Blockade noise isolating earbuds: Review round-up

Woot's offering two pairs of Blockade Noise Isolating Earbuds for $14.99. Should you jump on it?

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    The Blockade Noise Isolating Earbuds come with three sets of replacement tips each, and a snazzy carrying case, but how do they stack up?
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Nothing says "I value my hearing" like bright yellow earbuds.

But how do these "industrial quality" noise-blocking cans stack up to their higher-priced cousins? Before you pull the trigger on today's Woot, have a look at what folks are saying about them.

Noise canceling, or noise isolating?

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There's a difference. These come with a triple-flange noise-isolating system – essentially rubber tips you jam in your ear canal to block out other noise. There's no electronics inside, covering up outside noise with white noise. Suffice it to say, the experience of wearing these versus something from, say, the Bose QuietComfort line is going to be very different.

The benefit of noise-isolating over noise-canceling, according to Woot forum poster "winafew," is that they don't require batteries, and block a wider range of frequencies.

Safety first

AO Safety's Blockade 'buds not only block out 24 decibels of noise, they also have a hearing-saving volume limiter. Try to crank your Crunk past 91 decibels, and the Blockades won't budge – their inline volume controller keep things at a mild roar. Everyone, including The Who's Pete Townshend, thinks that's a good idea.

Walking, talking, running, riding

One of the most in-depth reviews of these out there is on motorcycling enthusiast site webBikeWorld. It focuses on their performance when on a hog – Honda or Harley, it doesn't discriminate – and for 15 bucks, they're hard to beat. When talking about sound quality, reviewer "Glenn W." points out that, when at speed on a motorcycle, wind noise drowns out so much of your hearing that sound quality is difficult to measure, but these do as good a job as any.

But most Wooters won't be using them while astride a bike – and for a little perspective on how they sound, we head to Macworld. Reviewer Tony Silva writes:

There’s nothing objectionable about the Blockade’s sound quality—it’s about what someone who’s never heard a good set of headphones might expect. But while the midrange frequencies are balanced, they’re also muted and distant, and the highs and lows both taper off significantly.

And the kicker: "Apple’s stock earbuds produce better overall sound, just without the Blockade’s noise isolation."

Should you Woot? At $19.99 shipped for two, it seems like a bargain, but serious audiophiles should probably move along.

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