TouchMyApps » Headset http://www.touchmyapps.com All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:45:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.3 Nocs NS200 headset in Review – Deep ear action http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/01/nocs-ns200-headset-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/01/nocs-ns200-headset-in-review/#comments Tue, 01 Feb 2011 08:21:04 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=47431 Nocs, a Swedish company out of… Sweden, have left a tasty impression in my ears this winter with the NS200 headset. While not flashy, the NS200 scores with lively sound and good headset implementation that impresses this Toucher with great audio performance, and a tasty remote control. Specifications Speaker: 8,6mm dynamic speaker Sensitivity: 95dB spl … Read more]]>

Nocs, a Swedish company out of… Sweden, have left a tasty impression in my ears this winter with the NS200 headset. While not flashy, the NS200 scores with lively sound and good headset implementation that impresses this Toucher with great audio performance, and a tasty remote control.

Specifications
Speaker: 8,6mm dynamic speaker
Sensitivity: 95dB spl @ 1kHz
Impedance: 16Ω @ 1kHz
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
Housing: machined aluminium
Warranty: 2 years

Fit and Package
I’ve got this itching suspicion that Swedish design is about the simple, the unassuming. Right, Jays’ matte black a-Jays and Frankenstein t-Jays and branded cables are about as unassuming as a surfing Santa Claus is, but the way Jays tip the scales against convention are just so clever. Nocs carry that tradition, but strip away some of the cleverness. What we get at the end is straight headset with no frills, but unlike a lot of competition from knock-knock Chinese companies, there are no stray hairs anywhere. Desirably understated. Honestly homely. How’s that?

Unwrapped, each piece comes in cute, individually vacuum-packed pouches (that I tore up immediately). There are four sets of ear tips, a flimsy carrying pouch, and a shirt clip. Simple but complete. A word about the pouch: I think it is some off-hand coin purse that Nocs discovered whilst on holiday in the Mediterranean. Not pretty, not protective, but at least it keeps your headset and its pieces in one place. Maximo’s iP-HS5 thimble holster absolutely trumps Nocs.

This design fits very well in the ear and isolates on par with other bullet-shaped earphones. Overall, it is quite a hit. It’s got a slightly narrow mouth that sinks pretty deep into the ear and stays lodged. You’ll not have to worry about the Nocs NS200 falling out. And low and behold, even though there is a microphone attached, you can thread the cable over your ear and still chat away! Nifty ergonomics, Nocs!

Build Quality and Cable
Overall, the Nocs is a well-built earphone, but it has one problem: its post-split cable. Prior to that, the cable is quite like a the q-Jays cable and as such, is strong, and pretty good at keeping crystallisation at bay. It’s not perfect, and terminates in a straight plug, the sort that I always shamefully harp on about. Again, straight plugs put more pressure on the headphone output of your iPod or iPhone, and can break more easily given the right pressure. Shame.

The housing is a bullet-proof ported aluminium nub that fits great and isolates pretty well. The stress reliefs going into it are pretty standard Chinese things that you’d see on the Mingo WM2, and work decently enough. But its inferior post-y-split cable is worrisome. It reminds me of my old Sony EX51 from like 10 years ago. Great earphone, but weak-ash cable that eventually fell apart. Unfortunately, it seems to be the trend these days. A lot of companies that had decent to good quality cables several years ago, are going cheap today. Jays a-Jays ONE TWO and THREE models are duds and a lot of other companies are going for nylon-sleeved cables that kink all over the place and explode in the ear with nasty microphonics.

Nocs’ earphone-end cable is soft, filled with air, and can tear with a pretty forceful wrenching motion. I don’t expect it to pose serious problems when used with care, but it is a liability that Nocs could have nipped by employing a similar cable all along the length of the wire. It’s a shame because the y-split is excellent, and the remote unit isn’t heavy handed, so a more decent cable could take a beating.

Features
As a headset, the NS200 has a lot going for it. Firstly, it works as advertised, picks up voices clearly, and is easy to use. Secondly, it hangs perfectly below the lip, or if you tuck the cable over the ear, hides right outside the jawbone. Overall, Nocs did their homework and supplied a GREAT headset.

It works on my iPod touches, my iPad, and my tiny iPod shuffle 5G. If you don’t mind memorising a few tricks, the NS200 does the following without incident:
adjusts volume up and down
answers and ends calls
pauses/resumes playback
selects next track
selects previous track

It’s quite impressive to see such a slimline remote do all of that with no hitch. It’s made for iPod, iPad, and iPhone, so don’t expect villianous companies like Samsung and Nokia (that reverse cable polarity) to work all that well.

Sound
There is no denying the sensuality of the Nocs ns200 – that is, if you like a good, deep throb. Yeah, its 8,6 mm dynamic driver sits as perfectly as it can in its aluminium case. I mean, we aren’t fondling a hundred plus dollar earphone are we? Don’t expect miracles, but do expect brain-numbing bass without the flab. Want to kill your brain cells? Get the Sonomax. Want to enjoy mid and high range too? Get the NS200.

It is more accented than the Maximo headset and is ever so slightly more closed in, but it is a great sounding earphone.

In the sub 80$ world, getting brightness and bass in clean lines is hard. The NS200 walks on some long legs. Bass is absolutely controlled, but deep. It bangs around a good deal, but never massages into the mids. If you’re asking – yes, you can hear Markus Schulz’ Mainstage intro – a plate that not every earphone can serve up.

Kick drums and machines are taut and defined. While controlled, the low end isn’t all that open and free. You’ll get good separation with the NS200, but not easy breezy wind between the bass notes.

The midrange enjoys good space and pretty good focus so you can enjoy great guitar and vocals without fuss. I can’t find fault at all with the treble either, which extends up to and has plenty of focus. There is no sibilance either. Overall, it is like a slightly more congested earphone version of my personal favourite portable headphone, the Audio Technica ES10, and that is saying a lot.

It’s really quite amazing, actually. The bass on the NS200 is massive, but neither the midrange nor treble suffer at all. I’ve listened to everything with it now, and while I recommend dance, electronic, and hip hop, this earphone can do anything. If you had to choose between the similarly priced Nocs and Maximo on sound quality alone, I’d offer this advice: if you prefer balance, go with the Maximo. For everyone else, the Nocs is just so much more fun.

Finally, if you have a modern iPhone or iPod, you won’t need an amp unless you just want to kill your ears. The NS200 sounds fab from the headphone out and remains easy to drive on decent players like all of the ones mentioned in this review. It will hiss if you use a dirty source like a Sony Walkman MP3 player or the absolutely icky HiSound AMP3 Pro.

Out and about
So, the NS200 sounds great and works well. Unfortunately that’s perfect invitation for it to be taken outside and mingled with murderous city air and the dirty engines of busses, cars, and trains. It passes the isolation test, blocking the worst of the noise without requiring much extra volume. You may have to nudge the volume up a bit, though, as the NS200 doesn’t isolate quite as well as the Audio Technica CK100 and isn’t in the same league as the Earsonics SM3, but it slams a lot of the competition simply because its thin body and small nozzle can fit better in the ear.

What it doesn’t do that well is walk the walk. The good portion of its cable is noisy, reminding me of taking the Mingo WM2 around town. At least it’s got a shirt clip, but dear god, it can jigger in the ears a bit. It’s not an enjoyment killer as I’ve enjoyed it on the 4-hour commute to and from work, but you won’t forget it.

The cable is long enough to work for most people, but won’t stretch to the knees.

Conclusion
Apart from the wonderful Nuforce NE7M, there haven’t been any perfect iPhone headsets out there. The Maximo sounded great, but lost in overall implementation, and the excellent Phonak PFE really needed better construction and possibly, ergonomics. The Nocs NS200 plays right along with these. It isn’t perfect, but it sounds good, is styled for the on-the-low audiophile, and it works like a charm. For 79$, it is a better bargain than Apple’s headset, and leaves the nicest of tastes in my mouth. It’s too bad that Nocs couldn’t make a better cable, because this earphone is otherwise, a winner.

Price: 79$

Pro’s:

  • sound
  • fit
  • isolation
  • great remote

Con’s

  • upper cable sucks
  • pouch sucks

HPR-nocs-ns200-accessories HPR-nocs-ns200-cable HPR-nocs-ns200-fit-01 HPR-nocs-ns200-fit-02 HPR-nocs-ns200-glamour-1 HPR-nocs-ns200-glamour-2 HPR-nocs-ns200-glamour-3 HPR-nocs-ns200-grill HPR-nocs-ns200-package HPR-nocs-ns200-pouch HPR-nocs-ns200-stressRead more]]>
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a-Jays Four iPhone headset – powerful, stylish, sexy http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/06/29/a-jays-four-iphone-headset-powerful-stylish-sexy/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/06/29/a-jays-four-iphone-headset-powerful-stylish-sexy/#comments Tue, 29 Jun 2010 13:56:22 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=35331 The ever-stylish Jays have got a new piece of eye-candy headset for music-loving iDevice owners. The new headset is based on the a-Jays Three, a bass-driven earphone for music/movie lovers on a budget. The new a-Jays comes in the following models: One, Two, Three. The headset, a-Jays Four is a natural extension of the new … Read more]]>

The ever-stylish Jays have got a new piece of eye-candy headset for music-loving iDevice owners. The new headset is based on the a-Jays Three, a bass-driven earphone for music/movie lovers on a budget. The new a-Jays comes in the following models: One, Two, Three. The headset, a-Jays Four is a natural extension of the new line. The a-Jays Four has a beautifully designed remote/microphone pill built into the cable.

TouchMyApps will be reviewing the a-Jays Three in a couple of weeks.

More information after the gap:

Press Release

Hot on the heels of the launch of the new iPhone 4, Swedish headphone manufacturer Jays releases a custom, high-quality stereo music headset, a-JAYS Four iPhone (*), based on its new model line a-JAYS.

Swedish Jays AB (publ) has reinforced its new range of a-JAYS headphones with a-JAYS Four iPhone. This custom headset has been designed specifically for the iPhone 4 and comes equipped with a simple control with three buttons with a secure grip on one of the headphone cords.
The buttons control
- Answer and termination of calls
- Volume
- Music and video playback (including pause and next / previous track)
- Recording of voice memos with compatible devices

The a-JAYS Four iPhone headset is also compatible with 3G iPhone 3Gs.

a-JAYS Four iPhone has the superior sound of the a-JAYS Three, with a refined midrange for optimum voice transmission and is supplemented by a new, custom-built, silicon microphone. The headset features secure grip buttons and a newly developed, angled 3.5mm plug. It also has a flat, tangle-free cord and will be available in black and white.

“It’s really exciting for us to be able to offer a musically powerful earphone that is specially tailored to the iPhone, which generates masses of attention every time it is updated. For us as a manufacturer of accessories, it is absolutely crucial that we can quickly adapt our product line to such significant developments in the market”, said Peter Cedmer, Product Manager at Jays. “As a smaller company, we have the flexibility to pick up ideas that would otherwise be quite impossible for bigger companies to deliver to market within the same timeframe.”

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I’m not a doctor stethoscope headset! http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/05/25/im-not-a-doctor-stethoscope-headset/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/05/25/im-not-a-doctor-stethoscope-headset/#comments Tue, 25 May 2010 12:39:04 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=33424 Antrepo Design have a great-looking and surely whuffie-inflating headset design for the wannabe med. In layman’s terms, it is a stethoscope headset, but its medical name is the Stetheadphone. Anyone else think this thing would look rad with their iPod touch/iPhone? iWant one. Bad. The “I’m not product series” is continuing, The last one is … Read more]]>

Antrepo Design have a great-looking and surely whuffie-inflating headset design for the wannabe med. In layman’s terms, it is a stethoscope headset, but its medical name is the Stetheadphone. Anyone else think this thing would look rad with their iPod touch/iPhone? iWant one. Bad.

The “I’m not product series” is continuing, The last one is “Stetheadphone”, created by Antrepo Design Industry. It is headset with remote and mic, you can make and receive calls, access voice-control features, and listen to and manage playback from your iPhone or iPod.

Material used is ultra light and flexible plastic for your comfort Also three sizes of soft silicone ear tips help you tailor a fit that’s right for you. The color options are white, black, pink, blue or green.

We are now in a research process to find a partner company for the production process. The companies interested in this product may contact Antrepo Design Industry through its website.
antrepo4.com

By all means, intrepid headphone companies, get on this!

Check the Stetheadphone out at A2591

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Maximo iP-HS5 inner earphone headset in Review – the emperor’s nylon clothes http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/12/13/maximo-ip-hs5-headset-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/12/13/maximo-ip-hs5-headset-in-review/#comments Sun, 13 Dec 2009 13:45:07 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=24650 If anyone can one-up the Nuforce, it is Maximo. They sport many reasonably priced headsets and upgrade inner earphones which work well and sound good to boot. The iP-HS5 is their premium model which hits the important price point set by Apple’s new dual-driver inner earphone headset. But unlike the white-on-white of Apple’s sparsely accessorised … Read more]]>

HP-Review-Maximo-iP-HS5-front

If anyone can one-up the Nuforce, it is Maximo. They sport many reasonably priced headsets and upgrade inner earphones which work well and sound good to boot. The iP-HS5 is their premium model which hits the important price point set by Apple’s new dual-driver inner earphone headset. But unlike the white-on-white of Apple’s sparsely accessorised kit, Maximo pack in a lot of black. In fact, its accessories kit might even make Jays blush.

UPDATE: Maximo have informed me that newer iP-HS5 cables are different to the model I have. If that is the case, I will update this review accordingly.

Specifications
Earphone drivers: 9mm neodymium
Frequency response: 12Hz-22KHz
Sensitivity (1KHz, 0.1V): >100dB
Maximum SPL output: >120dB
Microphone Sensitivity: 44dB +/-3 dB@1KHz
Microphone Frequency response: 20Hz-16KHz
Microphone impedance: 2.2K Ohm

Fit and Package
I am pleasantly surprised by Maximo’s comfortable snowman-shaped ear pieces which drape over each earphone’s driver section. They are extremely soft, fit well into any ear type, and come in three ear sizes – there are four sets in total. The earphone unit itself is small and light, making wearing a charm and is pretty easy to insert. The problem, basically, is that in order to get a secure fit, you may have to push the housing so that it fits well. And removal requires the opposite action. Unfortunately, this Maximo earphone, like the q-Jays, has very little protection at the end of the housing. Over time, the connection to the housing may weaken, breaking either the cable or the pseudo stress relief at the earphone’s base.

HP-Review-Maximo-iP-HS5-grommet

The iP-HS5 can be worn normally with the cable hanging down, or looped over the ear for reduced microphonics. Doing so though, limits the use of the microphone. Either way is comfortable, and as we will see later, sounds very good. Though not exactly earplug-territory, it blocks a goodly amount of noise.

The iP-HS5 comes pretty well outfitted with a generous accessory package which includes: a 3,5mm extension cable, two smaller 2,5 extensions, 4 ear pieces, a lanyard, shirt clip, and carrying ‘case’. The latter is the weakest link of the package, hardly protecting the contents, but with loads of space pouching everything very well.

HP-Review-Maximo-iP-HS5-package

Build Quality and Cable
Maximo chose to tether the iP-HS5 to a horribly noisy nylon-coated cable. The upside is that it looks cool, but god has it got problems. The first is that it is noisy. If the Head Direct RE-2 was annoying, the Maximo is nigh’ on frustratingly so. And like the Z-buds, it is prone to kink and even unravel at places. Thankfully, when worn over the ear, touch noise is diminished, but remain on the wrong side of annoying. Then, there isn’t a single proper stress relief on the cable. The upper portion which connects to the earphone has a rubber insulator, but it is seamed, and liable to split near the earphone. The nylon sheath does provide some protection, but it isn’t foolproof.

HP-Review-Maximo-iP-HS5-cable-curl

The housing is made of turned aluminium, and the pause/play button is similarly strong and light. Had Maximo not chosen a nylon cable sheath, the earphones and play/pause button would needlessly weight down the overall design. The rubber neck cinch is a very good design – at first. But after a few weeks of constant use, loses its grip on the cable as its inner openings grind into larger bores and eventually lose their grip on the cable.

Like the Zagg Z-Buds, the build quality isn’t up to par with its 80$ price, trumped even by the cheaper Nuforce NE7M and by the mic-less MEELectronics M6 and M9. But then again, Maximo comes strapped with an accessory kit fit for MacGyver and a decent sounding microphone. And, Maximo’s proprietary ear pieces really are a step above most of the competition, providing ample isolation and a smooth fit, though Maximo would be wise to at least provide hybrid foamies for folks who don’t get on with silicon.

Sound
I will start with what I like (and there is a lot to like). Akin to more neutral headphones, the Maximo iP-HS5 isn’t overwhelming despite its large dynamic driver, nor is it ‘dark’. Bass notes have good presence, but not a lot of excess weight. In other words, any genre flows and moves with speed. If Monster’s Turbine seats bass near the front, the iP-HS5 ushers him a little further back where he still can reach 20 Hz, but not without struggling.

Male and female vocals sing sonorously, but neither are this headphone’s strong suit. Female voices (and to a lesser extent, male), can sound reedy – thin in comparison to their surroundings. My guess is that the iP-HS5’s sparkly treble is the biggest influencing factor, spreading its shimmer and shine down the homage-paying chain. Of course, we are not talking about the somewhat grainy or harsh highs of the PFE 112 and 121, but it is sure that Maximo’s headset has a special affinity for highs.

And while we are at it, delineating it all isn’t too big of a job. Don’t worry about smear – the iP-HS5 is clean, drifting from frequency to frequency with ease. Still, it isn’t the most dynamic of headphones. What it does, it does well; and those who like it will like it a lot. But, it doesn’t ventriloquise music all over the place. No, it remains mature, keeping music right around the ears for a good, focused listen.

And lastly, its microphone records cleanly without much interference. But if you use it whilst walking, it will pick up on all the intense noise its cable is capable of. Again, placement is great when wearing the earphones down and when chatting up a storm, won’t miss a word. But don’t expect it to replace your taper’s kit when recording that U2 concert on the sly.

Out and About
As much as I would love to praise Maximo, I cannot. The iP-HS5 is a tangled, microphonic mess of cable headaches and iffy build quality. Every step pounds a new definition of noise into the earphones; every movement invites the grating sound of the nylon-covered cable – and sadly, any touch, however slight is loud and annoying. Cable length is pretty good, but could do with another 10 cm; the extension is too long for real-world use unless you plan on attaching it to your home amp. The problem is that this headphone, while nice, does not sound good enough to warrant a dedicated amp, so I can imagine that it will stay in the plastic tray long after purchase.

HP-Review-Maximo-iP-HS5-fitfront

Conclusion
Does the iP-HS5 sound better than the former cost/performance king? Yes, it does but it is no revelation. It is brighter and more fun than the NE7M with clearer highs, lows, and an attractive midline. Like the NE7M, it packs a well-placed microphone. Add to that a play/pause button and excellent comfort, and the iP-HS5 begins to look very good indeed. But, it is 30$ more expensive investment with an overall lower quality build to the NuForce without offering much better sound quality. And eventually, the nylon cable sheaths will kink, fray, and possibly pop out of their protective rubber grommets, or cut teeth on the headphone jack. So while this package comes with loads of goodies and has up-to-par audio, the iP-HS5 is very much like its neck cinch: immediately impressive, but unfortunately coloured by a debilitating future which if anything, isn’t able to keep up alternatives.

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Headphone Summary
Title: Maximo iP-HS5 Developer: Maximo
Reviewed Ver: 1.00
Price: $79.99
  • Great accessory package
  • Good sound
  • Comfortable ear pieces
  • Good mic
  • Horrid cable microphonics
  • Cable kinks
  • Underwhelming build quality for price

Hot damn! Headphones really are a rockin’ way to enjoy music, right? Feel free to explore TMA’s headphone oubliette.

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Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi Review – Sleek, shiny and mic’d for your iPhone! http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/06/26/ultimate-ears-220vi-review-sleek-shiny-and-micd-for-your-iphone/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/06/26/ultimate-ears-220vi-review-sleek-shiny-and-micd-for-your-iphone/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2009 15:11:28 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=14355 Ultimate Ears are one of the most influential custom earphone company’s out there, catering to bands like the Killers, Billy Idol, Van Halen, Metallica and John Mayer among many others. Frankly put, they are masters of the high-end domain. But like all high-end companies, Ultimate Ears also produce consumer-oriented gear that compares well with the … Read more]]>

review-headphone-ue220vi-casephonecloseup

Ultimate Ears are one of the most influential custom earphone company’s out there, catering to bands like the Killers, Billy Idol, Van Halen, Metallica and John Mayer among many others. Frankly put, they are masters of the high-end domain.

But like all high-end companies, Ultimate Ears also produce consumer-oriented gear that compares well with the market in terms of price and performance. We will be looking at several of the iconic company’s products in the next few months, but today, the MetroFi 220vi will sit in the hot seat.

The Metro Fi series is characterised by good looks and solid engineering. The 220 has a special titanium coated speaker diaphragm which is purported to enhance your music’s mid and high range. Our job is to see if its marketing matches its performance. Of note, the 220vi, like its less expensive sibling, the 170vi, sports a microphone and four-pole jack for use on mobile phones like Apple’s iPhone 2G, 3G and 3GS. It also works with the likes of the iPod touch 2G.

review-headphone-ue220vi-4polejack

Specifications:
Earphone type: In-ear
Speaker type: Single, high performance, propriety, dynamic speaker
Input sensitivity: 103 dB SPL/mW at 1 kHz
Impedance: 18 ohms at 1 kHz
Cable length: 116.8 cm
Weight: 14.4 grams
Input connector: 3.5 mm gold plated
Frequency response: 20 Hz — 20 kHz
Noise isolation: 16 dB

Package Contents
Alas, for the somewhat pricey MSRP of 99.99$, the MetroFi 220vi come with nothing more than a hard plastic case, the earphones, and 3 silicon flanges. This is in stark contrast to Nuforce’s NE7M or even Zagg’s Z-buds, both of which stocked their packages with goodies and for less money.

Unfortunately, if you don’t get on well with the small, medium and large sized flanges, you are going to have to look elsewhere for comfortable sleeves. I found them problematic only with extended listening of probably over 30 minutes where my inner ear began to ache. Fortunately, I have many sleeves at my disposal and found the longer flanges of Yuin’s RE2 (review forthcoming) to work best as the sound tube of the 220vi is quite long which makes the use of short flanges somewhat difficult.

review-headphone-ue220vi-flange

All is not lost, however, as the ‘liquid silver’ outer housing is stylish, catching good light vibes and with clean lines that encompass both the cable and its remote and mic, make for a very stylish earphone. In fact, while the Q-Jays are stylishly adorned with rubber and shiny plastic bits, the UE model outdoes its Swedish competitor in preserving a moderate, yet chic design.

review-headphone-ue220vi-allcontents

Cable
Another surprise that Ultimate Ear have thrown into the mix is a very stiff cable. While it looks and feels nice, it is simply too energetic and transfers excess of noise to the ear. In fact, I would say even more energetic than the Monster Turbine cable. Fortunately, it does not tangle at all – in fact I have tried tossing the 220vi in pockets, crumpling it in my hands and rolling it around in hopes that it might snag on something. Nothing. Nada.

review-headphone-ue220vi-ysplitremote

So, while it loses points for energy (and ultimately, touch-noise), the 220’s cable is when out and about in situations where you might just toss it in your purse or pocket. However, Ultimate Ears cheaped out concerning joint and stress reliefs. There simply are none anywhere. The jack has a small rubber sleeve, but neither the Y-split or the mic (two points that are apt to be stretched) have any moulded rubber sleeve support. The units housing too is secured as haphazardly as the Jays Q-Jay is which could spell trouble after extended use.

That said, the cable’s length is just about right at 116 centimetres and broken up in three places: 15cm below the right housing, again at the Y-split and finally a little lower, where the remote control button rests. Pocketing your DAP is no problem whilst listening to the 220vi.

But, due to the touchy microphonics of Ultimate Ears’ product, walking, moving, hand motions – everything will cause the cable to emit thudding sounds in your ears, but it is not nearly as bad as Zagg’s Z-buds.

The remote is relatively easy to use and the microphone sound quality is excellent with clearly rendered voices and not too much inclusion of background sound. Finally, you can use these either over-the-ear or earbud-style.

review-earphone-220vi-recording-1 (MP3 Format)

review-headphone-ue220vi-overear review-headphone-ue220vi-inear

Onto the Music!
I’ve changed my music this time around, opting rather for the usual trance, but adding into the mix some Nick Cave and Yelle. MC Solaar remains my benchmark for hip/hop and Feist will join the mix.

Nick Cave – The Boatman’s Call
While still a dark Cave album, the Boatman’s Call is wrought with soul and some very keen melodies that sing out in songs like Into My Arms, There is a Kingdom and People Ain’t No good.

Yelle – Pop Up
Yelle is everything to all people – maybe. She is a pop musician, but has her hand well in rock and speedy electronic music. Ce Ju and Les Femmes hit with hard bass, but are well controlled songs with a great focus on vocal energy.

MC Solaar – Mach 6
Mach 6 is simply phenomenal. Pop, hip hop and great, great bass. MC Solaar’s voice is silky and yet quick which sound great with hardware that can do male vocals well. La vie est belle and Introspection remain my benchmarks for hip/hop. Introspection has some of the deepest bass lines in its introduction and La vie est belle is fast, featuring great electronic instruments, male and female vocals.

Bass
the 220vi is a performer in the lower end of the spectrum. Its titanium coated driver produces prodigious bass, both in depth and resolution. This is where the price of 89$ does not look so bad. The Nuforce NE7M may be a benchmark for low-cost earphones, but the 220vi smashes them in every category. Bass can be boomy (evident in Solaar’s Hijo de Africa), but it simply rumbles where the music needs rumbling.

Markus Schulz’ Mainstage was stunning, vibrating unlike any other phone in my current possesion (my dad stole my Turbines) while Nick Cave’s Boatman’s Call was appropriately moody, but not as smooth as I had expected. While I consider the bass of these sub 100$ earphones to be among the best I have heard in the price range, it can at times, boom, but not excessively so.

Fans of very fast bass-driven music may find these a tad too hot, but they stand up well for electronic, hip/hop, jazz, classical and pop.

Mids and Treble
While bass is the 220vi’s mainstay as a headphone, mids and highs are done quite well. Though not a ‘detailed’ i.e., treble-spiked earphone it has a good sizzle up top with decent instrument separation and placement. Fans of symbols and high hats will like these, but will probably wish for a bit more sparkle.

Similarly, mids are decent, but subdued. In particular, female vocals, ala Yelle and Madeleine Peyroux seem dry and in some cases, short on emotion and feel. It is not altogether a bad thing however as electronic music sounds great.

MC Solaar’s bass is a wonderful showstopper, but vocals on the 220vi congeal well enough for a good listen. While not impressed by female vocals at all, Nick Cave’s ballads were powerful and the dark edge that comes through the earphone lent a sombreness that some other headphones lose.

Soundstage
Remarkably, the 220vi are an interesting mix of performance and maturity with regard to both separation of instruments and their placement around your head. Nothing like Sleeks bone-conducting customs, these earphones have a compact stage that is neither very wide nor very long to the front or the back. However, placement is great. The 220vi don’t litter your head with indiscernible globs of sound. Rather, a piano is well separated from the drums and the bass. These don’t perform like armature phones, but they bring a maturity to presenting instruments that is altogether pleasing and for the price, a nice surprise.

Isolation
We have until now, reviewed inner earphones whose intrinsic ability to block external noise is often second to none. Dynamic phones like the 220vi and Sennheiser’s IE8, however, rely on an open port to help passive bass amplification. This open port makes the UE phone perform less well when compared to its rivals, but by no means is it a slouch. In fact, the open port, in allowing for better bass, has made a great trade off for isolation. You will hear the hubbub of people around you: conversation, shopping noises and lots of other distractions, but it will all be slightly muffled. Ultimate Ears rate the 220vi for 16db of isolation which is enough to allow you to focus on your music, but you will never forget your surroundings.

You may also notice some hiss from your player (assuming you don’t own an iPhone 3G or iPod touch 2G), but not too much. With a sensitivity of 103db, your player will have to be pretty archaic to really bother your music.

review-headphone-ue220vi-mic

Conclusion
Am I happy with the Ultimate Ears 220vi? For the most part, quite. They are well-designed, good sounding earphones that have a great mic and remote nub. With little hiss to bother the listener and some good old-fashioned isolation to muffle the geezer beside you, this 99$ product is great. But, for a 99$ middle-level product, there should really be a better selection of accessories, attempts at strain relief and a cable that doesn’t sound like a drum set.

Had these been priced about 20-30$ lower, I could overlook these failings, but 99$ is a lot to ask for a product that lacks a few decent additions for a customer’s comfort. I would like to grab these, but in good conscience, I cannot. Therefore, the 220vi from Ultimate Ears gets Tapped from TouchMyApps.

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App Summary
Title: Ultimate Ears 220vi Developer: Ultimate Ears
Price: $99.99
  • Great Looks
  • Good Mic
  • Small and chic
  • Great Bass performance
  • Decent mids and highs
  • No stress relief
  • Microphonic!
  • Poor fit kit
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Please also take a look at our Headphone section or, if you want to read our other inner earphone reviews, check below:
Westone’s UM3X Review – Q-Jays in Review — Sleek Audio’s CT6 Custom Earphones in Review — Phonak Audeo PFE 112 Inner Earphones and 121 Mobile Phone Compatible Earphones in ReviewNuforce NE7M Mobile Phone Compatible Inner Earphones in Review — Zagg Z-Buds Mobile Phone Compatible Earphones in Review — Monster Turbine Inner Earphones in Review
review-headphone-ue220vi-4polejack review-headphone-ue220vi-allcontents review-headphone-ue220vi-casephonecloseup review-headphone-ue220vi-flange review-headphone-ue220vi-inear review-headphone-ue220vi-mic review-headphone-ue220vi-overear review-headphone-ue220vi-ysplitremote

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Phonak Audeo 121 and 112 iPhone compatible Inner Earphones in Review: Phantastic! http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/04/04/phonak-audeo-121-and-112-iphone-compatible-inner-earphones-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/04/04/phonak-audeo-121-and-112-iphone-compatible-inner-earphones-in-review/#comments Sat, 04 Apr 2009 23:20:04 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=8468 Phonak – Swiss Precision Who are Phonak? “Headquartered in Stäfa, Switzerland, Phonak has been developing, producing and selling technologically advanced hearing and radio systems for more than 50 years. At Phonak, we use our extensive knowledge of hearing technology and acoustics to improve the hearing capacity, speech recognition and quality of life for the hearing-impaired. … Read more]]>

headphone-review-phonak-dsc_7809Phonak – Swiss Precision

Who are Phonak?
“Headquartered in Stäfa, Switzerland, Phonak has been developing, producing and selling technologically advanced hearing and radio systems for more than 50 years. At Phonak, we use our extensive knowledge of hearing technology and acoustics to improve the hearing capacity, speech recognition and quality of life for the hearing-impaired. This know-how has now been used to develop Audéo Perfect Fit Earphones (PFE).”

PFE models have been stirring up the portable headphone forum at headfi which is usually stopped up by the big names: Sennheiser, Shure, Westone, Ultimate Ears and Etymotic. Since we have tried three newcomers to inner ear earphones in our previous reviews, we felt that Phonak’s offering would fit right in! In this review, we look at the PFE 112 and 121 which are our first reviewed balanced armature earphones and promise not to be our last! Feel free to discuss this review of the Phonak Audeo 121 and 112 in our forums.

PFE Packaging
Below is a nice marketing video from PFE

Both the 112 and 121 come carefully wrapped within a plastic-screened cardboard box. The inner compartments neatly slide out safely and neatly with easy to arrange contents, however, it is 100% non-environmentally friendly plastic. Loads of empty space within the packaging and wasteful plastic skids unfortunately cheapen the presentation but within the price range, thisis par.

PFE Fit Kit
Phonak are first and foremost, a well-established hearing-aid company and as such, should have exemplary knowledge of the workings of the ear. Fortunately, their fit kit includes both silicon flanges and one pair of expensive Comply® foamies.
Everyone’s ears are different but between the small, medium and large flanges and the soft Comply® foamies, most ear shapes should be comfortably covered. As per usual however, the silicon flanges did not suit my comfort needs the best. They were comfortable and pliable however I prefer more isolation as much of my listening is done on the train as well as at home.

Unfortunately, Phonak chose a differently sized sound stem than the typical Sony/Sennheiser/Monster variety which at the same time is larger than Westone/Shure/Etymotic. That means that if you want to use your old flanges or foamies, you will have to slightly mod your own or press REALLY hard to squeeze them onto the PFE.

Phonak include in the package a unique item: changeable filters that tailor sound, acting much like tuning ports found in Sleek Audio earphones. Phonak state that the included grey filters enhance mids whilst the black filters enhance the highs and bass. I have been using the black filter on the PFE 112 and the grey filter on the PFE 121 and found that both are well balanced and each fit a certain type of music well. Excellent addition Phonak!

The shape of the unit is of some concern to me however. Unlike Shure, Westone and Audio Technica models which mimic the inner ear shape, the PFE models are composed of hard and angular edges which may cause discomfort for some people. Again, everyone’s ears are shaped differently, but I did not find the PFE to be comfortable even in normal listening situations despite Phonak’s marketing claims of “Unrivaled Comfort”.

Much nicer than the Nuforce toss-pouch and miles beyond the serviceability of Zagg’s sock, Phonak’s zippered case is still not ideal. It fits everything including the cleaning tool, filters and is almost big enough for a small portable player or big enough for 10 of the new iPod shuffles.

PFE Specifications
Sound pressure level
107 dB SPL/mW, 1 kHz
32 ohms, 1 kHz
5Hz – 17kHz
3.6 ft/110 cm
0.6 oz/15 g

With a sensitivity of 107db, I was expecting to hear quite a bit of hiss coming from my non-iPod Touch 2G sources, however the PFE are not prone to hiss. Though they are sensitive and sport a low ohm rating of 32, they simply play music, not the wind!

PFE Cable and Construction: Mix the Good and the Bad
I am immediately reminded of Victor’s FX500 cable and to a lesser extent, the Shure SE530’s cable. The PFE in either white or black has a soft, thick and supple cable. At the y-split and afterward, a similarly constructed but thinner cable continues as the signal divides between the left and right earbuds.

Since the cable is light and supple, it makes hardly any noise – microphonics, of course exist but are feeble. The PFE must be worn in an over-the-ear placement, and as such, touch-noise is much less noticeable than either the Nuforce or Zagg. It is a very secure and snug fit. To ensure the long life of its cables, Phonak also include silicon ear guides which lessen the detrimental effects of body oils and sweat which can crystalise and crack the cable. The guides also help the earphones to stay in place during activities that might otherwise force them out of the ear.

PFE’s microphone is small and falls neatly to the right side of the face, below the chin and is adorned by a central button which is easy to press. The button can be used to pause, resume and skip music tracks or to transfer to a call. After many Skype calls and bits of recording, I am impressed: the quality of the mic is clearly excellent.

Unfortunately, not all is good. Though the cable is high quality and devoid of most touch-noise, it does not inspire the most confidence when regarding two issues: strain relief and longevity. Firstly, strain relief at the earphone is attended to by a small rubber grommet that digs down into the plastic arm of the PFE. The whole arm is very slender. The grommet is not fastened to the cable itself, so merely provides a sheath rather than an achoring point for strength. Also, as seems to be the trend, there is no strain relief on the y-split. In regards to longevity of the cable, much is uncertain as the PFE have been to market less than a half year but I have hopes that will proper use of the cable guides, the cables will last a long time – indeed, it is recommended to use them as often as you listen to music. Since the guides can be removed, the can be used with other earphones to save their cables as well. They can be purchased for 8$ per 3 pair from Phonak’s website.

Finally, regarding housing materials, Phonak chose plastic. Plastic like other composites is strong only when its glue is strong and even then, the plastic can be stressed in ways that metal will never be. This plastic is not high-impact plastic as seen on Westone UM2 models, rather it is soft and scratchable. Treat your PFE delicately! That means no twisting, exuberant pushing or pulling – take care of your investment to ensure its long life.

PFE Mic Quality
Please listen below for a sample of call fidelity. As mentioned before, I have found the PFE to deliver clear listening and transmitting signals. Of course this only applies to the PFE 121 model as the 112 does not feature a microphone.

PFE Mic Quality Test Recording – MP3

Sound Quality: The Right Fit means the Right Sound
In Phonak’s marketing literature, they mention, “First-of-its-kind eaphones by leading hearing systems manufacturer provide exceptional comfort with high design and great sound”, and, “New Audeo Earphones Offer Unrivaled Comfort”. I agree with many points; they are well designed and offer great sound however, as I mentioned before, I don’t find them comfortable when compared with many inner-earphones I have tried – the hard angles are just somewhat sinister.

Since the PFE do not use the standard size sound tube (either standard for Shure or for Sony/Sennheiser), if you don’t like the fit or sound of the included ear pieces, you’ll not easily able to use your favourite ear tips from other phones. Slight modifications can be made to Shure Olives or other ear tips to fit the PFE, but perfection is slightly out of the equation. The sound tube is short and flanged. Modifying ear pieces for the PFE is fun to do but making effective pieces that do not come off in the ear is difficult because of the short sound tube. That said, any stock earpiece that Phonak included fit well and are comfortable, so have fun trying them out!

I spent most of my time with the staples of shigzeo’s library:
Armin van Buuren – Trance
Paul Oakenfold – Trance
DJ Tiësto – Trance
Ice Cube – Rap
MC Solaar – Rap
Kent – Rock/Alternative
Ultima Thule – Rock/Punk
Madeleine Peyroux – Vocal
Aphex Twin – I care Because You Do – Ambient, Space

PFE Bass: Clean, Strong but Subtle
Phonak’s PFE is not bloated, overpowering or sloppy. If you have heard Audio Technica balanced-armature IEM’s before, you will easily relate to the PFE house sound. Audeo spec the PFE’s bass as extended to 5HZ but of course I cannot vouch for that as I am not a bat. However, with mere human ears, I am impressed by the extension and clarity of the bass. Quantity depends greatly on the tip you choose. With Comply® tips, bass is at its strongest and yet remains detailed enough to please those whose ears prefer details. I was tipped off by a fellow at headfi.org that recommended inserting the Comply® tips rear-end first. Doing so will bring out details but keep the excellent isolation characteristics that the Comply® tips provide. Astonishingly so, just by reversing the tips, the Comply® are crisper and at the same time, a little less bassy. Whereas before, they slightly muddied the sound, reversing them keeps bass, treble and mids clean, crisp and maintains the excellent seal for which Comply® tips are are renowned.

The silicon flanges lessen the perceived bass output of the PFE but retain air and clarity. They are soft and non-irritating which is a boon for sensitive ears like mine. For those who value absolute clarity, the silicon may give a preferable presentation.
For my purposes however, I found that the bass that I desire came only from cutting apart pink earplugs, flattening the top and boring a hole through the centre. These provide a great balance between the slightly muffled sound from the Comply® and the uber-detailed sound of the flange. In fact, using this method, the PFE became bass monsters that suit very well to bass and atmospheric music such as IDM, trance and rap.

PFE Treble and Mid: Where the Tough Gets Going
Before I heard the PFE, I read in many forums about they clarity of the treble and instrument separation that rivalled the best even from Etymotic. Having owned the Etymotic ER4S, I was unimpressed with the hype in the forums as the PFE is a new phone and has not yet stood the test of time compared to the more experienced companies like Etymotic. Well, the PFE earphones are wonderful. In fact, I prefer them to the ER4S because they are not as fatiguing. After hours of listening, I am not tired or strained by the PFE – in fact, I have listened up to 5 hours in one day on them with no side effects. There is good space around each instrument and the highs really shine. Mids are no less brilliant and match wonderfully to the highs, bringing crispness and clarity to vocals, electronic instruments and breath even to quiet intimate passages. While not as forward as the mids in IEMs such as UM2 from Westone or SE530 from Shure, the PFE are sure to please mid-lovers and vocal music fans who love clear, full and lush vocals.

These phones best the ER4S in Jazz and acoustic music because they are not tiring nor gratingly metallic. Of course, that is my own opinion and in subjective comparisons, only your own opinion really matters – so please keep that in mind.

PFE Soundstage: A Little can Go a Long Way
Phonak’s PFE delivers on mids and highs in such a delightful way that it is easy to misinterpret more space than actually is present in the music. Instruments are well arranged and placed with no smudging. No matter which tip or filter you use, the stage however, is not nearly as wide or 3D sounding when compared to some other balanced armature and dynamic designs. It is by no means small but it is intimate and performs admirably with jazz, classical and rock. For music that needs tonnes of space, they do well but are not stellar.

PFE Amped: Unmasking the Monster
I have not finished reviewing a very nice amp from nuforce called the icon mobile however I have been using it with all the phones in our reviews and will set up addendums to their reviews to include sound changes when amped.

Suffice to say: the PFE like power. With the added battery power of the nuforce, the iPod or iPhone is unloaded and can deliver its full potential to the amp rather than trying to flex its muscles against the incredible resistance that IEM present to its internal amp. In short: Bass is better but not massively so. The most impressive change I have noticed is in stage. With the driving power of the nuforce, the intimate stage of the PFE spreads out delicately to engulf 3D space. It is lovely to listen to not mere left/right separation and staging but to imagine instruments coming from in front and behind the listener within a contained smallish 3D enclave.

Phonak on the Go: Great
As I mentioned before, the PFE cable is light and nearly noise-free. It does not tangle nor grind on clothes, nor will it bunch up and tangle. Phonak simply made a great cable for a great product. With that said, be advised that you should use the silicon ear guides to protect your investment from oils and sweat – you are probably your IEM’s worst enemy in the long run. Keep it in its case when not in use and when or if the filters clog from debris, clean it.

Conclusion
Audeo have created a remarkable first product. The PFE is articulate, smooth yet deep and extended. It is not fatiguing like some other similarly voiced IEMs but wears comfortably for a long time. Audeo blessed their product with an excellent cable that is nearly noise-free and devoid of tangles but needs to be taken care of as its soft material may be prone harden or crack with prolonged exposure to body oils and sweat. Sound changing filters is a unique twist on acoustic tweaking and works well as advertised making the PFE rather like two earphones in one. However, ear tips will change the sound more than the filters will and the PFE come with comfortable silicon flanges and luxurious and expensive Comply® foamies.

They are a great sounding inner earphone at a good price. Are they the best sounding earphone for you? That is personal. My tastes rest in a phone that has a larger stage and more bass but I enjoy these very much. Remember that you can coax more bass out with custom designed ear tips of your make if you are unhappy with bass quantity.

Phonak Audeo PFE 112 and 121 get Grabbed by TouchMyApps. For more Headphone reviews, please visit our Headphone review section.

PHONAK AUDEO PERFECT FIT PFE HEADPHONES..BRAND NEW

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App Summary
Title: Phonak Audeo PFE 112 & 121 Developer: Phonak
Price: $139 (112), $159 (121)
  • Excellent fit kit
  • Clear, resolved sound
  • Non-fatiguing highs, smooth mids and well extended bass
  • Unique sound-tailoring system
  • Great cable and unique cable guide system
  • Not the “perfect fit”
  • Not overly comfortable
  • Cable may be too short for some
  • All plastic construction

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Nuforce NE7M Earphones and Mic: New Kings on the Block http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/03/17/nuforce-ne7m-earphones-and-mic-new-kings-on-the-block/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/03/17/nuforce-ne7m-earphones-and-mic-new-kings-on-the-block/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2009 15:47:58 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=6687 Nuforce NE7M: New King of the Block Nuforce are not a huge company, but they have been making products for years that scale extremely well for the price. After several weeks with their excellent NE7M, I am ready to declare Nuforce the new King of the inexpensive earphone Block. Feel free to discuss this review … Read more]]>
nuforce-ne7m-dsc_7742

Nu Frills

Nuforce NE7M: New King of the Block
Nuforce are not a huge company, but they have been making products for years that scale extremely well for the price. After several weeks with their excellent NE7M, I am ready to declare Nuforce the new King of the inexpensive earphone Block. Feel free to discuss this review of the Nuforce NE7M headset in our forums.

Nuforce Packaging – The Emperor’s Nu Clothes
Honestly, for 49.99$, I was expecting moulded, finger cutting plastic. Nuforce provided. While a bit kinder than Zagg’s blood-sucking plastic, Nuforce’s design is still cheap, sharp edged and throwaway plastic. However, there is enough cardboard and natural fibres in the package to make me believe that they care ever so slightly about the environment and their customer’s fingers.

Nuforce Fit Kit – Nu King on the Block
Nuforce began to surprise long before I put the NE7M into my ears. Their fit kit has the usual three-pair of single silicon flanges but also includes 2 pair of hybrid foamies in medium and large sizes. Since I react poorly to silicon, this inclusion is a welcome relief.

nuforce-ne7m-dsc_7740

Comfortable and well-selected fit kit

The silicon flanges are akin to the wide-mouth Sony and Sennheiser offerings, and are decently comfortable. I was able to use the smallest flange with no immediate discomfort but used the hybrid foamies for most of my review purposes. You can stow all the earpieces and the phones comfortably in the toss-pouch that Nuforce provide – again, though not a wonderful design, for 49$, the inclusion of even a cheap pouch is welcome.

Nuforce Earphones Specifications
Earphone:
Cable Length: 1.2 meters
Driver Size: 9mm
Driver impedence: 16ohm
Frequency Response: 20 Hz-22 KHz
Sensitivity: 100+/-3dB/mW at 1 KHz
Rated Power: 2mW
Max power: 20mW
Plug: 3.5mm
Weight: 12g

Microphone:
Frequency: 20Hz – 16 kHz
Sensitivity: 58 dB +/-2dB
Directional: Omnidirectional

What all that means is of little importance if you are not really into your audio. If so, then just bare skip over this bit. If you do care about how easy the NE7M is to drive and how much hiss it will exhibit, then the spec above will help you a good bit. 16 – 32 ohms is pretty standard for inner earphones as well as earbuds. Since TMA is aimed at the iPhone and iPod Touch markets, I will only discuss how well they are driven from those models.

16 ohm is a hard to drive number. Most players will lose all bass definition when driving such a load. If you have a 1st generation iPod Touch, you will lose most of the definition but will still retain bass quantity. The sound you will hear is a thump or a boom. If your music does not rely on high-definition bass tones, then this may not bother you but if you like to hear the fabric of lower tones, you will be disappointed. The same goes for iPhone and iPhone 3G. Fortunately, the Touch 2G is much better when driving low ohm phones. You will get all the glorious bass quantity but with added clarity down to very close to 20 HZ, which is past the rumble and audible spectrum for most people.

As for soundstage, iPod and iPhone users – you are in luck. Apples players remain to this day on top in terms of left-to-right separation even when under load – that is a good thing.

Lastly, with a sensitivity of 100db, theNE7M does not hiss much at all unless you plug it into your Macbook Pro or other laptop. They are almost completely quiet from an iPod or iPhone headphone out which is great when you want to listen to the music and not the wind.

NE7M Cable and Construction: Nu King for the Price
Unlike many competitors, Nuforce chose to include a decent-quality cable in the package. The NE7M cable is long, light and relatively free from touch-noise. Though it does not compare to Westone or Futuresonic’s offerings but the NE7M is less than half of their price.

The microphone is small and slim with enough slack to be used either under the chin or looped over the ear to reduce microphonics. It also does not weigh down the cable: Nuforce did their homework. Because the NE7M cable is so light, it does not pull down on the earphones at all. The rubber is also not prone to tangle as much as many earphones, but still, I do not suggest bunching the NE7M up and stashing it in your pocket; use rather, the toss-pouch that Nuforce provide.

The NE7M is terminated with a strong right-angle connection that is thin enough for first generation iPhones and various portable amps that have recessed headphone jacks. Because it is right angle, less pressure is exerted on the headphone jack of your iPhone, making listening safer for your investment. Nuforce have also provided enough stress relief around the plug to ensure that the cable is not cut.  However, signal shorts occur from time to time either using amps or non-iPhone or iPod Touch devices. If that happens, pull the jack slightly out to maintain a good connection. Though this is a mark against the NE7M, their overall score is still nearly flawless.

Housing the NE7M, is a combination of plastic and metal which, though not pretty, inspires confidence. There is no flex in the case and the cable terminates in a small rubber grommet which is snug around the cable.
Kudos to Nuforce.

Excellent design and stress relief will protect your invesmentExcellent design and stress relief will protect your invesment

Nuforce Remote and Mic
While Zagg included a handy volume pot on their Z-buds, Nuforce chose a simpler mic-only setup that includes play/pause controls. Nuforce’s mic is better than the Zagg offering. It is slimmer, lighter and hangs lower for better reception. While testing with an iPhone, I found calls to be clear and relatively free from touch noise. Below is a recorded test of the NE7M microphone.

nuforce-ne7m-recording – MP3 format

Sound Quality: The Right Fit means the Right Sound
Simply put, the NE7M is a juggernaut. It is 49$, includes a microphone and a good quality cable. But it sounds better than any earphones in the price range. With the decent fit kit that Nuforce provided, I am able to enjoy painless listening using the hybrid foamie ear pieces though I have tried and enjoyed even the silicon flanges. The hybrid foamies will bloat the bass ever so slightly and lose a bit of treble detail, but they are comfortable for long listening sessions.

I also tried my favourite Etymotic foamies with the rubber sleeve removed from the inside: pure bliss. Headstage, treble and bass are all preserved but with clarity of sound presence that no other tip supplied – at least for my tastes. Unfortunately, they are neither cheap nor included and have to be modified for use with the NE7M.

For listening tests, I spent most of my time with these staples of shigzeo’s library:

Armin van Buuren – Trance
Paul Oakenfold – Trance
DJ Tiësto – Trance
Ice Cube – Rap
MC Solaar – Rap
Kent – Rock/Alternative
Ultima Thule – Rock/Punk
Madeleine Peyroux – Vocal

NE7M Bass: The Cheap King on the Block
For 49$, I have never heard an earphone produce such rich, deep and detailed bass. It is bloat-free next to Sennheiser’s lower CX models and does not fatigue. Lower notes resonate nicely in the sound chamber and have a soft edge that makes them perfect for acoustic music, however the NE7M bass is not slow. It can keep up with trance music, electronic and rap while commenting well on rock, folk and jazz.

NE7M Treble and Mids: King Henry VIII
The Nuforce NE7M is a warmer sounding phone even next to the Monster Turbine which is a bass king in its own right. The mids are warm and bring singers, pianos and other instruments well into centre focus while treble is a bit shy. Still a pleasant listen, the NE7M does not have much upper-end energy and sparkle. It presents music in mellow, well-rounded tones but is not dark.

NE7M Soundstage: New King on the Block
There is no excuse for a 49$ ear phone to have better soundstage than the Monster Turbine but Nuforce are pardoned in their excellent creation. The NE7M is not a perfect-sounding product but its bass and soundstage is off the charts. Instruments are not crowded together but splay widely across the space in front of you and to the side. They remind the Atrio M5′s stage in fact but lack a bit of its precision. Wonderful Nuforce – at 49$, you have created a new benchmark.

NE7M on the Move
The light and hassle-free cable is a life-saver while out and about. It makes some noise, but clothing rub and fingers do not jar listening. Because the cable is light, it does not cause the phones to hang too deeply in the ear or to come unplugged. Again, Nuforce trump anything in the price range and do well against more pricey competitors such as Zagg’s offering.

Slim and hassle-free means great for out and about

Slim and hassle-free means great for out and about

Conclusion
My final analysis will be based on utility and performance for the price. Nuforce’s experience and expertise in audio are evident in their offering of the NE7M: it is simply stunning. I would pay more than 49$ for the inclusion of such a great cable and microphone system combined with category-defining sound. Though overall better-sounding earphones such as the Monster Turbine exist, there is to my knowledge, no other earphone on the market which can deliver the same combination of great sound and great features for the price.

Nuforce’s NE7M gets kissed by TouchMyApps. For more Headphone reviews, please visit our Headphone review section.

NuForce NE-7M Stereo Earphones / Headset (iPhone Compatible)

kiss

App Summary
Title: Nuforce NE7M Developer: Nuforce
Price: $49.99
  • Best in class sound
  • Best in class cable
  • Good fit Kit
  • Light and well constructed
  • 49.99$ but easily bests higher priced competition
  • Packaging is a shame – too much throwaway plastic

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Can’t get enough headphones? Check out our headphone section and budget earphone reviews.
Klipsch Image S2 Inner Earphones in Review – Meelectronics Ai-M6 and M9 in Review – Head Direct RE2 Inner Earphone in Review

nuforce-ne7m-dsc_7742 Slim and hassle-free means great for out and about nuforce-ne7m-dsc_7740 nuforce-ne7m-dsc_7751 nuforce-ne7m-dsc_7752 Excellent design and stress relief will protect your invesmentRead more]]>
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Zagg Z-buds in Review: Swagg or Dragg? http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/03/11/zagg-z-buds-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2009/03/11/zagg-z-buds-in-review/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2009 20:58:48 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=6412 Zagg: Enter the Earphone! More popularly known for their invisibleSHIELD line of screen protector, Zagg are now entering a new and vastly different market: inner earphones. A welcome entry, the Z-buds arrive in four attractive colours and a handful of innovation. Z-Buds Packaging – Dragg Alas, I tore open the package so quickly that I … Read more]]>

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Zagg: Enter the Earphone!
More popularly known for their invisibleSHIELD line of screen protector, Zagg are now entering a new and vastly different market: inner earphones. A welcome entry, the Z-buds arrive in four attractive colours and a handful of innovation.

Z-Buds Packaging – Dragg
Alas, I tore open the package so quickly that I cannot put it back together for photographs but Zagg have made every effort to show off a product that they feel is special. The box is a pyramid of sorts with all the goodies stuffed deep inside the cardboard, behind razor-sharp plastic. You will need scissors and gloves to be sure that your hands are safe from jagged edges. In all honesty, for the price of 79$, I would have expected a safer packaging system but it is what is inside that counts is it not? Feel free to discuss this Zagg Z-buds review in our forums.

Marketing video from Zagg

Zagg’s Fit Kit – Swagg
Unlike the Monster Turbine which carries an MSRP of over 100$ more than the Z-buds, Zagg have opted to include not only silicon flanges but a nice pair of foamie-hybrids into the package. The foamies are heat-activated, meaning that they will softly shape into the contours of your ear, without bunching up against your ear canals. I have trouble with silicon flanges causing pain shortly after use, so Zagg’s addition of foamie-hybrids is ever so welcome.

The silicon flanges packaged consist of single and triple flange models in black and translucent. For silicon lovers, these are quite nice pieces but are harder than competing brands’ models and may not be as comfortable as for instance the Monster or Sony variety.
As with any earphone, the tips will create a different sound signature as they cause sound waves to rebound and echo differently – more on this later.

pssst... please help me find my missing clear set

pssst... please help me find my missing clear set

Zagg – Z-Budssss Driver and Cable Specifications
Earbuds
speaker diameter: 10mm
frequency response: 20hz to 20Khz
impedance: 32 Ohms
max input power: 10mW
cable length: 1.37 meters/54 inches
plug type: 3.5mm
sensitivity: 94dB +/- 3dB SPL/mW

What all that means is of little importance if you are not really into your audio. If so, then just bare skip over this bit. Zagg include a long cable that will never keep your chin low and your back crunched downward – I am very pleased with their choice of 137 cm – it is perfect.

If you do care about how easy the Z-buds are to drive and how much hiss they will exhibit, then the spec above will help you a good bit. 32 ohms is pretty standard for inner earphones as well as earbuds. Sometimes, the number is lower, sometimes higher but 32 ohms is an interesting number if you don’t own a current iPod. Since TMA is aimed at the iPhone and iPod Touch markets, I will only discuss how well they are driven from those models.

32 ohm is a hard to drive number. Most players will lose all bass definition when driving such a load. If you have a 1st generation iPod Touch, you will lose most of the definition but will still retain bass quantity. The sound you will hear is a thump or a boom. If your music does not rely on high-definition bass tones, then this may not bother you but if you like to hear the fabric of lower tones, you will be disappointed. The same goes for iPhone and iPhone 3G. Fortunately, the Touch 2G is much better when driving low ohm phones. You will get all the glorious bass quantity but with added clarity down to very close to 20 HZ, which is past the rumble and audible spectrum for most people.

As for soundstage, iPod users – you are in luck. The iPod remains to this day on top in terms of left-to-right separation even when under load – that is a good thing.

Lastly, with a sensitivity of 94db, the Z-buds do not hiss much at all unless you plug them into your Macbook Pro or other laptop. They are quiet from an iPod or iPhone headphone out which is great when you want to listen to the music and not the wind.

Z-Budssss Cable – Dragg
I mentioned that the Z-buds cable length is great – it is. However I have many issues with the rest of its construction. The cable is wrapped in a nylon sleeve that does one of its jobs very well: keeping the cables mostly tangle free. I cannot fault Zagg with choosing this design as it is eye-catching, feels durable and strengthens the cable inside. However, it is noisy.

Many cables exhibit noise when worn. Whenever a cable rubs clothing, fingers, wind or just moves during your commute, it will transmit that energy to your ears. The Z-buds cable is very loud – annoyingly so. I tried to wear it over my ears to reduce the touch-noise but because of the microphone module so close to the earphone, found it impractical and uncomfortable. The entire unit is also very heavy. When wearing the Z-buds with the cable draped in front of your body, you may find that the buds start to lose hold in your ears.

When worn behind the back, much of that problem is assuaged however toting a rucksack or laptop bag then creates problems with the cable. The Z-buds can also be worn in front on your chest but split behind your neck and tethered with one of the small tether-balls. There is no way I have found that is comfortable. Each either feels heavy, microphonic or creates problems for microphone use.

zagg-z-budsdsc_7722

Microphone  and Remote – Sragg?
Zagg’s addition of microphone, volume pot and push-to-play-and-pause control sections is a great choice. When someone needs to talk to you, you can simply push the button located on the microphone to pause your music without removing the earphones or headphone jack. It is great. If you don’t mind letting your music wander a bit during a conversation, you can alternately use the volume pot to fade your music to zero. Great addition.

The microphone works well, however needs to be situated just right in order to sound clear. As mentioned before this is not an easy task. The weight of the cable will probably convince you to try to use the Z-buds behind your back or neck. Take a moment to listen to the two files I recorded using the Z-buds and make up your mind as to the which situation the microphone is more suited to.

Behind-Zagg

Front-worn Zagg

zagg-z-budsdsc_7725

Sound Quality: The Right Fit means the Right Sound
Remember, if you cannot get a good fit, the sound will also not be good. Unfortunately for a bloke like me who prefers the foamie tips, the Z-buds sound is effected negatively. The Zagg earphones feature a very shallow sound nozzle flange so that any tip is only fastened on by about a millimetre and a half. What this means is that the extra silicon or foamie that sticks out from the nozzle may bunch up in the ear canal creating a narrow tube for sound to travel through. This can mean boomy bass, a sucked out treble and other artifacts.

zagg-z-budsdsc_7719

Z-Budsssss Bass: Sragg?
Firstly, the Z-buds have loads of bass. Not Turbine quantity but they are not shy presenting their heavy bottom in public. For bass-heads, there is plenty of bass to love but it is not overblown. I think that many users will find the Z-buds to be much better than stock earphones. Other than that, there is not much to say. Bass is full, big and flared up but does not sound particularly good. For 79$, I am shocked that there is not more resolution. Not every listener cares for bass resolution however, so this is a personal observation.

Zagg Z-Budsssss Mids and Highs – Sragg?
Despite trying all sorts of different tips with the Z-buds, I cannot find out what is wrong. I miss sparkle in the treble which helps with a 3D image, with a sense of speed and space as well as cooling down the audio image. The Z-buds are dark phones where the mids and highs seem a bit lost in the sonic picture. However, they are by far better than the stock Apple Earbuds.

Zagg Z-Budsssss on the Go: Sragg?
On the move, the Zagg isolate well enough to let you enjoy your music at reasonable listening levels. You won’t need to blast your eardrums in order to enjoy Weird Al or your favourite Swedish wedding polka. It is all dependent on tips of course, but when you find your match your music will thank you.

The Z-buds do not isolate as well as the Monsters or other inner earphones I have tried for the simple reason that they have an open port on the end of the earphone. Looking at Zagg’s site, I am led to believe it is a microphone, however, if the hole is plugged, bass in the Z-buds will disappear, so likely it functions as a bass port.

The weight of the cable (unless you wear it behind your body) is tremendous which may make keeping the Z-buds in your ears a chore. Of course, everyone’s ears are different so my conclusions on fit and comfort may be different from yours.

Conclusion
My final analysis will be based on utility and performance for the price. Zagg have made astute observations as to what an on-the-go user will need to enjoy her music. The addition of a volume pot is welcome and the remote control and mic all work well – providing you wear the Z-buds in the most touch-noise prone method: in the front.

Sound is a mixed bag but again, much better than stock earbuds and for the most part, stock inner-ear phones. However, Zagg have just entered the earphone business and it shows. With a little more experience, the next iteration of Z-buds will I am sure, be a smash hit even for more picky audiophiles.

For my tastes, the Z-buds are too dark and a bit muddy, but not altogether poor. For their price, and when considering the features of the Z-buds, the sound is on par with some other do-it-all phones however as we will see tomorrow, is bested by lesser priced alternatives. Altogether, they are a giri-giri tap from TouchMyApps.

Z.buds Headphones Red

tap

App Summary
Title: Zagg Z-buds Developer: Zagg
Price: MMSRP $79.99
  • Many Features
  • Volume Pot!
  • Weighty Bass
  • Cute Colours
  • Definate upgrade from stock Buds
  • Cable is heavy and microphonic
  • Muddy Sound
  • Packaging is lethal

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