I have never been a fan of earbud-style headphones. First and foremost, Ive never found them comfortable for more than about 20 minutes or so, and no matter how good a pair of headphones may sound, comfort is very important. Then again, Ive never used a pair that I thought sounded all that good. When they first became popular years ago, I had a pair of Sony Fontopia headphones, but I just couldnt get used to them. Like three-quarters of the human population I have an iPod, and went a day or two with the ubiquitous stock Apple headphones before I had to replace them. And I also have a pair of the Palm-branded 2-in-1 Stereo Headset Pro headphones (the ones with the suspicious Sony feel about them, but thats another story) that served as backups for my Centro. That Pro set is probably my favorite set of earbuds, and Ive probably used them less than 10 times.
So when I was asked to review the Radius Atomic Bass earphones (as described on the Radius website), I was a little skeptical. But I figured I would give them a shot, since I just got my shiny new Treo Pro and could use a new backup pair with a 3.5 mm plug. After using them for a couple of weeks, I have found myself pleasantly surprised with these buds.
The Atomic Bass earphones are precision crafted from the same material as the iPod Nano, and whatever that material is (aluminum, I suppose) it makes for a very attractive earphone. Radius provides 6 different color schemes: black, silver, blue, green, maroon, and violet.
The actual ear piece is designed to fit into the ear canal, and is curved at about a 45 degree angle from the main piece, making for easy insertion. The earphones are shipped with three different sizes of rubber ear pieces, so you can choose the set that best fits your ear. Ive been using the default pieces and they fit very snugly inside my ear canal, actually forming a bit of a seal which is somewhat effective in isolating the rest of the world from creeping in and interfering with my music. They are not true isolator headphones (and are not advertised as such) but they are more effective at blocking out exterior sounds than any earbud-style phones Ive used. For the price of these puppies, any level of external noise reduction is a nice little bonus.
There are two methods of wearing these earphones: the standard mode, with the buds inserted in the ear and the cords extending down, and the deep bass or fitness mode, which involves turning the earphones upside-down and curling the wire over and behind the ear. I found the sound to be the same in both modes, but the fitness mode is kind of nice for when you're working out or cooking or something and you dont want the cord in front of you.
The Atomic Bass headphones are easily the most comfortable earbud-style headphones Ive ever used. The rubber earpieces fit just perfectly inside the ear and arent the least bit intrusive. I could sit for hours with these in my ears and not be bothered or annoyed at all. These are the first pair of earbud headphones I could say this about, and they have changed my perception of these type of phones for the better. This is how they should be done.
So, if you hadnt noticed, the main selling point of these headphones is their ability to produce bass. In all of the earbud-style headphones Ive used, bass was either non-existent or that really annoying, fake-out bass that I wish I had the words to describe, but if youve used a lot of these you probably know what Im talking about. Its not real bass, just some kind of representative of bass that is supposed to indicate where the real bass should be. Luckily, the Atomic Bass earphones do a surprisingly adequate job of representing the real thing, with very good low frequency distribution. The highs are also very good, and with a proper graphic equalizer (such as the one provided with Pocket Tunes Deluxe) you can get very good sound indeed. There arent always perfect separation of the sounds, and at times they can sound a little muddled between the highs, the mids, and the lows, but they definitely avoid all-out distortion. Much more so than the aforementioned iPod earbuds, for example, or the stock Treo Pro headphones, which can sound terribly distorted no matter how you set your EQ. Again, for $39.95, the overall sound quality is very good, even if they arent on par with what you would expect from far more expensive phones.
For general listening purposes (for people who dont describe themselves as die-hard audiophiles), these earphones will certainly get the job done. It would be very, very nice for Radius to introduce a version of these with an inline-microphone for mobile phone users, but that isnt exactly the intent here. (It looks like Radius has aimed their marketing directly at the iPod crowd, as the various color schemes match the iPod Nanos perfectly.) But for us Treo Pro users, these will do quite nicely; youll just have to unplug them and put the phone to your ear when a call comes in.
Solid bass reproduction
Several earpieces for different ear sizes