Product: Incase Audio Headphones
We're doing something a little different today. Apple-centric accessory maker, Incase, sent us their latest offering, a stylish 4-piece collection of in-ear, on-ear and over-the-ear headphone devices aimed at the fashionable set looking for sonic quality: the Sonic, Reflex, Pivot, and Capsule. Several of our team have been testing a headphone each the last couple of weeks, and now report back how each felt about Incase's first foray into home audio. Head down below for our very first ever Unplggd team review...
Vivian Reviews the Incase Pivot:
Product: Incase Pivot
The Pivot on-ear headphones from Incase offer comfort as well as portability. The audio cable sports an integrated mic and remote so you can control audio playback as well as take calls on your iPhone, iPad or Macbook. The Pivot is fully adjustable and each earcup can be adjusted individually by sliding it along the main headband. The suede-covered earcups also rotate flat for when you're on-the-go. As far as looks go, this is the Pivot's only weakness. Although it's durable, lightweight and can lay flat for travel, I felt the overall design wasn't quite right.
The curviness of the Pivot gives it a somewhat spacey vibe, but instead of looking futuristic or sophisticated, the design can look a bit cheap. It comes in 3 color combinations (Dove/Blue, Ash/Pink and Black/Green) but despite the variety, the color options may not work for everyone. However with that being said, the Pivot is ideal if you're looking for comfort and sound quality (rich bass, crisp highs). These headphones won't pinch your ears down the way other on-ear headphones do when you have them on for too long, so they can be worn for extended periods of time. The audio quality is also surprisingly good, beating out typical ear buds. The Pivot offers a wide spectrum of sound, delivering punchy bass and crisp highs. Overall, a decent over the ear headphone marred by the design.
Taryn Reviews the Incase Capsule:
Product: Incase Capsule
Rating: Strong Recommend
Incase's Capsule In Ear Headphones are the least expensive offering from their new Audio collection, but they definitely carry on the sound quality and impressive design of their pricier siblings. The very first thing you'll notice about these buds is how well they block out background noise. The silicone eartips do a solid job of creating a seal for sound isolation, and three sizes are provided so every user can get an optimal fit. Even without music playing, these earbuds almost function like earplugs. It's nearly impossible to carry on a conversation with these in your ears (we'll let you decide if that's a good or bad thing). Once you hit play, you'll find the music flowing through these buds is crisp and clear, with a full, bass-heavy sound. The audio coming from the Incase buds sounds more like a pair of over-ear cans than most earbuds, thanks to the superior sound isolation. I've been using my iPhone's included Apple-issue earbuds until now, and the comparing the quality of the music with these Incase headphones is like night and day.
Incase's Capsule In Ear Headphones were made to be compatible with iPhone, iPod and iPad, so they're stocked with all the same features as Apple's headphones, including a microphone and on-cord music playback controls. Yet while they technically can be used as a microphone for hands-free calling, I wouldn't recommend it. This is one area where my iPhone 4S's earbuds win. Using the Incase set made calls sound far away and projected plenty of background noise from my caller's end. My voice carried an echo every time I spoke. It was just enough to be annoying.
Everything about the physical design of these buds looks and feels deliberate and well-thought out. The eartips are slightly oval-shaped to better fit your ear and come in four different color combinations. And yet what's the most surprisingly desirable feature? The way the headphone jack is built at a right angle. It makes my earbud-attached phone a bit more compact (for a better pocket fit) and seriously removes a ton of the stress placed on the base of the headphones' cord. I get the feeling that the angled jack means the Incase earbuds won't wear down without a fight, unlike the rest of my wires-bare Apple earbud collection. It's the feature we didn't know we needed.
For a user interested in the carry-around convenience of earbuds but the superior sound quality of well-rounded audio, I can't recommend these enough. While the $49.99 price tag is a barrier to entry for anyone upgrading from their iPhone or iPod's included earbuds, I assure you it's a worthwhile upgrade. You'll feel like you're listening to every song on your iPod for the very first time.
Jason Reviews the Incase Reflex:
Product: Incase Reflex
Put on a pair of Reflex headphones from Incase and you will be pumping your fists ala "Jersey Shore", no whatever you're listening to. The Reflex has a strong, all-encompassing low-end sound, which while perfect for dubstep and electronic music, seems to be a little overwhelming for say alternative, rock, classical, jazz or other "easy listening" music. The heavy bass comes at the expense of crisp trebles, but not so much that sounds are muddy.
There's a lot of noise bleed in that those around you can hear quite a lot of what you're listening to, which might be really annoying to people around you in public areas like the bus, elevator, etc. They'll be staring at you while wearing quite a stylish set of headphones. We loved the materials and feel of the headset. The splash of orange inside the earpiece was a nice touch even if no one can see it - akin to a bit of color on the inside of your color or sleeve. One odd thing to note was that while the volume controls worked on our iPhone 3GS, they did not work on an iPhone 3G, both of which we tested on. Overall a fun set of headphones with good overall sound quality, but expensive at $80.
Gregory Reviews the Incase Sonic:
Product: Incase Sonic
Can there be such thing as "too comfortable"? That's the dilemma faced while considering my experience wearing and listening to music with the Incase Sonic, the flagship headphone model of the Incase Audio line. But let me first mention the real selling point of these over the ear models: the design. I personally loved the soft to the touch, minimalist-modern matte finish, which added a pleasant tactile sensation when handled. Then there's the layer of detailing with color: a contrast splash of blue inside the ear cup against the dark gray headband alongside the bright blue audio cable presents these headphones every bit a fashion statement as much as audio tech (the included blue cable did feel a tad short). Depending upon whether your aesthetic sensibility falls in the modern or traditional, the visual appeal may be a make or break proposition, but personally the Sonic made a strong case for best looking headphones in the market.
But how did they sound? I threw the whole spectrum of music from my playlist, and whether it was the delicate guitar strummings of Ryan Francesconi, the vibrant electronic tides of Tycho, Sam Cooke's naturally emotive vocals echoing, or the old timey jingle-janglin' of Americana outfit, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, the Sonic did nothing but provide balanced, distortion-free sound listening. The over-the-ear cup design provided excellent isolation without an excess of noise spill, making them ideal for use when you're commuting next to strangers or laying in bed with your iPad while your partner reads. When pushed beyond the normal mid-volume territory, the Sonic's low end did muddy up a bit; not horribly so, but just enough to make these not as prime candidates for those who subscribe to the low end theory. But for classical, electronic, indie, jazz, and even a bit of bluegrass, the Sonic brought music alive with great comfort, especially fit for clear vocals across the board. The integrated microphone and remote control makes futzing about controls easy to use without a glance, though at this size, this models seemed more at home at our laptop or with the iPad in bed rather than headphones we'd travel outdoors with (cue in the Reflex).
Finally, a note about the comfort of the Incase Sonic: they're almost too comfortable. The suede lined, memory foam padded ear cups are an extremely luxurious experience while worn for hours on end. Except for a literal hot head like myself, where these headphones can warm up and retain heat much like a Tempur-pedic bed after a little too much hanky-panky. So during cooler temperatures, the Sonic presented itself as possibly the most comfortable pair of headphones I've worn; on hot days, the suede and plush finish felt a little stifling...like wearing a wool sweater on a warm day (a cashmere seater, mind you). Also there's a concern about greasy hair stains marring the headphone finish, so I would have personally preferred a smooth leather headband lining rather than the soft, but hard to clean, suede finish. But looking this good comes at a price (about $200) and the Incase Sonic are definitely a model that deserves consideration if you're looking to make as much of a design statement as enjoy your music collection at home or on the go.