18 February 2013

REVIEW: Musical Fidelity EB-50 In-Ear Headphones

Do you remember your first Walkman? Those headphones with the thin metal strap and thick black cushioned speakers that came with it? Ah, we thought we were the bending part of a bee's leg, didn't we, listening to crackly tapes of Michael Jackson and the Batman soundtrack (Just us?). Well since those days the headphone industry has come on leaps and bounds, but it isn't Japan we look to any longer, but rather here in jolly old Blighty.

UK manufacturer Musical Fidelity are known for producing some top-notch audio kit, so it was with some joy that tore open the swish box for the new EB-50s – and swish it was. We were blown away by what is included in the box. You get the in-ear headphones themselves, sure, but also a whole range of useful accessories – ones that actually make you feel that shelling out £150 for something the same size and weight of a baby mouse was worth it. Prepare to enjoy seven pairs of differently shaped tips to help mould the phones to your lug-holes, three colour coded pairs, over-the-ear clips to hold them in place should you fancy a jog (or are being chased by a mugger with a penchant for expensive headphones), a clip and a lovely cloth for cleaning. You also get a pouch for storing them in, differently sized adapter jacks (including one for aeroplane seats – no more buying BA's expensive sets for you, Charlie) and yet more rubber tips. Merry Christmas.

The EB-50s themselves are small, light and discreet and thankfully look nothing like iPhone earphones. Although not specifically designed for phones, the headphones have a handy mic built in to the cable and also a pause/mute button half way down.

We've had a good few days of use of the EB-50s now and have to say it was a pleasure, even listening to the rubbish on our mp3 player. The quality of sound is excellent and the headphones make it very easy to forget you're actually wearing them – helped in no small part to their comfort and small size. The sound was rich, crisp and immersive and they did a great job at keeping unwanted noise outside of our heads. However, the EB-50s worked incredibly well with tracks that had been ripped from a CD at a higher rate – some mp3 files we had that were recordings of live events seemed a little flat, but this probably due to the headphones being so good that  they highlighted the flaws in the recording. Everything else – songs imported by iTunes at 320kbs – sounded fantastic.

But are they really worth £150? In our humble opinion... mmm, depends. If you are seriously into your music and want to take that high-quality sound you are used to at home with you on the daily commute, then most definitely yes. The EB-50s will provide exactly what you could hope for from such a small product and you'll be drifting off into musical nirvana as you endlessly travel on the Circle Line. If you're just a looking for a pair of decent earphones and not too bothered about tonal reproduction, then maybe not, and there are other good quality and rugged sets out there.

But damn, they wont be as good as these.


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