I have to admit that I’m something of a snob when it comes to earphones. I’m a firm believer that good sound quality is worth paying for, and that there’s no point having a high quality digital music player, if you’re going to plug substandard earphones into it.
However, a great set of earphones for commuting or sitting at your desk doesn’t necessarily equate to a great set of earphones for use while exercising. When you’re pounding a treadmill or running around the park, comfort, fit and general robustness can be just as important as overall sound quality.
Today I’m looking at the Radiopaq Flex earphones, which are designed for use while training. They’re supposed to be comfortable, secure and well endowed in the fidelity stakes too. Those are some bold claims for a set of earphones that cost under £25, so let’s see if they can live up to the hype.
What’s in the box?
Not a lot. In fact, you could argue that the question should be what’s not in the box? What you do get is the Flex earphones themselves, with a fairly short cable, along with another cable that extends the overall length to around 1.2m. I do like having a short initial cable, since it means you can carry your music player in a shirt pocked, or on an armband without a mass of cable flapping around your chest.
You also get three sizes of silicone tips in the box, so you should be able to find a good fit. And that’s it. There’s no carry pouch, no foam tips, no full size plug adapter, no aeroplane adapter and no little tool for digging out earwax. But really, what do you do you expect for £25?
In use
Of course the lack of accessories in the box could be forgiven if the Radiopaq Flex earphones made up for it in other ways, and the good news is that they do just that. Many earphones claim to be designed for use during active and aggressive exercise, but they don’t always live up to the bold marketing claims. However, with the Flex range, Radiopaq has designed a set of earphones that not only copes with the stresses of gym use, but actually revels in it.
I have used these earphones while on a treadmill, on a rowing machine, running in the park, riding a stationary bike and on a cross trainer. Not once has either earphone come loose in my ear, no matter how strenuous things get. They’re not just secure either, they’re also extremely comfortable, even after extended use.
Radiopaq has designed the Flex earphones so that there’s virtually no pull on the earphone itself. Rather than having a loose cable running from the earphone, the Flex has a flexible (see what they’ve done there?) rubber section that’s designed to run up and over your ear. This means that if you do tug on the cable, it will simply pull at the top of your ear, rather than pull the earphone out.
The silicone tips are very comfortable and create a good seal, which helps with the noise isolation. I found that the medium size tips that come attached to the earphones in the box were a perfect fit. I do still prefer foam tips, like the ones that Shure uses, but the Radiopaq silicone options worked well, even when my ears got a bit sweaty.
The cabling isn’t too thick, but it seems robust enough. The cabling doesn’t seem to get too tangled either, which is good considering that you don’t get a carry pouch. The Radiopaqs don’t suffer too much from cable slap, and tend to stay put once you’ve routed the cabling under your shirt.
Hands Free
Like many sets of earphones these days, the Radiopaq Flex earphones are compatible with the iPhone and iPod range. This means that you have an inline remote control that offers play/stop button and volume control. Double clicking the play/stop button will also skip to the next track.
There’s also an inline microphone so that you can use the Radiopaqs as a hands-free system for your iPhone. When the phone rings the music will stop, then a press of the play/stop button will answer the call. Pressing the button again will end the call.
I tried plugging the Flexs into my HTC Desire android handset, and although the play/stop button worked as expected, the volume buttons didn’t. Also, double pressing the play/stop button resulted in my phone calling the last dialled number. To be fair, the Flexs are only compatible with the iPhone, so I wasn’t really expecting the controls to work at all.
Call quality when using the Flexs as a hands free system is extremely good. Everyone I spoke to when using the Flexs said that they had no idea I was using a hands-free device, so the microphone is clearly doing a good job.
Sound quality
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to earphones, so I really wasn’t very expecting very much from the Radiopaq Flexs when it came to sound quality. However, when I plugged these earphones in I found myself pleasantly surprised.
Despite the sub £25 price point, the Flexs sound pretty damn good. I’m not saying that I’d trade in my Shure SE530s for them, but I’m very impressed by what Radiopaq has achieved at such a low price point. The Flexs would definitely be an improvement over pretty much any earphones that come bundled with a player, including the awful Apple earbuds.
The sound from the Flexs is very full and loud, with rich deep bass. In all honesty there’s a bit too much low frequency bias for my liking, and there’s a distinct lack of high end clarity, but for the most part the sound is good, and definitely suited to the kind of music I’d be listening to in the gym.
The other nice thing about having a slightly bass heavy sound is that you can block out the awful music that they seem to play in every gym without having to crank your volume up too high.
The Flexs are definitely more suited to R&B than acoustic fare, but to be honest, I don’t tend to favour a delicate sound while I’m training. Rock comes through pretty well too, with Foo Fighters in particular sounding loud and urgent, giving you exactly the kind of motivation you need when running, rowing, climbing etc.
Conclusion
Radiopaq has done a surprisingly good job with the Flex earphones when you consider the very affordable price point. You don’t get much in the way of bundled kit, but Radiopaq has concentrated on the important stuff instead – great usability and decent sound quality.
There are definitely earphones out there that sound better, but for under £25, the sound quality from the Flexs is as good as anything out there. But it’s the way the Flexs fit that really won me over. They’re comfortable in the ear and the rubber section that wraps around your ear and keeps the whole thing in place just works perfectly.
If you’re looking for a set of earphones for the gym, or running sessions in the park, you’d be hard pushed to find a better option than the Radiopaq Flexs at this kind of price. The added iPhone headset compatibility is just the icing on the cake.
Pros:
  • Very comfortable
  • Extremely secure when training
  • Good sound quality
  • Great price
  • Hands free functionality
Cons:
  • Some may find the sound a bit bass heavy
  • A carry pouch would have been nice
Manufacturer: Radiopaq
MSRP: £24.99