Review: Griffin Technology TuneBuds Earbuds and Lanyard for iPod shuffle
Pros: A nice-looking combination of iPod lanyard USB cap and earbud-style headphones, neatly integrated into a single fabric loop without the need for dangling wires. Very reasonable price point, good build quality.
Cons: Coloration is a little off the ideal; earbuds and cap are both a bit too gray for iPod white purists. Earbuds don’t come with foams, and comfort level is comparable to Apple’s pack-ins, not better.
Last month, we mostly covered Griffin’s just-released TuneBuds ($20) in our review of Pacific Rim Technologies’ iPod shuffle Accessory Pack, a cheaper but poorly designed alternative. Both products are designed to give an iPod shuffle a lanyard necklace with integrated headphones, a concept that companies had dreamed up (but not sold) before Apple released its highly similar iPod nano Lanyard Headphones (iLounge rating: B-) in October. We liked the concept and execution of Apple’s phones, but didn’t like their $40 price tag; now Griffin offers the same thing to iPod shuffle owners for half the price, and consequently merits our high recommendation.
The TuneBuds connect neatly to the iPod shuffle via its bottom USB plug, avoiding an aesthetic mistake made by Pacific Rim: the shuffle actually outputs volume-controlled audio through extra pins within the USB connector, and Griffin taps into this rather than requiring you to connect a separate audio cable to the shuffle’s headphone port. As a result, the shuffle hangs neatly on your chest with a cap attached and nothing else, a solution that looks even better than using Apple’s included lanyard cap and headphones.
Griffin’s plastic earbuds and cords are linked into its necklace at two joints that will sit at the sides of your neck; the cables will then likely bow slightly as they run to your ears. Though the TuneBuds aren’t size-adjustable - something that Apple elegantly and inexpensively achieved with its nano Lanyard Headphones - Griffin’s “average” sizing was fine in our testing, and in any case was better than having the iPod’s packed-in earbud cables and non-adjustable lanyard dangling together around our necks.
Our only disappointments with TuneBuds were minor. Their coloration is a hint off: the just-a-little-gray USB cap isn’t a perfect match for the shuffle’s bright white body, there’s a Griffin logo on it for all to see, and the company’s plenty-of-gray-on-white earbuds won’t be confused with Apple’s up close. But the components look and feel more than good enough to pass muster, especially for the price, and given that the earbuds sound good - a bit more powerful than Apple’s pack-ins at the same volume level. Griffin also doesn’t include any ear foams with the TuneBuds, but you can use Apple’s, as they’re the same physical size, a fact which won’t endear them to people seeking greater comfort.
iLounge’s editors have been split since January on the wearability of iPod lanyards, and though this one isn’t an exception to that debate, it’s one of the most practical and best valued shuffle lanyards we’ve seen. The only things we’ve seen done decisively better are the aesthetic polish of the cap and buds - Apple’s are still tops in this regard - and the comfort level of the earbuds, which Macally has bettered with its not-yet-released IceBud, which we’ve been testing. Overall, and mostly because of the very appropriate price, we’d call TuneBuds just good enough to earn our high recommendation. We’re hoping for even better from the iPod nano version.