Thanks to Apple’s ubiquitous advertising, you can walk around town with wires hanging out of your ears without getting strange looks from passersby. Etymotic Research’s ety8 Bluetooth earphones shorten the wires, but these anything-but-discreet earbuds are guaranteed to draw a few sets of eyeballs your way.
If you don’t mind the attention, you’ll get to enjoy a great set of noise-isolating earphones that don’t need to be tethered to your iPod. The ety8s aren’t entirely wireless—a shoelace-like cord links the left and right modules—but they use Bluetooth technology for wireless two-way communication via a small transceiver plugged into the iPod’s docking port. The lanyard is just long enough to allow you to turn your head without tugging either module, and when you’re not listening to music, you can drape the ety8s over your neck.
Five tiny buttons on the right module control the iPod’s volume up/down, track selection, play/pause, and previous/next track functions. As small as the buttons are, it took us just moments to blindly locate them and memorize the function of each one—the all-important pause button was the easiest to master. And each button press updates the iPod’s display. The more we used the ety8s, the more we appreciated the convenience of going wireless, whether we were bundling up for a cold-weather outdoor excursion, working out indoors on an exercise bike, or just sitting at our desks.
Only one aspect of the system gave us pause: The transceiver you plug into the iPod is small (1 inch high by 1.5 inches wide) and sturdy, but friction is the only force that keeps it mated to your iPod. We’re just unsure of how well it and the iPod’s docking port will stand up to repeated jostling and knocking around inside a jacket pocket.
The ety8s come with a wide selection of ear tips and do a fabulous job of blocking out background noise; more importantly, they sounded marvelous with everything from Mozart symphonies to Paul Thorn’s wry, whiskey-soaked blues. Yeah, they’re a little geeky, but they’re definitely worth suffering a few stares for.