Rolling Stone online features earHero earphones

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A new breed of tiny earbud headphones aims to let listeners enjoy music without shutting out the sounds of everyday life. Unlike standard cans, which can prevent listeners from hearing blaring horns or sirens, earHero units purport to pipe songs through loud and clear without compromising owners' situational awareness.

Built for bikers, skiers and runners and based on technology developed for government security professionals, manufacturer earHero claims that the $149 units make enjoying audio on the go "safe, comfortable and clear." By offering pint-sized units that, unlike conventional models, don't fully block the ear canal, the company says its creations still allow owners the flexibility to hear immediate surroundings, including people talking or the sound of onrushing dangers. Compatible with any portable media playing device with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, the designers claim their earpieces prevent "ear fatigue" and offer the freedom to talk on the phone or conduct conversations while listening. (Whether or not audio quality is any good, or whether others may unintentionally pick up the sounds emanating from your head, has yet to be confirmed.)

Built by clinical audiologist Matt Murphy, the earHero (designed for use by commercial security agencies) utilize miniature speakers, with outer-ear retention locks provided to keep units in place. Once inserted in the ear canal, he says, the "the device is very low-profile, very comfortable to wear. You can listen to your music, your phone… and you can hear everything else that's going on around you." Succeed or fail, given their miniscule footprint and covert nature, the earbuds should, at very least, provide students looking to slack off in class with a subtle new option.

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