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Standard iPod/iPhone headphones really do suck…

February 11, 2009

at-ck300i-micSo everyone knows that the headphones/headsets that come with Apple products suck donkey balls.But since I’m a huge Apple fan, and I didn’t feel like buying a new phone just because the headset sucks, I decided to get me a new headset, the Audio Technica ATH-CK300i.

The original headset for my iPhone really needed a replacement, the sound sucked, they kept falling out of my ears, the microphone died on me from time to time, the cable started to show signs of wear, etc. I don’t think there’s a sane person walking on this planet that would praise those little buggers, because they really suck. The worst thing was, normal headsetsheadphone didn’t fit in the iPhone (the 1st gen one that is, and I just so happened to own a first gen iPhone), so all I could use was the Apple headset in the beginning. I tried using the adapters, but it just didn’t feel right, because I love doing the handsfree thing and my other earphones/headphones didn’t have a built in microphone. I considered getting some proper headphones since I listen to music when I’m outside all the time and I want it to sound GOOD.

Apart from the crappy audio quality the Apple headset ‘delivers’, I also have this very strange thing with my ears, which keeps getting weirder by the day. Normal shaped headphones keep falling out of my ears, but that wasn’t the only problem. If I put the left earphone in my left ear (and my right one in my right ear), I can’t hear a friggin’ thing. And I’m serious about the “not hearing a friggin’ thing” part, because with the volume on a 100%, all I can hear is a soft ‘hiss’. the funny thing is, this problem wasn’t there in the beginning, nor did it happen overnight, it just gradually became worse. So after a while, I decided to switch the L with the R and suddenly, I could hear again!

So anyway, enough about my physiological anomalies, what about the ATH-CK300i? Well, I got them yesterday, and tested them for a few hours now, and I have to say, it’s like I’m in the twilight zone, I hear things in my music I didn’t hear before and feel cut off from the outside world thanks to the sealing (yeah i haven’t used in-earphones for a while, so I forgot how it felt). Here are some pictures first before I continue. And yes, the headset consists of 2 parts, cable with a mic and earphones for separate use, and you get an über cool pouch!

at-ck300i-box

Above is a picture of the box, before opening. Below is a picture of the things inside.

at-ck300i-all

So the audio quality is great, I tried some bass-heavy songs and the bass is good, without distortions, high notes are clear and overall, the sound is very crisp. The sealing is incredible, much better than the Sony and Philips in-earphones I have. Apparently, the ATH-CK300i feature something Audio Technica calls “lock-in” body. It sounds like another tagline for TellSell products, but I think they refer to the slight curve in the body of the earphone, they are slightly curved inward, and I think that’s the reason why stay in the ears so well. Another thing is that they don’t say whether the the earphone is the L of R one, and since it’s a Y-split cable, you’ll never know. I was left confused in the beginning, but it’s supposed to be obvious of because of the curve I guess, because most people’s ear canal curve inwards, unless of course you have a anatomical mutation and they curve another way (Edit: actually, they do say L and R, it’s just not visible -_-)…About the Y-split-thing, I personally hated it when I first got the Apple ones, but now, I really love them, beacuse it’s just easier (un)plugging earphones in your ear without having to go around your neck, so yeah, for me the Y-split is a big plus.

So is there anything I think is not totally awesome about these headphones? Yes there is, take a good look at the picture below, please, take your time, I’m not going anywhere.

at-ck300i-mic

You see it? No? Look again! See it now? No, I wasn’t talking about the fact that the microphone has “AT-335i” written on the side that’s not visible. DO YOU SEE THE SIZE OF THE MIC?! I knew it was a bit bigger, but I didn’t expect it to be bigger than a Bratwürst. That thing is huge, seriously, what were they thinking at Audio Technica? Bigger isn’t always better. I mean, I’ve seen other headphones, like the Sennheiser MM-50 or the Etymotic hf-2 and they have the classy and small Apple-like microphone. I just don’t understand why they had to do this.

But of course, the huge mic does have its pros, which are the fact that it has a working volume control, that’s something Apple couldn’t achieve with their “in-ear headset for iPhone with volume control that doesn’t work”. This volume control works different of course though, it just changes the output through the headset, and not the output of the iPhone itself, but I don’t really mind.

Another thing, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it, is the clip. I’m not really a big fan of headsets with clips (like the ones in Sony Ericsson walkman phones), because it just stupid and nerdy, to have something clipped to your shirt, and you can’t conceal it in anyway. But look at it in the bright side, You don’t get the earphones pulled out of your ears by you jacket or anything, because the upper part is clipped to your shirt. I personally have a problem with earphone getting pulled out of my ears just by walking around and it gets tangled up somehow in my jacket (happens everyday, I’m not kidding). You also don’t get the feeling someone pulling them when wearing a shoulderbag, so I kinda like it. And I said ‘kinda‘, because this clip, has it’s flaws. I’ll tell you what it is, the mic cable is 60 cm (roughly 23.5 inches), and so is the earphone cable. So while the mic cable is a bit to short to clip near my neck, the earphone cable is way to long because my chest to ear distance is NOT 60 cm. That’s the dilemma of making headsets with separate earphones, because one of them is always too short, like the Sony Ericsson walkman phone headsets, which has a earphone cable of about 20 cm (when used separately) or too long, like the ATH-CK300i’s (when used as a headset).

But in they end, I’m satisfied with the product, my music sounds like it should again, the microphone works great (both talking to and hearing people), the seal is amazing and they stay in my ears way better than other in-earphones I tried (Sony, Sennheiser, Philips, etc.)
This headset is also one of the cheaper ones available, they cost $ 45.99 at AudioCubes, a lot cheaper compared to the Etymotic-hf2’s ($ 179) who were my first choice before I found these, and a bit cheaper than the Sennheiser MM-50’s (See a review here of a fellow blogger at LoosePhat). But you can even get the ATH-CK-300i cheaper if you understand Japanese (saw them listed on the net for about ¥ 2.300, that’s about $ 26), but yeah….I can’t read Japanese. So some last words of advice? Get these headphones if you want some good headphones and can live with the cabling, if not, get the Sennheiser’s which are like the Apple ones, but in-ear, have a great seal and are cheap too (about $ 60).

Rating:star1star1star1star1blankstar1

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