A little more on headphones.
Since writing about my new Sennheiser CX300 headphones last week, i came across these Creative Labs EP-630 headphones which look identical but are roughly half the price. I can’t find anything concrete to say they are identical internally or in terms of the audio quality but there is some (anecdotal) evidence out there on the web that suggests they might be (and some that vehemently suggests not). If you happen to be looking for some cheap but good quality headphones though I reckon they might be worth a punt.
Of course, the validity of my opinion when it comes to audio-quality is quite questionable so you might prefer to look elsewhere. For instance, the Reg has just posted their top-ten noise-isolating earphones. No mention of the CX300s there sadly but then their review does cover buds costing as much as £180.
Update: I’ve just noticed that in the comments section of that Reg review there are a good few mentions of the CX300s, and one in particular about the EP-630s that says, well, what i said above really. There’s also a great comment by “Pete” (who says some of the things i’ve been trying to say but more succinctly) which is probably worth repeating in full here:
Warble on all you like about sound quality, but it’s all wasted. No matter how much you spend, you can’t turn the pigs ear of a 128KBps compressed stream into the silk purse of high-end audiophile sound.
Yes, you can filter out extraneous sounds (confession: long-time user of Etymotic ER6i’s here) and that’s their single, best, overriding, feature: you can’t hear the screaming child in the seat behind, or the inconsiderate “I’M ON THE TRAIN” idiot, either. Plus you don’t risk permanent ear damage as the accoutic seal means the volume can be kept down – while still hearing all the (compressed) good bits of the music itself.
However, don’t kid yourself that you’re hearing sound quality that represents the £150+ tag of these top-end puppies. Apart from the inconvenient truth that very few people have ever heard top-end kit (away from passing traffic noise, over-flying aircraft, or even other people moving around in the house) and so have no real benchmark to compare these with, the sound of your own body functions (oooh, err,) for example your hearbeat gets amplifed by these devices and detracts from the “quiet bits”. You’ll also find that wearing these while running, or even walking, is not a nice experience as the “thump thump” of your footfall is so loud.
If you do buy these, buy them to remove external sounds – but be under no illusions that they’ll improve a poor quality sound source. Finally, don’t *ever* wear these while driving.