Product Review: Comply T-500 Isolation Earphone Tips

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I’ve been a relatively happy owner of Blue Buds X bluetooth earphones for a couple of years now. The battery life gets me through my long runs as long as I go easy on the volume, and the sound is incredible when sitting in the ear correctly. They also provide good hands-free control of the phone and have even worked for voice calls while on the run.

Unfortunately, Blue Buds X have two major drawbacks. First, they tend to work their way out of your ear during runs. They don’t move so far as to fall out, but they move just far enough that all of the rich bass is lost prompting you to reach up and adjust them every half mile or so. Second, if you get any water or sweat in your ear behind them, they will slip out so frequently that it’s not worth fighting them.

Over the Summer, I lost one of the earphone tips I normally use with my Blue Buds X. I tried some of the other included tips, but since I was already using the large, switching to smaller sizes only made the fit problems worse.

In an effort to avoid spending extra money to replace a perfectly functional pair of headphones, I turned to Amazon. I expected to find factory replacements at the top of my search results. Instead, I found the Comply T-500 Isolation Earphone Tips. These are a foam replacement tip that works with a variety of different headphones, the Blue Buds X included.

The Comply Tips are only $15. Now, that may seem like a lot in the days of $30 bluetooth sport headphones, but I’m going to venture a guess that the lower priced sport headphones are lacking a bit in sound quality, battery life, or durability. If they’re not, by all means, buy those. However, if you have a more expensive pair, consider this a worthwhile upgrade.

The Comply Tips do have mixed reviews.

One common gripe with the Blue Buds X is installation difficulty. Yes, they are hard to install, but it can be done. You just have to take your time making sure it gets over the outer edge of the earbud as it’s an extremely tight fit.

The other negative reported is durability. I just finished up marathon training, and the first set of tips came through relatively unscathed.

The way these tips work is the foam expands back to its previous shape after it has been compressed. That means you can fit it into your ear canal where you normally would the stock tips, and the foam will expand to fill the gaps. It ends up gripping the inside of your ear canal so that the ear buds can’t work their way out as easily as with the rubbery stock tips.

The fact that they are foam means that they will pick up any sort of junk from your ears, and it won’t come off easily without doing some damage. Mine are looking a bit nasty after 3 months so it’s probably time to swap to the next pair.

Each package includes 3 pair of tips so for the money, I will probably make it about 1 year before I need to order more tips or replace the headphones. Obviously, your results will differ based on the amount and type of training you do wearing the headphones.

Pros:

  • Holds earbuds tightly in your ear
  • Higher quality sound due to better position and seal
Cons:
  • Expensive relative to cheaper earbud options
  • Foam holds dirt and grime and isn’t easily cleaned

Product Review: Blue Buds X

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In training for the 2013 Route 66 Marathon, my Motorola S9-HD malfunctioned apparently because my sweat made it past the seals and damaged the internal components. Yeah, I sweat a lot.  After fighting with cables again for far too long, I researched wireless options. Though the Motorola’s were pretty good, they only lasted a little over 1 year, didn’t fit all that well, and due to the fit, the sound was at best mediocre.

After significant research, I purchased JayBird’s Blue Buds X (BBX) bluetooth headphones. They were unconscionably expensive so they had to be great, right? Right???  In a lot of ways, the BBX are great, but that statement comes with several caveats.  Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

It’s all about the fit.  These headphones sound extremely good for bluetooth ear buds. In fact, if I were given a choice between Blue Buds X and Beats, I would choose the BBX. That said, if I listened to the BBX without a proper fit, I would prefer $5 gas station ear buds. You must spend the time making sure they fit right.

The BBX come with 3 different sizes of ear tips and 3 different sizes of ear cushions. To get the best sound, you must select the proper size ear tip. To keep the best sound during your workout, you must select the proper size ear cushion and position it correctly. Everybody’s ears are different so there is no tried and true process of determining the correct fit. I used the small ear cushions for several months before trying the medium cushions yet I have to use the largest ear tips. You just have to experiment with it over time and see what works.

Beyond the fit options, you also have the option of wearing the cable over or under your ears.

I tried the over-ear option once. After spending 15-20 minutes adjusting the cushions and securing the cable with the cord management clips, I went out for a trail run. It was an extremely hot day so the sweat was fast and heavy. As soon as a drop of sweat dripped into my ear, the previously very secure BBX popped right out. I had to stop and switch to the under-ear option after trying several times to get the ear bud to stay in place.

In the under-ear position, the sound is great, and the BBX are relatively secure. There are a few challenges, though:

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  • When the music is not very loud, the cable bouncing on your neck sounds a little like bumping a stethoscope.
  • The cord tends to jump to one side or the other. I find myself pulling it back to the middle pretty frequently.
  • Once or twice per mile running, I find myself pushing one or both buds back into my ear.
  • If I’m sweating heavily or if it’s raining, it can be a challenge to keep the ear buds in place.

So for running, I think the fit is good enough, and for strength training, I can’t imagine using another style of headphone. Headphones that have hard plastic around the back of your head get in the way on bench exercises, and corded headphones tend to get tangled up and create safety issues with various exercises. Having a small cord sitting on the back of my neck has been much better.

The battery life is remarkable as long as you’re fully aware that the advertised 8 hours of battery life is at low to medium volume. I tend to listen to music on my iPhone as loud as it will go with the BBX, and I’ve found a 2.5-3 hour limit at that volume. If you turn it down, though, you should be able to get 8 hours. I think I’ve gone as high as 6 hours for home use. The BBX also charge within 2 hours so it doesn’t take long to get back to it once you eventually run the battery down.

The music and call controls are a little difficult to use, but that’s mainly because I have big, shaky hands. It’s not unusual for me to yank the right ear bud out of my ear trying to switch a song or adjust the volume. Additionally, the voice prompts in response to controls are a bit abrupt with how they mute the music, but it’s fine once you get used to it. Just remember to keep the BBX in your ears for powering off and back on so you don’t accidentally hold the button until the device shifts into pairing mode. I’ve ended up with dead headphones a few times due to leaving them on inadvertently. 

The microphone works surprisingly well. I’ve received phone calls on windy Oklahoma days while running, and I have yet to receive any complaints about difficulty hearing me over the noise. Beyond exercise, if I’m going to be on a long work call, it’s not unusual for me to use my BBX instead of the supposedly better suited Logitech headset.

Overall, I am very happy with my Blue Buds X, but I wish I could find a fit that would allow me to avoid adjusting the cable and ear buds frequently during runs. Even with some of the problems, though, I’m not sure there’s a better bluetooth headphone out there.

Pros:

  • High quality sound for a bluetooth ear bud
  • Amazing battery life
  • Better than expected microphone quality
  • Sweat and water resistant

Cons:

  • Secure fit option defeated by sweat and rain
  • Normal fit option also susceptible to sweat and rain
  • Frequent adjustments needed during running
  • Does not work well with balaclavas