Weighing in at only 2.3 ounces, the Wi-Gear iMuffs MB210 offer a rather sporty design. The earpieces sit loosely on top of the ear and are connected by a flexible-plastic, behind-the-head band. Three buttons on the right earpiece – a centre pause/play button, and forward and back buttons on either side – control playback. A rocker switch on the bottom edge of the earpiece controls volume and a sliding switch on the top edge turns the headphones on and off. The firm on/off switch is a convenience when travelling, since the headphones are less likely to be turned on accidentally.
The iMuffs’ transmitter, weighing just 0.4 ounces, is slightly smaller than a matchbox and draws its power from the iPod. As a result, the amount of play time between charges is dependent on the capacity and charge of the iPod being used. The compactness of the transmitter is a bonus for those who prefer to keep their iPod in a case. Though not all cases provide easy access to the dock port, we were able to use the iMuffs even when the iPod was tucked safely inside a Speck ToughSkin case.
Because the transmitter is iPod-powered, you need to charge only the iMuffs headphones, which you do via the included USB cable – by connecting the USB cable to either your computer or the included AC-to-USB adaptor. A full charge can take up to five hours, although an 80 per cent charge can be accomplished in only two. Wi-Gear claims the iMuffs headset is capable of up to 16 hours of continuous operation, depending on usage pattern, distance from adaptor, and battery age.
Considering that the iMuffs will appeal to more-active users, the system produces adequate sound. Users satisfied with Apple’s stock earbuds probably won’t be disappointed; however, the design does little to block outside noise.
The iMuffs use a lightweight Bluetooth adaptor that plugs into your iPod’s dock connector port to transmit digital stereo audio to the headphones from up to 30 feet away. They support all dock-connector iPods (3G and later, except for the iPod shuffle). They can’t compete on sound quality with comparably priced wired headphones but do produce sound good enough for casual listening, especially considering the added convenience of no wires. The headset also offers limited remote control capability via buttons on the side of the headphones.
In addition to acting as iPod headphones, the iMuffs can be paired with a variety of other devices – including mobile phones, PDAs, and computers – provided these support one of two Bluetooth protocols. With the pinhole microphone built into the headset, the system can be paired with a Bluetooth phone to act as a wireless headset when making calls. The iMuffs support the Headset Profile (HSP) as well as the newer Hands-Free Profile (HFP).
After a minute or two spent pairing the device with a Motorola RAZR V3 phone, we were able to initiate and receive calls easily. The sound quality of the microphones is not as good as that of the phone’s built-in mic, but it’s passable for short conversations. The headphones are also capable of receiving stereo audio from devices that support the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) protocol.
Part of what has made the iPod popular is the freedom it gives music fans to take their tunes anywhere. Headphones with Bluetooth technology can add even more freedom to the iPod experience, by allowing music lovers to enjoy their favourite tunes without being encumbered by wires.
The iMuffs MB210 are likely to appeal to those who value wireless convenience over ultimate sound quality. The system’s small size and low weight make it more suited for portable and active use – hence the sporty styling.
Although you’ll sacrifice a bit in terms of sound quality, we found the iMuffs to be very comfortable over long periods. We also liked the fact that you can keep your iPod protected inside its case while still enjoying wireless stereo sound.
One thing to bear in mind is that because the iMuffs are available only online from the US at the moment, you will face stiff shipping costs. But, hopefully they will be available in the UK soon.