Review: RF3 ENVi Natural Wood headphones | webOS Nation

Review: RF3 ENVi Natural Wood headphones 6

by Jonathan I Ezor#IM Sun, 15 Jan 2012 3:39 pm EST

While webOS devices do a great job supporting Bluetooth audio, there are times when you may want to go wired rather than wireless, especially if you're at all concerned about exposure to electromagnetic fields. The RF3 ENVi Natural Wood Stereo Earbuds with Earhooks, available from the webOS Nation Accessory Store (from which I received a complimentary pair for this review), have a few unique features that set them apart from other wired audio choices.

First, the basics: The ENVi earbuds do a decent job of noise isolation (not cancellation, though), with a variety of rubber tips to allow the best possible fit for different ear sizes. Although the buds themselves do not always feel solidly seated on their own, the unexpectedly comfortable wire earhooks (which can be turned and bent) help support the ENVi earbuds and keep them in place. For telephone calls, the ENVi offers an in-line microphone along one of the two earbud wires; it is usable but not ideal either in placement or quality. The microphone also doubles as a squeeze control for pausing/resuming music that works with webOS. The overall look is minimalist and industrial, combining angles and curves in a pleasing (to me, at least) way. As the ENVi is unpowered, it does not require charging or separate battery, nor does it offer any independent amplification of the sound it is carrying.

What makes the ENVi earbuds unusual, particularly given the industrial aesthetic, is that they do not transmit the electronic audio signal directly into the earbuds themselves, as do almost every other wired and wireless headphones. Instead, the signal is played through an actual (tiny) wood speaker (a bead on the wires), and then conveyed through air channels embedded in the wires to the earbuds, also made of natural wood. The sound quality is good, although any benefit from the design is minimal at best. The separation between electronic signal and earbuds, though, does mean that less EM radiation is present in and around the listener's ears (and the brain between them, of course).

In an informal test of sound quality on the Pre3 running Music Player Remix, listening to a classical piano piece and some classic rock, the ENVi earbuds delivered decent range, although the bass was a bit sparse on the rock song. Not surprisingly, the sound from both songs was much richer when listening through a pair of AblePlanet over-the-ear noise cancelling headphones, both with and without the noise cancelling and amplification turned on. That said, the ENVi certainly delivered adequate sound, and the tight fit helped block out external noise.

Whether the ENVi earbuds are a good choice for you, and worth the premium over more typical, generic earbuds, will entirely depend on how much you value the aesthetics and reduced EM radiation they offer. If you like the look and appreciate the technology, they are definitely worth considering.