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This headset puts a microphone right in your ear canal

Regardless of how noisy it is, these earbuds should hear you just fine.

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It's been a while since I've cared about advances in Bluetooth headsets, and I would guess that I'm not alone. For years, you've been able to buy a small and decent-enough earpiece for taking calls hands-free, and most people are probably happy enough to use their EarPods for that purpose. That's why I was surprised to be impressed with the oddly named RippleBuds: They're a lot better at reducing background noise than your average Bluetooth headset.

Visually, RippleBuds (which can be purchased either as a single mono earpiece or a stereo pair) look like any other wireless Bluetooth earbuds out there. The trick here is that there isn't an external microphone that can pick up all kinds of extraneous noise in addition to your voice. Instead, RippleBuds picks up sound waves that come out of your ear as you speak using a tiny microphone embedded in the earpiece itself. The design of the RippleBud blocks exterior noise so that all the mic picks up is your voice.

I didn't get to try RippleBuds directly, but the company's CMO, Severus Kim, gave me a quick demo that did a good job of illustrating how they compare to a standard Bluetooth headset. He sat in a room by himself and called me using a basic headset while a speaker blasted loud ambient noise. Naturally, the mic picked up everything in the room, and I could barely hear a word he said. Doing the same test with RippleBuds was a completely different experience. I could hear everything he said despite the background racket. It sounded like Kim was in a totally quiet room, even though the speaker continued to blast noise: I was standing right outside the room where Kim was sitting and could confirm that he kept the audio going throughout the demo.

RippleBuds says the earbuds will offer about five hours of talk time when fully charged, but I'm not sure how that changes if you're playing music. Both the mono and stereo earbuds come with a neat case that has a built-in battery for charging them up; the case itself will recharge a single mono earbud up to six times or the stereo pair three times. The case itself can be recharged with a USB cable. It's a clever design: As long as the case has some juice, you shouldn't be left with completely dead headphones often.

The demo was impressive, but RippleBuds aren't exactly cheap: The suggested retail price for a mono headphone is $129 while a stereo pair runs for $179. However, you can get them for a lot less on Kickstarter right now; orders are expected to ship by June. I don't need one enough to justify the current $69 entry price for a mono earbud, but if you talk on the phone hands-free a lot, it might be worth looking into.

Nathan is a senior editor at Engadget and was formerly an editor at The Verge. A semi-recent San Francisco resident by way of Boston, Nathan covers Google, gaming, apps and services (especially music), weird internet culture and much more. He'll review just about any odd piece of hardware that comes his way. In his spare time, Nathan enjoys the awesome food SF has to offer and loves taking photos around northern California.

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