UberBuds Fit and Bluetooth
In-ear headphones are all about fit. It doesn't matter how good they sound, how cool they look, or how wireless they are if you can't get them to stay in your ear. MuseMini has made the decision to include only three sets of tips - small, medium, and large. While other companies like RHA have thrown the kitchen sink of tips at you to ensure you get the ones you need, if one of these three don't work for you, you're going to want to return the UberBuds. To combat the obvious lack of tips, MuseMini has included UberStays with the UberBuds.
From top to bottom: UberStays and Small and Large tips
UberStays are soft, rubber fins that you slide over the main UberBud housing. Your ears will dictate the orientation of that will work best with the UberStays but for me it was at about 10 or 2 o'clock (depending on the ear). I first wore the UberBuds without the UberStays and found that the I ran into the usual problem of one of them falling out easily. The UberStays help reduce the frequency of accidental removal during movement and pretty much eliminated it when I was sitting still (believe me, without the UberStays, gravity is enough to pull most in-ear monitors from my ears). The soft rubber is very supple and you really can't feel it in your ear (especially over the pressure of the in-ear post and tip).
The UberStays aren't the best design I've seen however. The rubber ring that holds the UberStay onto the earphone has nothing to sit in and moves easily on the gloss housing. Probably fifty percent of the time I removed the UberBuds, one of the UberStays would come off (it wouldn't fall off as the bell of the tip would prevent that), and nearly every time I would have to readjust the UberStay before reinserting the earphone. After a while, I got used to positioning the UberStay and could do it quickly but, in future UberBud iterations, something to keep the UberStay in place is recommended.
The UberBuds only weighed 14 grams according to my kitchen scale which is far lighter than I expected. I expected these headphones to have a lot more heft to them considering all the technology that has to go inside. I've reviewed headphones that are just straight in-ear monitors that weighed much more. This was great to combat gravity pulling on the UberBuds but it wasn't the only force to consider.
The flat cable ended up being my second biggest nemesis with the UberBuds.
I wore the UberBuds to a wide variety of places including around the house, outside while I mowed the grass, to my kids soccer and swimming practices, and more. That flat, stiff cable did more to dislodge the UberBuds than anything else. It would grab on to the back of my neck or the front of my shirt (depending on how I wore them) and pull on the headphones. UberStays or no, the cable usually won and I would have to reinsert the headphone. If you add sweat to the mix (as I did when I was mowing the grass), and the problem was compounded one-hundred fold. I've had notorious problems with keeping in-ear monitors in place, however, so your results may be different.
The flat cable looks cool but was a grabby as a teenager at prom
The last problem I had with the cable was noise. The flat cable transferred every bump, rub, or thump directly to the the earbuds. The cable is just the right length that it constantly rubs something so this is an issue that you'll always have to combat with the UberBuds. The obvious solution is to turn the UberBuds up, but that isn't always what you want to do. Mechanical noise is always an issue with headphones though it seemed particularly problematic with the UberBuds.
I consider myself someone that constantly learns. I'm not one to sit on my laurels and assume that I've got the world figured out. During the course of this review, I learned something: Google sucks.
Okay, let me back up. I bought a Samsung Galaxy Nexus when it was the latest and greatest. I was promised that, since it was a Google phone, it would receive all the Android updates first, would be kept in the loop for longer than most phones, and Google would always have my back (I may have read a bit into that last one). Well, with the latest announcement of Android, they revealed that the Galaxy Nexus would no longer be supported.
I was chagrined to say the least.
The UberBuds sport the latest and greatest Bluetooth solution - version 4.0. Bluetooth 4.0 is a low-energy solution where Bluetooth requires much less power but maintains much of the same range. Guess who's phone doesn't support version 4.0 even though it technically could with a firmware update?
So, during the beginning of the review process, I was cursing MuseMini and rubbing my hands together manically thinking of all the fun ways I was going to rip the UberBuds over their abysmal Bluetooth range. Without Bluetooth 4.0 support, the wireless connection would not reach from my pocket to my head. I couldn't step more than five feet away from my phone without dropouts even with direct line of sight. And I can tell you, definitively, that the Bluetooth antenna is in the right earbud as the position of my head would often cause dropouts. Cue jokes about me being thick-headed.
Gloss black and lint have ever been mortal enemies
I ended up testing the UberBuds with the new iPhone 5s and discovered it was just my phone. Time for an upgrade!
The Bluetooth pairing was a real breeze and the UberBuds resynced after getting out of range (which was about a foot and a half most of the time with my phone) without any problems. Bluetooth has really matured as a wireless solution and MuseMini has done a good job of implementing it. The UberBuds can remember up to eight different devices and be paired with up to two simultaneously (for you multi-taskers).
The volume and power buttons are used to control the UberBuds in some odd ways. Mostly, it is normal - press + for volume up, - for volume down, one click on the center button to answer/hang up, etc. But some are not as natural. To skip forward, you must press the - button twice, skip back is + which seems backwards. There are a couple of button presses that require you to hold two of the buttons at once which is hard to do when you are wearing the headphones. These are all commands you'll eventually have memorizes so it is only problematic at first.
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