Headphone Review: Maximo iMetal iP-HS5

The Maximo iMetal iP-HS5.Maximo, who you may recall from my recent review of their iM-590 earbuds, has just released a new earbud product targeted at the smartphone users among you: the iP-HS5. The headphones are of similar make to the iM-590 but Maximo has added an in-line microphone and control button that works with most smartphones on the market today. As with the iM-590, the iP-HS5 produce quality sound and ship with enough accessories to make the headphones a positive experience.

Appearance/Build Quality
I’m going to say “as with the iM-590” a lot in this post, so just get used to it. The products are very similar, and for a lot of good reasons. The packaging is smart as ever, with everything well organized for the consumer to see. Open it up and you’re greeted with all the accessories you’ll need to use the iP-HS5 with the smartphone of your choice.

The headphones ship with a 3.5mm jack installed, but include two 2.5mm adapters for various smartphone wiring configurations. This ensures the product will work with whatever phone you happen to have. For iPhone users, no adapter is required. You also get a 4-foot extension cable, four sets of earbuds, a shirt clip, a carrying case, and a detachable lanyard.

Maximo has again employed their knit cabling, which I’m still not sure I’m a fan of. While it has its benefits, the sound produced if anything rubs along the surface is pretty tough on my ears. Attaching the shirt clip, at the recommendation of a Maximo rep, did improve things significantly.

The included lanyard is also a bit of a puzzler for me. While I understand you might not always want noise reducing earbuds in your ears, wearing them around your neck seems similarly out of the question. The included carrying case can be worn on your belt if you really need a place to store the headphones. For someone like me, the extra use I get from the lanyard isn’t worth the frustration that comes with having so much extra cord. Read the rest of this entry »


Headphone Review: Maximo iM-590 Enhanced Definition Earphones

The Maximo iM-590.I’ve spent the last week with the Maximo iM-590 Enhanced Definition Earphones. Maximo, though not a major player in the earphone market, has put together some welcome surprises. The earphones are fantastic for casual listening and offer excellent sound for the price. As with many earbuds, I would not recommend them for active use but they’re great for most other uses.

Appearance/Build Quality
Straight from the box, Maximo is trying to win customers with smart packaging and design. The box has a flap that opens to a transparent view of the contents within. The headphones are smartly organized for a quick view of the contents within. On pulling them out I loved that they weren’t sealed, only to be opened with an army knife or worse.

The earbuds come with just about all of the accessories you’ll need. You get four sizes of earbuds (more on this as it relates to sound quality), a 2.5mm adapter, an airline adapter, a clothing clip, a cable extension, and the earbuds, which peek out of a round, zippered case. The phones are well-built, with none of the physical blemishes you might find on your average pair of $60 headphones.

The cable is braided, instead your standard rubber or vinyl. This a great feature with regard to tangling. It’s nearly impossible to knot these things, and the braided coating means they wrap into the provided case without any twisting. The only problem with the cables has to do with movement.

As with a lot of earbuds, any thump on the cord sounds like someone punching the business end of a stethoscope with the earpieces in. It’s loud, and it kinda hurts. The braiding also provides a texture so that when rubbed against itself or piece of clothing you get the same inner ear noise. This can be alleviated by two methods. The first is a smaller earbud fit, but that’s not really great because it means your bass isn’t nearly as good and the earbuds occasionally find their way out of your ears. That’s why Maximo included the clothing clip. The clip allows you to shorten or lengthen your free cable at will, reducing the amount of free play involved. Still, any movement on the cord will produce some noise in your ears. This is why I would recommend the phones for casual listening, like watching a movie on your laptop or listening to music in a coffee house.

Sound Quality
As far as sound is concerned, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of headphones that sound as good with all of the included accessories. I bought a pair of over-ear Sony buds for working out and they sound roughly half as good. The lows don’t have nearly the presence of the iM-590 and the highs are rough and tinny when compared to Maximo’s headphones.

I would follow the advice of a small tag that comes attached to the cord. It recommends you “burn in” your headphones by pushing 8-10 hours of moderately high volume noise before your first real listen. Before the burn in the highs were insanely crisp, like they’d been run through a sharpening filter 3-4 times. At anything above 50% volume on my laptop they were blistering. The burn-in took the edge off, leaving the highs crisp and clear but without the aggressive, ear-bleeding edge. The bass also got a touch deeper, producing quality you would expect from an expensive pair of Shure phones or the like.

A note about earbud fit – make sure you get a decent seal around the inner ear. With earbuds that’s what gives the impression of heavy bass. With the iM-590 it also produces some level of passive noise canceling. With an improper fit the phones lose a lot of their quality. Play around with the different sizes to see what suits you best.

The Verdict
Maximo has put together a strong pair of earbuds with the iM-590. They sound great, they look great, and they come fully accessorized for just under $60. If you need a great pair of headphones for watching movies or casually listening to music I would highly recommend the iM-590s. You can find Maximo’s full list of specifications on their website.


Headphone Review: Able Planet Clear Harmony NC1000CH

The ableplanet Clear Harmony NC1000CH.Whether you travel a lot, love listening to music without interruption, or just need some quiet time, you’ve probably considered a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Bose has long been the mainstay of this category of headphones with their Quiet Comfort series, but others are starting to creep into the market with impressive offerings. I’ve spent the last week with one potential contender, the ableplanet Clear Harmony NC1000CH. With the NC1000CH, ableplanet has put together an exceptional product with all the features you would expect from a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones. The company’s only setback could possibly be the lack of brand recognition to your average consumer.

Appearance/Build Quality
When you spend upwards of $300 for a pair of headphones, you’ll probably want something to show for it. The NC1000CH got high marks here. Upon opening the box I was greeted with a hard-shell neoprene case to protect the new phones. The case opens with a zipper to reveal a beautiful set of headphones. In fact, you could easily mistake these for the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 from a distance.

The earcups and headband are padded with a cushy leather to provide easy pressure against your head. The fit is comfortable, and I have yet to feel like I’m going to lose the phones, even when walking around. The earcups fold flat to rest against a tabletop and for storage in the provided case. The cord, which sports an inline volume control, can be removed from the base of the headphones. This is great for long-term storage so you aren’t kinking your cord. It’s also nice to be able to swap out the cord should you want something shorter or perhaps to get rid of the inline volume. In the case you’ll also find a 1/4″ adapter and a dual-prong airline adapter. Read the rest of this entry »