For the Oakley Thump2 sunglasses/MP3 player to be, as has been alleged here, one of the “10 worst products” of 2015, then it would have to have been a magic year for products. Which it wasn’t. I’ve seen lots worse products than the Thump2, though I respect the opinion of those who just don’t get what this product is about.PC Magazine gave the product 2-1/2 of 5 “stars” in its review. Their review gave demerits for lacking MP3 features; mine would add points for making my riding safer so I’d give the Thump2 3-1/2 stars. We agree that at $449 for the 1GB model, you’re paying a hefty premium for Oakley fashion. (There are also 256MB and 512MB versions, as well as different frame and lens choices. Prices start at $299).The Thump2 is the second generation of a product that combines Oakey’s sport optics with a flash MP3 player. I think everyone agrees the new model is better than the old one, thanks to better designed earpieces and a redesign of the glasses themselves. I’ve been using a pair on my bike rides and found them a very pleasant riding companion, improving my safety as compared to riding with an iPod or other MP3 player.Here’s the pitch: The Oakley Thump2 gives you Oakley’s excellent optics (shown above right with the black Iridium coating) along with a flash music player that lacks a cord and allows the earpieces to sit outside the ear in a variety of positions.
Why does this matter? Because it’s not safe to ride with earbuds on as they prevent you from hearing what’s going on around you. In the past, I’d ride with just a single earbud in my right (away from traffic) ear. The problem is the tendency for the earbud to fall out of my ear while riding, the need to string the cord through the helmet, usually with the earbud I’m wearing wrapped around the strap so that when it falls from my ear it doesn’t fall to the ground.There is still the problem of what to do with the other earbud–the one I am not wearing. You can either remove it entirely or stow it someplace. Then there is the issue of the cable that runs from the earbud back to the music player, usually kept in the rear pocket of my bike jersey. The player is kept in a plastic bag, I should add, to prevent sweat damage. Of course, with the player so hidden away it’s pretty hard to control it, whether for adjusting volume or changing songs.Yes, an iPod Shuffle might be a better option, dangling from my neck or attached to an armband, but that wouldn’t relieve me from having to deal with the cord, which always seems to be in the way.With the Thump2, there are no cables, no plastic bag, and nothing in my pocket or strapped to my arm.
The unit is controlled by buttons located on the top of the frame at the temples on each side. Each earpiece is at the end of a three-jointed arm, allowing it to be placed right up inext the ear or off to the side, pivoting up, down, in, or out. This allows the user to “mix” music with ambient sound, still maintaining stereo as well as the ability to hear what’s going on around you. (You can see the buttons as well as the one of the triple-jointed earpieces in the picture, left).Overall, I’d rate the sound as better than I expected and quite acceptable, though not great. Battery life was measured by PC Magazine at 5 hours 40 minutes, which covers all my bike riding needs but might not get a you through a Century ride. The unit, which works with both PCs and Macs, uses a mini USB connection on the glasses and a cable to connect to the computer for downloading and charging.
Oakleys are an acquired taste, and an expensive one. Some of the company’s eyewear leaves me cold, some makes the user look, as PC Mag put it, “dangerous.” Almost all Oakleys look better on someone in motion than standing still. Compared to many sport glasses, the Thump2 looks almost conservative, though the electronics makes for very wide temples. I think a hat or helmet improves “the look.”As a cyclist, I’d had Oakleys for two decades. Paying $150 for sunglasses is nothing new to me and my prescription reading glasses just set me back $500. But, the Thump2 still seems expensive. The MP3 player in the Thump2 is equivalent to someone else’s $150 model. By me, that makes the Thump2 as much as $150 “too expensive” compared to purchasing separate glasses and MP3 player. But, what price can I put on convenience and safety? Probably enough that I might actually buy the $299 model. These are great sunglasses and the first MP3 player that didn’t get in my way while riding. Definitely not one of my worst products of 2015.