SEATTLE, Oct. 30, 2015 — There’s always a niche to be filled in just about every kind of product line. Tough Tested saw a niche in the earbud market that wasn’t being adequately served: the “working man” demographic. With so many people tied to personal devices such as cell phones for both communication and entertainment needs, the sales of earbuds have skyrocketed over the past decade. However, most of the earbuds available are essentially “disposable,” thanks to tough environments of those who do more blue-collar kinds of jobs.
Tough Tested produces four different earbuds that are ideally suited for different environments.
Driver Model – $39: This is a mono earbud that’s aimed at truck drivers, but it makes a great piece for regular drivers as well. Although there are plenty of bluetooth earbuds available on the market, most of them provide dismal audio quality for both the person using it and the person on the other end of the call. A hard-wired earbud like this can make all the difference. It has a 360-degree microphone so it easily picks up your voice, and its built-in noise cancelling helps keep out unwanted background noises.
Its foam surround makes wearing it very comfortable, even on those long hauls. Additionally, its tangle-free cord and in-line adjustable volume come in very handy.
Ranger – $49: We’re not sure why Tough Tested picked the name of Ranger, a name that makes one think of some dude in the woods with a bow and arrow or an Army Ranger. It’s designed for the “active lifestyle,” and you can think of this as a unit for those who enjoy running, hiking or anything outdoors that doesn’t involve a lot of water. Like all of the other units in this review, the Ranger model is outfitted with Kevlar-coated, tangle-free cords and a “Halo 360” mic and is certified to be resistant to sweat, dust and water.
The silicon fins on each earbud help with removing them after use, but they look a bit odd.
Jobsite – $69: These earbuds are very much intended for the construction worker, loud sporting events such as racing or other areas where hearing protection would be necessary. These are the heavy-duty bad boys that use supports to wrap around each ear to help keep them in place. This model uses Tough Tested’s “EQ-Voice,” a technology inside its control module that will boost certain frequencies to help you hear things better. There’s a music mode, call mode and overall volume boost. The best way to think of it is as a loudness feature that targets certain mid-range frequencies to help you hear better in hard-to-hear environments.
Marine – $79: Rather self-explanatory here. These are the only units available that are rated as waterproof rather than simply water-resistant. Here’s the model to snag whether you enjoy life on the open water or simply work in almost any kind of environment where there is a lot of water. Like the Jobsite model, the Marine uses EQ-Voice to help you hear better while on the water.
Conclusions: It’s clear that Tough Tested has done an admirable job of targeting key demographics with well thought-out designs that work great. It’s unclear, however, why the sound quality isn’t as good as it should be on the earbud models. The Driver mono earbud is great, but the Ranger, Marine and even Jobsite lack the kind of audio precision we’d like to see in their respective price ranges.
Having said that, there are few earbuds on the market that we’re aware of which could hold up as well in the environments where these are expected to perform. In that regard, Tough Tested has done a great job. We’d love to see them develop better audio quality for music down the road, but for now, you’ll find few earbuds out there that can hold up like a pair of these will in demanding conditions.