MODE offers huge sound in a small package. Customized drivers deliver high output sound at minimal distortion, and the unique in-ear design anchors to your ear, while still providing a comfortable fit.
Cons: Build quality TBD, no volume control, getting a seal can be tricky.
Looking for earbuds can be kind of a nightmare. So many players in the game, so much variety in terms of sound, design, features, and price. I don't want to spend a lot of money since they're used mostly outdoors and vulnerable to random circumstance but I want to get the best sound possible and I want them to not break after a few months. In this case, trust Wirecutter 's recommendation. Other than the fact I have to loop the cable over my ears to get a decent seal (hey I'm reaching) I love pretty much everything about the Modes! They're still getting broken-in but the build quality seems solid. The design is simple and classy but unmistakably Marshall. The low profile jack and clip are a very nice touch. Cable isn't tangle prone. Neat.
So, what of the sound? The balance is a slight U shape, with a definite emphasis on the bass. Sub-bass extension is impressive. Mids are only slightly recessed and still very present. The treble is clear and lacking in distortion or excessive grain, which is the most important thing for me due to a frustrating treble-sensitivity. Even better, the treble rolls off nicely making these IEMs very non-fatiguing. The Modes are fairly forgiving of low quality mp3s so that should tell you something about its treble response. Audiophiles might miss the atmospherics the top end of the treble provides but I'd rather keep my ears from hurting. Response is tight throughout the frequency range resulting in a very coherent and musical presentation. No muddy bass or confusing mids. Soundstage is decent, but for this price that level of refinement is not really a part of the discussion. More important when you're on a moving train or plane is isolation, which is quite good. A more expensive phone might have a smoother response curve and tighter bass just to completely nail the refinement, but for the price they sound great.
After trying (and discarding) so many cheap IEMs, I feel like I've finally found the pair best suited for my ridiculous checklist of needs. Added bonus: Although the Modes sound great plugged into your iPhone, they scale nicely with a higher quality DAC.