In-ear headphones to go with your smartphones

Last Updated : 05 May 2014, 11:12 IST
Last Updated : 05 May 2014, 11:12 IST

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Smartphones offer a lot of conveniences, especially for people on the go, but using one for one of the device’s most basic functions - making a phone call - can tie up your hands and actually limit your mobility.

Accessory-makers are there to help. There are plenty of options to make crisp calls with headsets and headphones, which offer the added benefit of freeing both hands while talking. And as hands-free calling has gained acceptance, you will most likely notice fewer awkward looks in your direction when it appears you’re talking into thin air.

Bluetooth headsets, which usually latch onto a single ear, are great if you spend a lot of time on the phone. But for those who make only an occasional call, in-ear headphones are more convenient and generally more comfortable than a headset. Because headphone-makers focus on the experience of listening to music, call functions and quality are pretty much the same no matter what brand you get. Just remember to look for a pair that can juggle music playback and phone calls.

First, make sure the headphones have a microphone; you obviously can’t make a phone call without that. Headphones can have a simple one-button microphone or a three-button microphone, which has additional controls to adjust the volume. Models with a three-button mike are more handy, but keep an eye on the price because they often cost more, too.

Also, the controls on three-button microphones work primarily with iOS devices, meaning that some features won’t be available if you are using the headphones with an Android device, like those offered by Samsung and HTC. A company’s website and packaging are usually pretty clear about phone compatibility.

In recent years, many headphone-makers have tweaked the design of headphones. The earbuds often fit better, but they are not interchangeable, either. So make sure you know which bud is for which ear. Not only will this help make sure they fit as expected, it will also ensure that the microphone is facing your mouth. Many headphones also include design features like ear clips, stabilizers and adjustable ear tips to improve stability.

Some smartphone-makers, like Apple, include a pair of in-ear headphones with the device. These headphones are usually serviceable, but the audio is generally mediocre and the fit poor. If you’re ready to upgrade to better sound and stability, here are a few options:

The Fix from Skullcandy:With headphones that come in bright colors and offer a booming bass, Skullcandy caters to younger consumers. For that reason, most of its headphones are moderately priced, about $30 (Rs 1,807), but come with limited extras. But the company introduced the Fix, a line of in-ear headphones that are designed to stay put during rigorous activity. The Fix earbuds provide a strong seal, ensuring that they won’t fall out.

That seal also tends to dampen a lot of ambient noise, which could be good or bad, depending on what you are doing. The seal can help make calls easier to hear, but users will want to use caution if they wear them while out walking or running. Both the one-button and three-button versions sell for $50 (Rs 3,012), and designer models are available for $10 (Rs 602) more.

The Reference from Klipsch: For people looking for headphones that work with devices other than iOS, Klipsch is a good place to start. The company just released Reference, a line that offers Klipsch’s acclaimed acoustic engineering inside a sleek package. For comfort, Reference headphones are equipped with patented oval ear tips that more naturally fit the contours of the inner ear canal (four sizes of interchangeable ear tips are included). The Reference R6i, available now, is compatible with iOS devices.

This summer, Klipsch is planning to release the R6m, which will work with Android, BlackBerry and Windows smartphones. Both headphones are $100 (Rs 6,024); a model is available without a microphone for $80 (Rs 4,819).

The MIE2 from Bose: Breaking the $100 (Rs 6,024) price point on in-ear headphones can be tough to justify. You have to be sure that you are paying for performance, not hype. Fortunately, Bose delivers with its MIE2 headphones, which were designed for a mobile lifestyle. Not only do they offer clear, full audio, they also provide a secure fit with Bose’s StayHear ear tips.

The tips incorporate stabilizers that fit inside the outer portion of the ear, making them the most comfortable headphones I’ve tried because I didn’t have to jam them into my ear canal. The MIE2 comes in two versions, one for iOS devices (the MIE2i) and one for all others; each for $130 (Rs 7,831). For those who are more active, the new FreeStyle model costs the same but comes in brighter hues and a durable, sweat-resistant design.

Published 04 May 2014, 15:10 IST

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