Alright - my first review - yay!
Even at $30 (last month's sale) , these are about the most expensive earbuds I've tried. Previous best was a toss-up between Razor gaming earbuds from Woot in 2007 and more recently, Altec Lansing Sports. Both were around $20 a pair, but still sounded better than the stock iPod headphones, Sony Noise Cancelling earbuds, Phillips Surround and a host of other cheapies.
Weird shaped shells, but manageable. Looks like it would be hard to grab onto to remove them, but not in practice. Some people have complained about the cord, I kind of like it. Feels quite sturdy, only a little stiff.
Case is decent, four pairs of tips - three normal and one double flange and a clip.
As I mentioned before, my fiancee tried them first. First comment "Midrange is awesome, but the bass is too weak - too much treble for rap." She then tried them with Norah Jones - "I take that back - these are awesome." She wants her Skull Candy earbuds back from my kids for her rap music while she walks.
So I try them. Eric sounds great until the bass comes in - then it feels very clouded. Any song with a lot of instruments starts to feel oppressive. I try with some M'Shell Ngedecello - vocals amazing, very airy sounding. Try opening bars of a King's X song - great, but still oppressive and muddy when a lot starts happening.
I burned in the headphones overnight - looping a minute of white noise, a 20-20k sweep, a minute of pink noise, two or three M'Shell Ngedecello songs that were accidentally left in the VLC playlist, and a 5 minutes of silence wav. I switched out the tips to double flanges (as recommended above), then wore them during the "visit the family" drive for about 3 hours. Source was my iPhone4, unamplified. As someone else up above had suggested - I wrapped the cords around the top of the ear. This really made a difference.
- KIng's X - Gretchen Goes to Nebraska: OMG - I realized on the drive that this is probably one of my two favorite albums ever - this ranks right up with The Joshua Tree at number 1 for me. Muddiness was gone. I heard a few things I'd forgotten or never knew were in the songs. There was no real wow - just better all around.
- King's X - XV: A more recent King's X CD - heavier with more "wall of sound" approach. Everything was clear.
- Pink Floyd videos on Youtube: Eek - very revealing of flaws in source.
- 2nd Chapter of Acts: The Roar of Love: Christian Concept album from 1980 based upon "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." It featured not only the two sisters and brother that make up the 2nd Chapter of Acts, but several prominent Christian artists of the time like Michael Omartian and Phil Keaggy - a world class player by anyone's estimation. I forgot I was testing headphones listening to this one - everything just jumped out at me. Occasional sibilance from female vocals, but nothing exhausting or piercing.
- Gorillaz - Plastic Beach: Snoop Dogg's opening sounds rich and well balanced - does not sound muffled and IMHO, there was just the right amount of bass. This is not the best recording possible - NPR had the entire album on their website review for a week, and I ripped it using Audacity. Still sounded good to me, and most of the intricate sampling came through easy to hear and detailed.
- U2 - The Joshua Tree (2007 Remastered box set): Ripped at 320kbps MP3. Rich, detailed, airy - just like it's supposed to be. The chimes at the beginning of "With or Without You" made my jaw drop - never heard them so ... round is the only word I can think of. Some sibilance and piercing, but not too bad.
I tried a bunch of other songs, ranging from The Beatles to The Art of Noise to Sanctus Real to the Monkees. Impression really didn't change. There was no "Wow - OMG this is amazing", but a lot of "Yup, that sounds better", and "Yeah, Bono's voice is richer" and "Oooh, never noticed that before." Everything was just more excellent and detailed.
Volume consistency was an annoyance. It was very clear to me which sources on my iPhone were recorded at lower volumes and which weren't. Most things were played in the top 25% of the volume slider, but some songs needed the very top, but others would hurt there. I've never had a pair of headphones that needed more adjustment - usually headphones for me have been low volume and needed always to be at the top end. I'm not sure what this means - better dynamic range from the drivers?
I don't know what soundstage is, so I don't know if I was really hearing any. Most things sounded right there in my head, but not pounding or painful. Stereo separation in Beatles's music with the panning vocals was good and evident.
Customer service: Rather poor - I would like to try some of their better headphones next time there's a sale, but it took forever to get these. I know they come from Hong Kong, but the dates mailed listed on the MP4Nation account history page did not agree with the HKPost page - almost three weeks apart. When they finally shipped from HK, took about a week. Now, I know what you're going to say - "they're coming from HONG KONG! whaddya want??" However, I ordered an Indeed on eBay and it arrived in about two weeks, and the seller (Indeed HI-FI Labs) not only contacted me about every delay, but when I lost a rubber foot a few days after I got them, he sent me 4 new feet for free, and has contacted me to apologize for shipping delays on that shipment too!
If I could buy them locally, I'd buy them again or upgrade to one of their better line of earbuds. Not sure about ordering another pair for my wife-to-be - not with those shipping delays. I'm glad I've got them, and I know I'll appreciate them when I have to fly next month.