Mr. Cutty says, "NO TAIL FOR YOU!"
Written: Apr 3, 2007 (Updated Oct 17, 2008)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Comfortable. Loud. Lightweight. 3.5mm *straight* plug. Interchangeable inserts. Inexpensive. "Soft" tail.
Cons:Worrisome Y split, somewhat short cord, boring white color, and possibly the "soft" tail.
The Bottom Line: May still be too early to say with authority, but so far it's looking like these are some high quality ear buds
The m|100s are very high quality ear buds.
I picked up two pairs of the Razer m|100’s at a recent w00t-off (woot.com) for less than I typically pay for one pair of Sony Fontopia MDR-EX51LP . Each package contains a pair of the m|100s with three pairs of interchangeable soft inserts in small, medium, and large. As an exciting bonus, I also got an airplane adapter and a snazzy little zip-up padded carrying pouch with the Razer logo. Razer offers both white and black versions of the headphones. Unfortunately, w00t only had them in white. Oh well. Despite that initial color setback, my first experience with Razer products is quite positive.
I work in a manufacturing plant as a sort of trouble-shooter and for the last four or five years I have been wearing an MP3 player on a lanyard around my neck while climbing in, under and on top of machines. Sometimes I smack things into myself, sometimes I smack myself into other things. I get covered in grease and grime and ink. And my headphones have to be able to stand up to all of the same abuse. So far I have had good luck with Sennheiser and the afore-mentioned Sony MDRs, while having pretty negative experiences with Koss, Philips and a few other brands of ear buds.
Typically the Sony MDRs cost $50 (US) and last me between six months and a year before I’d go monaural. The two pairs of Sennheiser lasted roughly the same amount of time (they were pack-ins with my iRiver MP3s.) To contrast that, the others were all around the $20-$30 mark and they survived for less than two weeks time. That adds up to roughly $240 of the cheaper headphones to last just as long as the shortest lifespan of the $50 headphones. I mention all of that because I have been burned and am leery of the less expensive/cheap headphones now.
After two weeks, I have fairly high hopes for the m|100s though. They've been through basically the whole gamut with me and still seem to be handling it quite well.
The cable itself falls on both the good and bad sides of things. The plastic coating is a bit tacky, which I've come to find is the case with the more durable cables. On the other hand, I’m not really pleased with the way that the cable splits from one wire to two wires. I am not quite sure how to describe this clearly. Basically, the two wires split in the classic Y pattern. The problem is these headphones are designed to be worn over my shoulders, behind my neck, instead of dangling in front of my body (old school style.) With a 20/80 split, I put one ear bud in and then drape everything over my shoulder and put the other bud in.
Because of the Y split, when the m|100 headphones are worn correctly, one of the wires stays straight while the other one gets bent back at nearly 180 degree angle. Of course, I could just wear them “incorrectly” but having the weight of the whole cord dragging unevenly on one ear is not in my definition of fun. The Sony MDRs have a better idea and handle the issue by putting the split inside a little plastic block. One ear bud heads out in one direction and the other simply goes in the other direction. No possibility of kinking the wires and creating metal fatigue. Now on the Razer, instead of laying flat, the wire gets a kink in it. And kinks are where cables die sooner or later.
Another thing that I was pleasantly surprised to find: The Razer terminates in a straight 3.5mm plug! I have personally found that the right angle plugs are no where near as durable as straight plugs. I believe that this is partially because the right angle plugs tend to get jammed around more, causing wire breaks. And I think that whatever process is used to seal the plastic covering to the plug is more secure, much more secure, with a straight plug. So it made me quite happy when I discovered a straight plug here.
Because I work in an area with lots of noise, over 90dB, I am supposed to wear ear protection at all times. Once a year I have a hearing test to make sure my hearing isn’t degrading too quickly. For the past few years I have been wearing my headphones as a replacement for the Noise Reduction Rating rated earmuffs and cones. (Don’t try this at home kids: You might get fired. Or go deaf.) Because I am looking for immersion, a sound tunnel that blocks out outside noises and concentrates the music, the ear buds that use the interchangeable soft silicone inserts are basically ideal. I can’t hear very much of anything around me with this style of ear bud and my hearing tests each year back me up on this. If I had to guess, I would say that an unpowered pair of this style of ear buds is equivalent to an NRR of 22dB.
I’m not really the best advocate for the sound quality of the m|100s. I simply don’t know enough about what I’m supposed to be listening to. (It doesn’t help that I have a hearing deficit too.) What I can tell you is that the sound of the m|100s is fairly clean and crisp even at top volume. Compared to the Sony MDRs that I was wearing last, these have a bigger bass. And as far as I can tell from the packaging, the Sony buds have a Sound Pressure Level of 100dB, while the Razer ear buds are noticeably louder with a SPL of 108dB.
It doesn’t hurt anything that this style is also more comfortable. And more adaptable, as people with big ear holes, people with tiny ear canals, and even the rare person with an average ear can all comfortably wear this style. But Razer does it one better. Every single ear bud I have ever looked at, no matter what style, has had a hard rigid piece sticking out of the insert. Except these. The m|100s have an extra layer of coating to help protect the cable when I pull the buds out of my ears. Now, normally speaking, that bit of hard plastic does provide a handle to get the buds in and out of my ears, but trying to wear anything else around your ear is out of the question. Have you ever tried to wear a pair of over-the-head safety ear muffs while also sporting ear buds? Ha! About the best you can hope for is to float the bud inside the cups somewhere and just crank the volume enough to hear it anyhow. With the Razer, the lack of a tail means that I can no only leave the buds in my ears, but they also stay there comfortably. I like to listen to music when I sleep and while the Sony headphones did manage to stay in, these new ones stay at least 100% better. Basically, I'm really pleased with having finally found something that I thought didn't even exist, the ear bud with no tail.
Now I just hope I won't find out next week that the reason most every other brand of ear bud has them is for durability... I've got my fingers crossed for these.
Technical Specifications ::
Frequency response: 6 - 23,000Hz
Max Sound Pressure Level: 108dB
Cable Length: 0.97m / 3.18ft
3.5mm connector plug
Max Rated Input: 20mW
Weight: 9g (with cord)
Update (2007-04-26) :: I've been using this pair for a month now. Everything is still working wonderfully, although I have yet to find a good use for the bag. The one drawback I have discovered since writing this review is this; between the two wires in the main cord there is a gap or groove that catches grime. I don't know what grease or glue I had on my hands when I touched the cord, but now it is stuck there. As long as it doesn't start to stink it really is only a cosmetic concern.
Update (2007-08-16) :: Five months in and both ears are still sounding great. In fact, a few weekends back, I was playing around with my old Sony Fontopias and discovered that they are clearly murkier and quieter than the Razer m100s.
On the down side, all of the extra plastic pieces are falling apart. Maybe I got some of the industrial degreaser from work on them, but the soft plastic tail is no more. At that point I discovered exactly why every pair of earbuds has a tail. It is rather tricky to get the bud in facing the right direction without a little handle (i.e. tail) to hang onto. It took me about a week to get the hang of dropping them into my ears the right direction without difficulty. I also yanked about the Y split open about 6 inches when I was trying to put my player away. I had forgotten that I clipped one of the buds into my SCOTTEVEST T-shirt. Other than hanging oddly, there was no significant damage done.
Update (2008-10-17) :: I should have updated this a long long time ago. In November of 2007 I had to do some flying and the m|100's got tangled up inside one of my SCOTTEVEST pockets after going through security. I was impatient and did not take the time to carefully extricate the tangle. Instead I yanked it out and ended up internally breaking the wire at the plug. This was more than even my typically abusive headphone usage, so I can't find any fault with the build quality of the headphones.
I have tried a few other headphones (in this price range) since then and while I have found a replacement for the comfort aspect, I have not found another ear bud that matches the sweet sound quality.
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