Despite appearances to the contrary, a good, rugged headphone is like an excellent gymnast. It needs to stick the landing. More accurately, it needs to stick on the ears without compromising fit and comfort. It’s certainly an ideal that BlueAnt tires to strive for with its Pump HD active earphones. Just how well BlueAnt manages to deliver on that ideal largely depends on the Pump HD’s execution, of course, so let's take a closer look, shall we?
As someone who has a love-hate relationship with earbud-style headphones, I find BlueAnt’s approach to be intriguing. Barring exceptions such as the RHA MA150, I’m actually one of those guys who has a hard time keeping earbuds in place during heavy activity. Instead, I typically have more luck in terms of fit with earbuds that come with gimmicks — mainly headphones like the Jabra Vox, I-MEGO ZTONE or the eminently stick Yurbuds.
For its part, the BlueAnt Pump HD uses a U-shaped design that fits the curves of the human ear. It looks a bit daunting at first but it’s actually quite easy to put on. All you need to do is tilt it forward before putting it around your ears then twist it back to get it in place. Once fitted, the earphones are quite secure. You can head bang like Animal from the Muppets and the Pump HD still stays in place.
Despite the wire that connects both of the earpieces together, The Pump HD is actually a wireless headphone because it doesn’t link to your MP3 player via a wired connection. Instead, it uses the Bluetooth 2.1 standard to hook wirelessly with a compatible device such as the iPhone, iPad or iPod. Take a close look at the side of the piece that usually goes on your right ear and you’ll also see controls that are full compatible with Apple’s line of devices, including playing, pausing and skipping tracks as well as controlling volume. This means you can walk around your house while leaving the iPad on the kitchen table or jog with your iPhone in tow. For folks who like using their iPhone while exercising, the Pump HD can be used to take incoming calls with a press of a button while a built-in mic allows you to chat with your caller without skipping a beat.
Audio quality, meanwhile, is quite good even on the iPhone’s stock music players. Some headphones, for example, suffer form a distinct lack of low-end thump when used without an equalizer on the iPhone but the Pump HD has plenty of bass to spare. In fact, it might have a bit too much bass as it can sound a tad muffled as is. Using an EQ app, however, tames that low end and allows you to get nice, dynamic sound on the device with ample power. Add a bit of noise isolation when you get a tight seal with your ear and the Pump HD delivers really good audio. To help you get that tight seal, the headphone also throws in several buds in various sizes as well as optional stabilizers that further enhance its grip on your ears. Play time can go up to eight hours on a two-hour charge, making it ideal for extended activity outdoors. It’s also waterproof and can be washed under the tap, especially after a sweaty workout that makes you look like you just stepped out of a Turkish bath.
Admittedly, BlueAnt’s Pump HD is not without its issues. While it does a good job staying in place, you can still get a bit of movement while it rests on your ears. This can lead to an annoying thumping sound during jogging as your feet make impact with the ground. Also, while it is waterproof, the limits of Bluetooth technology mean that you won’t get any audio underwater. Instead, it's more of an extra feature for added survivability if you find yourself caught in the rain or subjected to an unintended dunking in water. The controls also take a bit of getting used and aren’t as conducive to operation while on the move. Lastly, the Pump HD isn’t cheap at $130.
Overall, though, stickability and nice audio quality once fine-tuned make the device a solid option for active users. If you’re looking for a better fitting pair of buds that can survive a lot of abuse, the BlueAnt Pump HD is certainly worth giving a look.
Final rating: 4 stars out of 5
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