Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Earphones with Mic for Android

Klipsch Image S4A (original)
Update: There's a new king!

Your Android smartphone (or tablet) may have come with earphones/headphones, but the sound quality is probably mediocre at best. You could spend literally hundreds of dollars for the best possible sound, but roughly $100 is the point of diminishing returns, in part because "a chain is only as strong as the weakest link", and the cheap audio components in most smartphones will limit the sound quality if you spend more than that. So this list focuses on products under $100 (street price) with these characteristics:
  • Designed for Android, with single button remote
  • Mic for phone calls with good sound quality
  • Cords designed to minimize rubbing and bumping noises
  • Comfortable fit
  • Good construction
  • Good value, sounding better than the price

GOOD: Sony MDR-EX110AP ($21-25)

Cords could be better (thicker and more rubbery), but they aren't terrible, and the design is otherwise good, with sound quality comparable to products at double the retail price point, comfortable fit, light weight, and small size that keeps them inside the ear, minimizing wind noise outdoors. Available in a variety of colors. A bargain.

GREAT: Klipsch Image S4A ($45)

Excellent sound, good build quality, but the app is problematic, and fit with the oval tips can be a problem. The newer S4A (II) version features tangle resistant flat cables and other minor tweaks, but many prefer the original version, which can still be found and is usually less expensive. Tips:
  • Replace the oval ear tips with Shure memory foam "olives" (EABKF1), which install perfectly, fit comfortably, seal out noise, and improve sound by enhancing bass and taming treble just a bit. The latest version has an ear wax screen.
  • Forget the app.
  • Discontinued, replaced by replaced by Klipsch R6m.


  • Don't limit sound quality with low bit-rate audio:
    • Many streaming apps (Google Music included) default to a lower bit-rate that limits quality, and there may be a Setting for higher quality (at the expense of more mobile data).
    • The bit-rate of your own audio audio files (MP3, AAC, etc) should be 175-245 Kbps. (With good encoding, higher than that won't sound better.) LAME V3 profile is a good way to get the best possible sound with the lowest possible bit-rate. 
  • Take high end audio claims with a grain of salt. Many do not stand up to serious scrutiny.

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