ClarityOne Earbuds are the company’s first product. Technically, though, the name is a misnomer. the Earbuds are actually earphones that seal off your ear canal, not earbuds, which are flat and don’t enter the canal. We’ll let it slide because the $129.99 (direct) Earbuds offer crisp highs and a solid low frequency response. at maximum volume, however, that response is challenged on deep bass tracks, distorting just slightly. the built-in iPhone controls use an older design than most current competitors and thus lack dedicated menu and track navigation buttons. the high quality of the audio performance is reason enough to consider the ClarityOne Earbuds, but in this general price range, there are other solid options with fewer limitations.
DesignWith an attractive, clean design, the ClarityOne Earbuds are metallic-colored, with semi-transparent silicon ear tips that offer a secure fit. each cylindrical earpiece features a small ClarityOne logo. the iPhone controls and microphone sit a few inches below the left ear, along the 48-inch cable’s transparent housing. a single button controls track navigation and phone calls. a rapid pressing of that button three times skips a track, while holding it down once plays, pauses, or answers a call. it works, but better iPhone controls with dedicated navigation buttons are available these days. the microphone provides intelligible call clarity, however. the controls also work with some Android and BlackBerry phones, but there’s no guarantee from ClarityOne that your specific model is compatible.
A zip-up, hard shell protective case with carabiner ships with the Earbuds. Three pairs of silicon ear tips in various sizes are also included. the earphones fit securely when you remain fairly stationary, but a rigorous run or workout might pull them from your ears, so they’re not ideal for the gym.
PerformanceOn tracks with deep bass, the ClarityOne Earbuds offer a generally strong performance, but is at times inconsistent at high volumes. for instance, the Knife’s “Silent Shout” typically separates the strong earphones from the weak, and the Earbuds have no distortion at maximum volume when playing back this challenging song. However, on another track, Thom Yorke’s “Cymbal rush,” which has more resonant lows but at different frequencies, the Earbuds do distort at maximum volume. the distortion is not intense, and it only occurs at the unsafe maximum volume level, but it’s worth noting because most mid-$100 earphones of high quality will not distort on either track. On instrumental selections, like John Adams’s “The Chairman Dances,” the mids and highs are crystal clear and never harsh, while the lows of the strings and larger percussion are robust. Excluding the minor distortion issues, this is a great pair of earphones for just about any genre of music.
Yet, the distortion can’t be completely ignored when a less expensive option like the excellent Shure SE215 ($119, 4 stars), an Editors’ Choice, not only lacks distortion but comes with handy extra features like a detachable, and thus replaceable, cable. for a little more money, but still under $200, another recent Editors’ Choice, the Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones ($179.95, 4.5 stars), offers not only wonderful audio performance, but modern iPhone controls with dedicated menu and track navigation buttons and a super-secure fit. If this price range is beyond your budget, there is hope. While you shouldn’t expect the same level of sonic performance, the significantly less-expensive AKG K 350 ($79.95. 4 stars) comes with full iPhone controls and a generally pleasing audio performance. for a debut, the ClarityOne Earbuds are impressive, but better iPhone controls and zero distortion would make them a more-appealing option. Regardless, if audio is your number one priority and you don’t plan on listening to deep bass tracks at maximum volume, this is a pair worthy of your consideration.