Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Isolate yourself from the outside world
- Powerful bass response, crisp high-range
- Muddy bass, invasive
Creative’s EP-830 in-ear headphones are a great option if you need decent sound quality as well as noise isolation. The headphone cable can cause a bit of discomfort if it's not secured, but these are decent quality in-ear buds.
Price$ 49.95 (AUD)
Creative's EP-830 headphones occupy that difficult point within the portable audio market — not ridiculously expensive and audiophile-grade, but not bargain-basement cheap like the bundled headphones of most MP3 players. They err on the side of good quality, though, with tight and accurate mid-range response as well as pleasantly deep bass.
They are currently only available in Australia bundled with Creative's ZEN X-Fi MP3 player, but they are released independently within European and Asian markets.
They're an in-ear model, so they sit deeper in the ear canal than 'regular' ear-buds. This allows for improved frequency response as well as the added benefit of passive noise cancellation. When there's music playing, even at low volumes, these headphones succeed in blocking out a large amount of background noise. You won't be able to notice environmental sound or people talking around you — so you'll either need to be very perceptive or very careful when you're out walking.
To achieve this, they do a remarkably good job at blocking the ear canal. The trade-off here is discomfort for some users. The sensation of pushing a rubbery silicone cone into your ear is never a pleasant one, and, frankly, you'll need to keep your ears clean. If you don't, be prepared to be upset by the amount of ear-wax unleashed upon the world.
When they're in and nestled securely, the first thing noticeable is the clear sound quality. The EP-830 headphones are an upgrade to Creative's earlier EP-630 model, fixing several flaws. One of the upgrades is a stringent focus on treble in order to create less 'muddy' sound. Whatever's been done to improve the legacy of the EP-630 has worked; these headphones have a clear and crisp character. This is particularly good when teamed with synthesised electronic music or high female vocals — producing sweet highs. The sound is never painful, however, even at volumes that are far too powerful for regular listening.
Mid-range is another surprise. Middle tones are easy to recreate with in-ear headphones, but manufacturers often make the mistake of over-emphasising them. This isn't the case here; the mid-range is slightly recessed but accurate nonetheless.
Bass is always a favourite of in-ear models — the nature of the headphones allows for deep, booming bass to be simulated even at low volumes. Bass isn't a standout performer here, being slightly muddy and indistinct, but it is the most prominent feature of these earphones. This lends them a rich sound, as well as giving music a slightly reverberating feeling.
They're unobtrusively styled, too. Dark chrome and matt black plastic are the main elements of the ear-buds, while the 1.2-metre long headphone cord is a perfect length. The headphones are designed with a 'Y-split' (both headphones have identical length individual cords) rather than a wrap-around style. Each style has its merits, but we prefer wrap-around for in-ear monitors due to the extra cable securing — which goes a long way to reducing cable vibration.
Given their reasonable price — less than their direct competitors, the SHE9800 from Philips — the EP-830 headphones make a compelling argument. The lively sound they lend to music is great when you're on the move and their in-ear style means a lot of background noise is blocked. If you've used in-ear monitors before you'll appreciate the isolation — but if you haven't, you might be a little shocked by their invasive nature.
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