Just try wearing a set of Outi earphones without laughing. Go ahead we dare you. We double dare you! Why? Because these unique ‘phones clip on to the outside of your ears and transmit sounds via vibrations through your skin and cartilage, buzzing and tickling until you’re grinning from lobe to lobe – whether you want to be or not.
As an Outi novice I initially felt discombobulated and then sent into hysterical laughter by the velvety buzzsaw sensation that pulsed from my earlobes and into my cerebellum. When Zelco Industries boasts that Outi “doesn’t just let you listen to the music but let’s you feel every beat of it,” that isn’t just idle marketing hype, it’s a warning. Don’t turn these things up too high the first time you listen to them, the bass will kick you right in the cochlea. And not in a good way.
While the clip-ons are surprisingly comfortable compared to in-the-ear speakers, overall accurate sound reproduction is ultimately sacrificed for that comfort. When we turned up the bass-heavy dance music, it was heavily distorted when played at the maximum level of sound pressure. Classical tunes had the subtlety of a Kazoo band. But at lower levels watching videos on an mp3 player and listening to Podcasts sounded fantastic, with little in the way of distortion. And unlike most other earbuds (like the white bastions of crapulence found tethered to most iPods) I could actually wear a set of Outis for long periods of time without any discomfort. Sure, the initial vibration sensation is a little weird, but after a while you get used to it and conventional cans almost seem like they were fashioned in the stone age.