Pioneer is continuing its foray into the headphone market with three new models designed to be used with portable media players.
Anyone who’s tired of seeing the ubiquitous white earphones – whether they’re made by Apple or not – will be glad that Pioneer has decided to put a bit of colour back into the music business.
The SE-CL34 has been designed for the fashion-conscious apparently, and comes in a choice of blue or bright red (and matte white!).
The SE-CL521 is aimed at those who prefer a somewhat more classic look, and comes in black, dark blue and red – oh, and white as well! They also offer excellent noise cancellation, says Pioneer.
The top model in the range is the SE-CL531, which comes in black or red and has an ear holder designed to keep the earphone in place. It also features a 9mm speaker unit for more powerful bass delivery.
All of the models have a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo mini plug, cords measuring more than a metre in length, and 9mm drivers. They are all designed to be lightweight and ship with a choice of soft ergonomic tips in different sizes, so you should be able to get a perfect fit. The bullet-shaped earpiece is designed to enhance noise-isolation,
And the price? The SE-CL521s and SE-CL34s come in at £29.99, and you can expect to pay £39.99 for the SE-CL351s.
Pioneer have been quite inventive this year – their SE-CL24 earphones came in an appealing cherry shape, while the SE-CL24s were leather-belt shaped!
You may not know i-Mego and their range of headphones, but their design team have been working tirelessly to ensure you take notice. There most striking design would have to be the Retro Heavybeats – a pair of oversized cans designed for the R&B, Hip-Hop and Rock.
Most can style headphones have aped DJ headphones style, which is cool if you are spinning vinyl at the local disco, but unnecessary if you are simply pottering around the house or wandering on the streets trying to look cool … like 90% of people wearing DJ style headphones.
As a result, the look of the Heavy Beats – which I can best describe as a vintage radio microphone worn on your head – is particularly appealing. They come in a chocolaty brown and wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Black Dynamite.
But how do they sound? They lack the … mature sophistication of the Altec Lansing Ultra Muxx’s review here – which really shone when listening to jazz, classical and professionally produced podcasts. However, the Ultra Muxx’s almost deliberately lack soul-shaking bass – something the Heavybeats has in buckets (or rather cans). The two 40mm drivers have 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, 32ohms impedance and 106±5db sensitivity – all of which is respectable for some headphones in this price range.
In practical terms, they were able to handle a range of sounds with competence. Whizzing through the 8-bit glory that is the Scott Pilgrim Vs the World Video game OST was a joy and bass heavy tunes from Jay Electronica, Dead Prez and Ray Keith all had the requisite level of warmth. These aren’t beats by Dre – but you knew that going in. If you like the look of these and are happy with the sound you would expect for a mid-range set of headphones then you should check these out.
If the radio look of the Retro Heavybeats is not quite for you they also do the Lumber – some quite discreet looking inner-ear headphones, which as the name suggests are encased in wooded housing.
Altec Lansing, makers of the first iPod dock and all round audio experts have dived headfirst into the world of headphones with interesting results. We had a play with their new MUXZ range.
At the low end there are 3 bargain basement £19.99 fashion earphones – the Mesh, XX and XY. The chromosome pairs, are as the name suggests, tailored to appeal to masculine or feminine users and to outrage gender theory academics. The Mesh a gender neutral bass heavy pair completes the trilogy.
The £29.99 Core has inline voice controls and the £49.99 Extras have enhanced bass and full Apple compliant inline controls.
The top of the line pair, however are the MUXZ Ultra which look … well a little bizarre. As you can see from the image above they have a chunky barrel design to them and poke out of the ears a little. The wire also pops out a little bit in an odd little loop. This isn’t just difference for difference sake, and the quirky design is supposed to alleviate cable strain – which can be fatal for some headphones. All this is of course, secondary to the sound, which is fantastic – which at £99.99 it would have to be.
The balanced armature drivers provide excellent well-defined audio – it’s not bass heavy and if anything is quite restrained on the bass front. The supplied rubber tips should fit most ear types to provide and snug fit, which is when the background noise cancellation really kicks in. My standard bass heavy test tunes sounded a little muted, but other more varied sounds fared excellently. This review is a day late as I got side-tracked listening to Bitches Brew on the Ultras then enthusiastically raving about how good it sounded to any poor soul who would listen.
There are also inline iPhone controls, which are a little on the large side, but easy to grab on to without looking when answering calls or skipping a track.
From the cheap and cheerful Meshes to the quite swanky Ultras the Altec Lansing headphone range managed to impress at a range of price points. ====================================== UPDATE
The Muzx Ultras price has dropped to £79.99, and the Muzx Extras to £39.99. They will be available 15th October from all the usual retailers including Apple, DSGi and Amazon.