It’s no great secret that the hands-free kit Apple include in with the iPhone 4 isn’t much cop when it comes to audio performance, and that’s left plenty of room for third-party offerings promising aural loveliness at a range of prices. With an MRSP of $99.99 but a street price under $50, the Scosche IDR655m earphones promise “brilliant highs, silky smooth mids and powerful bass” together with the company’s tapLINE II control system. Check out the full SlashGear review after the cut.
In the box are the IDR655m earphones themselves, a choice of single- and double-flanged silicone earbuds in three sizes, a clip to pin the cable to your shirt or coat, and a travel pouch for when they’re not plugged into your iPhone. There’s a standard 3.5mm plug, so the audio and microphone will potentially work on non-iPhone handsets, but you probably won’t get the extra control functions Scosche bake in.
That’s a shame, as tapLINE II is half of what makes the IDR655m earphones special. The in-line control block has buttons for volume and play/pause or answering calls, but double-clicking the middle button skips the track forward and triple-clicking flicks back to the previous track. Holding the button down triggers VoiceOver voice control. The microphone is separate from the controller section, which means it can be closer to your mouth while leaving the buttons within easier reach.
Comfort-wise, the IDR655m’s are far easier on the ears than Apple’s regular buds. The silicone tips are on the right side of tenacious, without gripping painfully, and they’re light enough to wear while jogging and still be free from the fear that they’ll be tugged out. Scosche has used a flatter, nylon-wrapped cable that is more resilient to tangling, so it’s possible to whip them out of the pouch and be listening in seconds rather than having to spend five minutes unknotting them.
Unfortunately, that braided cable has a frustrating side-effect that rears its head whenever you’re moving. As it rubs against itself – and your clothes or bag – it sends vibrations all the way up and into your ears, and can prove seriously distracting if you’re listening to quieter music. It’s a shame, since the audio quality in general is decent: we wouldn’t argue with some extra bass, certainly, but the mid-range is pleasingly spaced and the trebles have the sort of sparkle you’d normally spend in the mid-$100s to achieve. Tweaking the iPhone’s EQ to over-emphasise the bass left things muddy: thumping, yes, but lacking definition.
In-call performance is also strong, with callers reporting clear audio from the IDR655m’s microphone. The earbuds do a decent job of cutting out environmental noise, too, though there’s no active noise cancellation.
At their full MRSP we’d be reserved in our enthusiasm about the Scosche IDR655 earphones; the market at the $100-mark is hotly contested, after all. Under $50, however, and they’re a far more tempting prospect. There are certainly earphones with better audio quality – particularly at the bass end – but you’re looking at nigh-on double the price for them, and in terms of the difference in performance above and beyond the standard Apple headset it’s night and day. The noise from the woven cord is worth bearing in mind if you generally listen to quieter, acoustic or classical music, mind. Still, for most iPhone owners it’s a decent upgrade and makes a world of difference from the out-of-the-box experience.
Writing for R3 Media since 2006, Chris Davies is currently executive editor for SlashGear, Android Community and the other network sites. Based in London, UK, he's responsible for SlashGear's editorial decisions and covers all forms of consumer technology. You can follow him on Twitter.