Apple's success in the mobile device arena began with the iPod, a portable music player that relied on earphones to produce respectable audio quality. Although the iPhone ships with a pair of headsets, audio enthusiasts demand much more. Fortunately, there are a variety of high-quality headsets available today. This article looks at some of the best.
Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic
The standard headset accompanying the iPhone is certainly adequate for good quality audio playback. For iPhone users who demand higher quality audio, Apple offers these in-ear headphones. To provide a better fit and to limit external noise, they ship with three sizes of silicon ear tips. However, the most striking difference between these and Apple's standard headset is the inclusion of a woofer and a twitter inside the tiny ear piece housing. These enhancements provide a broader dynamic range and a far better audio experience for the user.
iP-595 iMetal earphones
Maximo's iP-595 iMetal earphones provide good sound at an affordable price. Audio quality is on par with the Apple In-Ear Headphones. The iP-595 includes a three-button controller and mic for phone calls and music control. It ships with four different-sized pairs of ear tips—it took me a few tries to find the right pair. Finally, a minor point: The headset sticks out farther from the ear than the others in this article, making it slightly less comfortable.
The X10i combines small size with durable ultra-light weight construction and excellent audio engineering that delivers deep base and high treble sounds. The headset's microphone is embedded into its three-button dongle; the latter is designed for taking calls and navigating audio playback. Five separate ear tip sizes are included with the X10i, making a perfect fit more likely. In terms of functionality and sound quality, this is the best headset I tested—just be prepared to pay for the quality.
If you're looking for a reasonably priced headset with high-end audio quality and a more feature-rich controller, check out these attractive headsets. The Scosche IDR655m's multifunction controller lets you answer and swaps calls, play and pause music, skip forward or backward through tracks, and control these features via voice commands on the iPhone 4 and 3GS. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of the button patterns necessary to use these features, but once I did, it gave me much more control flexibility compared to other headsets.
The IDR655m comes with six pairs of ear tips; these single-flanged and double-flanged tips in small, medium and large sizes provide the optimal fit for ears of all sizes. The nylon-encased audio cable includes a clip to keep it neatly tucked away from arms and legs.
The Shure SE535 was the most expensive headset I have ever used. Unlike other iPhone headsets reviewed in this article, the SE535 does not include a mic or push-button controller. It's dedicated to doing one thing very well—audio playback. To block ambient noise and insure a comfortable fit, the headsets ship with a "Fix Kit" that includes three sizes (S, M, L) of the flex and black foam tips, one pair of triple flange tips, and one pair of universal fit yellow foam tips. They were also the most comfortable headsets I tested. However, the sound took some tweaking to get just right in that I had to modify the iPhone's default equalization settings to hit the audio sweet spot that I prefer. Given their hefty price tag, you might want to consider securely threading the headphone cables through your shirt or jacket so you don't accidentally drop them or leave them behind for a very lucky person to find.