If you use an iPod, one strategy for getting more accurate sound from the Smokin Buds is to go into the iPod’s EQ setting menu and to engage the “Bass Reducer” function. This adjustment effectively pulls the response curve of the Smokin Buds back toward sonic neutrality, making it much easier to hear midrange details and to use and enjoy all of the treble response that’s available.
Noise isolation: the Smokin’ Buds come with three size of soft rubber eartips that, in my experience, proved easy to fit, enabling me to achieve a good, comfortable airtight seal in my ear canals. The Smokin Buds do a very good job of blocking out ambient noise.
The track “Root Beer” from Thomas Newman’s soundtrack for the film American Beauty at once shows off the strengths and weaknesses of the Smokin’ Buds. The song opens with a potpourri of high percussion instruments (gongs, cymbals, chimes, supported—believe it or not—by a whoopee-whistle), and then grabs the listener’s attention with a deep and fairly loud plunging synth bass line. When heard through stock earbuds, the track frankly sounds disappointing if not downright lame; you’ll mostly thin-sounding mids with limited highs and anemic bass. Switch to the Smokin Buds, however, and the sound immediately improves. Mids smooth out and become clearer, while the bass line becomes dramatically more powerful.
Even so, the balance you’ll hear with the Smokin Buds is not quite right. The shimmer and sparkle of those initial percussion sounds seems unnaturally muted, almost as though someone had thrown a thin, damp cloth over the instruments, dulling their sound. And, while the bass line is closer to being right with the Skullcandy’s than with the stock earbuds, it comes across as being over-the-top loud and a bit out of control—meaning you’ve crossed the line from not enough bass (the sound of the stock iPods) to a bit too much (the sound of the Smokin Buds).
We would prefer listening to the Smokin Buds to stock earbuds any day, but the fact is that for just a little more money you could have Skullcandy’s terrific Titans, which are among the finest budget-priced earphones we’ve ever heard.
Hint: As above, let us mention that iPod users can get much more accurate sound from the Smokin Buds by turning on the iPod’s “Bass Reducer” setting. On the track above, for examples, this leaves you with plenty of bass power, yet relieves the problem of occasionally oppressive, over-the-top bass.
for this section of the review, I will compare the Smokin Buds both to a comparably priced solution (the Yurtopia Yurphones recently reviewed in Playback) and to a more expensive solution (the Skullcandy Titans).
Smokin Buds vs. Yurtopia Yurphoness
Smokin’ Buds vs. Titans