Wi-Gear iMuffs for the iPhone Review: giving your ears a break

Wi-Gear has upgraded the iMuffs for compatibility and optimization with the iPhone. Previously reviewed October 2007 here at GearDiary, the wireless headphone consistently delivers good performance and comfort for extended wearing periods whether sitting on your duff, driving, walking or exercising. Last year’s model had some initial compatibility issues with the 1st edition of the iPhone, but has been resolved with both iPhone models (3G) with an improved range and less susceptiblily to radio interference

The iMuffs use Bluetooth 2.0 and Advance Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) via the dongle that plugs into the base of your iPod or iPhone. iMuffs work with the newest iPhone 3G models as well as Apple iPod devices including the iPod classic, iPod Nano and iPod touch. Also, the headphone works when paired with any Bluetooth compatible source whether it is a cell phone or as tested with an Apple iMac running OSX with mixed results.

First of all, once you go cordless, there is no return to using intrusive ear buds and tangled wires. That feature alone is a worthy value proposition for me.

The iMuffs MB220 model like it’s previous predecessor consists of two parts: a small transceiver that measures 1 1/8 inches wide by 1 1/2 inches tall and 3/8 inches thick that plugs into the bottom of iPods and iPhones and the headphones designed to be worn over the ears and behind the neck.

The package includes a USB charging cable, an AC power adapter, user guide, 1-year warranty card, and an extra pair of foam covers for the headphones.

Comfort: I have a large sized head (be quiet!) but the fit is relaxed for any sized head or hair volume. For gals, it’s like wearing a headband without the weight or “clamping” effect on one’s skull. I use the iMuffs on extended road trips. It’s perfect for me, as my Honda Odyssey is not exactly a soundproof luxury vehicle. The iMuffs offers long term comfort over a four-hour drive, while outlasting the iPod battery life. As for the iPhone, I don’t use it as a music player for that extended period of time, however I will verify that for long-winded conference calls (aside from annoying un-muted phone etiquette), the iMuffs are heaven sent. Not that most conference calls are worthy of stereo, but the freedom to move around hand free without a single ear throb is perfect!

With the weight of the headphones being only 2.2 oz makes the longwearing time tolerable. As for the foam ear pads, they don’t get clammy. I have used a previous version of the iMuffs for nearly a year without the replacement ear pads. Most headphone pads disintegrate over time. However, consider that the iMuffs are not sweat proof nor water proof, so it is always a good practice to dry them off.

Functionality: The dock adaptor securely clips to the bottom of your iPhone or iPod with ease.

I have yet to experience the transmitter fall off; rather the challenge is keeping up the small unit from being misplaced. I throw both the headphone and adaptor into a heavy-duty zip lock bag for safekeeping. The only downside of using the iMuffs adaptor is the slighter thickness over the stock Apple sync connector only if you use a protective plastic casing for your device. In one scenario, I took a Dremel tool to carve away 1/16-inch plastic to use the iMuffs adaptor. I have since found that use of a  leather or rubber case has the necessary tolerance available to accommodate the adaptor easily.

On the right hand side of the headphone are the intuitive Play/Pause, Previous, and Next buttons, which is great because there is never a need to fish the iPod or iPhone out of the pocket to select songs or control the volume.















On the rim on the same earpiece is a rocker switch for volume control, an On/Off switch, and a nonpropriary mini-USB port for recharging the headphones’ built-in battery.

There is no software to install; simply plug in the transmitter and the headphones will automatically pair. There are LED lights on both items to signal a connection.

When the adaptor is plugged into the iPhone, a screen message will appear prompting the iPhone to go into Airplane Mode.

Simply press “No” and the iMuffs works great without going into Airplane Mode.

As for pairing with a Bluetooth phone, simply initiate the “Discover” mode using the PIN “0000”. The controls work just as easily for music playback for answering calls.  To answer, press the Play/Pause/Phone button once and the music fades. To reject or end the call, press and hold the Play/Pause/Phone button for 2 seconds. The built in voice microphone I’m told is respectable for sound quality.

Battery life: The battery if good, as the headphones go into low-power sleep mode when inactive. The adaptor pulls its power from the iPod / iPhone to pair with the headphones. To avoid draining the iPod / iPhone’s battery, it is best to disconnect the adaptor and throw them into a bag with the headphones for safekeeping when not in use. Wi-Gear claims a battery life of continuous 16 hours of use, but I yet to test that claim other than the iMuffs will outlast the iPod or iPhone’s battery life.

Mixed results: On my iMac running OSX, the iMuffs paired with ease as headphones. On occasion, I get static or dropped connections when I move away from the computer and lose the connection. I just simply stay within the acceptable range. Most likely I would assume radio interference from my WiFi signal, Blackberry or the other numerous devices I have around me is interfering with a consistent signal, in which case, using a wired connection is best.

Conclusion: I’ve been extremely happy with the quality of the construction of the iMuffs. Should one expect audiophile quality via the iMuffs? With a advertised audio output of “near CD-quality sound” (44.1 KHz, 16-bit) and frequency response of 20Hz-20KHz, the audio was more than satisfactory for my ears. If you want the freedom of going wireless without the major hassle and nuisance of ear buds and tangled wires, having controls easily accessible on your right ear, and capability as a Bluetooth headset, then the iMuffs is the best all around, must have device for your iPod or iPhone. I would never go on a travel trip without iMuffs. They work great on a plane, in the car and long conference calls.

What needs improvement: Throw a storage bag in the box. After the dry cleaner found the adaptor in my dress pants, I’m overly cautious of losing the adaptor.

Available directly from Wi-Gear for US $149.99.

Previously reviewed October 2007 here at GearDiary

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