Despite the in-ear earphone market being more crowded than ever, the Spark, developed by NYC-based accessory manufacturer id America, instantly caught my eye with its sparkplug-derived styling and bold color schemes (more can be seen here). Like the company’s iDevice cases, the Spark holds extra appeal for the gearhead (guilty as charged), but there’s much more to this mid-range headset than meets the eye.
Packaging & Accessories
Earphones and carrying case
The Spark is packaged in a sturdy gray box, which opens Monster-style, with an outer sleeve and magnetic lid. The oversize packaging wouldn’t be out of place on a much pricier product but it holds a fairly standard set of accessories – 3 sizes of single-flange silicone tips and a tubular carrying case. The tips have a quality feel to them and feature a thicker inner core. The case, while stylish, requires the earphones to be wrapped very tightly and isn’t as easy to pocket as a conventional clamshell.
Design & Build Quality
Close-up of earpieces
Plug, y-split, and microphone/remote
The two-piece housings are aluminum and feel very well-made. The cabling is of average thickness but resistant to tangling and protected by soft rubber strain reliefs at the y-split and I-plug, as well as on housing entry. A single-button mic/remote unit is located on the left side.
Fit & Comfort
The sparkplug-inspired housings are lightweight and can be inserted comfortably due to the long nozzles. However, sharp rear edges make them less suitable for those with smaller outer ears. Over-the-ear wear is easy due to the short strain reliefs and supple cable.
Isolation & Microphonics
Isolation is good for a vented dynamic-driver earphone – it’ll cut out more than enough noise on a city street to make music enjoyable but won’t match the isolation of a deep-fit in-ear monitor on a plane or subway. Cable noise is present when the Spark is worn cable-down but is reduced significantly with over-the-ear wear.
Driver configuration: 8mm dynamic
Input sensitivity: 96 dB @ 1mw
Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
Impedance: 16 Ω
Cord Length: 3.9 ft (1.2 m)
Note: Most of my listening was done using a Cowon J3 or an iBasso D10 DAC fed by an optical signal, and my FLAC audio library. For reference, reviews of almost all of the other earphones I have heard can be found in my multi-IEM review thread here.
The Spark is a bass-heavy earphone with surprisingly solid sonic characteristics. The Bass is deep and powerful, with plenty of punch and good texture throughout. Both the subbass depth and overall bass quantity are slightly greater compared to the Soundmagic E10 and Beyerdynamic DTX 101 and on par with the Fischer Audio Consonance. Bass control is good – the Spark is neither the quickest nor the most resolving earphone out there but for a set bassy enough to please the mainstream listener, it performs very well.
There is a bit of bass bleed but the mids are still strong and clear. The Spark manages to be mildly v-shaped in response without placing the midrange too far back, partly as a result of its overall presentation being fairly aggressive. In this way it is reminiscent of the pricier PureSound ClarityOne, albeit thinner and more dry-sounding. In comparison, the similarly-priced Fischer Audio Consonance is more mid-recessed, but thicker and smoother. The mids of the Spark are still not nearly as forward as those of the Beyerdynamic DTX 101 or Brainwavz M2 but compared to most other bass-heavy sets its balance is rather good.
Moving upward, the Spark boasts some emphasis and mild unevenness in the lower treble, giving it a little sparkle without risking significant sibilance. There is a bit of edginess to the treble but the only real complaint I have is its mediocre extension, which results in a darker tonal slant and slight lack of air in the upper registers. Aside from the last bit of top end extension, the Spark satisfies with good treble energy, detail, and crispness.
The presentation of the Spark is pretty standard for a mid-range dynamic earphone. It is slightly aggressive and doesn’t have the largest soundstage but is well-rounded, with decent depth and good layering. The Soundmagic E10, with its sparkly, well-extended treble, has a larger, more open presentation but the Beyerdynamic DTX 101 and Dunu Trident lack layering and sound less three-dimensional in comparison to the Spark. Instrument separation and dynamics are on similarly even footing with competing sets from Head-Fi’s favorite brands. A final point to note – the Spark is surprisingly efficient and, despite the conservative stated figures, reaches listening volume more quickly than any of the sets I put it up against.
Value & Conclusion (MSRP: $59.95)
The id America Spark is a solid choice for those seeking a bass-heavy headset at a reasonable price. True to its name, the Spark is energetic, with excellent bass impact, good clarity, and a well-rounded presentation making it an easy choice over popular mainstream sets such as the Beats by Dre Tour and Klipsch Image S4. Add native headset functionality, a striking design, and good build quality and the Spark should strike up interest not only in the car buffs, but all music lovers.
Edited by ljokerl - 2/18/12 at 5:41pm