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.
It’s nice to know that when I get caught in the rain with my headphones on, I don’t have to anxiously hide them if I’m wearing the Monster iSport Immersion In-Ear Headphones ($180). Did your kid spill his Kool-Aid on them? They’re machine washable!
The JayBird Freedom JF3 ($99) Bluetooth wireless headphones are a successful attempt to build upon a paramount technological concept: take something good and make it great — or in this case, take a good pair of IEM headphones and ditch the cord. It’s like a musical bris without the rabbi — or the baby.
Take a gander at the flock of reader comments under any canalphone review and one thing should become quickly apparent: canalphones are kinda flimsy.
The few chances we’ve been given to play with V-Moda’s creations have given us the solid impression that the company is paying much closer attention to the survivability of its canalphones; and that maybe they’re paying more attention to that factor than any other outfit. In fact, the three-button, microphone-equipped V-Moda Remix Remote ($80) seems like it should be the most bombproof canalphone in its range — and it hasn’t proved us wrong yet.
Before encountering Altec Lansing’s women-specific Bliss Platinum earphones ($70), I had never considered the idea that my ears might be too feminine and precious to handle having a larger earpiece forcibly shoved into their delicate canals. Now I know that, like many things, most earpieces are made for men and we poor, sweet ladies must go about life making do with too-big things. Altec Lansing hopes to solve that issue by giving ultra-precious lady ears a much-needed rest from all the bigness with the Bliss Platinum.
“If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a phrase Etymotic must have taken extremely seriously, judging by a look at their now-mythic, $99 ER-6i. The set has been around since their release in 2004, after which they quickly became the standard against which all other sub-$100 IEMs were tested. But seven years is an eon for a product to have remained essentially unchanged in the gadget world. Are they still as good now as they were then?
During the pre-review back-and-forth with Jerry Harvey’s vaunted audiophile-focused lab — the flagship creation of which are the JH Audio JH16 Pro in-ear monitors being reviewed here — I asked them offhandedly how a set of IEMs with eight drivers in each ear (that’s right, almost unbelievably, eight tiny armatures and a crossover are cocooned within each earpiece) would compare with something akin to the single-driver-per-ear Etymotic hf2’s we liked so much. The answer came back: Don’t be daft.