Headphones/EarPhones from the Moderate to Expensive


GeekDad customized Crossfade headphones. The kids aren't getting these.

There are two basic criteria for headphones or earbuds/earphones in my family:

1. How well they block out noise.

2. How durable they are.

There’s definitely a correlation between a higher cost and noise canceling ability but, surprisingly, not always one between cost and durability. I’ve previously reviewed the Soul SL300 and the PureGear PureBoom Advanced Performance In-Ear Headset. (Incidentally, a friend found the PureGear Headset at a Marshalls store for $10. They’re normally priced at $49.99 and they work nicely, so that’s a real bargain.)

Over the last two months, with the help of three of my children, I’ve been testing out three additional types of listening headgear. In ascending order of price, they are the Urbanears Plattan, at $60, the V-Moda Crossfade LP2 at $199, and the Scosche IEM 856M in-ear buds at $249.99. I received review copies of all three products.

After looking at the retail price of the Scosche IEM 856M In Ear Monitors, I decided to give them to my more careful 16-year-old son rather than one of my twelve-year-old twins. These are made to be compatible with the iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, iPod Shuffle, iPhone4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2 and iPad or Apple computers 2009 or later. The package includes a tapline III remote that controls sound from the in-ear monitors, and a microphone. They also come with a Thermoform case that is compact and holds the monitors well, a leather pouch, and a clothing clip.

The inner workings of the 856M

Are they worth the cost? The coolest feature of these is that you can switch out the ends to see which one fits your ear better. The cords are flat, for easier storage and to prevent tangling. The sound, my son says, is absolutely impeccable and definitely cancel out the chaos around him. (We have four cats, three kids and two adults in the house at any given time.) Despite the compatibility with all the Apple products, my son loves also using them while playing his Nintendo 3Ds. He says they help him to properly zone out and the sound of the games is “awesome” with these.

I’d recommend these but, as a parent, I always worry about paying for such a high-priced item that might be easily damaged by children. There is a product registration and a good customer service setup at Scosche’s website in case of any problems.

The next product, the Urbanears Plattan Full-size On-ear model, I gave to my youngest daughter, who seems to go through headphones like a geek goes through apps. I wanted to see how sturdy there were for the price. The Urbanears fold down to the size of your fist and come with a sound plug to share the audio with another person. It has a microphone, a tangle resistant cord made of fabric and the head-size is adjustable.

I consider these a bargain. The sound is quite nice and, so far, they’ve proven impervious to breakage, despite being dropped on the floor numerous times. The fabric cord is definitely great for use with kids as I’ve not had to untangle it even once. My one complaint was that they seemed tight around my head and drove the ends of my glasses into my head. But my daughter, who wears glasses, said they don’t bother her and I adjusted them wrong and she’s likely correct.

The V-Moda Crossfade LP2 is high on style. It comes packaged in a very cool, reinforced box with the logo “Veni, vidi, vici,” on the outside. On the inside, the headphones are stored safe and snug in a headphone case that holds the regular cable with three-button remote control for Apple devices, a spare audio-only cable and a 1/4″ universal adapter. The headphones have 50mm Dual-Diaphragm drivers, Bliss noise isolation, a steelflex headband, and the cables are reinforced with Kevlar. Oh, and you can also customize their gun-metal shields. I had mine engraved with the GeekDad logo, as can be seen in the photo above.

So this has the cool factor win hands-down. To my tin ear, they did sound better overall than the Urbanears, though I could discern no difference between these and the Scosche in-ear device. But the Crossfade was awesome at blocking out distractions. Unlike the Soul headphones, it doesn’t have a special noise canceling buffer inside but it does have padding and even drowned out the sound of my husband snoring in the same room.

For that alone, I’m definitely going to use them until I wear them out.

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