I have a set from Altec (don’t know which model) that I love. It’s not the sound quality (which is fine), but rather the fact that the cord is cloth-covered. Seems like a small thing, but it’s actually very cool. The cord doesn’t snag on things like, you know, skin, nor does it ever get tangled up. If there’s any justice, cloth-covered headphone/earbud cords will become a standard feature.
I got my brother a pair of these for Christmas last year, and he mentions how much he likes them pretty much every time I see him. I really should get a pair for myself…
I used a pair of Etymotic ER4p’s for a while – they sounded great, but were just too flimsy. After only a few months, the plastic tube the earbud fits onto cracked & broke.
I replaced the Etys with a set of Ultimate Ears TripleFi.10’s – they sound at least as good as the Etys, and are a lot more rugged.
I tried to like the earbuds that shipped with my iPhone 3GS 16GB, the inline remote with it’s volume up/down, microphone, click to pause, double click to skip, and the undocumented triple-click to back up one song was a nice feature, but the buds themselves did a thoroughly craptacular job of staying in my ears, and depending on the angle they were sitting at, sounded either tinny or muffled
I have been considering the Apple In-Ears with the same wired remote/mic, but I’ve read that they tend to be neutral to bass-deficient, I want a flat neutral sound, maybe a little thump, but not enough to muddy the details
my favorite headphones were my old Sony MDR-V500 earmuffs, they were big, powerful, boomy headphones, and incredibly comfy, just not practical for walking around outside/jogging, they were a “sit in a chair” headphones, sadly, they broke a couple years ago, but I got at least 10 years out of them…
needless to say, I’ve never been impressed with earbuds, Apple earbuds, the Sony earbuds with the little rubber ear hook thingy, any buds I tried were either horribly muffled (Phillips cheapies), uncomfortable (Sony in-earbuds), or just badly fitting (Apple earbuds), I was ready to go back to the on/over ear design
Tonight, I took a chance, and picked up a set of Klipsch Image S2’s and I’ve been favourably impressed, these actually sound quite nice, a nice strong bass, clear mids, and crisp highs, they sound almost as good as my Sony MDR-V500’s a slightly more muffled bass, and a slightly less bright high, I actually had to turn off the “Bass Booster” setting as the highs were getting a tad muddled, they seem to perform best with either the Flat, or Rock settings, or even with the EQ off, Bass Booster makes them too boomy at the expense of the highs
They pick up a lot of details, in the Blue Man Group song “Drumbone” of their “Audio” album, you can hear the sounds of the drumsticks actually tapping the PVC plastic of the “Drumbone”, the orchestral crescendo of the 1812 overture has a wide dynamic range
While no in-ear headphone will ever be as comfortable as a nice set of over-ear earmuffs, the Klipsch S2’s are actually rather comfortable, thanks to a couple novel design elements;
the driver pods themselves are a long, straight tube, and stick directly out of the ear, not touching the earlobe, so there’s nothing pulling on the pods, and the pods aren’t pressing on any part of the earlobe
the silicone tips (they come with three sizes) are soft and pliant, yet springy, they seal exceptionally well, dropping ambient noise by easily half
the silicone tips are oval, like the ear canal itself, allowing the tips to truly conform to the ear canal, not only does this give them a nice, tight seal, it makes them far more resistant to being pulled out, unlike the Apple buds, where even the slightest breeze would knock them from my ears
All in all, not a bad set of canalbuds, not perfect, but what is? the Klipsch S2’s are an excellent value, a great sounding, comfortable, and reasonably affordable ($59.95) set of in-ear canalphones, they’re lacking in a couple convenience features (wired remote and mic), but these 'phones are intended solely for listening purposes, what you give up in convenience features, you make up for with the excellent sound quality