14 September 2005

Review: Boxwave Minibuds 2.5 mm headphones

Boxwave’s Minibuds are retractable earphones designed for use with portable music players. They’re available in black or silver-white, with either a 3.5 mm or 2.5 mm plug. My previous post bemoaned the problems I’ve had in finding headphones for my smartphone, and the Boxwave is one of very few options available with a 2.5 mm plug.

I weighed up the Proporta and Boxwave options before choosing the latter, swayed by the marketing blurb on Boxwave’s website, user comments on the web and the fact that they have a little clip on the back for attaching to your clothing, which the Proporta ‘phones do not. A dangling cord may be inconvenient, which is the whole point of retracting phones, but a dangling retracting thingy would be downright annoying, I decided.

I ordered the Minibuds from Boxwave’s decent website at a cost of US$23 plus postage, and they arrived from the US to sunny Surrey in about 5 working days, a week before Boxwave’s ETA. Very impressed so far!

As you can see in the picture, they’re quite attractive, although a little fragile looking. The retractor mechanism works well but is not immensely powerful, and a little care is needed to make sure the cables don’t bunch up when retracting. The clothing clip, whilst a great idea, is quite small and a little fiddly to attach in practice. I daresay I will get use to that. Certainly the freedom from trailing cables is wonderful, although best of you can attach the spool midway between your ears and media player. As I usually have my phone on my belt, that’s a problem when, as today, I am wearing a polo shirt, as the only place you can attach the spool is a little too high, so you’re still left with excess cable. Even then, it’s way better than normal earphones in this regard. The earpieces are a little on the large side, and very snug fit in my smallish earholes. I’d rather they were a tad smaller, but I have used larger still and got used to them in the end.

But what about sound? Well, it’s really quite good. There’s plenty of volume compared to the Orange supplied headset, and much better bass response. Earbud-type ‘phones often feel very bass light, but these have quite a flat frequency response. Bass is a little wooden sounding, and naturally not all that extended, but rock music comes across with a fair degree of ‘oomph’ and some real dynamic range. Midrange presence is good and voices, spoken or sung, sound quite realistic. Extreme treble is a little subdued and lacking in the clear sparkling quality of better phones, but very few earbuds ever manage that sort of transparency anyway. All in all, music is presented with energy and enthusiasm, if not the ultimate level of detail.

I wondered what effect the foam earpads were having on sound, so I took them off and was immediately rewarded by a slight improvement in both volume and upper midrange/lower treble. As I’d found the phones a little tight in my ears anyway, this also improved comfort. This makes me wonder if a fine mesh cover over the diaphragm (like some premium earphones) would sound better than the rather solid plastic cover that is there at the moment—something Boxwave might care to look at in future versions.

Pros: Compact and portable; stylish and pretty cool; practical retracting mechanism; solid sound quality.

Cons: A little fragile; treble could be more detailed; better sound may be available for the same money.

Overall: Reasonable sound with extreme practicality makes this a must-have for my Smartphone.

Rating: 4 blackpuddings (4 black puddings)
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weenie said...

Interesting review - I've been looking for some earphones for my mp3 player and don't have a clue what's out there. Retractable ones are a good idea, as I usually just bunch the cable up in the middle, so it looks kinda messy. Well, I have a slightly better idea on what to look out for - cheers!

eebahgum! said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Weenie. You may also be interested in the next posting which shows a lovely little cable minder you can use with non-retracting headphones. You'll find it here: