I’ve reviewed a couple dozen canalbud-style headphones and headsets for Macworld, and Maximo’s 5-series “Enhanced Definition” product line—which includes the $60 iM-590 iMetal Isolation Headphones ( ) and the $80 iP-HS5 iMetal Isolation Headset ( )—have consistently been both top performers and excellent values. In my review of the iP-HS5, I noted that an updated model with an Apple-style three-button remote was in the works. That model, complete with a few other design tweaks, is now here, in the form of the iP-595 iMetal Enhanced Definition Earphones with Remote & Mic.
Like previous Maximo models, the iP-595 is a canalbud-style headset. Canalbuds essentially split the difference between traditional earbuds and true in-ear-canal (“canalphone”) models. (See our in-ear-canal headphone primer for more details.) Since they fit partially in the ear canal, they block some external noise and form an acoustic seal that improves bass performance. However, they don’t block as much sound as true in-ear-canal models, and, as with canalphones, getting a proper fit can be tricky, the cord can produce unwanted microphonic noise in a listener’s ear, and using the headset function can be weird due to the occlusion effect of having your ears plugged while talking.
The iP-595 is almost identical in design to the iP-HS5, featuring polished, alloy-metal earpieces, trim made of semi-translucent silicone and opaque plastic, and a cloth-wrapped cord. Available in black or “platinum white,” I find the black version just as attractive as the black option of those other models, though I worry that the white cord might show dirt over time.
Maximo has also updated the cord material, which is now softer, more pliable, and less likely to kink—I’d heard complaints from some readers about kinking with the older cables, although I hadn’t had a problem myself. Another welcome change is the redesigned plastic strain relief on the headphone plug, which should make the iP-595 more durable. Maximo again includes a generous selection of accessories: small, medium, and large pairs of silicone eartips; a lanyard; an extension cable; a shirt clip; and a carrying case.
The iP-HS5’s circular, one-button remote has been replaced in the iP-595 with an extruded, oval, three-button remote located at the cable split. This module has a rubber center button for controlling music playback and phone functions, along with smaller metal buttons above and below for volume control. The remote seems sturdy, although the play/pause button is not as responsive as its counterpart on the iP-HS5. The volume buttons, on the other hand, are quite responsive—I wish the play/pause button matched.
As on the iP-HS5, the iP-595’s microphone is housed in a small sphere located on the left-hand earpiece cable. Despite the identical appearance, however, the microphone itself is new. In my testing, this new microphone didn’t sound as rich as the iP-HS5’s, although a more treble-heavy balance may improve audibility in phone conversations. The new microphone’s audio also sounds a little distant to the person on the other end of the call, but its performance is good overall.
Maximo claims the iP-595’s audio performance is identical to that of the iP-HS5, and in testing the headset (after the burn-in period suggested by the manufacturer), I found this to be true. Like its sibling, the iP-595 is a strong performer, featuring emphasized bass and high frequencies, with good detail in those regions. The midrange is also clear, but doesn’t draw attention to itself the way the bass and high frequencies do. The iP-595 lacks a bit of detail at all frequencies compared to much more expensive models, but these are minor criticisms of performance that’s difficult to match at this price.
Of course, individual tastes matter, and there are a few other models in the $80 to $100 range that offer comparable performance with slightly different presentation: The $100 V-moda Remix Remote ( ) has a more relaxed top end and stronger bass, but less detail; the $100 Creative HS-930i ( ) offers more midrange and high-frequency detail, but can sometimes sound harsh or boomy; and the $90 Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi ( ) has an overall more neutral presentation at the expense of treble detail and visceral bass. At $80, then, the iP-595 provides excellent value.
In previous reviews, I strongly recommended both the iP-590 and the iP-HS5. For owners of compatible Apple products, the iP-595 offers the same strengths and level of performance along with a three-button remote and some small improvements to the design. Overall, like those two earlier models, the iP-595 is a nice looking, impressive sounding headset at an excellent price that will please a broad range of users. It’s my new favorite set of canalbuds for under $120.
Updated 9/15/2010, 10:39am to correct available color options