Zipbuds 26 Bluetooth Wireless Sport Earphones

I worry when I see any product claiming to have audiophile sound. As if any company is going to advertise their new headphones with tone-deaf, mediocre sound? How about I-don’t-give-a-crap sound? Let’s just say that I start off a bit skeptical when I read claims like that, especially from a company who is a relative newcomer to the market. After some quality listening time with the new Zipbuds 26, I’m cutting them some slack. These earphones sound really good. Claim away.

The Zipbuds 26 earphones (originally $199, now $150) are designed to solve five common complaints most people have with earphones. Fit and comfort, sound quality, battery life, durability, and style. Honestly, I don’t really care much about how my earphones look if they sound great, but I understand that’s an issue for some users. Luckily, the 26 look fabulous, available in either black and gray, or an elegant white with rose gold accents, but those other points are important.

The 26 really do address those other issues. The fit is almost infinitely adjustable. The 26 comes with memory foam and silicon eartips, each in three sizes. There are also additional stabilizers with three sizes of each; traditional C-lock “fins” and more robust fitness locks that really secure the 26 during intense workouts. Do the math - that’s 144 different combinations to get just the right fit and comfort for any application.

The fit ties directly into the performance. At first, I used the medium memory foam eartips. Given the design of the 26, with a hybrid driver system combining a balanced armature driver for mids and highs with a 9.2mm dynamic driver for bass, I was expecting a deeper sound. I played around with different locks and tips, and once I dialed it the perfect fit for me, the sound came together beautifully. The treble range has a nice, open clarity that is wonderful on acoustic guitars, percussion and female vocals. However, the deep, impactful bass is what is most impressive. Kick drums have a rich resonance that is natural and tight, and deep synth notes are precise and controlled. The listed frequency response is 5Hz - 20kHz. Given the expensive price tag, the 26 delivers.

It should also be noted that the 26 play incredibly, dangerously loud. Not a touch of distortion when I cranked it up to the maximum of my comfort level, which wasn’t even halfway up. Please be careful with the volume - we want to make sure you can hear audiophile-grade quality for years to come.

Aside from sound quality, the most impressive feature of the 26 is its power management. On its own, the 26 offers 7.5 hours of playback, with 400 hours of standby power. However, it is easy to double that with a very cool magnetic battery supplement. This extra battery pack simply snaps onto the earphones via magnets, giving a total of 15 hours of playback. Additional battery charge clips are available from Zipbuds for $25, each offering an extra 7.5 hours. The only micro-USB charging port is on the clip, not the main earphone, so the clip has to be attached to charge the main battery. There is a quick-charge feature that gives an hour of playback from only 5 minutes of charging.

Other features of the 26 add to the value - yes value of these expensive earphones. The cord is made from military-grade Kevlar for durability. They are sweatproof and water-resistant with a splash-proof IPX-4 rating. They can be submerged briefly down to 3 feet, but don’t go swimming with them. (And note that the battery charge clip is NOT water-resistant.) The 26 uses multi-point Bluetooth 4.0 and is compatible with aptX. The controls are simple to use, and one of the volume controls has a raised surface so it’s easy to control by touch.

While the audiophile claims in the Zipbuds press release and website had me skeptical at the beginning, the more time I spent with the Zipbuds 26, the more impressed I was with the build quality, features, battery performance, and most importantly, the sound quality. If you take the time to get the fit dialed in, the 26 will deliver.