Play it by Ear – Earphones and Headphones

(RealGroove) July 2009

People who know about these things agree that there are three essential steps to follow when you buy a personal music device like an iPod. Number one; open the box.  Number two; throw away the bundled earphones. Number three; replace them with a decent set from a “name” manufacturer.

Luckily, there are plenty to choose from. Whether it’s in-ear, on-ear or over-ear, there’s bound to be a device to suit your personal taste, your sense of style and, perhaps most importantly, your wallet.  Here are a few products that caught our attention.

Sennheiser MX W1 Portable Wireless Headphones.

Money coming out of your ears.

The price is not the only stunning feature of these little beauties. The MX W1 is Sennheisers first portable and completely wireless stereo earphone system.  The clarity and quality of the sound is so amazing you will find it hard to believe they are not connected by wires.Sennheiser

For your money you get two in-ear earphones, a transmitter about the size of a matchbox and a recharging unit. When all the pieces are powered up you simply connect the transmitter to your device, the earphones to your ears and bam, you are ready to go.

The MX W1’s use Wireless Audio Technology, an advanced system that produces a listening experience far better than that of Bluetooth.   They also work perfectly well even when your device is a few metres away.

Price: $1,149.00

Blackbox M10 noise cancelling headphones.

The sound of (near) silence

Your chest may swell with national pride each time you use these big, comfortable headphones.  That’s because they use noise cancelling technology developed by Kiwi company Phitek.blackbox

The M10’s are the baby brother to Blackbox’s first consumer headphones, the enormously well received M14’s. However, at a good $80 less, they are likely to put noise cancelling audio within reach of the masses.

They also come with Auckland Museum’s stamp of approval. Until the end of November you can rent these headphones with an audioplayer and tour the various galleries while listening to compositions from Tiki Taane and Nathan Haines among others.  Go Kiwi.

Price: $299.00

Logitech Ultimate Ears Metro.Fi 100v

I’m with the band

Talk about musical heritage.  Music aficionados will recognise Ultimate Ears as the company founded by Alex Van Halen in 1995 to make in-ear monitors for professional musicians. Before long Ultimate Ears started making earphones for the consumer market and so successful were they, they were bought by Swiss device makers Logitech in 2008.metrofi

The Metro.fi 100v is one of a number of products designed specifically to complement the iPhone. It has an in-line microphone and control button which allows you to operate your phone hands-free. Its in-ear design cuts down on external interference and enhances sound quality. We particularly enjoyed the subtle touches; the fabric (rather than plastic) tangle-free cord and the convenient mini carry case that came with the earphones.

Recommended retail price: $69.90

Skullcandy Smokin Buds

Subtle as a crushed skull

With celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Verne “mini-me” Troyer endorsing the brand, you just know Skullcandy products are not aimed at the “shy and retiring” demographic.

budsThese Smokin Buds are a case in point.  Like the Ultimate Ears on this page they have an in-ear from factor which reduces exposure to external noise. Unlike the Ultimate Ears they are available in almost a dozen bright colour combinations including Mint & Black, Lime & White and Jamaica’s favourite, the Rasta (pictured).

Recommended retail price: $59.99

Bose On-Ear Headphones

Business class style on an economy class budget.

If you are looking for a name brand, comfort and high performance sound at a price that won’t break the bank (comparatively speaking) these could be the ear accessories for you.

The On-Ears look similar to Bose’s top of the range Quiet Comfort 3boseheadphones but importantly, they do without the noise canceling technology (and are therefore hundreds of dollars cheaper).

The soft padded On-Ears are much more comfortable to wear than the in-ear styles for longer duration activities like watching a DVD on a laptop. Classy.

Recommended retail price: $229.00