Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gear review: Yurbuds

Once upon a time I used to never run with music - I would be struggling to keep normal earbuds in my ears, didn't really feel comfortable with the lack of ambient sound if I used a style that was a snug fit to the inner ear, and found those sporty headphones and ear-hook things uncomfortable if I ran with my glasses. So I just ran without music - it didn't bother me on solo shorter runs, but solo long runs would get quite dull unless I was running in a lovely area.

Eventually the earphones I was using to accompany me on my walks to uni and on public transport died, and I came across Yurbuds - so I gave them a go and loved them! That was well over a year ago - so here's a long-term review of them and the customer service I've received from the Yurbud suppliers.

I ordered mine directly from the supplier as they were not yet available to purchase from Australian retailers or their Australian website. I can't make any complaints about the customer service from the Australian distributor - they organised a pair for me straight away! My only complaint at the time was that I never received a receipt for them, but 18 months on, I haven't found that to be a problem.

First, I must confess a few things - I no longer have the original pair of Yurbuds that I bought in May 2012. The first component to fail was the enhancers - the little rubbery bits that convert the normal earbud into something that locks into your ear. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would find that the enhancers dropped off occasionally when not in use, but after about 11 months they started to regularly fall off as the rubber had stretched too much. I eventually lost one. While you can buy replacement enhancers, I was able to get a pair sent out to me under warranty. I found the one I lost a couple of days later at the UNSW post office near my PO Box (and yes, I picked it up, it's rubber and perfectly washable - even if it was over stretched, I figured it would come in handy if I lost one of the newer enhancers and needed a temporary replacement).

A few months later and the second component began to fail - the sound in the left ear was a bit twitchy and would come and go. I could sort it out by playing a bit with the positioning of the cord if I wasn't moving (i.e. at my desk), but that meant that the Yurbuds were now useless for running. Not that I minded at the time as I hadn't been doing many solo long runs at that stage.

Then the left earbud just died. After a bit of shopping on their website I found that the model I had purchased had a lifetime warranty on it, so I sent an email out to the distributor again asking if this applied to my unit (I couldn't remember whether there was a lifetime warranty on it, and I'm not one to keep packaging for small items.) They advised me to send the Yurbuds over to them for assessment. I had them dropped off on Monday morning as I had someone in the area (thanks Dad!). By 11am the same day I received an email to confirm that they had received them and that they were arranging a replacement pair to be sent to me via post, which I received the next day! If that's not great customer service, then I don't know what is!

 So... onto the product review!

Gear Review: Yurbuds Inspire Pro (AU$89.99 RRP)

In May 2012 I only had a few options to choose from in the Yurbuds range - the Inspire, Inspire Duro and Inspire Pro. The Inspire and Inspire Pro both have a rubberised cord, whilst the Inspire Duro has a fabric one that is never meant to tangle. The Inspire Pro was the only one with a three button control and microphone, so I picked that as I was far too addicted to the three button control on my original iPod earbuds to give them up. An expensive addiction, but it was a feature I wanted.

Contents of the Inspire Pro box: the earbuds with enhancers, a alternate set of enhancers and a little carry bag (which fits my iPod touch and enhancers, but which I rarely use).
The Inspire Pro comes with the earbuds, two sizes of enhancers (sizes 5 and 7), a clip, a pouch and a little instruction leaflet. I'm glad that they've changed the leaflet - the first one I received was obviously from their American market, and I needed a nickel to use as a scale if I found that neither of the included enhancers was quite the right fit.

Dear Wiggle Reviewers: please check the contents
of your boxes thoroughly before complaining
about the poor fit of your enhancers!
The Yurbuds do exactly what is promised - they stay in. While I have now figured out that I use the size 5 enhancers, I spent some time with the larger size 7 set. Not only do they pop out, but can be painful to use during the period they do stay in place! Yurbuds do say that they can get an alternate size in for you if what was included in the pack doesn't suit (and I do wish that all those Wiggle reviewers who complained about the sizing followed up on this)  - but it's always easier if something works straight from the box.

As for the sound quality - well, it's good enough for me. If I wanted excellent sound, I would go back to earphones that block ambient sound or just use a proper set of headphones. But when I'm running I only want music to accompany me - I don't go for a run to listen to music. If I want to listen to music, I stay at home and use my lovely AKG headphones. The Yurbuds are meant to allow you to hear ambient sounds so it's only logical that you would lose some sound quality. It's a compromise I'm willing to accept (and I did notice another Wiggle reviewer made a similar comment, so I'm not the only one who believes that).

While I had problems with the enhancers falling off and eventually the sound in the left ear dying, the buttons and microphone never stopped working in the 18 months that I had my original pair. I used the Yurbuds with my 3rd generation iPod Touch and 4th generation iPod Shuffle without any problems. There are a lot more colours and styles available now, and some are compatible with other systems. If I upgrade my phone and end up with a Samsung, I may find that the Yurbuds aren't compatible - although I would not hesitate in buying a compatible pair as  I have been very happy with my Inspire Pro pair so far!

Finally - if you're small, I recommend you pick up the women's version that comes with enhancers of sizes 4 and 5. I am tall and with a larger frame, and given that men's spectacles tend to fit me better than women's (due to the legs of men's spectacle frames generally being longer and thus able to reach my ears better), I am assuming that my ears are also a little bit larger than normal for women. Of course, if you prefer a style that only comes with larger enhancers - don't forget to ask Yurbuds for a small size to be sent to you!

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