Brief: Kickstarter-backed enhanced-bass earphones from the UK
MSRP: £69.00 / approx. $105 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $50 from amazon.com; £69 from Amazon UK
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 18Ω | Sens: 102 dB | Freq: 16-24k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug w/mic & 1-button remote
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear (preferred)
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and zippered clamshell carrying case (Note: latest version also adds 3 pairs of foam eartips)
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The construction of the Pump is pretty generic – lightweight metal housings and a wide, flat cable. The Pump has its microphone and single-button remote at the y-split. The few minor downsides are (very mild) driver flex, lack of a cable cinch, and straight plug cable termination. Pump Audio offers an impressive 5-year warranty on these, but weirdly it seems to apply only when purchasing them from the manufacturer’s own website
Isolation (3/5) – Pretty standard for an earphone of this type
Microphonics (4/5) – Surprisingly low for a flat-cable earphone
Comfort (4/5) – The Pump uses conventional straight-barrel earpieces, but they are very lightweight and I like the quality of the included silicone eartips, which are soft and seal quite well
Sound (7.7/10) – The Pump is yet another Kickstarter-backed portable audio product but unlike the two last two I’ve covered (the LIFE Headphones and the ADV.SOUND M4), this project is based out of the UK rather than the US and the Kickstarter campaign has long since ended.
The Pump Audio Kickstarter predicated on the earphones sounding “world-class” based on the majority of listeners preferring them to a set of Beats in-ears – hardly a high standard to start with – in a listening test with a sample size of 50 participants. As I’ve stated before, however, I don’t put much weight on what manufacturers have to say about their own product. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is performance.
What the marketing materials can do is help provide some context for the design and tuning of a set of earphones. With the Pump IEMs, there are certainly gleams of reason in the marketing madness – for instance, it claims that they are “developed for lovers of dance music”. Can’t argue with that – the sort of bass-heavy, V-shaped sound delivered by the Pump is popular with EDM listeners.
The bass of the Pump Earphones is quite heavy, but I like the balance of mid-bass and sub-bass. Neither overshadows the other, which is more than I can say for many other basshead earphones – the NHT SuperBuds, for instance, are definitely skewed in favor of mid-bass, while the HiSoundAudio Wooduo2 has little mid-bass and tons of low bass.
The Pump IEMs are slightly boomy at the bottom end, which results in mild veiling of the midrange. Nothing surprising there – bass quantity and quality are almost always a trade-off, especially in lower price ranges. For instance the popular Xiaomi Piston 2 has slightly lower bass quantity and higher bass quality – i.e. the bass is not quite as impactful, but tighter and more controlled in comparison to the Pump. The Pump is a more stereotypical consumer-friendly enhanced-bass earphone and provides a more full-bodied sound and warmer tone.
This sort of theme carries through the treble – the overall balance, clarity, and detail are not as good as, for instance, the pricier RHA MA750. However, the Pump also offers much more bass impact than the RHA and pretty much any other in-ear on its performance level – the MA750 won’t satisfy bassheads, but the Pump will. The mildly v-shaped sound signature of the Pump and the resulting treble emphasis work in the earphones’ favor, adding some crispness and energy to what would otherwise be an overly warm sound. The treble extension also prevents the earphones from sounding overly intimate and “stuffy” – the Pump actually has a decently wide and spacious soundstage.
Below are several head-to-head comparisons between the Pump Audio Earphones and other sets that either perform on a similar level or have somewhat analogous sound tuning (or both). These comparisons may play a direct role in someone’s purchasing decision, but more importantly they help contextualize the earphone’s performance based on the other options currently on the market.
Pump Audio Earphones vs JVC XX Elation HA-FR100X ($60)
The HA-FR100X is the latest entry in JVC’s long-running XX enhanced-bass headphone line. JVC XX earphones tend to be v-shaped with a strong bass bias – the same way I would describe the Pump IEMs. The XX Elation is less bass-heavy than all the previous XX-series earphones I’ve tried, and ends up with lower bass quantity compared to the Pump. This is especially true for sub-bass – the Pump has lots more of it. Surprisingly, the Pump earphones also have better clarity, though their more powerful bass also tends to become more intrusive on tracks with lots of bass.
The bass of the JVCs is a little tighter, but the balance of the midrange and treble isn’t any better for it. JVC’s smoothest XX-series earphone and the Pump have similar treble quality and reach, and the Pump is more spacious overall. With both companies emphasizing performance with EDM music, it really seems that, for sound at least, the Pump Audio IEMs are what the XX Elation should have been.
Pump Audio Earphones vs UBSOUND Fighter ($70)
While the Pump hails from the UK and the Fighter – from Italy, these earphones have lots in common when it comes to design, construction, and even sound tuning. Both are lightweight metal earphones utilizing ribbon-like flat cables. Both are bass-heavy, and both make compelling, lower-priced alternatives to Beats in-ears.
The tuning of the Pump is more v-shaped, with greater mid-bass boost and a brighter, more energetic top making it sound a little clearer and providing more treble sparkle. The Fighter, on the other hand, has a warm and smooth sound. Its bass has a little less mid-bass impact and appears a bit less bloated and intrusive but still has plenty of depth. The Fighter is smoother-sounding, but the brighter Pump has a wider, more airy presentation.
Pump Audio Earphones vs NHT SuperBuds ($70)
Though both the Pump Audio Earphones and the SuperBuds are bass-heavy IEMs, the NHT unit is bassy to a different degree. Its low end is even more full-bodied and impactful, lacking any semblance of subtlety and making the overall sound very thick, rich, and warm.
The Pump is not as bass-heavy, and clearer overall. It has a more v-shaped sound tuning with mids that are more recessed and brighter, less forgiving treble. The SuperBuds are smoother, and remain so even at high volumes, allowing those so inclined to turn the volume up high enough to rattle teeth, but the brighter Pump is more balanced and boasts a wider soundstage and more airy presentation.
Pump Audio Earphones vs Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear ($100)
Both the Pump Audio IEMs and the Momentum have v-shaped sound signatures but differ in balance. The “v-shape” of the Pump is biased more towards the low end. It has warmer tone and more powerful bass, but is also more bloated, which results in a slightly muddier sound. The Momentum is thinner and its midrange is more recessed. However, its bass is tighter and, thanks to its better clarity, resolution, and bass control, the Momentum sounds more accurate despite the deeper v-shape of its tuning.
Pump Audio Earphones vs Beats Tour 2.0 ($150)
The original Beats Tour seems to be the earphone Pump Audio was benchmarking, and the new, more refined Beats Tour 2.0 makes for an interesting comparison. Beats has matured the sound of this earphone between the first and second generations, making it smoother and more balanced. The Pump Audio Earphones, in comparison, are more v-shaped, pushing the bass and treble forward and presenting mids that are slightly recessed – and a bit hollow-sounding – compared to the smoother, more full-bodied Beats Tour 2.0.
The bass of the Pump IEMs is more intrusive and a little boomier while the Beats carry more of a deep bass focus and less mid-bass boost. On some tracks the brighter Pump set can sound a little clearer, but whenever moderately powerful bass is present, the tighter low end of the Tour 2.0 turns the tables, maintaining its composure better and delivering cleaner sound. On balance, the Beats are more level thanks to a less recessed midrange, and their overall sound a little more natural. At the same time, the Pump is the better choice for fans of heavy bass and those looking for a more fun and energetic listening experience, with accuracy being a secondary concern.
Value (8/10) – Whatever can be said for Pump Audio’s marketing approach, the earphones speak for themselves. The sound may lack finesse and nuance, but it has the exact sort of wow factor many listeners crave, with gobs of bass and just enough clarity and treble sparkle to stop it from sounding as bloated as the Fidue A31s or the pricier NHT SuperBuds. It’s not a unique tuning by any means, but the Pump gets the proportions of all the elements right for many listeners. This is what the first-gen Beats Tour in-ear wishes it could be, and what JVC’s XX series should have evolved into.
Not all is great – the construction of the earphones is pretty generic and the packaging of the original Pump felt cheap for the price of the earphones, but the recent release of an updated version with improved accessories has made it a more well-rounded package and an easy recommendation for fans of big bass.
Pros: Fun, bass-heavy sound; lightweight and comfortable for a conventional-fit IEM
Cons: Cheap packaging on the 1st version; very bass-heavy sound