Chester Greenwood would be proud. In 1873, Chester invented earmuffs to protect his ears from the bitter cold. At the young age of 18, he was awarded patent #188,292 from the United States Patent Office for “Improvement in Ear Mufflers”.
The Greenwood’s Ear Protector Factory was in business for 60 years, making Farmington, Maine the Earmuff Capital of the World.
One hundred twenty something years later, Wi-Gear’s iMuffs draws from the Chester Greenwood’s vision of comfort for one’s ears. While I enjoy listening to music on the go with my iPod, I’ve always been frustrated with the cord management of wired ear buds. Adding to the frustration are ear buds popping out despite being wedged in one’s ear canals.
Mark Pundsack, Wi-Gear’s founder, set out to answer the bell of solving the problem of perpetually tangled wired earbuds while pairing Bluetooth technology with the iPod. The design and development on iMuffs began in 2004.
Recently updated from the iMuffs model introduced in 2005, version two of the iMuffs is now available.
It now comes in two colors (black and white) and offers an iMuffs adapter to upgrade the original iMuffs to the iPod Nano and Video. Also the new version is compatible with Apple’s new lineup of iPods, Nanos and the iTouch. The iPhone does work, but goes into airplane mode. Hopefully there will be a complete compatibility solution addressed soon.
Lets see what’s in the box:
• iMuffs Wireless Headphones with noise canceling microphone
• iMuffs Dock Adaptor for iPod
• Travel Charger / AC to USB Adapter
• USB Cable
• User Guide
• Extra Foam Speaker Covers
• Protocol: Bluetooth 2.0 which supports Music (A2DP), AVRCP, Hands free (HFP) and Headset (HSP) profiles.
• Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz (2402 ~ 2480 MHz)
• Tx Power: 0.25 ~ 2.5mW (Bluetooth Power Class II)
• Range: 9-30 feet (3-10 meters). Actual range depends on environmental factors.
• Audio Codec: Sub-Band Codec (SBC) with bit rate of 328 kb/s (High Quality)
• Audio Output: Near CD-quality (44.1 KHz, 16-bit) with Frequency Response of 20Hz-20kHz.
• Audio Input: Apple iPod Dock Connector Line Out / Built-in unidirectional microphone
• Battery Life: Up to 16 hours of continuous operation of the headphones depending on usage pattern, distance from transmitter and battery age. iMuffs adapter for iPod requires no battery but is dependant on iPod’s actual battery capacity.
• Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer 500 mAh (built-in, not user-serviceable)
• Power Input: Standard USB voltage input (mini-USB, 5-pin) or provided USB power adaptor (110V-240V)
• Weight: Headphones 2.2 oz, Adapter 0.4 oz
The Bluetooth adapter friction locks into the iPod with ease.
Here’s a view of the speaker with the cover removed. The iMuffs deliver 44kHz CD quality sound, which is pretty good for typical outdoor use or around the house.
On the right hand side, the controls are easily accessed by touch. I really like the drive-wheel volume control built-in to the headset. Rather than a floating volume control slider, Wi-Gear has thoughtfully provided a push-click control for volume reduction or amplification. Coupled with the iPod’s volume control setting and the iMuffs volume control, there is no way to accidentally blow out the speakers or worse, your eardrums.
At the bottom is the mini USB port for charging. The initial charging time was about six hours; after that I simply charge the iMuffs for a couple of hours whenever the orange light indicator comes on. Generally, the iMuffs battery life (housed in the left earpiece) will exceed the battery life of the iPod, so I rarely stress about its battery life.
A nice touch by Wi-Gear is including a travel charger with a removable USB-Mini USB cord. The wall adaptor can be used with other plug in USB cords, handy for charging a cell phone or a stand-alone Bluetooth earpiece.
The iMuff can be paired with any Bluetooth phone. I like the stereo conversation with the added B-dit-dit-a-boom-boom-bom bass coming through the headset. The iMuffs work well as tested with the Treo 680 and 650 as well as the Samsung Blackjack. When a call comes in the music fades out and an audio tone prompt signals an incoming call.
To answer the call, simple press the Play/Pause/Phone button and begin talking. To reject or end a call, pressing the Play/Pause/Phone button for two seconds does the job. If your phone supports voice dialing, pressing and holding the volume button in for 2 seconds can activate the voice prompts. Last, to activate redial, press and hold the Rewind and Fast Forward buttons together for two seconds. Simple as pie.
Playing music is just as easy. The intuitive touch of Rewind, Play/Pause and Fast Forward takes just a gentle press.
The adaptor is powered directly by the iPod. There is no setup needed, as pairing happens immediately. A small blue LED light just underneath the Bluetooth logo will flash blue indicating that the device is ready to play.
A rechargeable battery housed in the left ear assembly powers the headphones. A orange LED light located underneath the Bluetooth logo with flash when battery life is low, lights up while charging, and turn of when the iMuffs are fully charged.
I’ve been using the iMuffs for several weeks now and can say without hesitation, it would be extremely difficult to ever wear wired ear buds again.
The iMuffs fit comfortably around both ears, even while wearing glasses. There is plenty of flexibility and bend in the headband without being overly rigid.
Ideal for walking, exercising or simply wanting to listen to music around the house in full stereo sound while cooking or cleaning is simply bliss. The comfort level and weight of the iMuffs makes extended listening enjoyable. I don’t get any ear fatigue or ear clammy from wearing the headphones for several hours at a time while working at my desk.
The only hiccup with the iMuffs that I have found is the occasional cutting out despite the standard Bluetooth range of 9 to 30 feet. This is easily remedied by placing the iPod on the right side of the body as the receiving antenna is on the right side of the headphone. Also, the connected adaptor doesn’t like to be jostled in a shirt pocket or loosely in a pants pocket. With a holster or firmly placed in a backpack with stability, the iMuffs performs flawlessly.
There is no carrying case provided, so I keep a close eye on making sure the adaptor and headphone stay together. Although the adaptor has never come loose, I’d like to see some type of retainer clip or band to insure the adaptor doesn’t become accidentally separated and lost from the iPod.
I really like the behind head positioning of the headband. While the fit was great for a large size cranium (I wore the largest football helmet in high school), the non-adjustable fit may be disconcerting for some with less than normal size heads.
Nonetheless, the convenience of never dealing with tangled wires and ill fitting ear buds (especially the Apple stock ear buds) along with Bluetooth phone compatibility makes owning a Wi-Gear iMuffs a real joy.
So whether you’re toiling away at a desk, running a 5K race, or bicycling through neighborhood streets, as for me listening to the Beatles with the more than decent sound of the iMuffs is the perfect iPod accessory – Here, There And Everywhere.
• The iMuffs are available directly from the Wi-Gear website and other retailers.
• iMuffs MB210 – $179.99 (For all docking iPods) (model reviewed)
• iMuffs BM200 – $149.00 (Original iMuffs for older iPods (3G, 4G, mini, photo) only)
• iMuffs Adapter MA110 – $59.99 (Upgrade original iMuffs to the iPod Nano and video)
What I Like: Wireless convenience, quality of sound, comfort and fit, ease of use and Bluetooth compatibility with cell phones.
What Needs Improvement: A retainer clip or band to secure the possible loss of the adaptor.
4 Responses to “EarMuffs & iMuffs: Giving comfort for the ears”
Oct 17th, 2007 at 10:56 am
Kerry, I loved the mini-History lesson! You always have the neatest “hooks” on your articles and reviews!
The iMuffs look very cool, too.
Wi-Gear :: View topic – iMuffs review at Gear Diary
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Dr. Bott LLC | iMuffs Bluetooth Wireless Headphones for iPod, Black
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