The Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition ($99.99 direct) is a mid-priced pair of sweat- and water-resistant earphones designed for use at the gym or when exercising outdoors. Unfortunately, the Inspire’s sonic performance leaves a lot to be desired; it sounds more like a $10 pair than a $100 pair, and inexpensive competitors like Apple’s EarPods leave the Inspire Limited Edition in the dust. Runners will appreciate the secure fit, but with poor sound quality like this, you can do much, much better for the price.
Compared with other earphones, the Inspire Limited Edition are pretty huge, with each “bud” just under a full inch long. Yurbuds guarantees that the eartips will never fall out, thanks to the way you twist and lock the tips into your ear canal (hence the company’s term “TwistLock”). It took me about 15 minutes to figure out how to wear the Inspire; after many attempts, I was finally able to lock the eartips in place in my ears. Once I did that, I could walk or run without the eartips slipping out or even becoming loose, which was refreshing given that there are no plastic ear hooks or other bulky accoutrements to worry about. On the other hand, the tips felt a little uncomfortable after a while, although it wasn’t unbearable.
The tangle-resistant, Kevlar-wrapped cord does its job, but it’s unusually heavy while most cords seem like they’re barely there. You also get inline controls for volume, track skip, and answering or rejecting phone calls.
In the package, you’ll find five separate eartip pairs, a clip for the wire, and a zippered carrying pouch made of a tough-feeling nylon composite. The eartips are made of a soft, silicone material. Interestingly, one of the eartip sets lets ambient sound through, while the other four pairs isolate noise. This way you can choose whether you need to hear outdoor sounds for safety reasons, such as when running outside, or whether you’d prefer a quieter commute while riding the subway, to give two possible examples.
Given the number of features the Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition offers, I wasn’t expecting them to be the best $100 pair I’ve ever heard. But they fell way short, with an overly prominent but veiled midrange, little bass punch or extension, and a closed-in high-end. Metallica’s “Hate Train” was a midrangey mess of mostly electric guitar and vocals, with the drums, bass, and cymbals almost completely buried. Dave Matthews Bands’ “Funny the Way it Is” lacked sparkle and dynamics, and I could barely hear any of Carter Beauford’s intricate cymbal work. Flunk’s “Indian Rope Trick” normally exhibits a tight, penetrating kick drum and a beautifully controlled extended bass that was almost completely missing here, and all of the atmospheric synthesizers and the female vocal sounded flat and closed in.
So the Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition stays put during heavy exercise, perhaps more effectively than any other earphone pair I’ve tested, but they just don’t sound very good. The aging-but-still-available Sennheiser CX 680 Sports offers the same security with much better sound quality, all for less money. If you’re not quite as worried about a tight fit, the AKG K 350 offers stellar, high-end sound with plenty of detail and bass extension for just $79.99, an exceptional deal if you want a serious upgrade in sound quality without spending hundreds of dollars. If you want to save a ton of money, Apple’s latest bundled EarPods ($30 purchased separately) sit just outside your ear canal, but sound surprisingly full and natural, given that they’re not creating a proper seal the way rubber or silicone eartips do when inserted further into the ear canal.
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