My Review of Wicked Audio’s Jawbreakers Earbuds
A few weeks ago, I happened to be rummaging through a drawer and found a set of these Wicked Audio earbuds. I hadn’t opened the package, even though I received them as a courtesy for dropping by the Wicked Audio booth to complete their product demo at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012. I also hadn’t bothered because I own a set of nice, mid-grade Skullcandy Smokin’ Buds, in-ear earphones. I was perfectly content with my Skullcandy set. They’re a well-known brand and supposedly have great audio, after all.
Well, I finally decided to see if they were all that good. I opened up the little box and thought, okay, maybe they’ll even be as good as my Skullcandy’s. Apparently I hadn’t learned my lesson at their CES demo last January. I demo’ed a set of over-the-ear headphones, their basic model, compared to a set of Skullcandy’s mid-grade headphones, and Wicked wiped the floor with Skullcandy. Alright, now it’s time to put the new Wicked Audio Jawbreakers to the test. My .mp3 of choice was Bass Mekanik’s “Bass Zone”, followed by “Night Bass”.
The “Jawbreaker” name must come from the subsequent effect of the user’s jaw coming unhinged and hitting the floor after hearing the audio quality. It felt like I was sitting back in my ’87 Toyota minitruck with four Cerwin Vega 12″ speakers mounted in the back window between the cab and the shell. I love a full concert sound. My appreciation for full tonal range probably comes from years of being a brass musician from elementary school through college. I was so impressed here. Bass Mekanik’s CD “Quad Maximus” includes a lot of audio test tracks to determine what the performance of your system is. One of my favorite test tracks is the “Sine Sweep” that goes from an ear-splitting 20KHz down through 20Hz. If you add decent volume (read too much volume for comfort), it makes you cringe and get nauseous, drowns out your tinnitus, then shows you what SPL (sound pressure level) can do to your breathing. Granted it was all in my ears and not felt through my whole body like in my truck, but it was a great flashback to my life in the 90’s. I had a total Pavlov’s Operant Conditioning reflex there.
The frequency range was ginormous!
Only the lowest of the lows were barely audible. I’d guess I was getting every bit of the Sine Sweep from 20KHz down through about 35-30Hz before I got any distortion and fade out. Needless to say, I now carry my Jawbreakers with me almost everywhere. If this is how good their I can’t imagine what their top-grade earbuds sound like! I also can’t believe the Jawbreaker averages just under $10/pair online – That’s about a third of the cost for the less capable Skullcandy’s!
Comfort and external audio suppression…
I tried these out in my car and on a very long flight across the country. I don’t like wearing earbuds for very long. Your ear canals start to hurt from the pressure exerted on them, then they get hot and sweaty, and then your earwax melts… YUCK! One of my pet peeves. Give me all the gore and trauma of being a Paramedic. I can handle that, but I truly despise earwax and boogers! Blech! Anyway, as I was saying, I don’t like leaving earbuds in for long. These were REALLY comfortable. I left them in for almost 5 hours of my long flight before I gave them a break. They do suppress a little noise, as you would expect from anything placed into your ear canal, but if you mute the audio, you can leave them in and still have a decent conversation without having to repeatedly say, “What?” or remove them every time someone wants to talk to you. It wasn’t enough to drone out the noise of the jet engines, but it made it more tolerable. They aren’t noise suppressing models anyway.
No, they’re not perfect…
Okay, so you can’t have everything. They may be capable of producing 20Hz, but: 1.) you’re unlikely to hear it, as most sound at that low frequency is felt rather than heard; 2.) they’re less than $10 – What more do you want for that price?; 3.) You aren’t really sitting in a minituck at 2 in the morning vibrating it until the mirrors fall off and you need a little supplemental oxygen to compensate for the SPL crushing your chest.
I’d have to say, the changeable size ear pads are a great bonus for the price point, since you don’t usually see that until you are spending more than $20/pair. I’d like to see them do one more thing like I got got with my Skullcandy’s, which is to add a little microfleece-like storage bag. That tiny feature makes it easy to wind-up and store the earbuds and drop them in your pants pocket (or purse or “murse” – I’m assuming here since I don’t carry either of these) without getting them tangled up around your keys, pocketknife, etc. I solved my problem by storing them in the one Skullcandy provided with my Smokin’ Buds (which, incidentally, I cleaned and are now hand-me-downs). You may want to use that little bag that came with your sunglasses too. I only suggest this last point because you’ll want to take them EVERYWHERE with you from now on! Oh yeah, there’s a lifetime warranty on them too.