Mar 09

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This is the first time we’re taking 3 separate pieces of gear and pitting them up against each other in a “showdown/throwdown” of sorts. This review is a roundtable of edits with 5 different Editor’s contributions. So, even though it has my name in the by-line, it’s really all of us here at Tech Bucket Blog.

Pictured is a Klipsch image S41 in-ear headset with 3 button remote for iPhone/iPod/iPod Touch. One of our folks here (Sara) picked one up on Amazon.com recently for $99 as she wanted to upgrade her headphone/headset for her iPhone. These babies are pretty new and Sara’s been using them for about a week or two now.

We originally had a friend of ours purchase the $349 Image X10i from Klipsch, but we figured for a fair review, we’d keep the price points at least close.

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Next up we have pair from Sennheiser, MM 50-IP which launched about 8 years ago and has been in the possession of one of our testers for about 7 years now. These babies are broken in pretty hard and have been around the world a few times already.

Well travelled, well tested.

For our last headset, we have a relatively new entry from the folks at Tunewear. Just released into the US market a few weeks ago, Tunesonic Crystal is almost a throwback bling-bling headphone with a modern twist. List price is $49.95 and the folks at Tunewear were kind enough to provide us a sample for our review purposes.

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Each of these headphones are iPhone compatible with a button that plays music, controls calls, etc. Really, all of that functionality in just one button. Klipsch adds two more buttons for volume control, but really that’s the main difference. All of them feature silicone in-the-ear canal ear-buds. There were some similarities when it came to sound quality, but each was also unique in some respects. That’s to be expected as these are hi-quality headphones.

We’ll go through each one’s hi’s and lo’s (ha! get it? hi’s and lo’s….nehh…)

First up the Klipsch:

  • Great sound quality, with excellent overall bass, fine treble, and superb mid response.
  • Sound quality is very crisp with music and equally spot on with call quality.
  • Mic is on-par with other wired headsets and folks we called all rated the voice quality as excellent.
  • Works with Moto Droid as well, but only for music playback.
  • Nice build quality as is typical from Klipsch. Good weighted feel.
  • Solid earbuds as they sealed out ambient sounds really well.

Overall, these were really good headsets. Our one issue here is we thought the highs were just a little over produced and could be slightly less shrill. Our thought here is that there’s some overcompensating going on as with most phone-calls the highs are pretty much gone. To make up for that, we think (just our guess!) that Klipsch boosted the hi-end response on these headphones. The bad part being that if you’re listening to a lot of classical music or acoustic/singing voices, the hi’s feel too shrill. Kicking in the bass booster or treble reducer EQ on the iPod took care of this issue though.

The soundstage for Klipsch is one of the best we’ve heard in a long time. Typically, in-ear buds tend to flatten out the audio-presence in our opinion. Flatten as in left-center-right from a typical headphone becomes just left-both-right. There really isn’t a well balanced center channel as the soundstage is dependent upon how the headphones sit in your ear canal. These babies sit in really well and even if the positioning is just a little off, you won’t really notice it.

Quality build as the wires feel more rigid (we’re guessing more metal) than typical buds that we’ve seen. Very light in-ear, but hefty in hand, so there’s good balance here. Kudos.

Next Sennheiser MM-50 IP:

  • Sound quality is a bit tinny, but good bass. Overall range is very nice with a warm sound quality characterized by sometimes muffled mids, but not overdone shrilly hi’s.
  • Not very crisp sound, but overall well rounded “warmth”. Almost an analog like quality, most likely attributed to having these buds around for such a long time.
  • Mis is on par with other wired headsets. No complaints, but nothing outstanding either.
  • Single button press works with Moto Droid, again for music only.
  • Build is a little shoddy and it’s surprising this came from Sennheiser as we usually expected high quality, but these are 7+ years old.
  • Good seal on ambient sounds.

The Sennheiser MM-50 IP’s that we have are old. Just a little over 7 years so these are well broken in. We really didn’t have too many issues in testing these. Keep in mind though, with the age of these headphones there’s bound to be some loss from the original specifications, so consider that as you think about our comments.

Overall sound quality is spot on and call quality is on-par with other wired headsets. Unlike the Klipsch ones we tested, there’s no over pushing on the hi’s, so no issues there. However, in-ear stress kicks in pretty quickly as your ears start feeling “squishy” on long haul flights at about the 2-3 hour mark. Considering most hearing experts say you should give your ears a rest after about 45mins to an hour, that’s not a bad thing.

Soundstage here is well done, but the center is totally “in-the head” type of feeling, almost at the front of your forehead. If it’s not to your liking thing, change the seating of the buds in your ear and it should resolve it.

Consider that current price on Amazon.com is $69.99 for these ($30 below their intro price 8 years ago), we’d say that the pricing has held up along with the quality. There’s a one-star rating on Amazon and we’re kinda puzzled as we wouldn’t rate these 1-star (maybe a solid 3 or 4 star).

You could find a worse pair of headphones though.

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Last up is Tunewear (no, these are not the worse set of headphones). The Tunesonic headphones are fresh and just a little girl-y for our tastes, although Sara and J-Li thought the Swarovski Crystals were a nice touch. Uhh..what now? Yes, the Tunewear Tunesonics are studded with Swarovski Crystal Elements, one at the end of each bud.

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Here’s our Tunesonic summary:

  • Nice heft and well balanced in the ear.
  • If you like bass, these are the headphones for you. Huge bass that bleeds into the mids and highs.
  • Slightly muffled hi’s as these feel more balanced for bass lovers.
  • Call quality was surprisingly the best out of all three. This had the most “stereo” feel out of the all headsets when taking or making calls.
  • Did we mention the excellent bass response? You might feel your whole body thump.
  • Solid build quality as the casing feels most metallic out of all the three we looked at.
  • Lowest price point in the bunch at $49.99 MSRP.

Overall, we really thought the Tunesonics’ offered the best balance of price and performance. We just couldn’t recommend a $99 (or it’s $349 cousin) single purpose headset, no matter how good the quality is (sorry Klipsch).

The Tunesonics fitted really well in the ear and the single button is stiffer than the rest so you won’t have any accidental button pushes. Wires are rigid and have a solid metallic feel so it definitely feels like these will take the punishment.

Sound response carries excellent bass (the best out of the three), but the hi’s suffer slightly. Yes, there’s an over-riding bass feel to anything you listen to, but that’s okay if you like bass, and who doesn’t? With classical music selections, you’ll notice something missing, but the over-bass feel adds a certain warmth in our opinion.

Sound stage is very left-center-right and ambient noises are totally knocked out (credit the bass and the sleek in-ear, almost too far in-ear, designs). So yeah, you might want to turn the volume down if you plan on being out in the streets with these.

Tunewear’s Tunesonic wins the first throwdown as it’s a solid balance of high-quality with a nice low price.

(Editor’s Note: Interesting to us is that all three headsets worked on iPhone, Droid, and Blackberry Storm 2’s. The single button press all allowed limited music playback (stop/pause, play only) controls with mixed results. Still, if you’ve got a smartphone with a built-in music player (uhh…which smartphone doesn’t play music?) with a full 3.5mm headphone jack (or an adapter), all 3 may work with your phone. We only tested 3 phones: iPhone, Storm 2, and Droid).

8 Responses to “Tunewear, Klipsch, Sennheiser – Headphone Fight!!!”

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  7. Mordecai Jones says:

    @whatever you are

    So the last bit there where we say Tunewear’s TuneSonic wins the throwdown wasn’t exactly clear enough for you?

  8. Shawn Chen says:

    Mord…you crack me up. Everytime.

    But you could be a little nicer to our readers. :)

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