Need help selecting an upgrade from Apple Earbuds.
February 17, 2011 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Need help selecting an upgrade from Apple Earbuds.

I currently use two sets of earphones: Apple earbuds and Bose Quietcomfort 2. I would like to replace the earbuds with some kind of in-ear headphones that have the sound quality close to or equal to the Bose. I'm willing to spend up to $100 or so, and I need an inline mic and controller as I will be using these with an iphone and want to be able to answer the phone, change tracks, etc.

I've narrowed it down to 3 options so far... any advice or other options I should consider?

Klipsch Image S4i Premium Noise-Isolating Headset - $96
Etymotic Research ER7-MC3-BLACK MC3 Noise Isolating - $98
Shure SE115m+ Sound Isolating Headset - $119

I recognize that the models above differ in the type of ear insert (how far they go in), but having only used earbuds and over-ear models, I don't know which I would prefer.

Thanks for any advice!
posted by kdern to Shopping (23 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I bought the Shure's for my husband. He is a serious audiophile and he adores them.
posted by bearwife at 2:43 PM on February 17, 2011

I've heard good things about the Klipsch. The Head-Fi forums are a very good resource for this sort of thing.
posted by btfreek at 2:55 PM on February 17, 2011

I had a pair of Shure earbuds slightly cheaper than the one you linked to. They sounded good but they were flimsy and fell apart pretty quickly. Now I have a pair of Etymotic Research earbuds, again slightly cheaper than the one you linked to. They're fantastic and much more solid.
posted by Perplexity at 2:55 PM on February 17, 2011

I got a pair of the Etymotics for Christmas, and they're great. When I wear them on the subway, they block everything out.
posted by brina at 3:13 PM on February 17, 2011

Seconding the suggestion to check the Head-fi forums. Based on reading those I got a pair of Head-Direct RE0's when my Shure's died last month and they sound great. Whatever you end up with, consider getting replacement sleeves from Comply Foam. They made a huge difference in the noise isolation and comfort of my Shure's.
posted by Runes at 3:23 PM on February 17, 2011

Have you looked at the Bose tri-ports? They won't change tracks, but do everything else you mentioned (answer the phone, pause music, etc.). Plus, they're the only in-ear that reliably, comfortably stay put in my ears.
posted by mingodingo at 3:35 PM on February 17, 2011

I have Klipsch earbuds - not that exact model, but something close - and they are comfortable, reasonably noise-reducing, and their sound is good.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on February 17, 2011

Wow, I totally blew it on your requirements. Ignore everything I said except for the suggestion to look into the Comply sleeves. My apologies.
posted by Runes at 4:02 PM on February 17, 2011

I've been using the Etymotics ER-4 for about six years. If I ever lose them I'll buy another set. Hefty cable, solid construction, fantastic isolation (BART and Muni, I spit myself on you!) and the sound is just beautiful. A little spendy, but totally worth it. So, of your choices I'd pick the ER-7.
posted by phliar at 4:07 PM on February 17, 2011

Of those, the Etymotics will (in my opinion--we're in highly subjective territory here) sound best, but for me personally they start to hurt after about half an hour. That's the thing that's hardest to test: whether you can tolerate that style of in-ear at all. I don't know about Comply Sleeves. Maybe they help?
posted by The Bellman at 4:08 PM on February 17, 2011

I've used the Etymotic ER-4p and ER-6. Etymotic rocks - great sound, great noise isolation. I did get better fit with the 4p over the 6, though - the barrel of the 4p is narrower and fits better in my ear canal.

With in-ear buds, I recommend buying from a place that will take returns if they don't fit your ears (or find a friend who's not oogied-out by your trying theirs first).
posted by zippy at 5:05 PM on February 17, 2011

I got these for Christmas. Natural wood. You can definitely hear the difference in the sound, but then again, it's subjective and depends on how you like your sound.
posted by rich at 5:43 PM on February 17, 2011

I have had those Klipsch ones for about 3 months now and absolutely love them. They've got great sound isolation as well as bass depth.
posted by msbutah at 6:18 PM on February 17, 2011

Check out Richard Solo for some interesting selections. He doesn't have a huge selection, but most of what he has is top notch. I just ordered these. Should be here next week. They are in-ear and have a built in mic. BTW, they are only $20 on sale.
posted by johnn at 6:45 PM on February 17, 2011

I have the Etymotic HF-2 headphones, which are the next step up from the Etymotic headphones you linked to, and I love them.

Because they've been discontinued and replaced with the HF-3 — as far as I can tell, the only difference is that there are 3 buttons on the hands-free mic (main, plus two volume adjusters) instead of the 1 button that mine has — you can get them for a (relative) song: here they are for $120, down from $180.
posted by joshuaconner at 7:22 PM on February 17, 2011

Disregard that link! Those are not the HF-2's!

Here is a link to the correct set of headphones on Amazon. $135 - if you go through the Amazon Marketplace - is still not bad.
posted by joshuaconner at 7:28 PM on February 17, 2011

I asked basically the same question a couple weeks ago, and wound up buying the MC3s. They're great, especially with the cone-shaped, flanged tips on them. The sound is good, and the noise isolation is the best I've tried.
posted by Kreiger at 2:16 AM on February 18, 2011

If you decide that you don't want IEMs, but want to upgrade the sound, Yuin makes the best earbuds by far. Note the the highest-end ones, the PK1's and the OK1's, require amping out of an ipod.
posted by rtimmel at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2011

I own the Klipsch s4 and they sound good and are durable. I have owned them for over a year and use it almost everyday.

Here is S4i which has the 3 button apple remote and microphone for $80. Amazon Link
posted by radsqd at 12:42 PM on February 18, 2011

If you're even the slightest bit handy with a soldering iron, I recommend replacing the earbuds on your Apple ones (so you can preserve the button/mic).

FWIW, I did this with my Apple earbuds and some Koss KSC-75's (since I hate earbuds as they don't stay in my ear right...) and it was bitchin until the button/mic broke... :-/
posted by StarmanDXE at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2011

I got the Klipsch S4i headphones which are great. However, for best fit for my ears, I ended up using eartips from another set that I was using before, and experimented with different positions before I found one that worked. I ended up with excellent sound isolation, to the point where I turn down the volume almost all the way when wearing them sometimes, and still feel like the sound's OK.

I think with any in-ears, the fit will be key, and that will depend on eartips and earbud position. Some combinations are bad, others are good.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:15 PM on February 18, 2011

Another one to consider (I found this based on reviews in the Head-Fi forums) is the Phonak Audeo. I've been very happy with mine (though I have the slightly more expensive standard version rather than the Perfect Bass one to which I linked).
posted by klausness at 1:53 PM on February 19, 2011

Response by poster: Update: Couldn't decide between the Ety's and the Klipsch so I ordered both from Amazon to try them out first. I think it'll come down to which in-ear style I like better. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by kdern at 9:02 PM on February 19, 2011

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