iPod Accessory Reviews: headphones
XtremeMac FS1 High Definition Earbuds
Editor's rating (1-5):
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Reviewed Feb., 2006 by Jacob Spindel
Most earbud reviews compare the features and sound quality of the buds to other, comparable products. Well, this is not that kind of review. To be perfectly honest, the most expensive pair of earbuds I have ever owned previously were Apple's own, which I liked, but they are not really high-end earbuds like these. Instead, I will present a look at premium, professional-level earbuds from the perspective of someone who has never owned a "comparable product."
Stick it WHERE!?
When I first tried to use the earbuds, they didn't sound especially good, but I hadn't yet paid much attention to the various oddly shaped objects included in the box. Thus, I read the manual and realized that you need to choose a pair of covers that you are comfortable with and use it to replace the default cover for each earbud (unless you prefer the default cover, of course). Then you push the earbud all the way into your ear canal, rather than just keeping it at the outside of your ear like most cheaper models.
Suddenly, I flashed back to years' worth of visions of doctors and parents telling me I shouldn't shove things that far into my ear. Having mostly obeyed them, I was admittedly quite nervous about this. However, it wasn't hard to find a cover that was a good fit for me, and when I pushed it "all the way in," I discovered the true potential of these earbuds to generate fantastic sound.
The bass was rich, the vocals were crisp and clear, and I heard nuances in my music that I had never noticed before. Although the buds don't have explicit "L" or "R" labels, it is pretty simple to tell them apart just from their shape. Here's a rundown of how it fared with specific types of audio:
A cappella/Vocal: Usually when people apply the term "high resolution" to something that doesn't actually have a resolution, such as perceived audio quality, I automatically assume it belongs in the "meaningless buzzword" category. However, "high resolution" actually describes my experiences with vocal music using these earbuds. What I mean by this is that I notice a higher level of detail than ever before, and I feel like I can appreciate every note from every singer, almost as if I were suddenly seeing a photograph in a much higher resolution than what I was accustomed to and noticing details that had previously been invisible.
Podcast/Voice: Podcasts seemed to exhibit a slightly lower-fidelity or "hollow" sound with these earbuds—and I think that's a good thing. The reason is that, even though most podcasts really are lower fidelity than most music, on many audio devices, the difference just wasn't very noticeable to me. Using these earbuds made me realize what I was missing when music is reduced to about the same quality level as a podcast by cheap earbuds.
Of course, I still like podcasts, and although they are not on par with music-level quality, they sound about as good with these earbuds as they possibly can, anywhere.
Rock/Pop: Nowadays, studio-produced rock and pop has been overdubbed and enhanced in many ways, probably with cheap earbuds in mind. So you may be used to a pretty "full" sound already in modern, popular music, but even with those tracks, they can only get better by using the XtremeMac FS1 earbuds. I have already had multiple instances where I listened to a track that I had thought had some "whitespace" at the beginning, end, or elsewhere, but discovered with these earbuds that there was actually a small amount of audio that I never noticed before.