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Test-driving AIRBudz, the sensible antidote to "earbud zombies"


You've seen earbud zombies before -- they're the people who are walking or riding around with noise-isolating earphones plugged into their ears, totally oblivious to traffic noise, people talking or yelling at them, or the sound of screeching tires just before they get hit by a car. A few weeks ago, I wrote about AIRBudz, a Kickstarter project that is the one-woman campaign of Tammy Erdel to reduce the number of earbud zombies on our streets. I've had a chance to test the AIRBudz in prototype form, and I'm glad to say that they work well.

I had every intention of trying the AIRBudz out with two pairs of high-end noise-isolating earbuds I'd received for review, but had to settle for testing them with another Kickstarter project -- CordCruncher earphones -- since the high-end earbuds mysteriously disappeared into the black hole in my office.

My test was rather simple. I played music on my iMac at a tolerably loud volume, then cranked up some tunes on my iPhone and listened through the CordCrunchers with the normal silicone tips. I couldn't hear anything but the music from the iPhones. With the AIRBudz tips installed, I could hear the music from the iMac as well as that coming from the iPhone.

Well, that certainly helps out the earbud zombie problem, as it makes it possible to hear ambient noises as well as your music. But I also noticed that the AIRBudz distorted the low end of the music I was listening to and overall made the sound somewhat "tinny".

I have a suggestion for people who are concerned about their personal safety while wearing earphones -- back the AIRBudz project on Kickstarter (it's only about halfway funded with nine days to go) and get a set to use with your favorite earphones when you're doing outdoor activities. Keep your existing earbuds to switch back to you when you're safely out of danger.

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