I avoided riding with headphones for a long time. I simply wasn’t that comfortable with my ears covered – especially in busy San Francisco traffic. I had experimented a couple of times with riding with one earbud in. But this invariably lead to me either hearing only half of the music, or switching back and forth between stereo and mono settings on my iPhone. Neither of these options were particularly appealing.
However, after a little shopping on Amazon I came across the Far End Gear XDU stereo earbud. It plays both the left and right stereo channels it a single earbud.
Until I lay my hands on a super-awesome smart helmet with magical bone-conducting wireless audio, a single earbud is the only legal option in the state of California and many other jurisdictions. I’m aware of the performance gains of music from hours on the indoor trainer with headphones on or stereo blasting. But in traffic safety and legal concerns have to come first.
All that puts the single earbud situation in a weird place. I want to be able to block out enough noise to hear the music without interfering with environmental and situational awareness. This product strikes a good balance.
In the music quality category, the Far End Gear XDU actually performed a lot better than I had expected. When attached to my iPhone, I didn’t feel like either the left or right stereo channel was lost. In fact, it sounded almost identical to a single earbud on stereo headphones with the phone’s audio set to mono. Of course, without requiring me to actually change any settings.
The music had a great frequency range and even a rich, deep bass response. Much better than I’d expect from any earbud.
I’ve only been using it for a few weeks so I can’t really speak to the durability of the product. Some of the online reviews mentioned cord failures. However, what I found online more than anything were compliments on the manufactures amazing customer service.
The cloth covering on the wire doesn’t only enhance strength and help avoid cord tangles. It also has reflective threads in it that increase visibility at night.
The only complaint I do have is that, in certain positions, the wind noise is transmitted into my ears in a very noticeable way. I think this has more to due with… well… physics than any design flaw in the product.
All in all, if you do want to listen to music while riding, the Far End Gear XDU stereo earbud is a great, safe and legal option at a very reasonable price.