Review: Griffin TuneBuds Mobile & SmartTalk

Griffin recently upgraded its TuneBuds Mobile and SmartTalk iPhone and iPod audio solutions. The former is a stereo headset, while the latter is an adapter that turns any headphone into a headset.

Both have been updated with the same new and improved in-line, noise-canceling microphone, and they're compatible with the iPhone, iPod nano 4G, iPod touch 2G and iPod classic 120GB.

A ControlMic button allows users to Play, Pause and Skip music. Press the button once to pause, twice to skip forward a track and three times to skip back a track. You can also use this button to answer calls or send them to voicemail.

Just about the only thing missing from these peripherals is a built-in volume control. You have to adjust volume on the iPhone itself, either on the screen or through the switch on the left side of the Apple smartphone. It would be nice not to have to fumble for your iPhone to increase the volume when driving, for instance.

TuneBuds (left) features washable ear cushions in a three sizes—small, medium and large. You pick the one that's most comfortable for you. We liked the middle-sized ear cushion. If you, like us, have allergies or simply build up a lot of earwax naturally, you'll find the ability to clean this rubberized buds quite convenient and useful.

As Griffin points out, the buds conform to the ear and isolate sound; they do it quite well, actually. It's like you're listening to music while surrounded by a layer of water filtering out the sounds of the outside world. Not bad.

Our one concern regarding the buds is how they muffle sounds a little too well sometimes. This is fine when listening to music but could prove a little dangerous when driving.

One solution to this problem, we found, was to not stick them in as far as they can go, so that you leave the buds sitting in the ear canal a little looser than when, say, at home or in a Panera Bread Company listening to a podcast or music. Surprisingly, they did not fall out when we tried this simple workaround.


Both TuneBuds and SmartTalk's (bottom right) cords are made of durable nylon braiding that, as advertised, provide tangle resistant; a godsend to those of us who carry several cords with us on a daily basis. They also seem a lot more durable than cord to the headset that's bundled with the iPhone and various iPods.


To use TuneBuds or SmartTalk for recording purposes on the iPhone or iPod touch 2G, you can download and install Giffin's easy-to-use, iTalk application from the iTunes App Store. The company recommends you do that, actually; although it also says they should work with similar apps from other developers. Griffin does not specify which ones these might be, though. So it's all a matter of trial and error.

Griffin offers a version of iTalk for the Mac or PC that allows you to sync voice notes (over Wi-Fi even) from your iPhone or iPod and organize them on your computer. The Windows version of iTalk didn't work with the 64-bit edition of Windows Vista on our laptop at the time of writing. Griffin's since posted an updated edition that does support this version of Windows, though. You can download it here.

Phillip L. Graitcer reviewed iTalk for us a few weeks ago. Check out what he had to say about it here.

To record with the iPod nano 4G or iPod Classic 120GB you have to use Apple's pre-installed Voice Memo application. After connecting either SmartTalk or TuneBuds to your iPod, launch Voice Memo to begin recording. It's as simple as that. Press the ControlMic mic buttton once to start or stop the process.

TuneBuds Mobile ($39.99) is a good alternative to the iPhone and iPod’s bundled headphones and headsets, but only for those who don't mind earbud-style headphones. It doubles nicely as a noise filter. SmartTalk ($19.99), on the other hand, is an excellent choice for those who have a favorite set of headphones they'd like to convert into a capable headset.


iPhone, ipod touch, peripheral, headset