Polk Audio has released a new series of headphones designed for running and sports called the UltraFit 3000. The headphones are designed to fit snugly in the ears, isolated noise, resist moisture and stay in place while jostling around in active sports. I’ve been testing the new earphones for the last two weeks and I can say that they do perform as advertised with a couple of caveats.First, let’s start with fit. This is an in-ear earphone, which means that you pretty much push them into your ear canals to both stay put and block out noise. The sales person at the Vancouver Marathon race expo showed me this really cool kind of judo chop move in which you put the earphone into your ear and then pull your ear lobe downward, allowing the earphone to move a little further inside your ear. When done correctly, the headphones stay securely in place, even when you’re running, jumping or stretching. Here’s the first caveat however: there are a number of removable ear-plugs designed for different sizes and shapes of ear canals. If you don’t have the right fit, the ear-phones will pop right out (or not go in at all). You really need to make sure that you have the right fit.
Moving on to sound quality, the Polk Audio UltraFit 3000 sounds very good. For such a small ear-phone, you’ll notice a great deal more bass and sound quality than the typical in-ear bud that comes with an iPod. Here’s caveat number two: you may notice that you lose the bass tones if the ear bud moves too far out of your ear canal. I notice that if I’m sitting at my desk (as I am now) I can clench my jaw slightly and then I head the sound more richly. I think this comes back to fit. By moving my jaw a bit I’m probably securing a slightly tighter fit in the ear-phone and that increases the quality of what I’m hearing.
These are billed as “noise-isolating” ear-phones and I can attest to the fact that you’ll hear almost nothing from the outside world when these are ear-phones are in place. Unlike a typical over-ear noise-cancelling earphone, these ear-phones are also acting as ear plugs. When you put them in your ear they are sealing out the noise around you. This means that they really block everything out. Whether this is a good thing is going to be up to you. I typically press the pause button when people walk up and start talking to me. With these ear-phones in place, I have to pull one of them out to talk to people. This was somewhat annoying on several recent flights when flight attendants came up and asked me question. I was furiously giving the international sign for “hang on” which I pull my ear-phones out. I also find it just a bit off-putting to run with these ear-phones on the road, because I hear absolutely nothing of cars, horns, sirens, or anything else. They are, however, great for the gym where the idea is to block out the outside world completely.
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