A rash of thefts is causing commuters to think twice about wearing expensive headphones such as Monster’s Beats by Dr. Dre on trains and buses. So what can you do to stay safe? You can go cold turkey and leave your audio gear at home, but if you can’t bear to be away from your tunes that long, there’s a partial alternative: Go small.
Instead of donning a large, glitzy headset that can be spotted from the other end of a crowded subway platform, use a small, in-ear headset that’s not as obvious but still offers high-quality deep bass and clear high notes. Many of these units incorporate Apple iPod-, iPad- and iPhone-friendly inline remote controls and microphones. If you’re looking to swap your big headphones for small beats, check out these portable and trendy earphones.–Robert S. Anthony
Audiofly gets big-headphone sound out of its $200 AF78 in-ear headset by incorporating two drivers in each earpiece: A 9mm dynamic driver handles lower audio frequencies while a separate balanced-armature driver takes care of higher frequencies. This is the same concept used in bookshelf speakers with separate woofers and tweeters. The microphone is separate from the inline remote control block, thus minimizing audible thumps if you use the control buttons while on a call. The lightweight headset uses a flat, braided cable and comes with a small storage tin.
Monster Beats by Dr. Dre
For those loyal to the Beats by Dr. Dre brand, Monster also offers small, in-ear units with big-headphone intonation and iPod-friendly inline audio controls and microphones. The $120 iBeats, billed as a high-quality replacement for the familiar white ear buds that come with Apple devices, has all-metal earpieces and comes with a choice of soft eartips for a customized fit. Other Beats by Dr. Dre-brand in-ear headsets include the phone-friendly $150 tour, the Lady Gaga-designed $130 heartbeats, the Diddy-influenced $150 diddybeats and the athlete-centric $150 powerbeats.
Denon also offers in-ear headsets with iPod-compatible microphones and inline audio controls. The $200 AH-NC600 incorporates Denon’s active noise-canceling technology as well as its Compressed Audio Restorer, which brings back some high frequencies that are clipped during the audio-compression process used in digital music. The $100 AH-560R uses Denon’s Acoustic Optimizer system, which improves audio by equalizing the air pressure on both sides of the 11.5mm diaphragm in each earpiece.
If you’d rather not deal with long wires, the $100 BackBeat GO stereo Bluetooth wireless headset from Plantronics is aimed at connected music lovers. A short wire links the two earpieces and a small inline control manages calls and adjusts the volume. The BackBeat GO works with any device compatible with the A2DP Bluetooth profile for stereo music control. The unit has a rechargeable lithium ion battery which provides up to 4.5 hours of talk or listening time per 2.5-hour charge and can be monitored by downloading a free app to an Android- or Apple iOS-based smartphone.
A stylish entry with a unique geometric design is the $130 V-Moda Vibrato, a zinc alloy headset with a three-button inline control and microphone, eight pairs of BLISS 3.0 (bass level isolating soft silicon) ear fittings, cables made of stress-resistant Kevlar fabric and a detachable sports earhook. Inside each earpiece is an 8mm dynamic HD neodymium driver which is tuned with a 31-band equalizer for proper audio reproduction across the unit’s frequency response range.
The $100 Amps HD headset from Sol Republic uses curved earpieces meant to fit into the contours of the ear more snugly than most headsets. The black and aluminum unit uses Sol Republic’s i6 High-Definition Sound Engine technology, which is designed to enhance bass response. An angled audio jack sits flat against the device, thus minimizing cable tangles, and the three-button inline control and microphone is compatible with Apple devices as well as Android and Blackberry smartphones and some tablets.