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I'm kind of a headphone snob. My friend Ellen, who needs a good headset for listening to music and making calls on her smartphone, is not. So when I received a pair of ifrogz' new EarPollution Timbre with Mic 'phones ($49.99) for review, I tested them out myself for awhile and then passed them on to Ellen for her take. Guess what? To me they're good but not great, as the midrange gets kind of muddled during music playback. But Ellen? She loves her some Timbre, at least so far.

Ellen's got good taste and knows good sound from lousy noise, but she doesn't get her knickers all in a twist about things like "getting a good seal" and "microphonics" like I do. No, Ellen's more concerned with "Do they feel good in my ears and sound good during voice calls and music playback," than "Are these really reference quality drivers with a flat response curve?"

Not that I necessarily know what I'm talking about when it comes to frequency response curves on reference-quality earphones, mind you.

Ellen's had the fortune - or is it misfortune - of trying out several sets of mid-to-prosumer level headsets over the past year or so as I've been reviewing them. She didn't like the Etymotics hf2 because they "stuck too far into [her] ear canal." She didn't like the Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5vi because "the rubber earpieces felt flimsy and the music didn't sound as good as I think it should for earphones that cost more than $150." 

She did like the Radius Atomic Bass earphones for awhile, but then it turned out that "nobody could hear me when I talked into the microphone." They worked well for listening to music for a week or two, but then "my ears started to hurt if I had them in for my entire commute. The train ride is only 30 minutes long, so clearly they weren't actually fitting my ears very well."

But the ifrogz Timbre? It's only been a few weeks that Ellen's been using them, but she really likes them (I took 'em back for a bit more testing and then returned them to her). Why?

"They're really comfortable. They just fit me better than any of the others. There were two extra sizes of eartips in the package, but the ones that came on the headphones worked for me so I left them on."

"The wood chamber looks cool, and I think it helps the music sound better. Music sounds really clear and full and natural."

"The microphone works. People can hear me. I mean, cell phone calls still sound like cell phone calls, but the mic' actually works."

"$50 is still too much for a set of earphones, I think, but at least it's reasonable. How much were those other ones you lent me, like $150? That's crazy."

"One thing I don't like, which is a problem with all earphones, is that the cord gets tangled in my bag when I'm not using them. That's not the fault of whoever makes these, it happens with all earphones. Someone should invent a cord that doesn't get tangled, you know?"

Me, I'd pretty much agree with all of that. Except for the part about the music sounding clear and full and natural. I still think it's kind of muddy in the mid-range. Then again I'm used to crazy overpriced $150 earphones that stick way into my ear canals. So if you're like Ellen and think $50 or less is a more reasonable price to pay for a headset, consider the Timbres as possible upgrades for those stock smartphone earbuds (they're officially compatible with all iPhones and "most" BlackBerrys). The wood chambers are kind of cool looking, and definitely don't look like generic black or white plastic buds, and like Ellen says, the mic' works.


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