IE-30 and ety8 Earbuds

IE-30 and ety8 Earbuds

The high-def IE-30s will rock you like a hurricane.



The wireless ety8 earphones do have one string attached - to keep them together.


While some may balk at earphones that cost more than nearly every iPod, true audio snobs know that high-quality 'phones are worth the price of admission for producing crisp, detailed sound that lets you fully appreciate every nuance of your music. Both the professional-quality M-Audio IE-30 and the wireless Etymotic Research ety8 In-the-Ear Bluetooth earphones deliver quality construction and stellar sound.


The IE-30s use two high-definition armature drivers in each earbud. The audio crossover network routes each frequency of your music to either the low-range or high-range driver, and each driver's output is sent though a separate acoustic channel to maximize detail in the sound field. This is pro-level quality - dozens of touring bands use this Ultimate Ears technology to closely monitor their sound onstage or in the studio. The IE-30 earbuds provide 26 decibels of noise isolation to block out the outside world, and the 46-inch cable bends at the top to wrap securely around your ears. The sturdy cable is also detachable, so if it's ever damaged, you can replace it (price TBD at press time, but M-Audio estimated about $25) instead of replacing the earbuds.


Simply put, the IE-30s sounded incredible. Music from all genres reproduced clearly, and we could hear every detail, even subtle effects that we'd never noticed before. In fact, for listening through an iPod, reproduction this faithful could even be a slight drawback—if your music is encoded in lossy MP3 or AAC at relatively low bit rates, you may be able to hear the effects of that compression, especially in the high end. We noticed some muddying of cymbals in 160Kbps MP3 files and to a lesser extent in 128Kbps AAC files, but high-bit-rate AAC and Apple Lossless files sounded full and clear, and music from a stereo (a 1/4-inch stereo plug adapter is included) was reproduced perfectly.


M-Audio includes four sets of tips (three rubber and one foam), but the earbuds themselves are quite big. Even using the smallest rubber tips, we felt like we were stuffing about six Q-tips into our ears at once. We got used to the fit after a couple of days of frequent use (and the sound quality more than made up for the temporary discomfort), but if you have small ears, you may find them too large.


Etymotic Research's ety8 earphones include an 8Mate adapter that attaches to your iPod's dock connector and uses Bluetooth to send audio to the earphones. The adapter worked perfectly within a 25-foot range, and the right earphone sports tiny buttons for play/pause, volume, and track forward and back. After charging the earphones via USB (a full charge took 2 hours), we got 10.2 hours of playback at half volume - not bad, but USB is the only way to charge the ety8 'phones, so they may not be ideal for notebook-less road warriors. Noise isolation ranging from 35 to 40 decibels (using the plastic flange tips and foam tips, respectively) effectively blocked all outside commotion, and the balanced armature drivers produced full, accurate sound.


The ety8s made our music sound great, especially on the low end, but didn't impress us sonically as much as the IE-30s. When using an iPod nano or a fifth-gen iPod, you can adjust the volume with the iPod's clickwheel or the controls on the right earphone, but if you're using a fourth-gen iPod or an iPod mini, you can only change the volume with the earphone controls, not on the iPod itself. Not a big deal since the controls are easy to use even though you can't see them, but we felt a little silly tapping tiny buttons on our right ear. The ety8s are comfortable (although the tips do extend pretty far into your ear canal) but not exactly stylish, resembling rectangular plastic earrings.


The bottom line. Both sets of earbuds sound great, and the noise isolation lets you listen at lower volumes and still hear everything. If you want to go wireless, the ety8s work well, but you'll look a little Star Trek. If sound quality is paramount, the IE-30s will satisfy even the pickiest audiophiles.



PRICE: $299.95
REQUIREMENTS: Any device with a headphone jack
Dual drivers for excellent sound. Replaceable cable.
Large earbuds may be uncomfortable for some.





COMPANY: Etymotic Research
PRICE: $299
REQUIREMENTS: 4G or 5G iPod, 1G or 2G iPod nano, or iPod mini
Wireless. Good sound. Comfortable. On-ear controls are easy to use.
People might look at you a little funny. Requires USB charge.





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