Review: XtremeMac FS1 High Definition Earphones

Sound clarity, low volume listening and comfort (February 16th, 2006)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: XtremeMac with Future Sonics

Price: $149 US

The Good

  • Great sound and excellent bass response. Includes a good variety of comfort sleeves to ensure good fit with any user. Compact, lightweight design. Easy to carry case.

The Bad

  • Getting a good fit takes some practice.

If you seek the high quality sound of headphones with the lightweight comfort and convenience of ear buds, check out XtremeMac's FS1 High Definition Earphones. XtremeMac, a leading manufacturer of iPod accessories, and Future Sonics, who is a developer of in-ear audio products, have partnered to bring professional earphone technology to the masses and boost the iPod listening experience to a whole new level.

Professional Sound at a Consumer Price

Future Sonics pioneered in-ear audio monitor technology for professional musicians, to simplify audio equipment staging and help preserve a singer's voice during live performances. Major artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Jason Moraz, Beyoncé, Gloria Estefan, and Green Day use Future Sonics' in-ear personal sound monitors when performing. The cost for these professional ear monitors start around $600. The FS1 Earphones wrap this same professional sound in a sleek, compact package that fits snugly in the listener's ears for only $149. Future Sonics' advanced MG5 miniature dynamic transducer design, that is only 10mm in size, provides remarkable audio fidelity, crisp clean sound, and superb bass response unmatched by standard ear buds.

Inside the Package

The package includes a pair of the black or white FS1 Earphones, three sizes of cone shaped comfort sleeves, one set of flanged comfort sleeves, and two sizes of foam comfort sleeves an earwax removal tool, instruction booklet, and a stylish compact zipper case to store and protect the earphones. The case includes an elasticized Velcro strap to hold the earphones and a pocket for all of the sleeves.

case
The Opened Case

For those used to standard headphones or ear buds, the in-ear earphones do take some getting used to, feeling a bit odd at first, but you quickly become used to the sensation. The variety of sleeves included with the FS1 ensures most users get a comfortable fit, and a good fit is key to getting the best audio performance. The expanding foam sleeves provide both the best fit and the best ambient noise attenuation.

To compare the audio quality I switched between the Apple-supplied ear buds and the FS1 Earphones while listening to a variety of music and podcasts on my iPod and Mac. I originally thought the sound from the Apple ear buds was pretty decent, but after using the FS1 Earphones the ear buds now seem a bit flat. It's not unlike examining a quartz crystal under a microscope and then examining a diamond. Once you've seen the diamond the quartz appears dull in comparison. Depending on the mix, some of the songs had an almost surround-sound feel when using the FS1 earphones. I also discovered, while using the FS1 earphones, that a number of my music files need to be re-encoded at higher bit rates to remove some compression artifacts I hadn't noticed before.

Some caveats regarding the FS1 Earphones

The earphones conduct sound directly into the ear, so be sure to turn the volume down on your iPod, or any other device, before connecting the earphones, or you may suffer a rude awakening. Also avoid cranking the volume up too high and give your ears a break every couple of hours to help prevent hearing loss. The FS1 Earphones maintain their remarkable audio quality even at lower volume settings. The earphones also block a reasonable amount of background noise, particularly when using the foam comfort sleeve, so avoid using the FS1 Earphones in situations where listening to background noise is essential, such as while walking near traffic, biking, or working out in a gym.

Overall the FS1 Earphones are an excellent value providing great sound quality at a reasonable price. As reported in Playlist magazine on the web, XtremeMac's FS1 earphones are the first consumer earphones supported by The Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers Foundation (H.E.A.R.).

Specifications:
  • Transducer: 10mm, Future Sonics MG5 Proprietary Miniature Dynamic
  • Input Sensitivity: +/-112dB @ 30Hz/1mW
  • Cable Length: 43.3 inches/1100mm
  • Connector: 3.5mm (1/8") standard stereo mini-plug; 90-degree angle
  • Noise Isolation: +/-25dB (using foam sleeves)
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20KHz


Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by James Alguire


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