Fanny Wang expands into earbud territory (September 15th, 2012)
Product Manufacturer: Fanny Wang
- Deep bass reproduction
- Well-constructed long cable
- Low noise leakage, making for excellent listening
- Buds are large
- Necessary silicone ear inserts accumulate earwax
- Low noise leakage, making them unusable for multitasking
Earbud manufacturers have it rough. Just about every portable device has a pair, generally of iffy quality, but included sets have the advantage of being free. Space considerations prohibit large drivers, and the biology and uniqueness of people's ears present their own issues. Fanny Wang says their product, the WangBuds, are the solution to common earbud issues.
From a purely technical standpoint the earbuds have removable silicone air chambers to enhance bass projection, a 10mm woofer and a 6mm tweeter in each earbud, with 16 ohm impedance. The frequency response range is listed as 20Hz through 20KHz. An inline remote with microphone on the 1.2 meter (47 inch) cable provides phone compatibility, and the product bears the "Made for" iOS device label indicating it complies with Apple's performance guidelines. The buds are available in red (reviewed here), black, and white.
We tested the WangBuds against three of its most likely competitors from Apple- the generic earbud which still ships with the iPod Shuffle, the new $30 EarPods, and the most similar product to the WangBuds -- the $79 Apple in-ear headphones. The same test track suite we used in the review of the comparatively enormous Geneva Model M iOS device dock is in play here. We used a variety of musical styles and compositions including classical, modern rock, classic rock, adult contemporary, rap, heavy metal, and dubstep. All tracks were ripped from an original CD, at four different bitrates: 128kbit MP3 using iTunes 10.6.3, average 256kbit AAC VBR with Max 0.9.1, 256kbit AAC with iTunes 10.6.3, and Apple lossless with iTunes 10.6.3.
Simply, everything sounded much better than the "default" original earbuds, and the Apple in-ear headphones and WangBuds delivered sharper highs and deeper bass than the Apple EarPods. The WangBuds, with the ear canal air chamber deliver a better "throbby" bass than the Apple in-ear set, but the Apple set's treble response seemed a little cleaner. Out of curiosity, we removed the silicon channel to see if the bass response remained excellent. While it crushed Apple's earbuds in bass response, it was closer to the EarPod's performance. Interestingly, the treble smoothed out a bit, and both bass and treble became nearly indistinguishable to the silicone-lined Apple in-ear headphones.
The Fanny Wang set is for listening, and not for multitasking with driving or anything else that requires audio cues external to the music. The silicon ear liner on the Apple in-ear set and Fanny Wang pair blocks out a great deal of exterior noise. The WangBud with silicone insert lets nearly no external noise through, which is outstanding for listening, but terrible for multitasking. Depending on the listener's use patterns, the lack of leakage can be either a feature or a flaw.
Once upon a time, the white cable extruding from a listener's skulls was a sign of belonging to the Apple club, with either an iPod or iPhone. This trend has reduced somewhat, as the market has matured, and the listening quality of the default earbuds was less and less acceptable with higher bitrate music. Belonging to the Fanny Wang club is clearer, as the bud's large drivers are significantly larger than the original Apple buds and do extend outside the ears of the listener. We had no problems with fit of the earbuds, but listeners with shallower ears may have a problem with the weight of the well-insulated cable and remote weighing down the earbud just enough to drag it out.
All in all, the WangBud is a hybrid product -- it's an earbud, with additional technological measures to enhance bass from what has to be, by necessity, a small woofer. The buds are about the maximum size they can be without serious issues related to size, and are an excellent tradeoff between size and audio quality. It is a better product than the identically priced Apple in-ear headphones, destroys the original earbud, and is notably better in sound quality than the new EarPods. Where the EarPod competes is in price -- at $30, it is half the price of the WangBud, and you get what we view as about 70 percent of the bass response, which is what the WangBud excels at. If bass is what your music demands and what you crave, pay the premium for the WangBud.
Until September 30th, 2012, you can enter to win a set of Wang Buds from MacNN, click here to find out how.