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Sunday November 28, 2004 8:00 am

ZipKord Retractable Earbuds Review

ZipKord Retractable Earbuds
My wife always says that I’m obsessed with wrapping up my earbud phone cords when I’m done with them.  What can I say?  I like things tidy and neat, at least when it comes to gear, considering how expensive things can get.  Imagine my curiosity when I discovered that ZipKord offers a pair of in-ear buds that, get this, auto-retracts the cord for easy storage.  We here at Gear Live had to check it out.


The way this thing works is by the headphone cord wrapping around a spring-loaded disc.  By gently pulling on both sides of the cord, and then converging your hands slowly, the cord winds itself around this disk, from both directions at once.  Imagine it like a ying-yang symbol, with strings protruding on the left and right side, being pulled towards it as it spins in place.  That’s basically what’s happening here.

When the cords are fully spun in (and this does take some slow guidance), you have a cute little package that’s the same size as if you had wrapped up a regular cord.  The only drawback here is that you need to slide up a piece of plastic towards the two earbuds before you begin.  When you’re wearing the phones this plastic piece sits where the left and right cord separates, but you slide it up when it’s time to retract so that the separation is minimal and it allows both the left and right pieces of cord to wrap around the spindle a bit.  Simple, but still it’s an extra step that you have to take.

You also need to be careful to allow both ends of the unit to retract at the same time.  That is, the disc spindle needs to be at the center, and you guide the earbud end and the jack end into the spinner with each of your hands.  Since both ends are connected to opposite sides of the wheel, you can’t wrap one without wrapping the other, and neither can you extend one without the other also slipping out.  In fact, doing so might damage the spring mechanism so I would advise against it.


Here’s where I find the biggest problem with the entire unit, and before I get into it, let me say that this may not be an issue to you, especially if you’re of normal height.  I’m 6’4 so cord length is a bigger deal for me.  Quite simply, it’s not long enough for me to comfortably store my music player in my pants pocket and have it reach my head.  I can see how this issue is partly a necessity of the design of the unit.  For example, ff the cord were longer, the spindle would need to be bigger to accommodate it, and thus it would be a bigger and more burdensome overall package. 

Still, since there’s a small metallic clip on the spindle, size wouldn’t be too much of an issue if I were to clip it out of the way, like at my belt.  Again, my wife is almost a foot shorter than I am and she had less problems, though the cord was still a little on the tight side.  Certainly not long enough for her to go jogging with comfortably.  In my own case, I would let the spindle (with its clip) just dangle from my head in order to accommodate, and this not only looks goofy, but is likely to make the earbuds slip out your ears.  Another solution is clipping it to an inside breast pocket, but you’ll need to be wearing at least a shirt or jacket that has that.


One area that surprised me about this little package was how snugly the phones fit in my ear.  The material surrounding the output is extremely soft, and flexible to the touch, so they conform pretty well, even more so than the Koss Plugs that I normally use.  In fact when I popped them in, I could feel a vacuum-like seal on my ear, which does a good job of dampening out normal conversation.  It still won’t eliminate everything, particularly the sound of a rumbling train in the subway, my God, New York is loud, but it does an admirable job, considering the low price.  There’s no other noise-reduction technology at work here, in case you wondered.


Music was exceptionally bass-heavy, which is actually how I like it.  In fact I had to adjust my equalizer on the Rio Carbon by lowering the bass frequencies, which were set for my regular pair of buds.  You will feel pretty immersed into what you’re hearing, especially considering the snug fit.  Cranking the volume up didn’t create any distortion, though you will probably risk deafness.  I let my wife try them on and she sang away in the kitchen, not aware of how loud she was.  The sound is very enjoyable.


The phones come with an extra two pairs of earbud covers, which is nice.  One of the pairs is actually a bit larger, though I’m not sure how many people have bigger heads than myself.  Because the cords are retractable, ZipKord probably didn’t see a need for storing this pair inside a case, but it would’ve been nice.  I like to protect my gear as well as I can, and you might find some debris could slip inside the ear bud canals.


The ZipKord logo sits right on the center of the wheel, and might be more obvious than some would prefer.  It would’ve been nice to keep the logos limited to the buds themselves, or maybe even allow custom decals for the wheel.  The problem is that the logo just isn’t that pretty and some might find issue with having it displayed as it’s clipped to your clothing.


ZipKord Earbuds Review ScoreThese phones do an admirable job providing decent sound, with substantial bass output, and with comfortable, well-sealed connections to your head.  The only drawbacks that we see are the short cord-length, and the logo design, which is less “sleek” than what I would prefer.  Still, the price is pretty reasonable, and the functionality of it being retractable is the real deal.  It’s a decent choice for those who want to save a little time putting away their gear.  If you have a vest pocket, the cord length might even be a non-issue.  Overall, this is a unique and solid pair of earbuds, with some minor issues, and an attractive price.

Price: $18.99 from ScotteVest

Company: ZipKord

Availability: Now

- Hector Martinez

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