Top critical review
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Good at a bargain price, but better earphones out there...
on 20 January 2011
Firstly I'll start with a warning. There are literally thousands of fake versions of this product on the Internet and sometimes when something looks to good to be true, the odds are it probably is. With that thought in mind, I felt I had taken a gamble in buying these In-Ear's (IE's) at the bargain price of [...] when the stated RRP was [...], so I wasn't expecting big things when the parcel arrived from Amazon.
These IE's were purchased to replace a pair of Shure E2's which (along with my Sansa Clip) were stolen from my locker at the gym. After the Shure's had gone I took the view that I would purchase cheap and cheerful IEs for the gym in case I had another pair lost or stolen, and originally came on to Amazon to find a pair of CX300's which I know many people do use at my gym. However, seeing the CX400 II's at such a low cost I decided to take the chance that what I would be getting would be real-deal CX 400 IIs.
When the IEs arrived the packaging looked very professional and authentic, so I was a little reassured that what I had purchased were the genuine article, and the look and feel of the earphones gave the overall impression that they were the real deal. Inside the packaging you get a pair of CX 400 IIs, a PVC style carry case, several different size earbuds and a plastic/rubber holding clip. The cables are quite thin and nowhere near the quality of the previous Shure IE's I have owned. On the cable you have a shirt clip and a volume up/down switch.
I plugged the IEs into the replacement Sansa Clip (also bought from Amazon) and listened to a selection of music from Classical to House and Rap to Indie. I did the same later using the IE's connected to my laptop to see if there were any differences based on the source. The results using both sources were broadly the same.
Overall the sound quality is pretty good. You would struggle to find something that sounded as good at the [...] bracket in any high street chain today. The sound landscape is broad, meaning that you do get a feeling of space and width when listening to music, but you can get a slight muffling on certain tracks with some deeper vocals. The highs are clear and sharp, although at times the higher notes could feel too sharp, almost painful at certain volumes. The lows were also well rounded and not distorted unless really pushed. The IEs do suffer a little when the music becomes very involved and they have to deal with highs and lows changing frequently and often together but at this level that's not unexpected.
The integrity of the sound is maintained at higher volumes, even when I pushed the volume up to max on my laptop (not something I'd recommend for long!). One peculiarity I discovered was that when lowering the volume with the cable volume controller I noticed some distortion, as well as a sense that what was being reduced was not volume overall but a thinning out of the sound, almost like the sound was being played through a tunnel (slightly echoed).
Now all of that being said, on occasions the IEs behaved in a very different way with distortion on the high notes causing almost a crackle effect and rumblings on the lower notes. This happened on the laptop so I suspect it may be something to do with the source but didn't have time to check against the Clip.
Overall the IEs performed much better than I expected a pair of IEs purchased at [...] would perform. However, there's a very large 'but' coming... but I'm still not convinced that the pair I have are 100% the genuine article as it's almost impossible to tell. All I can say is that, as I've mentioned just now, I've got a decent pair of IEs for the money that would suffice for general everyday Gym use and that I wouldn't cry too much about if I lost at the gym (I would if I lost another Sansa Clip!). So, at [...] I would recommend them as a decent pair of everyday IE's.
However, if these were offered at the full RRP I would simply say no. For that sort of money you can buy yourself a decent pair of Shure SE102s/E2Cs or SE115's (I prefer the 115's but I know people who love the SE102's and say they sound better), and even at the entry level you will get a quality sounding set of IEs that will last (until they are nicked!).
Verdict: At this price you can't go wrong for general listening (if they last) but you may not be getting what you think you are getting, and I would definitely not recommend them to anyone who wants to listen in detail to their music.