Pros: Amazingly sensual mids, low profile design
Cons: Cable has horrible memory, highs peak quickly, bass is exaggerated with slow decay, horn might be too big for some
A company whose products give me endless enjoyment, they fulfill every need I personally look for in audio and also have a really awesome history to read, what other company's founder do you who who was good friends with the President of the United States? I'm talking about none other than the American based company out of New York, Harman/Kardon and their lushly warm and gratifyingly relaxing AE's.
The Opening Experience
These come in a very nice, small box that opens from the back similar to that of a clam shell, the contents are very up front and easy to maneuver around without any annoying plastic or ties. In the main front you're greeted with the really nice cardboard case that magnetically latches and the buds which are nicely positioned in between foam cut outs with the rest of the cable coiled up under it. Behind that you've the warranty and information paperwork, and extra ear tips. A simple and quick experience that gets right to the point, an expression that describes these very well.
The durability of the buds themselves I find to not have an issue with at all whatsoever, they're made out of nice aluminum as is the horn with the back being a soft plastic which I believe was chosen for its resonance qualities, which I'll touch on later. The microphone is made of the standard plastic you'd expect at this price point as is the casing around aux jack itself. Now as for the cable definitely the first big negative, the cable is a standard plastic cased cable that is well insulated to feedback from being brushed against something really isn't all that bad, BUT oh my goodness golly gee does it have memory. If it's coiled up in its case for an extended period of time, it will remember that shape and will bind, kink and tangle so darned much you'd feel it might as well be a birds nest. So if you're like me and have a pretty large selection this may come up an issue, but if you're looking for a wonderful dailyish use product, then this'll be unnoticed.
Going back to the microphone, the quality is very nice and people I'm talking to have no problem hearing me and can distinguish me quite well from the airport environment in which I work in (course seeing as it's placed right on your mouth almost I find it hard to be otherwise). The buttons are all flush with the rest of the mic minus a small bump in the middle of the play/pause button, this is a “to each their own” thing but I personally am never a fan of this setup for I like individual, easily distinguishable buttons that you quickly know which one you're selecting.
Lastly on the note of its construction is the horn. The horn is a normal, maybe slightly larger diameter, straight stick style so it will rely on your tragus to stay in your ear so those with small ones also may be weary, but for me I've absolutely no issues with them staying in my ear or even discomfort despite it being a straight style. The tips that came with them are the standard semi-circle style and absolutely so for the almost 2 years I've owned these I've almost solely used Comply (memory foam).
Despite the horn on these being slightly on the larger side I find them to be very comfortable, even for sleeping in. The square body does quite well in keeping itself slim against your head so sleeping on your side shouldn't pose any issue for most people. For everyday listening they're just fine the only complaint I have is, and even it's simply because I can't give them the consistent listening time to prevent it, but the twirling of the cable makes them prone to getting entwined and snagged on air it seems lol.
The tips that came with them are the standard semi-circle style tips which work for the majority of people but I for one am not keen on them so I've spoiled myself on the Comply (memory foam) because of their form fit, and incredible isolation abilities. Actually on the matter of isolation, I find these to be pretty good. If I've music playing then they're as good as noise canceling but just as is I can still pretty clearly make out conversations happening around me.
An issue I can see come up is 2 fold; firstly if you're like me and listen to music for an extended period of time them the larger straight stick horn can get to be fatiguing on the ear (usually only after 1.5hrs or so though). Secondly is that those with a smaller ear canal or ear in general may not be able to comfortably put these in their ear at all. Which is where the second big drawback comes into play and that is (if you haven't guessed it) the slightly large straight stick horn.
Now onto the most important aspect of an audio product, the sound quality. If you're on the market for a wonderfully relaxing pair of buds that you want to be able to effortlessly pop into your ears and just unwind to at the end of the day and not really care as much about sonic accuracy, then these are definitely going to be for you. So spoiler alert, to be in this price point and perform like they do, they're awesome.
As well the soundstage is really good, especially in the depth department. I can tell that instruments are sitting further back in the orchestra/performance without having to try much at all. The surround ques on these are also very impressive, I remember one time in fact I was listening to a track and there was a snare drum slightly tapping but it felt so real I had to look up from my phone and look for it (prob. looked kinda silly like I was chasing a fly with my eyes if I had to imagine it haha)
The highs on these are subtle and refined yet slowed down. Normally I'd say that was a bad thing but for these I believe it complements the overall balance very well, which you'll grow to understand as I progress.
In addition to being a little slow I also find the highs peek and fatigue very quickly, now unlike the speed I will give this one a slight negative note because it peeks so quick it leaves me longing to hear the rest of the note (a perfect example is Allan Taylor- Colour of the Moon [easily found on YouTube] the whole song is amazing but my example is literally in the first 5 seconds).
Lastly on the highs I note they're notably recessed, but like it's speed it falls nicely into play with the rest of the tonality of the sound (though on a personal note I wish it coulda been just a little better). A bit of negatives on the treble of these it seems but really the treble is still quite nice, I can't stress this enough, if you listen to these as a whole unit and not just for one particular frequency range. That is, until you reach the lower treble/upper mids and then oh how these awaken from their slumber.
The mids, oh how I can preach about the sublimity of the mids on these (want an example check out Chris Jones- No Sanctuary Here). The vocals of whoever you're listening to just flow with such grace and calming presence, you'd think you're back to being 5 being tucked to sleep by you mother. The way the lower treble, mids, and upper bass mesh together presents such an amazing warm tone that I've grown to expect from Harman/Kardon. I can honestly go on and on about how wonderful the entire mid section of these are (they're darned near perfect) but I'm pretty sure you get the picture so, moving on.
The bass on these I find to be full and carry a nice warmth to it. I find it to be, like the treble, on the slower side and have a little more decay in its falloff BUT it blends really well with the rest of these if you're using it as a specialty pair of buds.
The sub bass levels on these are honestly surprisingly really impactful. Not to the degree it takes away from the rest of its tonality but when the bass it kickin' I'm definitely feelin', which shows these can be used as a fun bud as well.
To sum the bass up, I don't really have any complaints. I believe it meshes well with the rest of the sound and hits quite nicely. I don't immediately notice any spotlight or recession on any particular bass range excluding the upper and can find I'm able to listen to these with really any music.
To sum up these buds, these are by far one of the best earphone around (especially in the $150 price range) to sit back, relax (actually let me rewrite that word so you get the picture I'm trying to express) relax, and unwind with. These will absolutely just transport you into the performance you're listening to if it's a midrange focused song (almost everything from Yanni [YouTube his live performances, you're welcome]). They're built very well so fret not if someone else listens to them they don't need to be babied.
Obviously higher bitrate music is always better but for those without the space to download lossless audio or perhaps even FLAC need not fret because these wont at all tear apart lower quality music files.
Despite having easily kinky cables and a slightly larger horn, I really had no complaints at all for these. Are they sonically accurate? No, not that much. But that's not what I believe the engineer was going for in these, for if you've a chance to experience these for yourself I have full confidence you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.