A few months ago I reviewed the Etymotic mc3 Headset + Earphones and fell in love with them. They offered quality sound at an affordable price and did a phenomenal job of blocking out the noise around me. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to hold up to my gym sessions, as it appears my sweat fried the remote control. So I have been using a set of Scosche earphones, specifically the IDR656md, which were given to me by the company.
The IDR656 headphones are earbud style, relying on a snug fit in the ear canal to achieve the best sound quality and noise isolation. They come with six sets of silicone tips—three single-flange and three double-flange. The headphones have a 52-inch cord, which I feel is a bit too long, as it was constantly snagging on things. However, the cord itself was less prone to curling than other cords. In addition, the headset comes with a leather carrying case.
Like many headsets on the market, the IDR656md’s remote control and microphone are designed to accommodate the most popular line of personal audio players—the Apple iPod, iPod touch, iPod nano, iPhone and iPad. The in-line, three-button remote that comes with these headphones is the largest I have run across—roughly 1.5 inches in length, which makes adjusting the volume, changing songs and answering and disconnecting phone calls very easy. The remote buttons are rubber coated, which makes me curious to see if they will fare better at the gym or out in the elements. Unlike the Etymotic mc3 headset, whose remote is positioned just off your cheek, the IDR656md’s remote hangs around mid-chest, making it much easier to see and operate. My biggest complaint was that the buttons were a bit stiff and required a fair amount of pressure to change the volume, advance or repeat songs, or answer or disconnect calls.
The integrated microphone is perfectly positioned, making it easy for callers to understand me and for voice commands with my iPhone 4S to be understood. On the receiving end, calls sounded clear and were more robust than I found them to be with the Etymotic mc3 headphones.
After listening to the Etymotic mc3 headphones for a few months, which purposefully have a “flat” response that balances high, mid-range and low frequencies, the first thing I noticed when I started using the IDR656md headphones was the distinct range they produce. Overall the sound was much fuller, with higher, crisper highs and “meatier” lows. Having that extra bass boost made my morning workouts more enjoyable.
With the free Scosche tuneQ app that is available from the Apple App Store, you have greater control over your listening experience with several preset equalizer settings as well as the ability to customize the settings.
After being impressed with the sound quality offered by the IDR656md headphones, I was disappointed with their noise isolation capabilities. With the Etymotic mc3 headphones, I felt like I was in a cone of silence, completely cut off from the outside world. Part of this is due to their design, which has them fitted well into the ear canal. However, compared to other earbuds I have reviewed in this column, the IDR656md headset fell short. Part of the problem was the ill-fitting tips. Even with six different sizes to choose from, I couldn’t find a set that provided a snug feel. Things were so bad that I resorted to using silicon double-flanged tips from a set of MEElectronics headphones. Even then, I had to turn up the volume to uncomfortable levels to drown out background noise.
For the most part I was pleased with the Scosche IDR656md headphones. They offer top-quality sound, considering that they cost less than $100. The well-positioned, high-profile remote is easy to locate and operate, even if the buttons are a bit stiff. The only area where this headset falls short is in terms of noise cancellation. If this is an important consideration for you, then I would recommend the Etymotic mc3 headset, which costs the same. However, if you are more interested in full, robust sound, you will be more than pleased with the Scosche IDR656md headphones.
Scosche IDR656md Premium Increased Dynamic Range Earphones With TapLINE III Control Technology
$99 (currently $99.29 from Amazon.com)
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.