Roam’s Ropes earbuds put sound customization in your hands and around your neck

A coworker just walked into the office and made fun of me for wearing the Ropes. Sure, he probably would have zeroed in on something else had I not put them on this morning, but they’re a pretty easy target. Which is to say, while I admire Roam for taking a novel approach to Bluetooth headphone form factor, I really, really don’t think this is for me.

The Ropes are a pair of Bluetooth headphones with a built EQ engine designed by Steve Lamar, whose early involvement with the Dr. Dre/Jimmy Iovine deal that blossomed into Beats by Dre has been an issue of some consternation for both sides. Like a number of other new devices on the market, the headphones seek to shift the focus back to sound quality.

Thing is, they actually do a pretty good job on that front. Roam has made a nice sounding pair of Bluetooth headphones that are further boosted by the inclusion of the aforementioned EQ Engine, which affords the user an extremely customizable listening experience when coupled with the company’s app. Most users will want to shuffle between its 18 Presets, which include genres like blues, country, hip-hop, rock, and jazz, along with utilitarian functions like gaming, voice and YouTube.

There’s plenty more customization available courtesy of the EQ, which offers up five channel sliders to fiddle around with. There’s also a DSP button, featuring Dynamic Bass and Spectral Effect sliders, serving to give the whole thing a fuller sound. It’s a lot of aural customization for a pair of earbuds. I found myself mostly swapping between presets and leaving well enough alone for the most part, but those closely tuned in will probably find a lot to like here.

Then there’s the issue of design. You’re essentially wearing that EQ box around your neck like a pair of dog tags. The product has undergone a number of tweaks since it was first announced in 2014, but the final version – well, it’s certainly not my cup of tea. What the company refers to as “stylishly designed to be worn around your neck” is a choice I’ve had trouble getting support for after informally polling folks around the office. One person thought it was an attached MP3 player at first sight. Most just wondered aloud what I was wearing around my neck.

Bluetooth earbuds present some unique design challenges. I get that. At some point you have to decide whether you want to sacrifice certain features in order to go fully wireless. Roam just kind of leaned in, tacking on an EQ engine roughly the size of a book of matches. The unique design choices are really accented by the red, white, and blue color scheme of the Olympic unit the company sent me to test.

Personally, I find myself wanting to pair down my earbuds as much as possible. Even little control panels and mics can prove annoying, particularly when I’m going for a run. For those looking to wear their customization around their necks, however, the Ropes can be had for $199.