Today, I received my new headphones from the KickStarter 360 Ambience Earbud Headphones. These in-ear style headphones are marketed as being 3D 5.1 Virtual Surround Sound, both as Theater Surround Sound and Stadium Surround Sound.1 This brief evaluation is my unscientific feedback on these headphones. (No pun intended)
Why is my feedback unscientific? Well, simply put, I am not using any instruments other than my own sight and hearing to critique the headphones.
As typical with over-priced gear, the retail packaging features many unnecessary aspects that simply add to the cost of the product, such as magnetic closure and form-fitting plastic frame to display the headphones.
Within the package is a zipper case that holds the additional sizes of ear tips, as well as the wing hooks that look a lot like hammers with a silicone ring at the bottom.
The case is remarkably similar to the case my Zagg SmartBud headphones came in several years ago, just larger.
Although a simple thing, the first issue I found with the earbuds is that they are not marked for Left and Right. The right side can be determined since the controller is on the wire for the right side. They don’t explain this in the manual, it is just a standard industry practice and proved correct during testing.
The cord length is just a bit too short. Six inches more would have made the headphones more universal for the fitness user, commuter and casual user.
At low volumes, the 360 headphones have lovely bass with beautiful clarity in highs, lows and mid-range sound. When the volume gets louder, the bass falls below and creates an audible hole. Really, it’s just too much mid-range.
When compared to my old Zagg headphones, the bass at low volumes for the 360º is equivalent to slightly better. The bass is not as intense as typical for Bose headphones.
At the higher volumes, my Zagg and Bose headphones maintain better audio quality throughout the ranges than these new 360 3D headphones.
KEY NOTE – Proper fit and insertion is critical to the effectiveness of these earbud-style headphones. If the ear tip does not properly fit the wearer’s ear, then low tones will be lost and left-right balance will be impacted. If the ear tip is pushed too far into the ear, then the audio will cut out or give inconsistent clarity with jaw movement.
Here is the real test … how do they sound in surround situations? When the audio is properly encoded in modern surround and the system driving the headphones supports it; these sound great. The phase shift that creates the auditory illusion2 by simulating surround sound is very good. Although not as enjoyable as a true surround setup, I can definitely enjoy the audio of a well-done program.
My pledge level for the 360º 3D Surround Sound Earbud Headphones was US$55. The quality of the headphones is very good for that price point.
For the retail price-point of US$150, I am not sure I would be satisfied with the quality of this product. When compared to my Bose earbuds that retail for US$130 – I’d still pick the Bose. When compared to my old Zagg Headphones, I’d pick my Zaggs only because they are inexpensive (US$50) and great.3
I did not evaluate these new headphones with the included airplane adapter. That’ll have to wait for a trip somewhere in the future.
After using these earphones for several months, the sound quality is just as good as when new, however the silicone hammers that help hold the buds in the ear are sliding off the buds.