Zip It: ZipBuds Pro Mic Earbuds

Zipbuds PRO Mic
Nice pants, er, earphones. ZipBuds uses a zipper cord design to prevent annoying earbud tangling. Zipbuds

In 336 B.C., Alexander the Great “solved” the puzzle of the Gordian Knot by purportedly cutting it in half with his sword. If only the problem of tangled earphones were so easily solved.

Despite their advantage in terms of lightness, many earbud headphones tend to get entangled just about as badly as a briar patch. It’s a problem that the ZipBuds Pro Mic tries to solve by using a classic design we’re all familiar with, the good, old zipper.

That’s right, it’s the same technology that’s graced clothing and paraphernalia from jackets and jeans to purses and backpacks.

Overall, the ZipBuds’ zipper cord prevents tangling as advertised. The upper half lets you join or separate the left and right cords with a simple upward or downward motion, just like a regular zipper. Do note that the zipper is not incorporated with the whole length of the earbuds cord. The lower half uses a more traditional cord design seen in many earbuds. On the plus side, this lower cord uses a fabric housing such as the RHA MA450i, which is more resistant to tangling than the rubber cover used by many other earphones. The lower half is also a single cord, further reducing the chances of tangling compared to double cords.

Build quality also look solid for earbuds. The Zipbuds uses metallic accents for its 3.5mm connector as well as the housing for the earphones’ speakers.

The result is a nice, premium feel as opposed to the cheap plasticky look seen in some other earbuds. As its name implies, the ZipBuds Pro Mic also adds a microphone to allow users to take phone calls when the device is used with a smartphone. Included in the mic housing is a built-in remote that lets you pause or play tracks as well as skip forward or backward.

Sound quality, meanwhile, is also pretty solid. The ZipBuds audio profile sounds warm with clear highs and a hint of bass. Some earbuds, for example, sound tinny and flat when used with the stock iPhone music player. The ZipBuds don’t have that problem provided you get a good fit with the buds. Use it with a good MP3 player with an equalizer such as the Sansa Clip+ and you get even more dynamic sound that should satisfy most folks, though the mids could use a bit more punch.

All that being said, the ZipBuds also have some downsides as well. The zipper design, while great against preventing tangling, adds some bulk and weight to the earbuds. This makes the ZipBuds not quite as conducive for exercising, particularly any activity that involves plenty of movement. This can be compounded by the actual buds used with the earphones. I can get the buds to stick if use them right after I’ve showered, for example. They tend to slip out more easily, however, when my ears are drier, especially with the extra weight of the zipper. The cords also tend to transfer noise when they rub against your face or your clothing. All in all, these make them more tailored toward normal listening as opposed to fitness.

Lastly, the one button remote does not let you adjust volume so you’ll have to do that directly from your MP3 player or other music source.

On the whole, the ZipBuds are a solid set of earbuds with some limitations. If you’re primarily looking for earbuds to use while exercising, these likely won’t be the earphones for you. If you just need a basic set of earbuds for listening or a pair of earphones that you can quickly stick in your pockets while traveling without having to worry about untangling them later, then the ZipBuds will be a better fit for you.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too. For more features about audio devices, check out the Headphones and Speakers hub.