Pros: They’re white, like the iPod.
Cons: You may never be able to listen to them because the spring-loading retracting mechanism is poor.
If you’ve ever really wanted to like something, but just couldn’t, you’ll understand our feelings about the JAVOedge eBuds Retractable Stereo Headphones. Color-matched to the iPod and at least conceptually great, these headphones had a problem right out of the box that doomed them in our testing.
JAVOedge’s eBuds are intended to replace the iPod’s included, tangle-ready earphones with a tangle-free alternative that, in JAVO’s words (not ours), “keeps your cord organize and convenient!” For the record, yes, we’ve experienced our fair share of headphone tangles, though they’re typically limited to small knots, and certainly have never before prevented us from listening to music.
Smaller overall than the typical dental floss package, the eBuds are white, grey and silver earphones with a cable that wraps around a spring-loaded white and orange central hub. When wound up, less than two inches of cable will hang off of the top and bottom of the hub, leaving only the two earbuds and the stereo 3.5mm audio jack dangling and unprotected. Unwound, the buds and audio jack are separated by approximately 40 inches of cable (JAVO inaccurately claims 47 inches), with the hub sitting in the center.
On a bright note, the eBuds do match any of the first three generations of white and chrome iPods, and they sound good too – very similar to the ones Apple includes with the iPod. Made entirely of hard plastic and lacking soft foam pads, they’re not as comfortable in the ears as Apple’s headphones, or many other inexpensive options such as Sony’s MDR-EX70/71s, but they’re certainly tolerable for short periods of listening. Without question, their main selling point is the spring-loaded retractable hub, not the comfort of the earphones.
We would hesitate to call the unit we received “defective,” because we think that the problem we experienced is a fairly common one with spring-loaded retractable headphone mechanisms. Simply put, the retracting spring and locking mechanism in the eBuds never worked properly out of the box, and in fact worked so improperly as to turn our first twenty minutes with them into an ever-multiplying comedy of errors.
If you look at the side of the eBuds’ hub, you’ll notice that the bottom and top lengths of cord are intended to wrap around the hub in separate but parallel spirals. We hadn’t noticed this – or our test unit’s tendency to mix the spirals together – until after our first attempt to use the headphones, which ended abruptly when the lock on the retracting spring mechanism either failed or never properly engaged.
We had followed the extension instructions – simultaneously pulling on both ends to elongate the cord – and attempted to create enough cable length to test the headphones out. Rather than locking into place – as we’d believed would happen when we heard a “click” – the eBuds rapidly began to rewind the moment we loosened our grip on the buds and jack, almost immediately creating a huge, messy knot from the two interlocking spirals of top and bottom cable. At this point, we hadn’t realized what had happened, and a couple of small tugs only tightened the knot. Initially, we tried to see if the knot might be easily fixed, but that was not going to happen.
This was not a pleasant experience. We contemplated photographing the knotted-up eBuds and running the picture without writing a review, but figured that we should at least make the effort to untie the earbuds and try the product first.
Our first night of attempted unknotting did not go well, so we gave up to return to the excitement another day. The eBuds sat for a few days on a desk like an old tavern puzzle, begging to be played with and untangled. We eventually tried again, and after much screwing around were finally able to make the eBuds wind properly around the hub.
But the problem remained. The spring mechanism never seemed to work properly, and would more or less randomly retract whenever we extended the cable past the 13-inch mark. We have found that the eBuds will create slight re-tangles whenever they don’t retract just perfectly, which is often, though we’ll concede that the first knot we experienced was unquestionably the worst to date. Most of the time, the ear buds prefer to stay around two inches from the hub, just about enough cable length for an iPod-loving puppy or kitten to use them.
When we were able to extend the eBuds out temporarily to 13 inches of cable, we tested the earphones, and came to the conclusions that they (a) are adequate audio substitutes for Apple’s pack-ins, (b) feel slightly less comfortable than Apple’s, especially as they lacked Apple’s ear pads, (c) ouch! they just retracted again, and (d) are destined for our trash can, as soon as a worse product comes along and steals the Hall of Shame award away from them.
If the distance between you and your iPod is less than or equal to 13 inches, and you don’t mind the possibility that your spring-loaded set of headphones might unexpectedly retract in the middle of a listening session, you might want to consider JAVOedge’s eBuds. Otherwise, or unless you’re looking for a cheap gag to choke an overly obsessive iPod fan, we would strongly urge you to look elsewhere for replacement iPod headphones.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school – ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.
Company and Price
Model: JAVOedge eBuds Earphones
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo, iPod shuffle