When listening to my music (sourced from an iPod nano), I was pretty happy with the audio quality offered by the iLuv i910 Noise-Canceling Earphones. This was without the active noise reduction feature turned on. Even so, the rubber tips and snug fit made for a good deal of passive sound blocking, just like you would experience with other similarly-designed ear buds. The treble and mid-range were well represented with rock and metal (Metallica, Oasis), and the bass was adequate for hip hop (Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco).
These earphones still won't be able to outperform a more expensive set of earphones nor will they outperform an expensive set of deejay-style cans, but they easily hold their own against some of the premium ear buds you'll find on the market. They're definitely solid. Phone conversations were equally adequate and I had no trouble switching to "phone" mode through the in-line mic (and the included one-touch button).
Canceling Out the Noise
The controls for the active noise cancelation are very straightforward. There is a slider switch, for turning the ANR on and off, and a mute button. The mute button does not mute the music permanently; instead, it only mutes the music for however long you hold down the button. I would have preferred a more standard "mute" configuration. In terms of actual noise cancelation performance, I attempted to listen to my music with ANR on while surrounded by a stereo system and television set. Even without the ANR turned on, the iLuv i910 was able to block out some noise, assuming that I turned the volume on my iPod up a little.
With the ANR turned on, there wasn't much of a noticeable difference in noise cancelation. It muffled the outside noise a touch, but there wasn't much there. Interestingly, audio quality for my music actually improved, ever so slightly, with ANR activated, compared to when ANR was turned off. For me, the level of active noise cancelation performance isn't really worth the extra bulkiness of an in-line control unit of this size.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
It's clear that iLuv produces some pretty good quality accessories for the iPod and iPhone, and the i910 Noise-Canceling Stereo Earphones with Built-in Hands-free Microphone (what a mouthful!) are no exception. I appreciate the variety of ear tips and the build quality overall was quite good. Audio quality for a variety of music genres was equally impressive.
That said, I found that the active noise reduction (ANR) function was not as impressive as I was hoping it would be. There was such a minimal difference between having ANR activated and deactivated that it's hard to justify the need for a single AAA battery and that somewhat bulky controller. I'd rather just have a decent set of ear buds. The microphone, for taking calls on an iPhone, is a bonus. A brilliant design change would be the ability to detach the earphone/microphone segment from the ANR controller. This way, if you needed ANR, you could have it. If you didn't, you could have a much more portable set of earphones. That level of modularity would have allowed me to rate these headphones just a little higher, but for now, they do a decent job, but they aren't anything spectacular.
- Great audio quality for music listening and phone calls
- Good quality and variety of ear tips
- Inline mic and phone control
- Compatible with both 2.5mm and 3.5mm devices
- Active noise cancelation isn't terribly impressive
- ANR control unit is quite bulky
- Mute button only mutes music while held down
- No battery indicator
Overall Rating: 7.5 / 10.0
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