earHero in-ears Review
earHero to the rescue!
The earHero headphones (MSRP $149.99) bombed most of our tests—and they did so on purpose. If you want to listen to tunes as you bike to work, but you want to do it safely, these in-ears are a dependable companion. Instead of blocking noise from the outside world like most headphones aim to do, the earHero lets those barking dogs and honking horns through—so that you can stay safe.
Of course, there is a high price to pay for secretly listening to NOFX while your unsuspecting mother yells at you for skipping school: bass. In order for listeners to hear outside noise and enjoy tunes simultaneously, earHero strips away bass, leaving you with a mere musical phantom. If this doesn't spook you, read on.
Design & Features
Safe, secret listening
Let's get right to the big questions first: Why are these in-ears designed to let outside noise come in, and how do they do it? When we wear headphones, aren't we trying to block the world out? Most of the time, yes. But think of the exceptions:
For safety, when you're on a bike, you need to be able to hear motorist horns. If you're staggering home alone at 1 a.m. (don't do that), you need to be able to hear nearby footsteps in case someone is, oh I don't know, stalking you. Accounting 101? Waiting tables at 3 o'clock on a Tuesday? Babysitting? The earHero assists you in all of these scenarios. The speakers? Tiny, so as not to seal your ear canals. The cable? Flesh-toned, to camouflage use. And bass? Gone baby gone, so that music and outside noises are both audible. Editor's note: "Dr. Dre will be rolling in his grave."
As for the fit, the earHero in-ears aren't exactly plush, since the tiny speaker heads are hard plastic, but extended listening is certainly feasible. They stay in place, too, thanks to the clear ear locks that fold into your outer ear. My least favorite omission? The earHero doesn't offer the flexibility of a microphone or remote, so you'll have to reach for your phone to deal with calls and music while on the go.
The earHero in-ears rate poorly because they really don't fit the standard by which we measure performance. You can take the score with a big ol' grain of sea salt, but let me be absolutely clear: These headphones sound absolutely nothing like what you're used to, and the performance results are far from great. It's like the earHero murdered your music and resurrected its hollow ghost. In any event, you can listen to your favorite songs while remaining aware of your surroundings, and that's very unique.
So you want to listen to music while you're on your mail route, but you worry you won't hear Fido tearing out from around a house, ankles in his toothy crosshairs. What's the tradeoff? Bass, for one. Loud bass would block outside noise considerably, so earHero pretty much strips it right out of the picture. So much for Snoop's boom, boom, boom. Thus, music loses much of its foundational weight, but most of the midrange and all of the highs are still intact; middle and high notes sound loud and clear.
The second tradeoff is distortion—audible distortion. The earHero alters notes considerably in select areas of the midrange. I'll say it again, you can listen to music and be aware of your surroundings, but your tunes are the worse for wear. As for isolation, the earHero effectively invites outside noise in; listeners will be able to hear noise that other headphones would normally silence, such as nearby conversations, traffic, and passing pedestrians.
A Final Word
Captain Safety approves.
Though they lack bass and they suffer some distortion in the midrange, the earHero in-ears nevertheless fill an interesting gap in the market: The be-safe-while-listening-to-music-and-rollerblading gap. I jest, but I really do appreciate the innovation. Will music sound anything at all like you're used to? No. So the choice is yours: A) Listen to better headphones while cycling and maybe get hit by a van because you never heard it coming B) Don't listen to music while cycling C) Listen to a lamentable version of your music while safely cycling with the earHero.
This concept is most likely too specialized and too expensive for most of us, but if you're a body guard and you want to sneak some Beyonce on the job, the $149.99 earHero might be your only solution.
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