The iPod is almost ubiquitous when it comes to MP3 players, the way Band-Aid is to bandages and Xerox is to photocopying. As the popularity of this bit of personal tech has continued exploding year after year, the search for the best way to enjoy the fruits of your auditory gizmo grows ever more difficult. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, some worthwhile and some not, and Japanese earphone maker Radius has made the leap to North America to throw their offerings into the fray. Do they measure up? First let's look at what the three models – Atomic Bass, TruTune, and Atomic Straps – have in common.
They each come with three sizes of silicone covers for the speakers that serve to affix the buds to your ear canals (rather than hanging by the cartilage below). The advantages are that they usually stay in place and block out exterior noise effectively. The downside to that, of course, is that you really can't hear what's going on around you, making them potentially risky for use in busy areas, or if you go jogging off the beaten path.
The silicone covers are replaceable, so despite the fact that in-ear phones run the risk of picking up some earwax and dust, you can always pitch them and get new. However, after a short time of use, if you aren't careful, the speaker housing where the silicone attaches may scrape your ear when inserting or positioning them.
As mentioned, they usually stay in; however, during a test at the gym, when lying back on a bench for weights or sit-ups, they started to slip out a bit. The plastic coating on the wire also had a tendency to stick to a sweaty body, and may also tug now and then as you move. This is in contrast to the Sony MDR-Q33 headphones I've been using for a few years now, which have a wire insulated in a non-stick woven material. Of course, the clip-on MDR-Q33s don't isolate sound nearly as well, for better or worse.
Another point of contention is how Radius' press materials go on about them being "a fraction the cost of comparable models," but didn't specify which models they were referring to. The three models available are between $35 and $40, and a quick search on Amazon.com reveals similar products from makers like Apple, Sony, and Philips for half that price, if not less.
However, the difference may be made up in energy consumption and design. I'm not sure if I just have weird ears or what, but typical ear bud designs just won't stay in if I so much as move. The Radius models stayed put most of the time. They sport 32-Ohm impedance, or twice that of standard earphones. This leads to longer battery life, but is it worth twice the price? The style may be the deciding factor here, as they are pretty sharp looking.