Digital Designs DXB-01 Earbuds
(4.0 star rating)
There is no shortage of in-ear headphones or earbuds available on the market today. With the explosion in popularity of the iPod and other MP3 players, the earbuds market has similarly expanded to offer literally dozens of choices in the sub-$100 price range. How do you stand out in such a crowded arena?
Digital Designs has tried to differentiate its DXB-01 earbuds model by placing an emphasis on high-quality sound at an internet direct value price of $59 USD, with a key feature of DIY customizable sound using tunable bass response settings. This is the first set of earbuds on the market which offers such a feature. How do they sound? Tune in today to hear our take on the DXB-01s.
Upon opening the box and first examining the DXB-01s, the design looks to be very similar to other earbud offerings on the market. The black casing is highlighted by a silver accents, with the ‘DD’ company logo and a ‘R’ or ‘L’ notation embossed on each of the earbuds. The black and silver styling is much more subdued than many other earbud styles – there are no bright colors at all that will jump out at you. This fits with my personal tastes and I really like the laid back color choices.
The black rubber ear tips can be removed and replaced by either smaller or larger ear tips (supplied in the box). Each earbud incorporates a 9mm driver in an aluminum housing, which was purposefully chosen by the product designers to “expand and extend the low frequency response for those who really like their bass.” Neodymium magnets make up the rest of the components used to build the earbuds, and a thin cord in a respectable 4’ (1.22m) length rounds out the basics of the design.
The real unique feature of the DXB-01s becomes apparent only once you remove the rubber ear tips. After removing the ear tip, the vented chambers are exposed. What are these vents, you ask? In a nutshell, they act as “ports” in the acoustical chamber of the earbuds. Think of them in the same way as ports that you would typically see in a subwoofer enclosure. Opening the ports will result in more powerful bass response, while closing the ports will result in “tighter” sounding bass that is less forceful.
|DXB-01 Box||Box Contents||Overhead Closeup View|
- Type: Wide bandwidth 9mm Open Air Dynamic Element
- Impedance: 16 Ohm
- Magnet: NdFeB (neodymium iron boron) Film
- Thickness: 6u
- SPL: 93dB
- Maximum Input: 10mW
- Plug: 1/8 in. (3.5mm) din plug (NI-Plated)
- Cord Length: 4' (1.22m)
- Total Weight: .65oz (18g)
- Ear Canal Volumetric Diabolic Pressure: 47.65 FgNewton Bars
- New Generation iPod, iPhone Compatible
- 1-year warranty
In the Box
The test unit came in black and included the following:
- DXB-01 earbuds
- Hard carrying pouch
- S/M/L ear-tip pieces
- Two strips of adhesive-backed foam tape
|Hard Cover Carrying Case||Eartip removed, vents open|
Sound Quality Performance Testing
The sound quality performance evaluation of the DXB-01s was performed by listening to MP3s and FLAC music stored on my Sansa Fuze MP3 player. I listened to a number of MP3 songs with bit rates of 128kbps and 320kbps, as well as lossless audio tracks in FLAC format. As in all of my audio evaluations, a wide selection of classical, rock, alternative and hip-hop music was used in the testing.
First Round of Testing
Out of the box the DXB-01s are shipped with all vents open. All of my first set of listening tests were performed with this configuration.
The first impressions after listening to a wide variety of music revealed that the DXB-01s have a clean, detailed representation of the high-end frequencies with good quality tonal balance. The earbuds did a nice job with all rock and hip-hop, with a clear separation of the musical instrumentation, but with classical and some alternative songs I found the mid-bass and lower frequencies to be muddy sounding. The mid-bass intruded on the vocals in many songs and I did not hear the crispness that I am accustomed to hearing with other earbuds and speakers. The bass was certainly impactful and filled my ears with low-end rumble – and there is no doubt that low-end aficionados will enjoy listening to their beats with the DXB-01s. For my money, though, I expect more.
Second Round of Testing
My next round of testing was performed after I had applied the foam tape over the vented chambers. This effectively seals off all of the vented chambers and produces a sealed enclosure.
After about 20 seconds of listening to music with the vents sealed, my reaction was pure and simple “Ahhh – now that is much better.” I still enjoyed the smooth top-end produced by the earbuds, and now I was also able to take pleasure in tight, well-defined bass notes that didn’t encroach on the rest of the music. The mid-bass frequencies blended well with the vocals and I could really sit back and enjoy the whole frequency curve produced by the earbuds. The bass was not as pronounced as before, but I honestly did not miss it at all. The bass was now produced as cleanly as the higher priced Audio-Technica ATH-CKM50A in-ear headphones.
The one drawback I found while testing – which is common to many other earbuds on the market – is that the sound quality suffered if the earbuds were jostled around. I did some jogging while listening to music with the DXB-01s and found that the sound quality – and especially the low-end frequencies – were very much dependent upon a tight seal of the ear tips placed within your ears. I noticed this more after I had covered the vented chambers for my second round of testing.
|Foam Tape||Foam tape applied, vents closed|
Overall, these earbuds are as comfortable to use as any other earbuds that I have tested. The rubber ear tips need to be placed firmly within your ears to stay in place, but I was able to listen for 1+ hour extended listening sessions without any discomfort. However, as noted above, if the ear tips become slightly dislodged while you are exercising, or if you don’t get them placed fully inside your ear canal, you will quickly notice the degradation in sound quality.
The DXB-01s are easily transported in the included hard-cover carrying case. This is a nice touch and a welcome departure from the usual soft-case that is included with earbuds. I felt confident that no damage would befall the earbuds as they were safely stored in the hard-cover case. The only difficulty with transport is the thin 4’ cord which easily becomes tangled, so be sure to carefully wrap it up before taking the earbuds with you.
Digital Designs DXB-01 Earbuds
With the DXB-01 earbuds, Digital Designs has really stood out in an overly crowded earbuds/in-ear headphones market. The vented chamber design is one of a kind, and although it takes a bit of “DIY” effort to cover the vents, it offers a flexibility in frequency response that goes well beyond the normal EQ-curve adjustments used in MP3 players. While I wasn’t entirely pleased with the out-of-the-box sound, I was completely happy with the sound quality once I had applied the foam-backed tape over the vents.
A few nitpicks of a too-short 4’ cord, no user guide for applying the foam-backed tape and fickle in-ear placement are the only complaints that I have. A reasonable $59 price and an included hard-cover case, along with their impressive sound quality, make the DXB-01s a no-brainer choice for a new set of earbuds.
Pros: Excellent sound quality with vents closed, hard-cover case makes it safe to transport, very reasonably priced.
Cons: Sound quality is dependent upon in-ear placement, no user guide, 4’ cord is a bit short for my taste.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5