Review: Z.buds iPhone Earbuds by ZAGG Audio

Sometimes it's easy to forget that the iPhone is capable of producing quality audio. If you're going to spend money on accessories, a headphone upgrade is essential. The stock earbuds are functional, but let's face the facts. The white plastic earbuds that everyone wears don't sound that great. They're not very comfortable to wear for long periods, and the cord gets tangled after two seconds in a jacket pocket. Getting a pair of Z.buds is like getting a whole new iPhone. Let me tell you why.

The Pyramidal Package

As soon as the Z.buds arrived I was struck by the unique packaging. ZAGG is all about innovation, and since the Z.buds have won the 2009 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Showcase award they have a box to match the product inside.

zagg z.buds iphone package front
zagg z.buds iphone package back

The plastic insert pulls out of the recyclable cardboard box. I was impressed that the Z.buds are marked RoHS compliant. For those who don't know, that means Zagg is using cutting-edge manufacturing technology to make Z.buds free of toxic chemicals and heavy metals like lead.

zagg z.buds iphone package open
Scissors are required to open the plastic part of the package. Besides the Z.buds you'll find two sizes of clear silicone ear bud adaptors, two sizes of black foam adaptors, and a set of black silicone adaptors. The smaller black foam adaptors come already attached to the Z.buds. There's also a black drawstring bag you can use for storage of the adaptors. Although it's possible, you probably won't use the bag to store the actual headphones. You will never want to take them out of your ears or unplug them from your iPhone.
zagg z.buds iphone package open

Wearing the Z.buds

At first it was awkward putting the Z.buds on. They are completely different than the stock earphones. There are three sliders on the nylon cord, and one of these must be pulled up first, then you can put your head through the hole that is created between the left and right cords. The ear buds can then be pulled up from behind your neck and into your ears. The microphone/call answer button will hang to the side almost over your shoulder.

The Z.buds are brilliant in their simplicity. Although it may feel strange to have the mic up in this position, it guarantees the mic will never be covered or blocked by a jacket, for example. The mic will also not dangle down and get in your way. When you pull the phones out of your ears they drop down to the side and are suspended by the slider behind your neck (what Zagg calls Hangin' Tight). This allows them to be easily located and re-inserted.

zagg z.buds iphone sliders

Ear Fit

I've always had difficulty with the fit and comfort of in-ear headphones. Again, the Z.buds impressed me right away. The black adaptors that came on the unit are similar to foam earplugs. Holding them in my ear for a few seconds I could hear them expanding to fit. With no music playing I realized they were actually blocking out sound much like earplugs. This makes them incredibly comfortable to wear and they actually stay put. Part of this is also because they are suspended by your neck and not hanging the full weight of the cord on your ears.

Sound Quality

Deep bass and crisp highs. No distortion at high volume. In fact, Z.buds sound like much larger headphones. Since they block out external noise your music sounds great even when walking down crowded streets or if other music is playing nearby. For the first time with in-ear headphones I'm able to focus on what I want to hear instead of other noise. One of the best features of the Z.buds is an in-line volume control. This makes it easy to change the volume without pulling out the iPhone. My only complaint is that I found the start/stop button (next to the mic) to require firm pressure to activate. This is also the answer call button, which brings us to calling on the Z.buds.

Call Quality

Even with the mic suspended up by the side of my head I was able to make and receive calls without a problem. Indoors, outdoors, and in noisy environments the person on the other end of the line was able to hear me clearly. One thing I found strange was talking with both Z.buds in my ears. The earphones are so good at blocking outside noise that it was difficult to tell how loudly I was talking. Personally, when I make phone calls (especially driving) I only use one earphone anyway. No reason to hear my caller's voice in stereo.

zagg z.buds iphone volume control

Cord Management

Besides the high quality of the earphones themselves, the cord is well-constructed and looks sharp. The Z.buds come with either red or black nylon cords. Metal sliders stay where you put them, they actually take some effort to move. I almost dropped my iPhone the day I received the Z.buds and luckily they were plugged in. I actually stopped it from hitting the floor by holding onto the Z.buds cord and the plug didn't budge. Of course I wouldn't recommend hanging your iPhone by the cord if you don't have to.

There's over three feet of cord to work with when the Z.buds are hanging around the neck. Even with all this, after throwing them into a jacket pocket the cord does not get tangled up. This feature alone makes purchasing the Z.buds worth every penny. There's a loop of string in the middle (next to the volume control) that you can use to hang on a button to keep the cord from dangling. For those like myself who think this is cord management overkill, the loop is removable by simply unscrewing a small metal cap.

zagg z.buds iphone logo


With quality construction and unique design, Z.buds have reminded me that the iPhone is a great portable music player. They are a great value for $79.99. I would expect to pay more for earphones that look, fit and sound this good.

What's even better is that Z.buds are now available at an introductory price of $64.99 directly through ZAGG's website at


Some things you missed.

I just got these and while I agree with most of your review, I think there are some other aspects of the headphones you failed to mention.

As far as sound, these are probably as good as I've ever heard coming from ear buds. However, the quality of sound is overpowered by the fact that these do act like ear plugs. As you've written it, the noise blocking "ear plug" like function is a positive thing. After wearing these for awhile, I'd have to say its not a good thing, because any cord movement (rubbing against skin or shirt) is transferred into your ears. It sounds like when you wear a stethoscope and rub the end, or if you've ever had foam earplugs in and rub the exposed end. I've never had noise-muffling earbuds, and perhaps all "ear-plug" like ear buds would cause this problem. The sound is hard to explain, but is ridiculously distracting from the music and at low volumes it can even be louder than the music. If I sit perfectly still, I have no problems. But, just moving my head left and right is enough to create this rubbing sound, and walking is even worse (sounds like a constant wind rushing past my ears). How this didn't bother you enough to mention in your review is beyond me. Just try touching the cord up by your shoulder and tell me that doesn't bother you. For sound quality this great, this is a huge distraction.

I too have trouble keeping earbuds in my ears, and these are no exception. I've had some difficulty with each of the ear pieces, but it is much easier to keep them in place with the unique over the head slider design (and all the buds are comfortable). Unfortunately, when I try to wear the cord normally, any movement pops them right out of my ears (the cord feels a little heavier than others).

As for the "in-line" volume control, well, it sort of "in-line." As seen in one of your pictures, the "in-line" volume control actually comes off an "L" in the cord. I don't know if they did this to create a better angle to grab the volume control or if the 90 degrees was required to avoid other patents. I'm guessing they just couldn't fit the screw in button cap into the side if the cables were running all the way through it. Either way, if you do take off the button loop, you'll sit there looking at it wondering why the cable doesn't go straight through. Maybe they were just trying to be too innovative, but I feel like the button loop would look and function better coming off the side. Just think it's worth mentioning in a review if not only to inform potential buyers, but to give ZAGG some quality feedback.

So far the positives and negatives are balancing out. They do "look, fit and sound" awesome, but I still am having trouble getting over the sound created by cord movement and rubbing.

I would totally agree with this review. The sound as you move your head is distracting and they will not stay in my ears during a workout. I've tried every set of ear buds that came with the product. Also, one pair of the earbuds are impossible to attach. Poor design. So far, I'm really disappointed.

Wear mine to the gym all the time. Have no problems with them staying in (especially compared to the stock Apple earbuds!) ... I didn't have trouble testing any of the earbuds that come with them. Which can't you attach?

PROBLEM: I have ordered ZBuds twice and returned them twice for my iPhone 3g. The same problem occurred twice. The controller button on the microphone did not work resulting -- no abilities to answer calls or control the music on the iPhone. Anybody out there have the same problem? I have been reading a number of glowing reviews, but I am not glowing.

I called customer service to ask about the ear adapters (not the foam ones), but the one that are layered like 3 mushrooms stacked on top of each other -- graduating domes stacked from small to large on top of each other. I asked the customer service rep to explain the purpose of these adapters because I have had two of them each of my purchases and you can not attach or insert the ZBud micro-speaker tip "into" them. The hole is too small. So what is the purpose? Anybody out there know? They certainly did not explain or address it in the article above.

I agree the larger black earbuds are tough to get on (at least much tougher than the others), but I was able to get them on. You have to put the edge in at an angle and then push and wiggle it. Hard to describe, but I was able to get them on with a bit or work.

The button stopped working on mine too, but I had no problem using the graduated dome earpieces.

Same problem here. The answer/hangup button just doesn't function!

Hi there,
Just got my Z.buds and I am very happy about them. The sound quality is Good and up to my expectations re in-ears headset.
The control remote and the volume control are working very well. The cord system seems to be useful and after 1 hour of use, you really feel that the earbuds really stick to your ears.

For this price, it's a great deal. :-)

mine broke within 24 hours of owning and one use - sounded good for like five minutes and then the plastic cheap earbud decided to come apart ... liked the cord idea - but in reality these feel really cheap ...

You probably just got a bad set. I've had mine for well over a month and they're virtually indistinguishable from the day I bought them. Holding up great.

Just send your bad ones back to Zagg for a replacment. Their customer service is great.

"Their customer service is great"?!!? You're kidding. My z.buds were terrible and the customer service was crappy. The wire frayed internally at the jack connector on mine after about 50 days, and they wanted me to pay $20 just to look at them (plus my shipping costs). Customer service were high-handed and appalling.

Buy anything before these. Crappy Build Quality + Bad Customer Experience = Yuck

Re: "... Z.buds are now available at an introductory price of $64.99..."

I've just been informed by ZAGG that the 'special' is no longer available. Pity!

I've had my Z.buds since Christmas and absolutely love them. I've had no problems with the sound quality or anything, and the ear bud fits nicely into the side of my skull. I would recommend these, as they are the best in their class. I however do not use them with an iPhone, I use them with my iPod touch and they work wonders, of course this renders everything extra but the volume control useless, but I don't mind.

Which generation iPod Touch did you use the headphones with, 1st or 2nd generation? I have a 2nd generation iPod touch and was curious how well the mic would work on it. I thought of purchasing Apple's headphones with the mic, but came across a wonderful deal on a pair of Z.buds (1/2 off).

I bought the iPhone 3G version as soon as they were available(Oct2008) and use them everyday. Living with Chicago weather, I was looking for a set of headphones in which the wires/buttons don't get stiff/unusable in weather below 50 degrees. I figured these would be a decent enough replacement and they have been for the most part. I thought I would share a few comments about them for those of you trying to make a decision.

They stay relatively flexible, so if I move my head, the earbuds don't lift right out of my ears.
They have an inline volume control and a decent mic.
The wires are very adjustable, providing you with a number of ways to wear them.

Volume control is WAY to loose. A piece of clothing will brush against it and easily change the volume.
The actual ear inserts that go on the ear buds don't fasten very well. I've lost two already (Usually by putting them in my pocket and pulling them out)
Switch and mic are located an odd length from the earbud. I'm always having problems finding the darn thing when I'm wearing a jacket or moving around alot.
iPhone switch is sporadic. I continuously have problems with the switch not working. I have to stop what I'm doing and either remove the headphone jack or twist it. I have 2 other headphones that I use for working out/airplane flights and never experience this problem.

Overall, not to shabby. Worth the $65 or whatever they are selling at currently. I will be replacing them soon though. The button issue on the iPhone has gotten worse and made these headphones unbearable.

i wrote a full review after a couple weeks of use. check it

it was not what i thought it would be

I bought the Z-buds, but I`m a little bit disappointing too. The fit of the buds is not really comforting and the cable is broken at the 3.5mm plug. Result: the left earbud goes on/off when you walk or cycle. And that`s annoying like you understand. Even the call/play button is difficult in use. And sometimes, when I pull my earbuds out, the black buds stay in my ears.
I send them today an e-mail, and I hope the send me new Z-buds.


I bought these after seeing the 2009 CES design and innovation.... yadda, yadda award, thinking that these would have to be the king of aftermarket, mid-price, hi-fidelity, iPhone-compatible headphones.

Boy was I wrong. The first pair never worked right, then eventually failed. The replacement pair lasted about two weeks of just normal, daily use before failing. So, what failed? On the first pair, the answer/hang-up or play/pause button never worked. That was frustrating, but I decided to suck it up. within about two weeks though, the connection between the cord and the 1/8" jack must have dislodged, as one channel just stopped coming through. If I manipulated it just so, I could get it to play, but would have to hold it in some awkward position to get it to work.

So, I called ZAGG and told them what happened. They offered to replace them, but when I mailed the Z-Buds in, I got an email telling me that they were out of stock, and I would have to wait three weeks to have the replacement shipped. That was frustrating, and so I wrote their customer service representative an email saying that I was disappointed that I had spent a fair amount of money on their product, and that I essentially had only a semi-working pair of Z-Buds for a matter of days, but had purchased them nearly two months prior. I also expressed my skepticism about the quality of their product, and wondered whether the new pair would eventually fail also.

The customer service representative replied with some trite, canned response aimed at dismissing me and my concerns. So I let it go.

The new pair arrived about 10 days ago, and they worked as they should, until today. Now, the connection between the cord and the jack has failed in a new and amusingingly odd way. Now, if I bump or nudge the jack or its housing, the Z-Buds think I'm pressing the pause/play or answer/hang-up button. You can imagine how frustrating that is, when the headphones just hang up on people.

So, my opinion is that the design and manufacturing of these is trash. They may well be made of tin foil and chewing gum, judging by their hold-up value.

To be fair, when they are working, the sound quality is very good. Unfortunately, the Z-Buds will last about as long as the flavor in the chewing gum that holds their internal parts together.

Yep. This is exactly right. Bad build quality and worse customer service. Avoid

I have had the same experience as well. The first set worked well for a couple of month and then began malfunctioning...called customer service and paid the $20 for a replacement. The replacement (newer version of the headphones) lasted about 2 months as well and are now working sporadically. I refuse to pay another $20 to replace another pair...time to try another brand.

Save your money, and the headache. I thought the Z.Buds from ZAGG looked like an innovative idea, so I bought a pair. After waiting several weeks for them to arrive (they were on backorder) I received them and immediately got hooked on the 'round the neck design. Kudos on a well-executed idea.
But after a few weeks of normal usage, I began to have problems with the 3.5mm connection. The nylon wrapper around the cord, which had been one of the primary selling points for me, dislodged from the 3.5mm connector and began sliding up and down the rubber cord. Soon after, the rubber nub that holds the cord in place at the 3.5mm connector also became dislodged. I was very disappointed.
I contacted customer service and was even more disappointed. They told me I could pay $20 under their "Lifetime Trade-In Guarantee" program and they'd fix or replace them. Six weeks into ownership, and just a few days past the return window, I was more than a little frustrated that they wanted $20 [after $80 for the headphones!] just to repair a defect resulting from poor workmanship. Needless to say, I declined.
The overall fit and finish feels a bit cheap. The plastics in the mic/button and volume control betray some corner-cutting, and the 3.5mm connector really poses some problems. Save your money.

I was really turned on by the design of these, and quickly snapped up a pair. They worked great - for a few weeks. Then the microphone piece died. It doesn't work with the phone, and the button no longer stops the music. Yikes.

Customer support didn't waste any time diagnosing it. They said to send them back for a free replacement. I got the replacement promptly, but it had the exact same defect from the beginning - the microphone piece doesn't work. I thought maybe there was something wrong with my iPhone, so I tested it on two others - same problem. I wrote tech support today and haven't heard back yet. I'm very interested to hear what they have to say.

As for the zBuds themselves:

1. The sound is very good.
2. The buds work well for me. I'm not having the problems some people describe with them or with interference. I haven't used them in a workout however.
3. I've had no problems with the nylon cover separating or fraying, but mine aren't that old.
4. Don't believe that they never tangle. They're better than the Apple cords, but they do tangle, and if you're not careful, you'll pull off the buds while untangling them. Although they tangle, a firm rub between the fingers restores their shape. My Apple cables are permanently crimped.
5. the plastic piece with the button hook is plain stupid. The whole button hook is stupid. I notice that the new replacement I got didn't even have it. I wish it were just a straight wire.
6. The volume control, which is great to have, should be on the microphone piece. I like to wear mine under my shirt, but that means the volume control is unavailable, and there are two superfluous plastic bits to annoy my gut.
7. I seem to be complaining a lot, but actually I like the things. The cord management is so great! I just wish mine would work!!!

I’ve had 4 in total, 2 of the original design and 2 of the new design. They have all failed. The mic switch stopped working on 3 and the volume control failed on one. The mic switch and volume control are cheaply made snap together plastic units with cheap solders and loose wires inside. They will fail over time. There is noticeable play in the wires going into these units. They are not sealed and not even resistant to weather. Wait until they do a complete redesign of the mic and volume units and actually send some people out in the field for a few months to real world test these things, let alone some good old stress testing in the lab. The cable system is great and the sound is great but until they get the switch and volume control design correct don’t waste your money. Chech out the ILOUNGE post too. Similar comments by them also.

I am disappointed as well. I want these buds to work so bad. I am on my third pair. I love the design, the color, and the sound of the music, but when I am on the phone, there is horrible buzzing. I'm bummed. I just got my 3rd pair yesterday. It looks like they will be returned too.

On my 3rd defective pair. Have had to request 4 replacements. Such a pain. Stay away from these--poor quality

It would be helpful if commentors would add the date of purchase, it helps clear things up. For instance, most companies like to improve their service and products, and I think Zagg is one of them. I purchased a set of red zbuds recently (Aug09). The looked a little bit different than the one pictured in this review. No metal looking parts, all black plastic and the button hook/loop was gone. Well, like so many others I had a problem. The very first time I tried to use them for a call it was painfully obvious that the mic did not work well at all. Ok, so what is the difference now vs some of the comments from people who commented earlier? The first was customer service. They were fantastic, friendly, quick, and sent me a replacement pair immediately. The process worked like this, I use my credit card to "hold" the funds for the value of a new pair. They send me a new pair, I send the old one back, they release the hold, no charges at all. I had ordered my budz through a 3rd party at Amazon, and they still had no problem replacing the defective product. Now, the second difference is that the new pair have been redesigned. The plastic parts feel better, maybe just cosmetic but they dont feel as cheap as the first pair. The L shaped cord splitter was changed up for a traditional strait one. The jack has been changed into an L shaped one, it doesnt stick out as far and should be less prone to stress. Also, now the call answer button and volume control have been integrated into one piece ( up by the ear where the original mic was located ) this is MUCH more useful and less bulky.
Sound quality is still great, phone calls work well, button also works well as of a week after getting the replacement (Sept09).
As always, be cautious with your purchases, but know that a bad experience and/or product at one point in time does not mean the company is doomed to repeat such mistakes. Keep your eyes open for newer reviews of the refined product and go from there.
Hopefully the new pair will not break, if so, this will be a great product.

Zagg buds have broken on me 4 times in 6 months. They look great but dont hold up well at all. The worst part is be ready for the jack to break off in your phone or ipod. Its happened to me twice. They really are poorly made and sound average at best. dont expect zagg to take care of the phone they ruined either. Ask me how I know.