Here at Playlist, we’ve reviewed a good number of headphones, but few earbuds — the small “bud” models that sit in your outer ear (as opposed to in-ear-canal/canalphone models, which actually seal in your ear canal). The main reason for this is that there just aren’t that many good earbuds out there, and Apple’s stock earbuds are pretty good — for earbuds. In fact, to date, we’ve found only two that are a clear upgrade from the iPod’s own: Sennheiser’s MX 400 and MX 500 (which are actually the same earbuds; the 500 simply include an inline volume control).
Earbud-lovers now have another option: V-MODA’s Remix M-Class earbuds. Available in three flashy finishes — metallic blue, metallic pink, and silver — the M-Class earbuds are more than just aesthetically-pleasing accessories. Their fit and finish, as well as their sound quality, are impressive. Before even plugging them in, you’ll notice their build quality. The earbuds themselves, as well as the headphone plug enclosure and the Y-connector in the middle of the cable, are made of polished metal alloy instead of the plastic shells of most earbuds. The headphone plug is plated with 24k gold. The cables are wrapped in color-matching metallic covers, which are then covered in clear, flexible tubing. And instead of hard plastic, the earbuds’ drivers, which are protected by metal mesh screens, are surrounded by rubber rings — black on the silver model, white on the blue model, and gray on the pink model. These rings provide better comfort and also help keep the earbuds in your ears. (Six fabric earpads — three pairs — are also included if you prefer a cushioned fit.) I found the Remix M-Class earbuds to be very comfortable as earbuds go; however, if you have small ears, they might be a bit too big. (The M-Class earpieces are ever-so-slightly smaller than Apple’s, but they’re still fairly large.)
The Remix M-Class earbuds also stand out in the sound department. V-MODA claims that the Remix M-Class’s construction prevents resonances. Although I can’t vouch for that, I can tell you that these are among the best sounding true earbuds I’ve heard, providing surprisingly good bass response, richer midrange than expected, and excellent detail. When compared to Apple’s stock ‘buds, the difference in audio quality is immediately noticeable — V-MODA’s offerings put out a warmer sound with more impact and presence, but without sacrificing detail. (Apple’s earbuds initially appear to have more detail, but you soon realize that it’s the lack of midrange and bass make that them sound that way; when comparing the two models side-by-side, Apple’s headphones sound somewhat tinny.)
How do the Remix M-Class earbuds compare to Sennheiser’s offerings? Although the MX-400 and MX-500 are clearly better than the iPod’s stock ‘buds, they don’t have the bass response of the M-Class (which is, by the company’s own admission, slightly emphasized to better fit the tastes of most consumers). The M-Class earbuds also sound a bit richer and warmer overall. (Of course, to be fair, the Sennheiser offerings can be found for as little as $15, making them a better value for many iPod owners.)
Finally, V-MODA also includes in every M-Class package a silicone “modawrap cable manager,” similar to the Sumajin Smartwrap, which we’ve reviewed favorably here at Playlist.
The Remix M-Class earbuds are pricier than most of the competition, and you can get better sound from more expensive in-ear-canal models — there’s only so much you can do with an earbud design. But V-MODA’s attention to sound quality, materials, and construction set the M-Class apart from other models we’ve tested. If you’re a fan of earbuds and are looking to upgrade from your iPod’s white ‘buds, the Remix M-Class should be on your shopping list.–Dan Frakes