DealExtreme (Link - free shipping)
Total Waiting Time
Volume Level 12
-8 – 80 Hz (narrow)
-6 – 220 Hz (narrow)
-10 – 780 Hz (normal)
-4 – 3 kHz (wide)
-7 – 13 kHz (wide)
3 out of 10 stars
So you’re probably wondering what drove me to purchase these cheapo phones…well money and curiosity. I happened to be browsing through DealExtreme’s website and I noticed these rather nice looking bullet shaped canalphones. After reading through all of the user reviews, the general opinion varied from “horrible” to “excellent”. I really wondered how much quality could be packed into such a cheap and small package. Secretly I was just itching to make yet another audio product purchase and just didn’t have the cash to plop down on a pair of Koss KSC-75s. Plus I wanted to another pair of canalphones that I didn’t have to worry about breaking.
I received the pair yesterday after exactly three weeks of waiting time. After popping the caps off of the see-through plastic tube container, I turned these over and over in my hand. I noticed the eartips were made up of very thin semi-clear silicone. The other thing I had noticed was a tiny hole at the back tip of the “bullet” shape. One of the DX reviewers had pointed this out and I had known this going in, but had rather hoped they had removed since, apparently not. The shell seems to be made of aluminum with a good black finish (not easily scratched). There’s a distinctive chrome band between the main body and the tips. The cord is pretty thin and connections into the earpieces, the split joint, and the jack have the proper rubberized protections to help prevent wire breaks and so forth.
Then I went to my desk, grabbed my Cowon S9 and jacked the canalphones in. The first thing I decided to test was bass and browsed to my Incubus collection and chose the song Battlestar Scralatchtica from the Make Yourself album. It was the one piece that I felt had nice staccato bass notes and enough bass throughout the piece so I could listen in closely.
The first thing I noticed was that the overall soundstage was very receded and leaky-airy. My first thought was: “Gosh, this is the weirdest and hardest to describe sound I’ve ever heard.” So I figured I should go and plug hole on the back of each earpiece with my index fingers. This improved the sound somewhat. The soundstage seemed closer but the overall sound became slightly blurred and muddled. I wiggled the piece in my ears a bit and felt around the chrome band to see if I could get a better fit.
As I was fidgeting with the earpiece, I found that the eartips were too small and weren’t creating a full seal with my ear. I pulled them out and decided to see if the extra pair of included tips would fair any better. The extra pair proved to be the same size. Since I still had the extra tips for my Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3’s, I decided to see if those tips might be compatible with these phones. I brought them out, pulled off one of the Cuffu ones and instantly noticed the nozzle was much wider than the SF3’s. Thinking I could stretch the UE tips to fit, I decided to try fitting them on anyways. Five minutes later, I was still trying to force them on. I decided to give up and put the Cuffu ones back on. Though both eartips’ holes were roughly the same diameter, the thinner Cuffu’s could stretch to fit while the UE’s could not. So after fitting the old ones back on, I reinserted them into my ears and decided to see how the bass sounded on these.
The best way I can describe the bass is as lackluster, shallow, and somewhat muddled. Or maybe it was blurry? It’s pretty hard to tell and raising the volume didn’t improve my chances to describing the bass any more. I decided to move onto You Are Loved by Josh Groban. Compared to my SF3’s, these lacked somewhere in the mids or treble. Again, I attempted to find out if the mids were recessed or if the trebles were by adjusting my EQ settings. No matter how I adjusted my EQ, nothing seemed to improved that missing something and so many settings only made it worse. So giving up on trying to find that missing part of the sound, I went onto some softer piano music. I picked Yiruma’s River Flows In You from his First Love album. With the holes plugged, I felt the Cuffu’s did a pretty good job and the sound was comparable to my SF3’s. Without the holes plugged, however, it sounded more like earbuds than canalphones. Worse, the high octave treble notes sounded sharp and screechy.
Forget it. With how thin the tips are, the small size, and the hole behind each earpiece, you won’t notice much of any background noise blocked. Of course with your music blaring away, you probably wouldn’t notice the poor isolation until you stepped onboard a rush hour bus or into a shopping mall during the holiday season.
The “hole” in the back…
If I can find a good way to plug the hole on the back of each earpiece, I can at least get rid of some of the leaky-airy sound and improve the soundstage a bit more.
Provided I can find thicker and bigger silicone tips, I still won’t have a good seal on these. This could cost me anywhere from a few dollars to ten or more.
Well this part I can’t really mess with. I don’t have experience with internals and this is something that should be improved on the manufacturer’s and designer’s end.
Well if I can get the holes filled in and better eartips, then it might be worth throwing in some more impressions of how these have improved.
Would I suggest these to anyone? Probably not. Are these bad? Well on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being horrible and 10 being excellent), I’d say these are somewhere between 3 and 4. They aren’t horrible per se, but they can’t even be called decent. At least as far as canalphones are concerned, these pretty much fail in the area of noise isolation. Then you have the weird-and-hard-to-describe sound when you first plug them into your ears and blare your music.
I did do some research after I purchased them. Apparently Amazon carries the same pair of canalphones albeit at a more expensive price and no free shipping. Since DX didn't list a manufacturer or brand name, it took me a while of searching before I found it on Amazon.
You’d probably be better off saving the four bucks for some better canalphones like the JLabs J2 Premiums.
Comments? Remarks? Suggestions?