2012 Holiday Headphone Gift Guide from ljokerl
... from ljokerl
Originally used by stage musicians and audio professionals, in-ear monitors have become a portable audio mainstay in recent years. The element that sets IEMs apart--a seal between the earphone and ear canal--also results in good noise isolation compared to other headphone types. Hundreds of IEMs costing anywhere from pocket change to thousands of dollars are available, but only a small percentage offer truly great value.
Brainwavz M1 ($49.50)|
Silly name aside, Hong Kong-based Brainwavz offers serious performance when it comes to personal audio. The M1 model provides clean, natural sound, skipping the heavy bass of most cheap in-ears in favor of a mild midrange focus. The result: a $50 earphone with vocals and instruments that sound unusually smooth and convincing. Add a small, comfortable form factor and generous accessory kit and this budget buy simply screams value.
Runners-up in <$50 IEM: Soundmagic E10, Philips SHE3580.
MEElectronics A161P ($99)|
MEElectronics has been puttering around the budget earphone segment for several years now but the A161P is the company's first Hi-Fi IEM. A tight, level bass response and crisp, upfront midrange provide audiophile-worthy sound, while the smartphone mic/remote, vast accessory pack, and excellent noise isolation underscore versatility. The only real disappointment is the thin cable, but those who use earphones with care will find plenty of bang for the buck here.
Runners-up $50-$100: Shure SE215, Velodyne vPulse
HiFiMan RE-262 ($149)|
HiFiMan's growth has been fueled by the company's made-for-audiophiles mindset, and the RE-262 is a Hi-Fi earphone through and through. The dynamic drivers deliver natural bass weight, smooth and forward mids, and laid-back, non-fatiguing treble. The modular cable allows use with balanced sources and the fit and finish are as no-frills as they come. These earphones aren't designed for your average iPod user, but they sure can tickle an audiophile's fancy.
Runners-up: Logitech UE 900, VSonic GR07
Comply Foam Tips ($9.95-$21.95)|
A good seal with the ear canal is crucial for maximizing sound quality and noise isolation with any IEM. Even the cheapest in-ears include several sizes of tips, and those can still leave room for improvement. Enter Comply, a supplier of aftermarket memory foam eartips. Comply eartips are soft and comfortable, isolate well, and have a negligible effect on sound when inserted correctly (see the video here). The company's website also takes the guesswork out of sizing and while Comply tips don't come cheap, they can be a great investment for IEM users seeking the ultimate in comfort and convenience.