Wayne Thorp will speak at the 2015 AAII Investor Conference this fall; go to www.aaii.com/conference for more details.
An active lifestyle can wreak havoc on earphones. Between the sweat and the wear and tear, I have yet to see a “gym” pair last more than six months. Since I know how rough I can be on earphones, I was intrigued when I read about St. Louis–based Yurbuds LLC and its Ironman series of earphones. These earphones, the only sport earphones endorsed by Ironman, are sweat proof and water resistant. Furthermore, their patented “TwistLock” technology is supposed to prevent them from falling out of your ears—they even guarantee it. Having used a pair of the Inspire Pro earphones given to me by the company for the last few months, I can vouch for their rugged design, but not their “never fall out” guarantee.
The Ironman Inspire Pro—Dry Mic earphones come with an extra set of silicone earbuds, a detachable clip and a carrying pouch. Normally, I don’t make a point of carrying my earphones in a case or pouch, but I would suggest it with the Inspire Pros—the silicone earbuds are a magnet for anything they come into contact with. After carrying them around in my gym bag for a couple of days without the pouch, I had to wipe down the earbuds before putting them in my ears.
Besides the striking red and black color scheme, I immediately noted the solid construction. The cord is heavier than that on any other earphones I have ever used, which makes me think it will hold up to a lot of abuse. The cord is of above-average length, so the cord clip that comes with the Inspire Pro earphones comes in handy.
The Y-shaped control mechanism is equally well built. I have had more than a few sets of earphones fail on me after the controller got wet. The Ironman Inspire Pro three-button controller is a piece of molded plastic that doesn’t look to have any crevices where water or sweat can find a way in. The controller buttons themselves are a little stiff, but they are well positioned for easy “no-look” operation. You can use the buttons to skip, repeat and pause audio playback as well as adjust volume up and down. You can also use the center button to answer and end calls on compatible phones. The mic on the opposite side of the controller allowed callers to hear me clearly, but its positioning required me to hold it closer to my mouth. The three-button control and the dry mic are specifically intended for use with iPod, iPad and iPhone, but some features may also work with other devices.
Overall, I was pleased with the audio quality of the Ironman Inspire Pro earphones. I would have preferred the bass to be a little more pronounced, but the mid and upper ranges were very crisp and clear. Unlike many earphones that try to block out background noise, these Yurbuds are designed to allow you to hear more ambient noise. Why, you may ask? When you are outside walking, biking or jogging, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. By allowing more background noise in, you are less likely to be caught unawares by traffic.
The Ironman Inspire Pro earphones have what Yurbuds terms “Twistlock” Technology. You literally twist the earphones a quarter turn into your ears for a “secure” fit that the company claims will ensure they never fall out. The two different sizes of tips are intended to provide a perfect fit, but that was not my experience. First, these are some of the more uncomfortable in-ear earphones I have ever used. I suppose the tight fit is intended to prevent them from falling out, but I have used earphones that are far more comfortable that were far less prone to falling out than the Inspire Pros. Despite the Yurbuds claim that the Inspire Pro earphones will never fall out, mine did, with some regularity. If they did fall out while I was in the middle of a workout, it was virtually impossible to get them to stay back in because the silicone becomes very slick when it is wet. Yurbuds does offer additional tip sizes at the company website.
If I were to rate the Yurbuds Inspire Pro—Dry Mic earphones solely on sound quality, I would definitely give them above-average marks. And when it comes to construction, I have yet to run across any headphones that are more solidly built. But they fail to deliver in terms of comfort and on their promise of never falling out of the ear. While I admit that my ears are a bit finicky when it comes to earphones, these earphones seemed to fit the worst of all. Perhaps if I tried some of the other Yurbud tip sizes, I would have found that one that was just right. As it is, I have to go with what I was given, as with every other set of earphones I have reviewed here. If you usually don’t have problems finding earbud-style earphones that fit your ears and are in the market for rugged, water-proof earphones, then for a $60 price tag, the Yurbuds Ironman Inspire Pro—Dry Mic earphones are definitely worth a look.
Yurbuds Ironman Inspire Pro—Dry Mic Earphones
$59.99 (currently $54.95 from Amazon.com)
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.