Zagg’s Flex Arc Wireless ($80) is a new audio accessory with an interesting design. Primarily to be used as retractable Bluetooth earbuds, Zagg has also paired the buds with small outward-facing speakers for close listening, and it’s all combined in one lightweight frame which is worn around the neck. Flex Arc Wireless comes with three sizes of silicone eartips — small, medium, and large — and a micro-USB cable for recharging the unit. Zagg claims Flex Arc Wireless can run for eight hours on a full charge, when using the 6mm earbud drivers or five hours when using the 13mm external speaker drivers. Flex Arc Wireless comes in three different color combinations — black/silver, black/gold, and white/gold.
Flex Arc Wireless doesn’t have a truly unique look — a quick Google search of “retractable earbuds” proves this, for those who may be unaware — but the implementation is well done. Both magnetic retractable earbuds extend a bit more than 8” from the frame, and can easily be retracted with the touch of a button on either side. Music and call controls are easily accessible on the upper right side of Flex Arc Wireless, with a power/Bluetooth button found on the left. A built-in mic is on the inner right side of the frame for phone calls, while two speakers fire to the outside of the frame. Flex Arc Wireless is light and comfortable to wear.
Flex Arc Wireless will automatically switch from playing music through the earbuds to the speakers when the earbuds are retracted into the frame, which is a nice touch. But we’re having trouble understanding just why anyone would want to use the speakers. The poor sound quality is unacceptable, even when you’re the one wearing the frame — they certainly won’t make for a good listening experience for anyone else nearby. Zagg makes the case that the speakers can be used when you need to hear noise around you, but hey, the pause button works just fine for that. Interestingly, during a speakerphone test, Flex Arc’s built-in mic worked well, but trying to hear the caller was an exercise in frustration.
Despite the speaker performance — and perhaps surprisingly — the small earbuds actually sound quite good for a budget-priced pair of earphones. Flex Arc Wireless won’t blow you away with its sound when compared to high-end headphones, of course. But for less than $100, we were pleased by how the tiny drivers handled a wide range of songs and styles.
For us, any relative discomfort from Flex Arc Wireless came from the eartips, rather than the listening experience. We found the medium tips were a decent fit. They were fine when sitting or standing, but even walking at a brisk pace could jar them loose — we couldn’t imagine working out wearing Flex Arc Wireless without the earbuds popping out repeatedly. Again, eartip fit will be different for everyone, but it was an issue for us.
Flex Arc Wireless is a strange sort of audio hybrid beast. While we wouldn’t use it as a workout earphone — and we certainly wouldn’t bother with its speakers — it’s otherwise a solid set of inexpensive earphones, and an improvement over something like Apple’s EarPods. The Bluetooth connection provided no issues, and we appreciate the comfortable, useful design. Flex Arc Wireless earns our general recommendation.
Company and Price
Model: Flex Arc Wireless
Compatible: Bluetooth iPads, iPhones, iPods