Nice sound; good noise-cancelling; build quality
iPod-only; decreased sound quality for iPhone and iPad
You’ve likely seen plenty of noise cancelling headphones before: normally big chunky powered cans that kill all aural evidence of life in the outside world and let you enjoy your music as its engineers intended. Well, the Blackbox i10s give you that same enclosed and uninterrupted sound, but in a much smaller package.
The i10s are in-ear buds (and surprisingly comfortable ones at that) that cut back on bulk by drawing their power from your iPod’s dock connector rather than a battery pack. That means they’re only for Apple devices, but chances are, that’s not a huge problem for AMW readers. Also, they don’t officially work with the iPhone, but will play your audio. (I did notice that the volume was noticeably lower when listening to the iPhone compared to an iPod.) They don’t officially support the latest round of iPods, but work perfectly with the new nano, and I assume they’d work with the touch, although the iPhone’s lower volume might carry across to its iOS brother. Of course, the shuffle is out because it doesn’t have a dock connector.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the i10s aren’t the loudest earphones you’ll come across. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless you’re into tearing your eardrums. The noise cancelling is effective at cutting out much of the background noise, making your audio of choice shine through at safer volumes. I trialled them on a flight, and they worked a treat. The drone of the engines disappeared and Julia Stone’s mostly acoustic solo album sounded great, when otherwise it would have been easily overpowered.
In fact, the i10’s noise cancelling abilities are likely too good. Wearing them in the office, I missed phone calls and was continuously being surprised by people coming up to my desk, waving to get my attention. Thankfully, they have a mute button that quickly cuts out your music and the noise cancelling frequencies so you can tune back into the real world when you need to.
Noise cancelling aside, the i10s offer a solid sound with nice bass levels. It’s perhaps a bit too bass-heavy, but I tend to like more pronounced high frequencies. Whatever your preferences, the sound is clean and easy to listen to. It’s not ultra-loud, but it’s perfect for me.
There are a few quirks when using the i10s with non-iPod Apple devices. As I mentioned, iPhone audio is quieter, as is that from the iPad. Further, when the i10s are first plugged into an iPad, they produce a static noise that I couldn’t figure out how to stop happening. It doesn’t last when the music’s playing, so it won’t affect the listening experience, but it is a bit annoying.
If you’re getting the i10s for an iPod, you’ll be happy with the sound quality. If you’re thinking about getting a pair for your iPhone or iPad, though, I’d recommend testing them first if at all possible.
Fit and finish
The fit is what impressed me most about the i10s. I’m not usually a fan of in-ear buds, but these are incredibly comfortable. Each earpiece is a relatively large bit of moulded plastic that sits snugly in your outer ear, and like all in-ears, they have a range of bud sizes to fit your ear canal.
The i10s feel like a solid set of earphones. The cable is the same texture as Apple’s earbuds, but in a less conspicuous black. There’s a dongle about a third of the way between your ears and the iPod that has the volume control (which takes over from your iPod’s controls) and mute button. It feels like it will last the distance, but the clip on the back is pretty flimsy.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice
If you’re a regular flyer and don’t like carrying around chunky noise-cancelling headphones, I can’t recommend the i10s enough. They’ll easily fit in your pocket, or if you want to protect them a bit better, in the included carry case.
The sound is clean and the noise-cancelling is great. But they are a bit quieter than other earphone options, and seem to have a couple of minor issues when connected to an iPhone or iPad (and obviously can’t be connected to a non-Apple device). If you just want them for an iPod, though, they’re a great option.