I respect marathoners. If you’re trying to defeat human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target. Even more so, Ironman athletes. But what happens when they start messing with you?
There is something special about long-distance running, that only few find it enjoyable. 13.1 miles, 26.2 miles and ultra distances will test you to your core. The road will hit you in your guts and you'll be faced with a choice: keep on pushing or accept defeat.
In my recent post, I talked about legendary company JBL and how Harman’s new marketing strategy pushed JBL consumer product quality below acceptable limits. Great company - bad decisions.
Yurbuds - is another acquisition done by Harman International about a year ago.
Yurbuds joined family of most celebrated companies in the word: JBL, AKG, Lexicon. And Yurbuds joined it with its Elite Team of running ambassadors.
Mirinda Carfrae 3 time World Ironman Champion
Company founders, Seth Burgett is an active Ironman triathlete, and Richard Daniels, a 25-time marathoner and Ironman triathlete.
How do they rank in their ‘Sport’ line of earbuds? I’ll share my experience with their Yurbuds Liberty 100 Wireless Ironman Edition.
I liked these bluetooth earbuds a lot... at first.
These are the most loud bluetooth earbuds you will find on the market today. And high volume comes without usual add-on of distortions and clipping. Nice, uncompressed, balanced sound with bright highs and full mid-bass.
I also learned to like their twist-n-lock system, which allows for the earbuds to sit firmly, yet without unneeded pressure. These are not in-ear earphones. Drivers are positioned outside of ear canal and only rubber piece directs the sound stream directly toward eardrums.
It is very cool and innovative design - easy to wear, easy to clean and very robust.
It gets better - across their lineup of sport earbuds (corded and wired), most models with twist-n-lock system share the same dimensions of the ear tips, the only difference - used materials.
Liberty Wireless also have the longest battery life I have encountered so far! After 4 90-minutes workout sessions I gave up and charged my sets (I had three of these for almost 2 months).
What’s not so good
Bulk - these are not the lightest earbuds on the market - that’s for sure. If you want rugged - you pay with additional payload, literally.
In fact these are so heavy, that after I was done using Liberty Wireless, and switched back to Powerbeats 2 Wireless (which on its own have inconsistent QC, so having those is like playing Russian roulette), I couldn't feel Beats on my ears at all.
But, at least with additional bulk I hoped to run one of my long-distance events.
Boy, I was wrong. Big time.
I don’t know what Yurbuds engineers have been thinking, but the cord that connects both drivers together is horrible. It is too long, it is heavy braided and 4mm in diameter. It is one of those wires that you can plug into a wall and power your hair-dryer with!
Because it is so bulky, there is no cord management system. If there was one, it would literally have be a brick down your neck.
Instead, I had to tie excess wire into a flat sailor knot. Which I guess is ok.
What’s not good
Now, the frustrating part. I had 6 weeks prior to my event back in April, and I just gave up on Jabra and Beats to be my companions in the race. So, I went to the nearest REI and picked up these beauties.
Ironman, association with top-athletes - it screamed at me - QUALITY! And for a hundred dollars - well, it is not expensive at all by today’s standards.
Unfortunately, first pair failed on me 3 weeks into my training. I was mad. I had just a few weeks left prior to the event, and what a setback!
I rushed back to the store and exchanged Liberty Wireless for another pair. One workout. 3 miles, easy run, and they broke too. Damn!
Ok, I went back for third replacement. These earbuds were really annoying me. I had better use of my time and energy, than driving back and forth for another replacement.
Third pair lasted 1 week and failed. After which, I returned them and never looked back.
What's the issue?
As with most ‘sport’ earbuds on the market, these do not have any sweat-repellant coating. Liberty Wireless are sweat-proof (which means bolts are there and tied as they should be), but the rest - the rest is up to overall construction, especially controls. These in particular, short out completely as soon as sweat saturates thru thick and heavy cable braiding.
An engineer who thought this would be a good idea ...well… a) not a runner b) not an engineer!
Why would you think Ironman athletes need all that bulk apart from the battery?
Its not that we crush them! We don’t step on them, and don’t drive them over with a CAT!
All we need is nano-coated set of earbuds with loud, balanced sound, 6-8 hours on a single charge and very strong and robust Bluetooth connection! That is all! Nothing else!
Yurbuds Liberty Wireless is another example of good idea that went horribly wrong!
For my event I had to do last minute change and switch back to wired Shure IEMs, which never failed me before. I’m so glad I did!
However, I warn everybody to stay away from Harman consumer products.
I picked up another (wired) set of Yurbuds Explore, as my last attempt to have that twist-n-lock magic.
And what do I find out? Control unit doesn’t control sound volume. Only tracks are being controlled. Why?
And remember - these are no cheap earbuds. at $60 they are pushing the envelope.
And they are positioned as travel edition. Meaning, whoever wears these will have tons of gear on his/her shoulders, and a phone/iPod away somewhere in deep pockets. Who thought that in these conditions users do not need volume controls by default?
Why did they have to create separate Explorer Pro edition just for volume?
The worst part - Yurbuds founders and Elite team - all put their effort and reputation behind a piece of technology that fails in a major way.
If my experience would be one-off, I’d shut up. But I’m not the only one who had these issues. 1.4 out of 5-star rating on their home web-page? C’mmon!
As a team of athletes, marathon and Ironman runners, as a Sport company that positions their products as ‘Iron Man Edition’ - Yurbuds, you owe us an apology and a recall.
Let's keep sport - sport, where the best win, and losers bite the dust and go back to the drawing board. Don’t brand your product as ‘sport’ if it fails basic QC.
So, enough of this madness. Harman Syndrome gets its official name from now on - title for the worst sport and consumer electronics nonsense.
Wake up JBL! It’s your legendary reputation on the line! Grateful Dead triumph was 40 years ago! Its time to revisit your consumer strategy!