Review: Happy Plugs Earbud Leopard

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 11 August 2015
Category: Reviews Comments View Comments


Happy Plugs is a Swedish company that describes itself as a fashion house, not a tech company, but it seems to be trying very hard to ensure that its products' performance is as notable as their aesthetics. Happy Plugs Earbud Leopard earphones are part of a range of audio devices that the company produces.

Review: Happy Plugs Earbud Leopard

It has been a long time since I've tested earbuds as, years ago, I began to favour both headphones and in-ear earbuds but due to a misunderstanding (or an intentional disregard for my request) on the part of Gammatek, the South African distributor of the brand, I was sent Happy Plugs Earbud Leopard earphones to test instead of Happy Plugs In-Ear earbuds.

Though aesthetically not for everyone, the Happy Plugs Earbud Leopard earphones are an interesting alternative for people who don't like in-ear earbuds or headphones. Who are those people? Who knows. Maybe they work in offices or travel on public transport where it's preferable not to have one of your senses sealed off from the world.

You can see exactly these earphones are named Leopard by looking at the photograph below, although I kept calling it "jungle" by accident (much of a muchness, really). Thankfully colour has no impact on performance as I am definitely not the target market for this particular design. There is a vast selection of options in the range - everything from Camouflage to Red, Blue, Black, and Rainbow, and fashionable Rose Gold - so there is something to suit most people.

If you're buying earphones for a fashion statement it's unlikely you'll be reading this review but what's more important to everyone else is performance and comfort.

Review: Happy Plugs Earbud LeopardI'll start with comfort. The buds are plastic and a fixed size, with no foam buffer, and I found that they didn't fit my ears properly, which began to hurt after about 20 minutes of use. Even so the buds managed to stay in my ears even when I shook my head vigorously a few times (I had no intention of going jogging to see if they would stay in), which is better than many earphones that tend to fall out after a while even when you haven't been moving at all.

As for performance, because they are earphones that sit outside the ear canal in the outer ear there's no isolation and ambient noise causes disruption to the audio and degrades the listening experience. However, in a quiet space the quality improves slightly, although the lack of canal isolation with a proper seal means that, for example, a 500 Hz (medium pitch) tone sounds much louder than a 50&Hz (bass) tone that is played simultaneously, even though they are corrected to the same level. The result is that everything you listen to will sound a bit flat and will be lacking strong bass.

My testing with a range of specific tones resulted in the following experience:

16 Hz and 20 Hz: If I pushed the earphones against my ears I could hear the vibration but not the audio.

25 Hz: If I pushed the earphones against my ears I could just hear the tone under the vibration.

31.5 Hz: Wearing the earphones normally, I could just hear the tone.

40 Hz: The tone was soft but clear.

800 Hz, 1.6 kHz, 2 kHz: I could hear the tone loudly and clearly.

2.5 kHz, 3.15 kHz, 4 kHz: I could hear the tone very loudly and clearly.

8 kHz: The tone was a little distorted.

12.5 kHz: The tone was softer but clear.

16 kHz: This is slightly above my hearing range but I can usually feel the audio. In this case I couldn't. I'm not sure that the earphones could reproduce this tone, even though the company claims that the range it supports is 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

1 kHz -60 dBFS: This tone reproduced very well.

Music: All sounds are a bit flat due to a lack of a proper seal reducing the impact of the bass tones. Treble notes sound a bit flat in some tracks but crisp in others so there's no consistency to what to expect. Nevertheless the quality is pretty good on average, although some tones are lacking clarity and there's less audio separation than I would have liked.

The earphones feature a one-button control that sits quite high up on the right-hand cord. It's designed to work with newer phones and iPods to switch between talking on the phone (there's also a microphone) and listening to music, as well as to control music and video playback on iPods, iPhones, and iPads. I didn't have a suitable device to test it with but it did launch iTunes when I had the earphones plugged into a Mac.

Review: Happy Plugs Earbud Leopard

I can't comment on long-term durability as I was only given a few weeks to test these earbuds (this is unusual as reviewers usually get to keep earphones due to hygiene reasons) and potential problems such as the internal wires degrading and snapping only manifest after a few months. The fabric cord did seem a lot more flexible than a plastic one would be and I have found in the past that fabric cords seem to be more durable but that's as much as I can offer on the subject. The connector was gold plated, which means it's also more durable.

The earphones ship in a plastic carry case that is meant to be kept, not thrown out, so that you have a dust-free storage container. The package includes a plastic inset that is just to display the earphones aesthetically for retail, which you can throw away (and therefore I wish it had been made of cardboard), and a small multi-language reference guide to operating the earphones.

Although the buds were designed in Sweden they were manufactured in China, with a recommended retail price in South Africa of R349 for all the options in the range. That had no bearing on my overall evaluation but does give you an idea of value for money (so-so).

Earbuds are never going to be more than adequate but the quality of the Happy Plugs Earbud Leopard was surprisingly good, all things considered, and better than I was expecting.

The review unit was provided by Gammatek, which distributes the brand in South Africa, and was returned after a short-term evaluation period.

Tags: #technology Opinion
Rating: 6/10

On The Internet
Happy Plugs Earbud: Official Site

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