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Since my hunt for the perfect over-ear headphones didn’t seem to be getting anywhere of late, I decided to try finding myself the perfect pair of in-ear headphones/earbuds. Being an audio novice on a budget, I didn’t want to go over the $30 range for my first “proper” pair. After a bit of research,  I ended up with the Symphonized XTC headphones and the Brainwavz Delta IEM headphones. I’m not gonna give you a full list of all the specs and accessories because you can find that on the Amazon page. Here’s what I think of both headphones and how they compare to each other.

Symphonized XTC ($28.99)

xtcIn the box, you’ll find a pull-to-close burlap carrying pouch that goes perfectly with the earthy, natural design of the earphones. It also comes with 6 sets of earbuds (2 pairs for each size – S/M/L). Three pairs in grey-and-yellow, and 3 pairs in all-black. Switching out the medium earbuds for smalls made wearing them more comfortable and less likely to fall out of my ears while listening. A minor con is that they do stick out of my ears quite a bit when in, potentially making it awkward to wear these in bed. The XTCs aren’t all that comfortable either. I mean, they’re not uncomfortable, but they’ll take a little getting used to.

I really like the classic wood design on black. It’s simple but classy, and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to itself. There’s an in-line mic halfway down the left side and, though I’ll probably never use it, at least it’s light and differentiates left from right at a glace. The angled audio jack is a nice touch for me because it puts less strain on the cable when it’s plugged into the top of my phone, or the bottom of another portable device. The nylon cable light and not likely to break or let what’s inside get damaged, even if it is thin. However – and this is my main complaint about these headphones – the nylon material makes the cable noisy. I can hear every movement I make through the earbuds from the cable, the way you can hear things through a stethoscope. I would’ve preferred a rubber cable of the same thickness if it minimized or eliminated that sound. The cable also tangles… a lot. It’s almost a talent, really.

As soon as I plugged these wooden beauties into my phone and my sister pulled up a random dubstep track on YouTube, I grinned. That is some nice bass. Forgive me for not knowing much of the terminology, but I could feel the bass without it overwhelming the other sounds. I don’t know if it has to do with the wood housing, but the sound is pretty warm, full, and bigger than I expected. Sound isolation is decent as well, with me not being able to understand what my sister was saying beside me while playing not-very-loud music.

I’m no in-ear headphone pro, but for the value and quality at this $30 price range, I’d give these headphones an 7/10 stars. I just wish they’d change the cables to something tangle-free and more friction-less.

 

Brainwavz Delta ($32.50)

deltasRight out of the box you get… nothing!? Oh, wait, there are S/M/L earbuds and comply buds! So it’s not just the earphones in here! But there’s a noticeable lack of carrying case/pouch. To try to make up for it, Brainwavz gives you a Velcro tie for the cable and a shirt clip. Yeah, I’d rather have the carrying case, thanks.

The Deltas certainly look modern and stylish with their metal housing and black with pink accent design. Without the in-line-mic feature (which I didn’t need anyway), it’s a good thing the left and right symbols are easier to spot on these than the XTC’s. In size, they’re only about 2/3 the size of the XTC, which means they stick out of my ears less. You can manage wearing these in bed. They’re also more lightweight (not that the XTCs are heavy) and comfortable.

The headphones are fairly well built, with the metal cans naturally being the strongest part. Like the XTC’s, the Deltas have an angled, gold-plated audio jack. The Delta jack connects to a rubber cable the same width as the XTC that leads to a rubberized Y-splitter with a doodad that can be adjusted to make the cable spread between ears larger or smaller. The split cables are also the same width as the nylon XTC ones. Keeping in mind that the rubber cables do still tangle, they certainly don’t tangle nearly as much as the nylon ones (which I’ve just spent a full minute untangling again).

These headphones are designed to be monitors, so they’ll have a more neutral sound to them than the XTC. You also have to turn the volume up a bit louder with the Deltas, but the sound quality is pretty good. It’s just not as pleasurable to listen to.

8/10 stars because these are good, lightweight in-ear headphones for everyday use, but they really could use a case/bag for portability.

 

Overview

At first, I was planning on praising the Symphonized XTC headphones and shrugging off the Brainwavz Delta headphones. Writing this review forced me to look at each aspect of these more carefully, and I realized I would’ve been making my decision based on initial reactions. Symphonized does make a good first impression, I’ll give them that, and you do get more bang for your buck. However, there’s also more to complain about compared to the Deltas, which do their job, but won’t wow you at the start.

Which would I recommend?

Er… It depends what you’re looking for. If you want a more pleasurable listening experience with a heavier bass, go with the cheaper and more accessorized Symphonized XTC – but beware the frustratingly tangle-prone cable and stethoscope movement sounds. If you want something that more accurately represents the music and don’t mind stuffing it in your pocket, get the Brainwavz Delta.

iems

 

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