Group test: Earphones

Macworld Australia Staff
16 November, 2012
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You can’t go round the stores trying out earphones, so we’ve done it for you. All products rated at their pricepoint.


Denon AHC360


Rating: 3/5

PROs: Lots of bass if you like it

CONs: Too much bass if you prefer more neutrality; no mic/remote



For $20 more than the AKGs (below), the Denon AHC360s throw a lot more bass into the mix. This is kind of a good thing, but the resulting doof-doof can get tiring if you’re not a teenager. The ‘phones come with a short, 70cm cord and 80cm extension, a hard carry case and four sets of earpieces.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

The bass levels are too much for us, but will be appealing to teenagers.


Plantronics BackBeat GO


Rating: 4/5

PROs: Very slim for Bluetooth buds

CONs: Some cord noise; OK audio quality



Plantronics’ older-style Bluetooth earphones were big and sat around the back of the ear; these new ones are only slightly bigger than an average pair of earphones – a marked improvement. As the ‘GO’ in the name suggests, these are made for sporty types, and are the best of their kind that we’ve used.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

The sound quality of the BackBeat GO is good, but not brilliant, some cable noise is evident and the earpieces can fall out if you don’t use the supplied stabilisers, but these are still the best of the genre.


The House of Marley Zion

The House of Marley,

Rating: 5/5

PROs: Great quality for the price; eco-friendly; mic/remote

CONs: None



Brought to you by the late, great Bob Marley’s estate, these earphones ooze earthiness with their eco-friendly materials and pay tribute to the Rasta world with the red, green and yellow accents on the cloth-wrapped cord.

They’re also the best-sounding, best-balanced, most- comfortable earphones we’ve tested at this pricepoint. In the box are five eartip sets and a nice, semi-rigid cloth pouch.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

The right earphones at the right price. We’re more than happy to live with these.


Harman Kardon AE

Harman Kardon,

Rating: 4.5/5

PROs: Very nicely tuned; mic/remote

CONs: Some cable noise



These Austrian-designed earphones just ooze quality with their boxy silver-and-black driver housings and plug.

Audio-wise, they’re very nicely tuned, treading the fine line between the neutrality favoured by audiophiles and the warmth that appeals to a younger audience. They come with four sets of earpieces, including some memory-foam Comply tips, and a slightly bulky rectangular carrying case.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

The rectangular design can be polarising, and some cable noise was distracting, but these are top-quality earphones in every sense.


SMS Audio STREET by 50

SMS Audio,

Rating: 4/5

PROs: Great bass; well built and designed; mic/remote

CONs: Not very detailed



Like most earphones developed or endorsed by rappers, this ‘in-ear wired’ model from 50 Cent’s SMS Audio company is tuned to deliver bass-heavy audio.

It does this at the expense of resolution, however. Those who listen to rap, pop, R&B, rock, etc, will love them, but classical lovers and audiophiles should stay away.

Flat cables, six eartips and a quality inline mic/remote add up to a classy package.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

After street cred and bangs of bass? Buy these.


AKG K330Si


Rating: 3/5

PROs: Inexpensive

CONs: So-so performance



It’s tough buying earphones at the entry side of the scale, as quality has to be sacrificed for price.

The AKG K330Sis are good, but not as good as others we’ve tested at this pricepoint. The midrange is nice, but there’s little bass and an overly bright treble.

The super-light and fairly comfortable earphones come with a semi-rigid carrying case and the choice of three sizes of tips. There’s no inline remote/mic.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

If you only have $60 to spend on earphones, the AKG K330Sis are worth considering.


Fischer Audio DBA-02 MkII

Fischer Audio,

Rating: 4/5

PROs: Excellent audio quality; very comfortable

CONs: Cable noise; no mic/remote



The DBA-01 MkIIs from Russia’s Fischer Audio definitely punch above their weight. These light yet well-built earphones deliver a rich, highly detailed and open sound that’s very easy on the ear. Unfortunately the audio quality is marred somewhat by cable noise.

The MkIIs come with a hard-shell case, nine sets of tips and ear hooks (which help lessen that cable noise).

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

A combination of comfort and excellent audio quality make these earphones great to use for extended periods, and a steal at $200.


Monster Turbine Pro Gold Audiophile


Rating: 4.5/5

PROs: Excellent sound; mic/remote

CONs: Over-designed; expensive



Once we got over the blingy design and chose a set of earpieces from the 16 pairs in the box, we were blown away by the audio quality of these earphones.

They’re beautifully sweet with no coloration, wide dynamic range and amazing levels of detail. Don’t expect pounding bass, however – these are made for accuracy.

Features include 24K gold contacts, L-shaped connector, an inline mic/remote, suede case and 6.3mm hi-fi adaptor.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

Definitely one of the best pairs of earphones we’ve used, but expensive at $500.



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