both of Apple’s competing products, but they’re more stylish, too: Apple sells its lanyards only in a single white and gray color combo, while Griffin wisely sells both white and black versions of TuneBuds, each with a chromed iPod nano Dock Connector and headphone port attachment.
More controversially, the company has also done away with Apple’s innovative necklace adjustment mechanism, which lets you make the official lanyard dangle further down, at the cost of adding extra fabric to the necklace loop. Apple managed the fabric well, preventing its lanyards from looking goofy. Griffin’s necklace is a single length, without extra fabric loops or the need for adjustment, and though it fits smaller and larger people well - right under the collarbone - some may prefer the option to adjust the length to something more personally comfortable, and that’s not an option here.
Like Griffin’s EarThumps, this version of TuneBuds uses silicone-rubber capped earphones - you actually get three caps for different ear sizes in the package - rather than clones of the hard plastic iPod pack-ins, like the ones in Griffin’s earlier TuneBuds for iPod shuffle. The result is a pair of earbuds that are very comfortable in your ears for extended listening sessions, and do a pretty good job of screening out outside noise. On fit, isolation, and looks, we prefer them to Apple’s pack-ins and most other bud-style earphones by a mile.
Our biggest issue with these TuneBuds, however, is sound quality. We previously noted that we weren’t fans of the sound of Griffin’s identically shaped EarThumps, and expected these to sound the same, but they didn’t: TuneBuds sounded a little flatter and less detailed than our EarThumps, which weren’t great on clarity to begin with. We’re not sure if this is just typical variation between samples, or an actual change to the drivers inside the earbuds, but in any case, we don’t think TuneBuds are any better than EarThumps on sound, and they’re probably a bit worse.
We always acknowledge that some people aren’t picky about the sound of their earphones, and for those people, TuneBuds will be fine or better. Because of their looks, pricing, and convenience factor, they are an aggressive alternative to Apple’s various lanyard headphones, and average users mightn’t mind their flat, muddy audio given their comfort and looks. But on sound quality alone - assuming we didn’t need a black version to match a black nano, and didn’t mind spending the extra cash - we’d be inclined to buy Apple’s instead, particularly the pricier In-Ear version. We’d only recommend these to especially price- and fashion-conscious buyers, or those who don’t mind if their music’s a little flat.