Review: Maximo iMetal iP-HS5 Enhanced Definition Isolation Headset
Back in April, we reviewed and genuinely liked a pair of in-canal earphones from Maximo called iM-590, which combined chrome metal bodies with rubber eartips and stems, plus fabric cabling and additional metal and rubber in-line components. More recently, Maximo has released iP-HS5 ($80), which for a $20 premium adds an iPhone- and iPod-compatible microphone, a single multi-function control button, and some different accessories to the prior package. The new version is as good as its predecessor, and incorporates a couple of tweaks that are noteworthy even for buyers of the latest iPhone 3GS.
Of initial note is the fact that iP-HS5 uses the same audio drivers from iM-590, so we repeat our prior comments here. Following an 8-10 hour burn-in period recommended by Maximo—a step that some earphone companies have claimed unnecessary—we found that iP-HS5 was sonically balanced in a manner that we found immediately appealing, with roughly equal parts of treble, midrange, and bass -— a little extra oomph at the top and bottom -—rather than the weak treble and accentuated bass combination we hear so much these days. Clarity is appropriate to the asking price, too; the “enhanced definition” product name doesn’t mean that you’ll hear incredible levels of detail, but you’ll be able to hear more detail in songs played through these than with the same songs played through common $50 earphones. We instantly and strongly preferred the iP-HS5’s sound, though not the styling, to Klipsch’s more expensive Image S4 and Apple’s In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, though as was the case with iM-590, each of these $80 competing pairs of earphones has something -— either looks or additional functionality —- that may interest some buyers more.
What’s most interestingly new in iP-HS5 are the microphone, which is found inside a tiny silver ball on the left earphone cable, and the multi-function control button, which doubles as the Y-splitter for the earphones. First, kudos to Maximo both for using a solid microphone—one that’s sonically near-identical to Apple’s latest ones—and for placing the rubber and chrome control button at a lower juncture, where it is easy to use and removes the need for a separate splitter. Second, further kudos for making the button support the Voice Control feature of the iPhone 3GS. Some of the third-party headphones we’ve tested cannot be held down to activate this feature, so we were pleased to see it working properly here. If you can give up the in-line volume controls of Apple’s In-Ear Headphones, iP-HS5 otherwise is a stronger-sounding, same-priced substitute.
There are other changes to the pack-ins and the headset’s design. The earphones come with a carrying case, a 3.5mm-ended extension cable, two 2.5mm-ended conversion cables for other mobile phones, three total pairs of rubber eartips for different-sized ear canals, a detachable neck cord that lets you transform the headset into a necklace of sorts, and a clear shirt clip. Maximo’s new carrying case is smaller than its puck-shaped predecessor, but we liked its more practical, compact shape, and the company has done away with the airline headphone port adapter that was previously found in iM-590, which won’t matter to most users. In more a subtle change, Maximo has given the fabric end of the headphone plug a curved rubber surface rather than a straight one, presumably to reduce strain on the cord. Otherwise, the old and new models are highly similar, though iP-HS5 is available only in the black version shown here, not white.
Overall, though iP-HS5 mightn’t have the in-line volume control functionality of Apple’s latest canalphones or the high style of similarly priced, microphoneless models from other companies, it does offer a very good combination of sound quality, microphone performance, looks, and multi-functional track and telephone calling controls at a fair price. This is a strong little pair of mic-equipped metal earphones for the dollar, and worthy of our general recommendation.