“Back when Cube was rollin’ with Lorenzo” – stolen from Dr. Dre’s What’s the Difference, is innocuous; it betrays nothing of Dre’s ego. But American rap’s pride is why after years, I keep coming back to it. And though this is a headphone review, I think that a bit of good ol’ fashioned American pride applies tastily. In 2010, the Swedish headphone guru, Jays, redesigned itself, shirking cuteness in favour of big business, of pride. One look at the newly minted a-Jays will prove to you just how much business they mean too: flat cables, matte colours, three bold designs, and good prices is enough to make any Monster shake – at least a little bit.
Back when Earsonics’ SM2 debuted, it rocked the professional earphone scene. Dry, neutral, detailed, powerful, and well-constfitructed (for a professional earphone), it sort of bagged the cat as it were. It was – and still is – one of the best professional earphones available. But Earsonics perfection-pursuing head, Franck Lopez, has looked to his laurels this year and debuted an even better earphone. The Earsonics SM3 betters the SM2 in almost every benchmark and along the way, has become a personal favourite of mine.
Noise-isolating earphones are hitting mainstream, and that’s a good thing. Apple and nearly every other digital audio manufacturer in the world distribute their phones and digital devices with open earbuds that not only sound crap, but that ruin ears on short order. The volume of an earphone has to rise 8-9 decibels above ambient noise to be heard. To be enjoyed, however, music has to be punched much louder. Using open earphones on the bus, in the tube, or about town is the perfect recipe for destroying your hearing.
Last year, Etymotics introduced custom-fit ear pieces for their popular line of noise-isolating earphones and headsets, but other companies offer custom-fit ear pieces for a variety of earphones.
Let’s get one thing straight here: mid-priced inner earphones are really starting to put out like their more sexy/pricey colleagues. They’ve bass, mids, and treble now rather than just bass and some, like the Sherwood SE-777, are just great all-round bargains. For 80$ the SE-777 isn’t cheap, but it sounds great, looks great, and has a pleasant surprise for DIY enthusiasts! Feel free to discuss this review of the Sherwood SE-777 in our forums.
The q-Jays is already a wonderful earphone full of details and space. But Jays aim to make it even better with a new service: custom silicon ear moulds for their current top-of-the-line earphone. Unlike other manufacturers, Jays will make use of silicon rather than acrylic. This ostensibly affords listeners and performers better isolation and comfort than traditional acrylic moulds. Jays’s partner is Bellman & Symfon AB, a Swedish hearing protection company, to bring audiophiles and professionals alike, a kick apps in-ear system. Feel free to discuss the Jays launch handcrafted ear moulds for q-Jays earphones in our forums.
Piccies and more after the gap:
Cheesy title aside, the M11 really is the king of MEElectronics’ earphone line up. Luxurious in your choice of 2 turned aluminium colours, it hits its price point pointedly, if more politely than the skull-splitting lance which felled King Henry II. For the budget-conscious upgrader, its modest 39.99$ price tag scintillates royalty, and like most of MEEl’s line, is tough, made to last even the most organised of coups at the hands of its careless market.
Sensaphonics are a virtual monolith in the American professional/musician earphone business. Their hitherto bread and butter, 2X-s and Max are excellent custom earphones for professionals and audiophiles alike. While TMA is still working on the 2X-s review, Sensaphonics one-upped us by introducing their newest, the triple-driver 3XMax. The new earphone shares many similarities to its older brother: both earphones are housed in medical-grade silicon which isn’t susceptible to the horrors of cracking whilst in the ear. And, mirroring last year’s 2X-s upgrade, it touts a field-replaceable cable for added insurance. Of course, the addition of an extra driver will aid dynamic range and accuracy in musical reproduction.
More after the gap:
Around Christmas time, Sleek Audio injected a little class into their product line when they introduced the wooden SA1 earphone. Pretty in natural rosewood and shiny turned aluminium, it’s a luxurious earphone at a reasonable price. It is also the first earphone the in Sleek’s arsenal to sport a dynamic driver. In typical Sleek Audio fashion, the SA1 features both VQ sound tuning and a removable cable. For its price, it may well be the most versatile earphone on the planet. Feel free to discuss the this Sleek Audio SA1 Review in our forums.
Car audio enthusiast Rockford Fosgate have taken a personal step with their newest product, the Punch Plug earphone. The earphone carries a massive 15mm driver which is smaller only than Final Audio’s 1601 series which stretches the ruler to 16mm per driver. The new Punch Plugs however, will debut in March at a much easier to swallow 99$. Recently there have been a lot of great sub 100$ earphones to hit market among which the Rockford’s debut model may be one to watch.
Piccies and more info after the gap:
With all my bagging on Korean devices, I am surprised at how much the EXS X10 rocks my socks off. EXS are one of the world’s largest OEM headphone companies and are based in Korea. Actually, there is a lot more to go ‘wow’ about than just sound. This ~55$ earphone performs well and should handle bumps better than a lot of mid-tier upgrade earphones. While I won’t ask you to go out and abuse an EXS, I will suggest that if you are on a budget and looking for a great earphone, the X10 is pretty darn good. Feel free to discuss the EXS X10 review in our forums.