Reviewed August, 2008 by Jacob Spindel, Chief iPod Correspondent
Most categories of the iPhone accessory market are tremendously supersaturated; so many different types of cases, speaker docks, and screen protectors are available that, by now, you’re probably starting to feel a bit like WALL-e just from trying to shovel them all into a tidy little pile. However, wired iPhone headsets have been a notable exception to this trend, and in fact, only a few alternatives to Apple’s own headset, such as the V-Moda Vibe Duo, were available when the iPhone first debuted. Nonetheless, additional products in this category are finally beginning to trickle into the marketplace, such as Maximo’s iMetal iP-HS1 wired headset for iPhone. If you are looking for a wired iPhone headset, and you listen to music more often than you make phone calls, then the iP-HS1 is a good choice.
(Piano) Pedals To The Metal
The iP-HS1 consists of two aluminum alloy earbuds that connect to an iPhone or iPhone 3G via white cables that resemble those of Apple’s own headset. The left earbud also has a condenser microphone about four inches below the bud, and at the point where the left and right cables meet, a small button is present that enables you to connect and disconnect phone calls, as well as pausing and resuming music. Unlike Apple’s own headset, the button is separate from the microphone, which is likely to be many easier to understand and more comfortable to use for many customers than the combined solution. The cable length is four feet, with an additional two-foot extension cable included in the package.
The earbuds are the “external” type (they don’t enter your ear canal), with each bud using a 15 mm neodymium driver to provide a frequency response range of 18 Hz-22 kHz. The earbuds come with ring-shaped foam covers, although unlike most in-ear buds, there is only one pair of covers to choose from. A carrying pouch is also included.
Once you put on the foam covers, the iP-HS1’s earbuds were just slightly larger than those of Apple’s iPhone headset. If you are hypersensitive (or just have really small ears), you may find the iP-HS1 to be a little bit uncomfortable to wear, but in our tests, we found that most people who don’t have a problem with wearing an average pair of regular earphones probably won’t have any difficulty with the iP-HS1 either. You actually can plug the headset into a standard headphone jack as well, without using any adaptor, and they will function as standard earphones, but iPhone owners are clearly the iP-HS1’s primary target audience.
Tracks To The Maximo
Apple’s own wired headset for iPhones provides good enough quality for listening to music and placing phone calls; however, people who truly love their music tracks are probably looking for a higher standard than just “good enough.” Overall, the iP-HS1 proved itself as a significant improvement over Apple’s headset for listening to music. Maximo’s headset also performed better than Apple’s when making phone calls, although the improvement was not nearly as pronounced. Here’s how the iP-HS1 fared in our specific tests:
Bass: The iP-HS1’s bass responsive is impressive. Comparing them side-by-side with Apple’s own headset, I was able to notice a substantial difference; in fact, I would estimate that the iP-HS1’s bass output is about 50% more powerful than that of Apple’s own headset. Although it’s not the strongest bass we’ve ever heard, it is certainly a lot of power by iPhone headset standards. 4.5/5.0
Treble: In the treble department, the iP-HS1 is actually very similar to Apple’s own headset. However, that’s probably a good thing, since both Apple’s headset and the iP-HS1 have strong enough treble output to make sure higher tones get the proper emphasis, and, in fact, if it were any stronger, it would probably start to drown out the bass or make the sound less balanced. 4.5/5.0
Clarity: Clarity is especially important for a headset, since, besides podcasts and other recorded material, you’ll also be using them for actual communication. Fortunately, the iP-HS1 has a high clarity level that makes it easier for you to hear every detail of whatever audio you may be listening to. The clarity level also beats that of Apple’s own headset, although it is only by a rather modest margin. 4.0/5.0
Volume: The iP-HS1’s cover pretty much the entire range of volumes you could possibly want: You can adjust them to anything from “library quiet” to “crowded street loud.” 5.0/5.0
Microphone: When using the iP-HS1 to place phone calls, our call recipients indicated that they heard a much fuller and richer sound than they heard from Apple’s own headset. However, they also noted that my voice was a bit muffled, making it a little tougher to understand. 3.0/5.0
“Metaling” In Your iPhone’s Affairs
For most iPhone owners, their device is an iPod first, and a phone second. Likewise, the Maximo iMetal iP-HS1 places its primary focus on being a musical accessory. Its audio quality, while not quite at the same level as high-end professional earbuds, is a marked improvement over that of the headset that Apple includes with the iPhone. Intuitively speaking, I would have guessed that microphone quality would be better in wired headsets than in wireless headsets or the iPhone's built-in mic, which makes it a bit ironic that neither Apple's headset nor the iP-HS1 is particularly strong in this area. However, if you are primarily interested in music like most iPhone users, then the Maximo iMetal iP-HS1 is definitely worth considering for one of your everyday accessories rather than just being another candidate your "random iPhone stuff pile."
Pros: Strong bass and overall audio quality; integrated call/pause button separate from the microphone; includes extension cable and carrying case.
Cons: Microphone results in slightly muffled audio.