back to article Ten... earphones for mobiles

Here we go again with some more headphones, but this time I'm looking at those faithful friends you'd use on a daily basis with your smartphone. While still likely to be churning through MP3s, their function is also to act as hands-free kit, so conversational ability is key. While you can spend silly money on smartphone earbuds …


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  1. LDS Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Someone still not using Bluetooth earphones with smartphones?

    That explain all the idiots I see talking in a (smart)phone while driving. Probably pairing a device is beyond their (smart)phone skills.

    1. petur

      RE: Bluetooth

      Indeed... Got fed up with this wired business and got myself a Plantronics Backbeat bluetooth headset. Great stereo sound + answer the phone with the touch of a button (with very good noise cancelling thanks to dual mic)

      Wired headphones? Never again for me, thanks...

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      You quite clearly not drive often

      I have to re-dock my phone every 20 miles or so in the UK and Holland, a bit less often in the rest of Europe.

      There are one to many ... ... .... who have put 2.4GHz wireless always-on reverse view cameras on trucks. Nearly all tankers have one (at least in UK and Holland). Delivery trucks are getting them too.

      Every time you end up hanging up for more than a few seconds around one (f.e overtaking) the phone loses the bluetooth connection. If your handsfree does not do periodic reconnect you need to tell pair it manually after that. Even driving past one going in the opposite direction quite often knocks out your handsfree.

      So unless you have a really good handsfree like a Parrot which does periodic re-dock you will find yourself regularly resetting your device (or headphones).

      That is besides the fact that a lot of people do not fancy being irradiated more than necessary and still prefer wired headsets.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Forgot to add

        We should be thankful to the EU that in their infinite wisdom they standardized the EU tow bar socket without a permanent 12V (you have to have the 2 socket aux rig to get that).

        Otherwise every caravan towing twit out there would have had a 2.4GHz sender for reverse view which would have made bluetooth handsfree practically unusable.

        In fact, the 2.4GHz non-license allowance should be revoked for vehicles period and a licensing regime instated which allows only the more well-behaved 2.4GHz tech. Otherwise in a couple of years time we will be without working handsfree tech.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        I drive often, call less while driving

        I drive often, but I try to keep calls to a minimum while driving. It is anyway a distraction.

        But when I call I prefer by far a device which doesn't have cables and can be used whatever the phone is.

    3. Hardcastle the ancient

      I've chucked out my bluetooth headset. I got sick of carrying yet another charger. Why can't you park them into the phone for power top-ups? and storage?

      1. petur

        @Hardcastle the ancient

        Mine uses micro-usb to charge. So does my phone. So does my tablet. So does my <insert gadget here>.

        Next time, watch out what you buy, stay clear of companies insisting on proprietary connectors

      2. LDS Silver badge

        USB charger...

        My Bluetooth earphone uses an USB charger. I can charger both the phone and the earphone with just one cable, and carry just one car charger.

    4. Aleph0

      Bluetooth radio signal

      Doesn't travel too well through some types of cloth like the aluminium-laced one in my ski suit, for example. Also, the human body contains a lot of water so – depending on where you're keeping your smartphone – can block the transmission, or make it draw much more power than a wired headphone.

  2. James 47

    No longer trust Sennheiser

    Sure, their earphones are great... while they still work. I've gone through several pairs of sennheiser earphones where one of the buds just stops working, and every time within the warranty period. 90% of the time I use them while at my desk in work (there's no noise leakage whatsoever). It took about 6 months for Sennheiser to replace one set.

    If you go Sennheiser keep your receipt safe.

    1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      The headphones that came with my W995 are excellent, as were the ones from the W810i. I, for one, will miss Walkman phones in the future.

  3. Andus McCoatover

    Not exactly cheap...

    The cans I got with my Nokia N8 simply fell out of my lug-holes - the plastic bits were too big. Fortunately, I discovered that the soft plastic bits from a Creative Max buds would replace them, and fit perfectly.

    However, a friend of mine let me try his Bose (or were they Koss?) over-ear cans from his MP3 player, and all was perfect! Best ever! Excellent sound.

    Now, I need to find some that will let me also speak. When you're riding a bike in the city, the ability to 'flick' your head so the things slide off an ear without taking my hands off the handlebars is useful for hearing that bus coming....

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Thanks for the tip

      I had the same problem, but Nokia give you three sizes of earbud in the box - the smallest ones fit me near-perfectly, but other options would be nice. Not bad headphones - much better than I'd expect from a free pack-in - but quite fragile, sadly.

  4. zedee

    Or, if you're happy with a soldering iron, take the ear bits off your favourite but cheap buds (e.g. creative ep-630) and swap them with the crap ear bits of your phone's supplied headset.

    Did it with my HTC headset and now they're great.

  5. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Brilliant move from Phonak

    First they help nuke your ears with earbuds, then sell you a hearing aid afterwards..

    I see a great future for Phonak - every time I hear an idiot with a boom box drive by..

  6. TonyHoyle

    40 quid? 100 quid?

    You can get rather nice earbuds for around £15 (eg. Sony EX77, Senheiser CX300).. and given how long these things last (hanging around in your pocket, occasionally getting rained on), you're going to want to replace them every 6 months or so anyway. It's not like the output from a phone is exactly audiophile quality...

    The worst pair I ever bought were expensive ones... 70 quid for a pair of Denon C751's.. sounded like a pair of 5 quid Tesco specials and quite literally fell apart 3 days after purchase (they were cheaply glued together as well as being awful). That put me off paying that much forever - I'd only consider it if I could audition the buds personally beforehand.. and nowhere lets you do that, so it's not worth the risk.

    1. AdamWill

      not a good idea

      "You can get rather nice earbuds for around £15 (eg. Sony EX77, Senheiser CX300)"

      But those don't isolate, and hence are a very very bad idea when outside; it's almost inevitable that, to listen to non-isolating earphones when in any kind of typical public environment, you have to turn the volume up beyond the point at which it can cause permanent damage to your hearing.

      The *most important* reason to buy a decent pair of buds or closed cans for portable listening is simply that it ensures you do not need to pump the volume up high enough to hurt your ears. It's that simple.

      "It's not like the output from a phone is exactly audiophile quality..."

      Some phones actually do have pretty solid outputs; the iPhone's isn't too bad and Nokia and Sony have produced some good quality phone outputs. There's no real reason _not_ to, if you have the in-house expertise; the parts aren't expensive.

      (And for those who are really serious, you can get dedicated portable amps and even portable DACs that can take over DAC duties from the phone, for some models).

    2. Jamie Kitson


      > you're going to want to replace them every 6 months or so anyway.

      I've had my Shure whatsits (SE210s?) for a couple of years now. Yet another reason to go for something with a bit more quality.

  7. Tommy Pock

    I've had enough of this.

    We step up to the crease, not the plate. Cricket's our national game, not rounders. Got that? Good.

    Can I have the Sennheisers when you've finished with them please? Thanks

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Small and basic but bloomin' marvellous, these Sennheisers are a great choice for any iPhone user "

    Am I to assume thay aren't a great choice for owners of non Apple phones.

    1. Annihilator

      Fair question

      But I suspect it's because the middle button has the iOS commands built-in (click for play/pause, double click for >>|, triple click for |<<, hold for voice activation). Whether that works for 'droid, nokia etc I don't know, but would be surprised. The mic and phones will work regardless.

      I've got a pair of Sennheiser's for my iPhone, they are perfect for everyday use, especially as I end up ruining a pair of buds every 4-6 months or so, budget are all I'd ever go for.

    2. HipposRule
      Thumb Down

      Not only that, but the article is earphones for mobiles and every one reviewed is for the iPhone.

      1. robin thakur 1

        As an iPhone user I did see that there are a couple reviewed for Android, but I glossed over those. It says that for most of them, there are non-iphone versions available for those who can't afford iPhones lol

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And how well they work as FM antenna?

    It would be good to know, replacement buds dont seem to have the reception as the bundled ones.

  10. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Too expensive

    Given how (and where) they get used there is no point in even paying £20 for a set.

    Both this review and the previous in ear headphone review should be redone with a maximum budget of £20 and an instruction to the reviewer that at least half the models should be under £15.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge


      Well why don't you go out and see how many iPhone earbuds you can get for under £20 that have both a decent mic and the 3 button apple controller.

      Don't come back until you do commentard.

    2. JaimieV

      Speak for yourself

      My current £80 buds have been in use for about five years now, including much exercise time, and they're still working fine. Great sound, good isolation, no wire noise, no longer for sale so I won't bother mentioning what they are.

      Perhaps you should look into why yours aren't worth spending money on?

  11. blkbam

    another round of suction cups

    come on guys. how about some headphones that i can't use to unclog the sink.

    An to the bluetooth guy above, not all of use want to look like idiots with a piece of plastic stuck to one side of our heads.

    1. IsJustabloke Silver badge

      I CHOOSE to enoble a simple forum post!

      Actually, I have a pair of bluetooth ear buds that double as a handsfree set.

      There's no plastic stuck to me anywhere and at first glance you'd assume I was just wearing a headset.

      Its only when you look closer that you can see the bluetooth dongle / controls hanging round my neck.

      The big issue with them these days is the constant dropping out as I walk cos world + uncle seems to have some kind of 2.4ghz stuff going on.

      I'll probably go back to wired for that reason tho and not because I look like a chump when I wear them.

  12. AdamWill

    suspect criteria

    So, of the highest rated product, you say:

    "The buds boom instantly with a thumping dominant bass, thick and punchy. Crisp high ends are powerful enough to balance it out, but the middle can get lost in the storm created. Still, the output is impressive as it can belt it out at damaging levels with only slight distortion."

    "The thumping powerful bass frequencies rule the show here, but a prominent mid-range invigorates vocals and the top-end is crisp enough to set the spine tingling with snappy snares and hissing hi-hats."

    So...your criteria are that Bass Is Everything, followed by the ability to play painfully and unnecessarily loud, _followed_ by any kind of actual balanced sound quality?

    Okay, we're done here. I think I'll go read someone else's review.

    1. hexx

      yes, apparently, otherwise they wouldn't rate MMi30 so highly. What a rubbish headphones. There's nothing else than bass and even that bass doesn't go deep and has no detail. I'll stick with my Apple In Ear Dual Drive headphones.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      are rather famous for crap bass. So in a review, the first thing I want to know is that they can actually reproduce the sound I'm feeding them. If they don't, I'll skip the review because I know I won't want them.

      Second thing to test on any audio is whether they're so badly designed/built that they distort or start making their own noise when driven hard. If they do, I'll skip the review because I know I won't want them.

      Then, if I'm still reading, we get onto the rest of the review where we find out other goods and bads. Looks perfect to me.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      We just need to know the weighting - the Editor's choice you referred to cost £30 from Amazon compared to others that are much more expensive. At least this was mentioned...

  13. WonkoTheSane

    Noise Isolation + Public road != Good thing

    You really REALLY want to hear that car/bus/truck coming as you step into the road!

    Loudhailer so that you can hear me over your dubstep mix.

    1. Annihilator
      Thumb Down


      Fortunately I'm also capable of using the other primary sense useful in the situation of crossing the road - namely my eyes. Unless they've perfected cloaking technology recently, I'll be able to see that car/bus/truck coming.

      How you think the hard of hearing cope in the world, I've no idea.

      1. The Jon

        You seem pretty certain that all vehicles will approach you in your 160 degree field of vision. Good luck.

        1. Annihilator

          @The Jon

          I seem pretty certain that I'll turn my head at least just slightly before stepping out on the road, it's call "looking before you cross the road". But then again, I'm not an imbecile.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge


      As a regular cyclist I find a lack of noise isolation to be preferable.

    3. JaimieV

      Think of it

      as evolution in action.

  14. Greencat

    Like looking for the Grail...

    All I want is a set of earphones that: stay in ears when running, don't tangle (too much), can survive rain, cost less than 20 quid and last longer than a few months. Any recommendations?

    I am never going to spend more than the price of my phone on a set of ear phones that'll probably won't last as long as it does. I'd only consider something that expensive if it came with a lifetime guarantee.

  15. sheep++;

    Earbud earphones

    My cheapish ones had rubber ends that were interchangable, but came off a bit too easily. I'd lost one and couldn't find it in my coat etc. Anyway after three days I started to get a pain below my ear. To cut a long story short, the rubber end had been lapsed in my ear canal, so I had to go to the A&E (ER for you American cousins).

    So after some pain and a big pair of tweezers (more like pliers) they managed to get it out. So it's external headphones for me now - though they don't do a good job of keeping external sound out.

  16. Dick Emery


    Bluetooth uses compression and degrades the sound. This test is about best sound quality and that requires a wire (unless you use Creatives propietary wireless system that few others support). Also it's for phones and for phones it requires and inbuilt microphone.

    'Ten... earphones for mobiles'

    Don't you guys bloody read?

    1. AdamWill

      not really

      "Bluetooth uses compression and degrades the sound."

      Well, not really.

      The Bluetooth spec for transmitting audio requires support for SBC, but allows support for MP3 and AAC; if your music files are in MP3 or AAC format (which is a pretty good bet), some phone/headset combinations can simply stream the files straight to the headset, with no recompression occurring. Does make a big difference in sound quality.

      It is, however, very fucking difficult to find reliable on info on what codecs are supported by what phones and what headsets.

  17. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    What no scosche?

    I'm using a pair now. Good neutral reproduction and very clear mic in handsfree. Similar in sound to sennheiser but less bright.

    Got fed ip with sennheiser after 2 pairs got caught and the cable self destructed.

    In the interests of fairness I should say that some amazon reviews say the same about scosche. Touch wood no issues so far.

  18. Andy Tunnah

    reply replee reploo

    wanted to reply to several comments

    first, bluetooth headsets - no matter what reason you have for them, no matter how discrete or stylish they may be, you will always look like a cock using it to talk

    sennheisers do break but even so they're so worth it - i'm not an audiophile, and i listen mostly to metal or drum and bass; fast, loud. deep music and i've not found a pair that spits out more bass than my CX-300s (apart from a mate who had this £200 pair of earbuds but that is ridiculous..o well each to their own)

    funny thing is one bud did stop working..didn't work for months, then out of the blue i put the wrong bud in my ear (only use 1 anyway, riding a bike and listening to music is suicidal) and they were fine again

  19. idris

    Forget you, wires

    I have to echo the bluetooth proponents above.

    I had a set of Jabra Halos for a year until I eventually squished them in my pocket, but I loved them dearly up until then. I never noticed any signal problems and even this model which was released > 2 years ago possessed a now standard Micro USB charging socket. I never actually ran out of battery, as there was always somewhere to plug them in.

    My favourite thing about them was being able to go from sitting to standing without them getting yanked off of my head or out of my ears, which I found to be a regular occurance with wired headphones routed through or around clothing. Feeling like you have to stoop or otherwise alter your posture just to avoid this is annoying, and the first time you try decent bluetooth headphones is a liberating experience. Sound's not bad either.

    Next? Those Jaybird Sportsbands look alright...

  20. Nick L

    Horses for courses...

    Somewhat informative, but it would be good to know what criteria the reviewer was using to score.

    I have 2 wildly different use cases for earphones...

    1-sat on a plane, or train, or in the office, where I want as much noise isolation as you can give me. I have Etymotic ER-6is, but they need replacing.

    2-jogging, or wanting to be able to hear a little bit of what's going on around me. Currently use some cheap and nasty things.

    The etymotics would be brilliant in scenario 1, but are a liability in scenario 2. Also, are you looking for tonal accuracy, or just a pleasant sound? Or MONSTER BASS?

    Recommendations for replacing the ER6is would be appreciated.

  21. Rigsworth
    IT Angle

    Budget mobile earphones

    I purchased a set of Soundmagic MP21 earplugs and they have lasted me for the last 6 months (and are still going strong). For a budget set of phones, with mic, they are infinetly better than the previous Senhiesser MM50's which lasted about 3 weeks. Even better and longer lasting than my previous Skullcandy (mic) ones.

  22. Nick Pettefar

    Sennheiser Contact Noise?

    I've bought Sennheiser earbuds twice now, based on reviews, and have given them away afterwards due to excessive contact noise from the leads which was terrible! What are these ones like for contact noise?

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