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Radius Atomic Bass Earphones Reviewed

Radius Products was kind enough to send us a pair of their Atomic Bass Earphones (pictured above) to review.  We haven't professionally reviewed portable audio headsets before, but as such we have a fresh and unique perspective that made the review process very interesting.


 

Like all "earbud" style headphones, the Atomic Bass Earphones are designed to be small and easily portable for use on the go.  They are small enough to easily fit within a shirt pocket, and fit mostly within one's hears when wearing them.  This design makes them ideal for portable Digital Audio Players -- the market that Radius is clearly hoping to capture.

Included in the box are three different sizes of "ear caps" -- small rubber caps that are placed over the earbuds to help them better fit your ears.  We only tested them using one size, but it is likely the comfort level of all three sets is about equal.

The "user manual" included is short and to the point, which is expected given the simplicity of the set.  Sadly, the writers decided to unnecessarily promote Apple's DRM-endorsing iPod ("Connect the plug to the stereo mini jack of audio device such as iPod").   There is also some fine print warning "radius Co, ltd holds copyright of this document.  No part of this document may be copied, reproduced, modified, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of radius Co, ltd."  We're not sure why Radius feels the need to restrict the proliferation of the two-page instruction manual for its product, as doing so would only serve to promote the item and could do nothing to harm their sales.   Of course we're also puzzled as to who would bother to redistribute such a short and uninformative user manual at all...

The Atomic Bass Earphones use a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, making them compatible with most audio players, computer sound cards and radios. Since the set was intended to be used with portable players, we tested them with our stock Ogg Vorbis player:  the iAudio G3.

 

We played several different types of songs while using the Atomic Bass Earphones, and the results for each seemed mostly similar.  While the box touted the set's accurate bass reproduction, we found the sound to be generally lacking bass.  There was certainly a small "punch," but nothing like you'd normally experience with regular, full-sized headphones.   The lack of bass wasn't terribly distracting in and of itself, but combined with the set's tendency to favor higher frequencies, the result was an overall "metallic" sound.   This isn't overly surprising, as most earbuds tend to perform this way, but given Radius' heavy marketing to music lovers, it was a bit disappointing.

On the positive side, the sensitivity was outstanding.  Details were crisp and clear, and very easy to make out.  We hooked the set up to a mixer and fed in a microphone, and the result was something you'd expect to get from a hearing aid -- soft, otherwise hard to hear sounds came through loud and clear.  In contrast, hooking up a set of full-sized headphones to the same mixer produced much more muddled results.

 

Build quality was mixed.  The ear buds themselves are made of lightweight aluminum, and feel like they'd hold up to normal levels of abuse just fine.   Sadly, the places where the cord connects to the earbuds and the 3.5mm headphone jack leave much to be desired.  There is a definite feeling of weakness at the connection points, and the limp cord easily bends back and forth.  This leads us to think that long term use of the set might lead to a damaged cord and a crippled set.  We weren't able to submit the set to a full stress test, however, so only time and use will tell.   We also ran into some issues with the cord becoming tangled during use, again due mostly to the limp design.  We strongly suggest Radius opt for a stiffer audio cable with much less play, as it will likely eliminate the build issues we experienced.

Physically, the set looks very nice.  The aluminum ear buds and the white cord match well, and does not look at all cheap or poorly made.  For reasons we aren't quite sure of, Radius opted to label the two ear buds using a white/silver ink -- making the "R" (right) and "L" (left) stencils almost impossible to read even in very good lighting.  As a result, we anticipate users accidentally reversing the two sides of the set.  Using black ink would have been much more functional here, and wouldn't distract from the overall appearance.

 

Overall, we did enjoy using the Atomic Bass Earphones.  They were generally comfortable, and provided an acceptable level of sound quality for listening to music.  We were a bit disappointed by the bass response, especially given the name and marketing involved, but the exceptional clarity made up for this deficit.  We also hope that Radius improves upon the build quality in future versions, so that long term use isn't an issue.

The model we tested (HP-CAF21S) does not appear to be available via their website (http://www.radiusearphones.com), however our guess is that the models currently featured as substantially similar.  Currently, the HP-CAF11S is selling for a respectable $39.99, making the Atomic Bass Earphones affordable on most budgets.

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