by Mike Shea on 16 March 2012
It's really hard to find a good set of iPhone-compatible headphones. After much searching and testing, I found that the Sennheiser PX 100-II on-ear iPhone headset had the best mix of sound quality, construction, and control. At about $55, they aren't cheap but they sound fantastic and have all the controls and features we need for the iPhone 4s.
For the past four years I've suffered with the white earbuds that come stock with the iPhone. For four years I've searched for a better solution and had found none. Recently, fed up with my fifth broken set of iPhone earbuds, I decided it was time to try a few different pairs out. I tried two in-ear headphones and two on-ear headphones. Here's a list of the headphones I tried in order of best to worst:
Of the two in-ear headphones I tried, the (horribly named) Sony MDREX38iP earbuds sounded the best. At $28, they aren't the cheapest earbuds you can find, but their sound quality isn't bad, they have the full array of iPhone controls, and they're small enough to throw easily into your pocket.
The Skullcandy INK'dD headphones disappointed me in many ways. Their sound was ok but the cord picked up every brush of my shirt and directly deposited it into my ear drum. The control of the Skullcandy headphone also omitted any volume control.
By sealing your ear-canal, both in-ear headphones made it hard to hear anything else. The cords of both sets also picked up a lot of noise. Neither were ideal which made it such a joy to switch to the on-ear Sennheiser PX-100 II headphones. The rest of this article will focus on the Sennheisers.
The build quality of the PX-100s feels great. Right out of the box they felt well made and solid, snapping into place and fitting well over my large head. The single cable comes out of the left ear instead of the typical Y-shaped cable that comes out of both speakers in most headphones. This makes it a lot easier to wrap up and untangle. The plug itself is a straight connector instead of an L-shaped connector, something I also prefer.
The iPhone control feels good and works perfectly. I can activate Siri, play music, talk, and control the volume without ever having to touch the phone.
The sound quality of the PX 100 IIs is also excellent. Norah Jones's latest hit, "Happy Pills" sounds full and rich with nice clean highs and solid bass. Voice quality over the phone is also as good as you can expect over typical cell-phone lines and, from what I hear from others, the mic quality is also good.
Buying a good iPhone headset is a frustrating experience. There aren't many options available, with most manufacturers heading towards canal-sealing in-ear plugs. Amazon reviews of most headphones describe headphones breaking down after six months to a year, usually due to cable quality. Having only just received the PX 100 IIs, I can't say whether this is yet a problem or not. I plan to update this review a year from now with my experiences.
Of the five different iPhone headsets I've tried, however, the Sennheiser PX 100 IIs with its integrated microphone and iPhone controller stood well on top of the rest. At $55, they don't come cheap, but I still recommend them.