Parking Your Headphones - Plus an Earbud Roundup

What’s better than perusing one audio device? That would be looking at four of them as the 10th edition of the Gadgetology roundup looks at a headphone stand and three earbud headphones. I guess you can say that the idea sounds good. Get it? Sounds good? Because we’re doing an audio roundup and, uh, never mind. Without further ado, let’s get crackin’!

HeadsUp Headphone Stand
The HeadsUp Headphone Base Stand. HeadsUp

Finding a stand for your cans sounds like a First-World problem if there ever was one. After all, many full-size headphones come with a carrying pouch or case for storing them.

Then again, there are times when you just want to display your cans, especially when you have a nice pair that sports a catchy design. For folks who don’t value vanity, well, it can also be nice to have your headphones within easy reach by your desk without having to fish them out of a carrying case or even a purse or backpack bag.

Regardless of your reasons, the aptly named HeadsUp Headphones Base Stand serves as a contraption for parking your cans when they’re not in use. Shaped like a mini tower, the stand is nicely weighted to keep it in place and can accommodate a wide range of full-size headphones like Beats or competitors such as the V-Moda Crossfade M-100, SMS Audio Star Wars Edition, Audio Technica ATH-MSR7, or even gaming headsets such as the SteelSeries Siberia P300. It also features a mini compartment for placing your headphone cables and even comes with an attachment stand than can house your smartphone, making it bit more versatile than a basic headphone stand.

The glossy finish on the plastic stands, while nice when clean, admittedly can be a dust magnet. It also takes up space and isn’t much help on the go. Then there’s the fact that the Base Stand is designed to serve a need that many people probably don’t even think about. If you truly desire a headphone stand, however, then the $39.99 HeadsUp Base Stand is an option.

Focal Sphear
The Focal Sphear headphones. Focal

When first looking at the Focal Sphear, it’s quite obvious that it’s being targeted at audiophiles.

For starters, you’ve got the nice packaging combined with some nice design touches on the earphone itself, such as stainless steel accents. Then you’ve got the biggest dead giveaway, the price, with the Sphear ringing in at $149 — not at the top end of pricing for sure but still high enough to scare many folks who aren’t comfortable with dropping more than a Benjamin for earbuds.

The earphone itself feels comfortable, though it doesn’t have the stickability of buds designed for fitness such as the Audio Technica ATH-CKX5iS SonicFuel, for example. It also has nice dynamic sound, with music played from the stock iPhone music app sounding good as opposed to the tinny, hollow sound you get from lower quality headphones. The Sphear also churns out a solid amount of bass without it being overpowering, which many folks prefer unless they’re unapologetic bass heads. For added versatility, the earphones come with a remote for controlling your tracks as well as a built-in mic for taking calls when paired with the smartphone. It does not have volume controls, however.

My main caveat is that the sound profile leans heavily toward the high end of the audio spectrum. As such, the treble can be piercing, especially at high volume. For folks who prefer a more muted high end, using a player with an equalizer can help tame that treble.

Soul Electronics Run Free Pro
The Soul Electronics Run Free Pro wireless headphones. Soul Electronics

Well, this sorta-kinda looks familiar.

The Soul Electronics Run Free Pro will evoke memories of the Soul Electronics Pulse Fitness that I reviewed on this site before, which I quite liked thanks to a nice throaty audio profile with some extra punch at the low end. For starters, it uses the same unique earbud design, which makes the buds stickier for folks who really like to get moving when exercising. It even comes with the same kind of remote control for playing, pausing and skipping tracks.

The Run Free Pro has two key differences, however, from the Pulse Fitness. One is that it’s totally wireless, making it much lighter for exercising but without an option to directly plug into a smartphone or MP3 player. The other is that it’s quite a bit more expensive at $129.99 compared to the wired Pulse Fitness $49.99 price tag. Yikes!

On the plus side, the Run Free Pro is also waterproof and can be washed, which is great for fitness buffs who like to get down and dirty with Mother Nature. If you value lightness from your fitness headphone and have no qualms with the price, then this bud’s for you.

RHA S500i In-Ear Headphones
The RHA S500i in-ear headphones. RHA

I’ve always been a fan of RHA’s line of in-ear headphones. It’s one of those earphones that hits the sweet spot I prefer as far as the balance between the highs, mids, and lows, including that extra punch in the bass that produces just the right depth I prefer. Add a good price-to-performance ratio and RHA’s earbuds are quite solid in my book.

The same can be said about the S500i, which serves up the familiar audio profile I’ve grown accustomed to with RHA earphones. Unlike RHA’s budget MA150, the S500i adds some premium touches, including lightweight aluminum alloy and a gold plated connector. It also comes with a three-button remote plus a mic for answering phone calls. Like the MA150, the S500i includes a set of buds, which use a material with just the right give and thinness that make them one of the few regular buds that actually stay in place for me without extra gimmicks.

At the same time, it also suffers from the same issue I have with the MA150, which is noise from friction. More specifically, you get an annoying rubbing sound transferred to the buds when its thin cables brush up against your clothes or, for guys, your 5 o’clock shadow. Other than that, sound ​quality is quite good.


Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too.