Spider Cable Realvoice In-Ear Headphones
I'm a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to the word "voicing." I want neutrality; I want absolute transparency; I want to hear exactly what's on the disk, nothing more nothing less. Problem is, it rarely, if ever, happens. Pretty much every headphone I've ever heard has its own character. I'm pretty sure most headphone makers shoot for neutral and miss; the resulting "voice" is a bit more random than by design in most cases, I suspect.
The folks at Spider Cable say they were shooting for a "voicing" with an "emphasis is on strong vocals or smooth sounding classical music."
Well I'll be damned, I think they did it.
Spider Cable Realvoice In-Ear Monitor ($89.99 MSRP)
There are two major types of In-Ear Monitors (IEM) out there: balanced armature, and dynamic driver. Typically, the inexpensive IEMs are dynamic drivers and the expensive ones are balanced armature. That seems to be changing a bit these days as dynamic driver IEMs are getting better and better.
One problem with balanced armature drivers is fairly wide impedance swings that will often color the resulting audio from portable players and the like. Balanced armature IEMs also often use multiple drivers and a cross over to get broad-band performance. Dynamic driver IEMs have more consistent impedance curves and tend to interact a bit less with portable sources than balanced armature devices. It also appears that dynamic drivers can be made to operate well over the entire audio spectrum.
Given the performance I've heard from some products of late, including the Realvoice, I suspect we'll see a lot more dynamic driver IEMs over time.
Vertical Driver Type
The Realvoice is a vertically mounted, dynamic driver IEM. The driver dosen't face the eardrum, but rather faces forward, with it's edge vertical and toward the ear. In many dynamic IEMs, the driver faces the ear in its enclosure. This places a practical limit to how large the driver can be because as the diameter of the driver increases, the body diameter of the IEM increases; and as the body diameter increases, it gets harder to get it close into the ear. The solution that seems to be arising when trying to use the larger diameter dynamic drivers, is to turn the driver 90 degrees facing forward and take the sound output tube off the side of the chamber. Because the chamber is much smaller than a half wavelength over most of the audio spectrum, it really doesn't matter if the output tube is off the front or side of the driver enclosure. Now, with the driver side-on to the ear, the enclosure is significantly smaller (at least in one dimension) and it's much easier to get it close to the ear.
Build and Style
The build appears a bit above average for a headphone of this type. Ear pieces are chrome-looking plastic, and a bit gaudy and clumsy looking to my eyes ... but such is the nature of a headphone like this. The cable is nicely dressed with metal "Y" join, slider, and connector casing, which is narrow and will easily fit through the holes in the protective case on your portable player device.
The headphones come with a nice semi-rigid, pleather clamshell with two internal mesh pockets for the cans and accessories. A shirt clip for the cable is also included.
Ergonomics and Use
The remote is on the cable coming from the right earpiece and is compatible with Apple players. The pause/play button worked on my Droid Incredible, but not the FF and RW buttons; everything worked fine on the iStuff.
The slider on the cable is somewhat useless, as when tightening the cables under the chin it runs into the remote; and while routing the cables up and over the ears it does tighten properly, but that routing places the remote behind your head in a somewhat difficult to use position. The earpieces really don't work well in the upward position with the cables routed over the ears, anyway.
That said, I was very surprised at how easily the earpieces inserted, and how comfortable they were once in place. This is a very personal thing, and some will find difficulties no doubt, but for me, these were a surprisingly comfortable IEM. The tip selection that comes with the Realvoice included 3 round tips (small, medium, and large) and a medium size double-flange tips. I used the medium tip. Some have found the medium tip is too small and the large too big; Spider Cable has responded to this need with an additional tip between the medium and large size, but it does not ship with the headphone. Should you need this tip simply call or email Spider Cable and they will send one to you at no charge. Very nice of them!
The isolation from outside noise with IEMs as a whole is very good; this is the best type of headphone to use to secret yourself away from the din of the world. The Spider Cable IEMs have about average isolation in this category at -23dB broad-band (100Hz to 10kHz) attenuation of outside noise. This is quite good and superior to noise canceling headphones; the Realvoice will keep the outside noise at bay.
Let's have a listen.