Zipbuds vs Shine: One Price, Two Earbuds

 One Price, Two Earbuds

It's difficult to compete on sound in the earbud market. It's not that sound isn’t important, but when you look at $80 earbuds and up, the basic technology starts to become pretty even. That means, when using earbuds under normal circumstances, from taking a nature walk to blocking out the noise of a cubicle farm, most earbuds will do the trick. This leads to secondary innovation that drives other ways of creating value to earbud users. The latest earbuds I’ve evaluated focus on the unique features of their cables while still delivering solid sound performance.

The Zipbuds Slide ($79.95) earbuds create a tangle-free experience by including a zipper feature between the cables, leading into the earbuds as they split at the typical “Y” found on all headphones. Unlike simple sliders that push up while leaving the cable behind open, the Zipbuds cable zips together, forming a solid cable as high up as the owner desires. This forms a single cable, preventing tangles. Unzip when ready to use.

Zipbuds also angles the headphones, delivering better sound through what they call ZBXi™ Ultimate Drivers, which appear to be a proprietary technology. They also use oxygen-free copper wiring for better sound. The Zipbuds slide includes a noise-filtering microphone and a single button remote for answering and ending calls, or pausing, playing and skipping music. A long hold invokes Siri.

The Shine ($79), which I tested as a prototype ahead of its kickstarter campaign, emits context sensitive laser light through its cable. The Shine earbuds are connected via wireless Bluetooth — with the exception of the cable that runs between the two earbuds. And that is where Shine holds its magic.

The Shine flows up to 24 colors through the transparent connector cable that reflects the music being played or activity taking place. They can also be set for a solid color.

The prototype didn’t come in final packaging, nor with the extras. Therefore, I used the ear hooks and silicon caps that arrived. They fit OK. I found the Shine a bit awkward to figure out, because the earpieces have their own attachments for the exterior of the ear, which is meant to secure the buds in settings like raves and pool parties. Documentation says that the Shine employs aptX technology for better Bluetooth sound, but it is hard to discern the difference. I experienced intermittent drops of sound as I moved through my house with the phone less than a foot or two away from the Shine. This isn’t unusual, unfortunately, for Bluetooth headsets, but it doesn’t speak to any advance in the Shine’s wireless architecture. Perhaps production units will do better.

The Shine Kickstarter offers units at $79, but early bird packages bring the cost down to $59.

Both earbuds I reviewed offer really good sound. After experiencing great gaming headphones, like the Plantronics iRig 500e with its 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound, it's hard to say any earbuds sound amazing. As I said at the top of this post, earbuds aren’t usually focused on pure sound. They are meant for mobile, walking or running, dancing, even swimming. If you want to have a pure sound experience, go find some great over the ear traditional headphones. If you listen to music, talk on the phone while you walk, or keep up on the news at your desk, earbuds increasingly offer not only a portal to sound, but designs intended to fit your mobile lifestyle.


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Author Details

Daniel Rasmus's picture

Author Details

Daniel Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Serious Insights. He is the author of Listening to the Future, Management by Design and Sketches of Spain and Other Poems. Rasmus teaches at Bellevue College where he teaches Social Media and Personal Branding.