“Dude, you’re headphones are too loud.”
“Your headphones. I can hear the bass. It’s way too loud.”
“Are you playing Uncharted? I can hear the echoes of bullets in a cave.”
That short conversation took place between my brother and I during a cross-Atlantic flight from Detroit to Macedonia recently. Seated next to me, and fighting the loud engine noise and bumping of drink carts into seats, he was able to overhear me playing Uncharted: Golden Abyss on my Playstation Vita even at a low volume.
“Overhear me”, instead of see me. His eyes were closed, his head leaning into the plane’s window and away from my blindingly-bright Vita screen. The new headphones I was sent to review, a pair of BassBuds Classics, were planted in my ears during the long 9-hour flight. I thought I had them low enough to keep from annoying anyone, but apparently the audio was coming through clear enough that they weren’t. And heck, that was fine by me.
In-ear headphones can only do so much before they’re handicapped by size to permit optimal audio performance. They’re typically packed in with iPods, Galaxy phones, and most other personal electronics because of their size and relative cost-effectiveness to produce. They’re not meant to replace cans by any means, and are more geared towards portability than anything else.
And so, I wasn’t expecting much out of the crystal-laden BassBuds beyond being a funky style point, but was happily surprised with what I heard.
BassBuds prides itself on the clarity of its simulated bass effect, and the Classics collection might epitomize that. Using something the company is calling “Crystaltronics Advanced Sound Technology” the headphones channel the audio through a specially-designed chamber directly into the ear canal, instead of just feeding it through a flat speaker. At the outer end is a Swarovski crystal, which we think serves a dual purpose as a chamber cap and a fashion statement.
This allows for a much more robust fidelity to the audio that comes out of the other end.
I focused my time using the headphones with the Vita and an assortment of games. Uncharted‘s soundtrack came through superbly. The audio came in layered at an incredible clarity. The sounds of gunshots reverberated through caves, and were distinct from the other natural sounds the game incorporates. In one scene towards the end of the game, I was climbing a rope with bullets zipping past me, and because of the game’s less-than-optimal camera I could only tell their position from the sound. Thanks to the subtleties in the depth, I knew where to rotate and aim my weapon without needing to scan around endlessly.
While playing Sound Shapes, the bass in certain songs felt like it was reverberating through my chest without it actually being there. The simulated effect had me popping the headphones in and out my ear to make sure that I wasn’t hallucinating.
Switching to the iPhone, I had a dubstep playlist going as I read a magazine. The signature fluctuations in the treble were excellently conveyed. Skrillex never sounded so good on an airplane.
The headphones themselves come in a variety of colors and ear tips, though the standout visual features are the extremely glitzy crystal at their tips. Personally, it was a little overboard for me. They were almost like the diamond studs that pierced my ears in high school during my post-Garage/pre-Europop days. Sadly (happily) I’ve outgrown that fad, and these came off as overly glam to me. In fact, fashion-wise they were a deal breaker. Perhaps if they were in one of the different colors (our review unit was white with silver/clear crystals) they might have been more tolerable. Other users might like the statement they make.
Aside from the sparkly crystal, the only other issue I had was the lack of a volume adjustor on the set. The headphones include an excellent microphone compatible with the majority of modern phones and MP3 players, and the play/pause button is designed into a well-crafted hub in the cord. But that lack of a volume switch… ugh! It wasn’t an issue on the Vita and 3DS, since I’m always holding the devices when using them and my hands are near the adjustors, but it did affect my use with the iPhone. I’m constantly adjusting the volume depending on what song pops next on a playlist, and with my phone in my pocket having an adjustor on the cord is a must.
Quality-wise, the BassBuds are far better than what comes stock with almost any portable device. It is absolutely perfect for use with a gaming handheld like the Playstation Vita or Nintendo 3DS. It’s missing the volume adjustment feature that many in-the-box headphones incorporate, but as a portable replacement for larger can-style headphones — which often don’t include volume adjustors themselves — it’s a worthwhile pick up.
The company is confident enough in their product that they’re even giving discounts and opportunities to win sets via their website, BassBuds.net.
This review is based on a pair of BassBuds Classics sent to SideQuesting from the manufacturer.