I received my CHX7iS earbuds and have been using them for a few weeks now, and they are definitely the best headphones I have used that meet my requirements. There are three features I need in headphones:
- They must be earbuds that are NOT of the in-ear/sealed variety. I find in-ears to be painful, and I like situational awareness. I'm not a fan of on/over ear headphones.
- They must have an inline button and mic that works with an Android phone.
- They should have good sound quality.
There are so few headphones out there that meet the first two requirements that I am flexible with the third. Surprisingly, the CHX7iS earbuds meet all three, are pretty reasonably priced, and have excellent sound quality. The CHX7iS are not perfect, but they might be the best non-sealed earbuds around.
Pros: great sound quality, non-sealed earbuds, inline button that works with Android, surprisingly clear mic that also works with Android, flat cable is tangle free, silicone ear tips are removable and replaceable.
Cons: Y-connector is far away from earbuds, earbuds have a large portion that extends away from the ear, included silicone ear tips seemed loose and resulted in slightly hollow sound.
Even though CHX7iS earbuds are the best I have used, I don't have much to compare them with. My previous favorite headphones were the Yurbuds Inspire Talk, which I bought for their fit and functionality, not sound quality. When those died I tried the Bose SIE2i, but returned them when the mic did not work - I'm not sure if they were faulty or if the Bose mic just doesn't work with Android.
First the features:
The plug, Y-connector, and earbuds are larger and chunkier than others I have seen. Hopefully this means that they are tougher and will last longer. The plug has a right angle. I have found that since the plug is pretty large, when I slide my phone into the front pocket of my jeans, the right angle can sometimes catch against the pocket, and a couple of times has disconnected from the phone. Not a big deal, I just have to be more careful... although this wouldn't happen if the plug was not so large.
The cable of the CHX7iS is longer than other headphones I have used. This hasn't caused any problems, but it is something I need to get used to. The cable is flat, thicker, and generally has a better quality feel than other headphone cables I have used. I haven't gotten a single tangle yet, so it seems the flat cables really help.
- One thing I don't like is that the Y-connector is much further away from the earbuds that I prefer - it is maybe a third of the way along the cable, from the earbuds to the plug. This means that when wearing the earbuds, the Y-connector is around the center of my torso, when I am used to it being closer to my chin. This is a problem because the inline mic, button and volume control are on the Y-connector, and it can be tricky to find them.
- Even though the mic is so far down the cable, it does pick up my voice accurately. I was amazed that people could hear me clearly on calls even with the mic so far away from my mouth. With other cheaper headphones, even with the mic next to my mouth people told me they couldn't hear me well. I also tried a few voice commands on my Android phone and they were detected correctly, even outside with wind, traffic, and background noise.
- The Y-connector has a single button that works well with Android. A single press will play/pause, and double press will skip to next track. This is enough for my purposes, though I know there are various apps out there that let you assign or change how the button presses work (for example, triple press for previous track).
- The Y-connector also has a volume slider, which can change the volume separately from the volume settings on your device. This slider seems a little pointless, but it can be handy if you want to reduce volume without having to dig your phone out of your pocket. I would just pause the music though.
- The earbuds have two segments: the standard portion that fits in your ear, and a large portion that extends outwards and looks a bit weird. The extra weight doesn't seem to be a problem, but the extruding portion of the earbuds will definitely be uncomfortable in winter if I want to wear a hat over them. I don't know the purpose of this weird segmented design, but I think a more integrated, compact design would be more convenient.
- The CHX7iS comes with two sets of silicone ear tips. I found the small ones did not stay in my ear, but the medium ones fit pretty well and are comfortable. These tips do not "lock" into your ear in way that the Yurbuds or Bose tips do, so they would probably fall out easily. The "channel" of the CHX7iS ear tips, which directs sound into your ear canal, is wider than other such tips I have used, and even has a secondary opening. I found that this made the sound seem flatter and less focused.
- The good news (for me) is that the CHX7iS ear tips fit over the earbuds in exactly the same way as the Yurbuds ear tips do. This means that I can use my old Yurbuds ear tips, which lock into my ears so they don't fall out, and which seem to channel sound better so that the music is richer, and the bass deeper. It is possible to order Yurbuds ear tips on their own, just google for "yurbuds earbud Enhancers".
The CHX7iS also comes with a nice little carrying pouch. It has firm sides, zips up, and has a built-in mesh section to keep the earbuds in place. It is possibly the smallest possible pouch that can contain the earbuds and cable, which can make it a little tricky to fit everything it, but it also means it can nicely fit in a coat pocket.
Now the sound quality:
I'm not an audiophile, so I can't describe the sound quality very effectively. However, even I can tell that the sound through the CHX7iS is MUCH clearer and sharper that the previous headphones I have used. I'm noticing details and tones in music that just didn't come through in cheaper headphones. The sound quality of the CHX7iS is also much better than that of the Bose SIE2i, which cost about twice as much.
I was initially disappointed by the bass of the CHX7iS, since it was not heavy and artificially enhanced as in most other headphones. But after more listening, I realized that without the overblown bass, the bass playing style is more distinct, the bass notes and tones are sharper, and music in general sounds clearer. The bass doesn't overwhelm the music as in other headphones, and I'm finding this to be a huge improvement.
Maybe it is more accurate to say that I was not an audiophile until I started using these earbuds. I don't think I can go back to cheaper earbuds now!
I was planning to attach images of the CHX7iS to compare its size and bulkiness against my 10 year old iPod earbuds, but I don't have permission to do so. I may try to find a site to host the images and add them later.