Wayne Thorp will speak at the 2015 AAII Investor Conference this fall; go to www.aaii.com/conference for more details.
Earphone headset with remote microphone and multi-function remote for smart devices.
Rarely do I come across a product where I have a long list of pros AND cons. Such is the case, though, with the iWalk Amour in-ear-canal headset. This marks a return to “corded” earphones for me, after my recent strong set of Bluetooth headset reviews. The sound quality of these wireless accessories is putting pressure on manufacturers of wired headphones to up their game. The Amour earphones sports a number of admirable qualities, but also more than a few annoying ones that make it difficult to embrace them.
The Amour earphones come in four colors: black, white, blue and orange. From end to end, the tangle-free cord measures roughly 49 inches. After using Bluetooth headphones for the last few months, I had to get used to a cord again, and a rather long one at that. The first time I used them, I snagged the cord on the gate of my condo building’s courtyard, ripping the plug out of my iPhone (the start of my love-hate relationship with these earphones). The cord also has a gold-plated 3.5 mm plug to prevent corrosion and increase sound quality.
Off of the left earphone is the microphone and remote control. Unlike many of the other in-line remotes, the Amour’s only handles pause and fast forwarding of music and answering or rejecting phone calls. I have grown to appreciate having the volume control on the in-line remote as well, as this allows me to keep my iPhone in a pocket or bag without having to remove it to adjust the volume.
The earphones come with three different sized ear inserts to help you get the best fit and, thus, the best sound and noise isolation. Furthermore, you are given a zippered, hard-sided carrying case.
I always listen to Internet radio on my iPhone 5 during my morning and evening commutes and after only a few days, I gave up on the Amour. The first thing I noticed when listening to it is how “heavy” the sound is. I like bass as much as the next person, but even the high range was just that: heavy. There was no crispness to the audio like I have found with cheaper and more expensive headsets alike (wired and Bluetooth). The high bass level also means that the sound can get pretty distorted at high(er) volumes. Overall, I was not impressed with the sound quality.
Adding to my disappointment was the “cord rub” sounds that further diminished the sound quality, as well as the distortion caused by wind going into the microphone. Interestingly, this seemed to only happen with my iPhone 5, but rendered the earphones useless on windy days. To further nitpick, the remote only allows you to fast-forward music, not rewind. Most other earphones I have tested with a remote allow for both forward and rewind track control.
Sound quality with telephone calls was above average. I had no problem hearing the people with whom I was speaking, nor did they have any issues hearing me. The mic is positioned perfectly so that you can hold it right over your mouth without pulling the earphone out of your ear.
On the upside, the ear inserts are extremely comfortable, so I had no trouble listening to them for extended periods of time. Also, the tangle-proof cord, albeit rather long, never tangled on me. Lastly, the noise isolation is very good. Assuming you get a proper fit in your ear, the Amours do an excellent job blocking out background noise.
The iWalk Amour earphones carry with them a lot of promise, but they fail to deliver on the most important level: sound quality. At $80, I would expect much better sound, especially since I have found headphones that cost half that much and have vastly superior sound. The lack of volume control on the mic is also puzzling to me. In the end, I feel you are better off looking elsewhere for corded earphones.
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of "Gadget Corner." All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.