Seems like there’s been an explosion of small, portable, Bluetooth speakers onto store shelves this last year — the most popular or well-known of which is probably the Jawbone JamBox — from the advance notices we’ve seen, in a few weeks the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas will herald a whole new crop of the little tribbles.
Many headsets promise a headset utopia, making smartphone users’ heads fill with visions of commanding their world with a simple voice command.
The Plantronics Marque M155 ($60) and the Motorola HX550 ($60) both make similar promises, with the HX550’s packaging going as far as to promise a “complete hands-free solution.” Both headsets offer liberation from holding the phone, but how do these midrange ‘sets match up to the marketing promises — or the abilities of their more expensive siblings?
If you caught our canalphone roundup a few weeks back, you’ve by now come to the accurate realization that there’s no shortage of real alternatives to those awful white buds bundled with each iPhone. But these two are a little different.
Like the five we reviewed that week, these two pairs of IEMs — the MEElectronics CC51 ($90) and the Thinksound ts02+mic ($110)— are higher-end, designed with superior sound quality in mind and cost around $100. But unlike the others, these two are from small, boutique manufacturers; they also both have housings made from exotic materials (the CC51’s is ceramic, while the ts02’s is wood), and eschew the inline volume controls of the pairs of reviewed in the $100 IEM week, instead making do with a single control button on their inline microphones.
Carbon weave has got to be the Miracle Whip of gadgets — it makes anything taste better. We reviewed Sound ID’s 510 Bluetooth headset in a BT headset head-to-head (try saying that fast) a few months back; and while it sounded great and was pretty much our pick of the week, it wasn’t the coolest looking kid on the block — and you couldn’t order it to do stuff, like you could some other headsets. Sound ID’s new Six fixes all that, and adds a trick for Siri too.
Almost all mic-equipped canalphones that can be had for about $100 use moving-coil drivers to produce sound, as is the case with all the previous IEMs in this review series. But the Ultimate Ears 600vi ($120) are different — this set employs a single tiny armature in each ear. Armatures generally allow for a more neutral sound with better definition than their moving-coil brethren, and that’s exactly the case with the 600vi. In fact, this set uses pretty much the same excellent drivers as in the now-discontinued, $180 SuperFi 5vi we reviewed early last year.
And yes, apart from the V-Moda Vibrato, the 600vi is $20 more than the other earphones in this review series — but we think the extra Jackson is worth it.
Maybe you’re not going to buy a pair of earphones based on the way they look; maybe you’d rather spend your moolah on a pair that came with exquisite performance. What if you could have both? In spades? Here you go: With their deep, bone-tingling bass and blue-blood looks and manners, the Klipsch Image S4i earphones ($100) is the Prince…of Spades.
Let me begin this review by saying, while I’ve found some love for certain models, I don’t really care for most canalphones: They’re uncomfortable, and while I love the idea of plugging a foreign object into my ear and having that object deliver magical sounds just like an owl delivers a Howler, I usually wind up being disappointed with either the sound or the fit. So, with that in mind, it was time to try the Etymotic mc3 ($100).
This set, with a three-button remote on the cable and four sets of super-sealing, deep-seating eartips (two flanged, two foam), was now tasked with being tested by me. May the Force, that I’ll probably have to use to shove them into my ears, be with them.
I always feel like I should be wearing diamond-studded sunglasses, walking around in a silk bathrobe or drinking Cristal from actual Bohemian crystal whenever I sink a pair of V-Moda’s babies into my ears. This doesn’t have anything neccessarily to do with how they sound, but rather because V-Moda has a knack for creating earphones with exotic looks and a luxurious feel to them that also appeal to the other senses. And so it goes with the V-Moda Vibrato Remote earphones ($130).
So you’ve got your new iPhone 4S, and now you want to talk to Siri (and maybe friends) and enjoy some tuneage. Step one: Donate those pathetic white buds that came with your iPhone to your favorite charity, if they’ll take ‘em. Step two: Get yourself a snazzy pair of microphone-equipped canalphones — earphones that fit snugly in your ear. Why? Because a good set of canalphones are the best accessory ever made for an iPhone; they’ll create a seal that will block out ambient noise while enhancing sound coming from the earphones, especially bass — which means better conversations with friends (or Siri), and better music.
Around $100 seems to be the point at which there’s a big jump in quality; also, most in that range are now equipped with inline volume controls (in addition to the play/pause and track-skip controls like the ones on Apple’s stock buds).
We’ve assembled an Apple Store’s worth of canalphones at that level, and we’ll be reviewing them over the next several days. Up first is Sennheiser’s MM 70 iP earphones ($100).
Boy, those blue-shirted Apple employees must be going nuts just trying to keep up with all the different in-ear headphones out there. Still, can’t hurt to have a few more at the party — especially if they’re from a manufactrer with a rep for awesome bang-for-buck.
The ATH-BT03 (pictured above) is going to grab all the attention. It’s an $80 wireless Bluetooth headset that does the whole phone and music thing and looks wicked small.
Audio Technica’s other anouncement yesterday, the less flashy ATH-CK400i (jeez, their marketers must have attended the same fun product-naming class the marketing peeps at Sony did) is simply an in-ear set with an inline controls and a mic — but it’s priced at a measly $60.