Review: Griffin Technology SmartShare Headphone Splitter with Volume Control
Pros: A nicely designed headphone splitter with independent volume controls for each of two sets of connected headphones, enabling two listeners to hear are different audio levels, or one listener to set two very different pairs of headphones at one volume level for comparative testing.
Cons: At time of original introduction, was the most expensive headphone splitter marketed at iPod owners. A bit larger than other top-rated options we’ve tested.
Originally posted on February 1, 2006, our review has been updated on June 21, 2007 with new iPhone-specific details. We preserve the text of our original review for your reference; the updated section is found at the bottom of the page.
In recent months, we’ve had only occasional need to look at headphone splitters - inexpensive accessories designed to turn one headphone port into two, enabling two people to enjoy an iPod’s music at once. Until Griffin Technology’s SmartShare ($15) arrived, the options were highly similar to one another in everything but cosmetics - for instance, Macally’s IceDuo (formerly PodDuo) is a super-small $10 option, while Monster’s $10 iSplitter/MusicShare is larger than IceDuo but a little nicer.
For a $5 premium, the still larger SmartShare adds a new feature to the old splitter: independent in-line volume controls. Now you can connect two identical pairs of headphones to the iPod and let different people listen at different volumes, adjusting for hearing differences or preferences. Integrated into the tubed sides of its headphone connection ports, SmartShare’s controls are solely volume reducers, so your iPod’s output volume needs to initially be set for a high enough level that both people can hear the music, and adjust downwards.
The other, and more interesting use of SmartShare is as an inexpensive piece of testing equipment. It’s now possible to connect two pairs of very dissimilar headphones - read: ones with different levels of efficiency - to your iPod at once, then use SmartShare’s in-line volume controls to set both to the same volume level. Users of older splitters will find that they no longer need to fidget with volume settings every time they flip back and forth between headphones, while those without splitters will find comparative testing substantially easier than it’s been before. While audiophiles might challenge this use of the device as a less than pristine way to do premium headphone comparisons, there’s no doubt that it’s useful as a first- or second-pass way to check for possible differences.
While we’ll concede that we initially flinched at SmartShare’s $15 asking price - a number that most readers will not hesitate to point out is several times the cost of the cheapest Radio Shack Y-splitters out there - we’ve unquestionably found its volume controls to be more useful, and its aesthetic design more appealing, than any of the cheaper alternatives we’ve seen. As of today, it’s the first option we’d pick for our own purposes, and recommend to those willing to pay a premium for extra features and good design. That said, if you don’t need volume adjustment and/or want something cheaper and smaller, Monster’s and Macally’s options otherwise remain equally excellent options, IceDuo consuming the least space in a traveler’s cramped bag.
Updated June 21, 2007: SmartShare for iPod & iPhone
In late June, 2007, Griffin announced that it will in late June or early July update SmartShare with a new iPhone-compatible Headphone Adapter, as shown in the photographs below.
The new SmartShare bundled package will sell for the same $15, still lower than the cost of Monster’s iPhone-ready iSplitter 200, and offering the adapter as a separate piece for those who want to use it separately. Assuming that the adapter fits correctly, which we believe that it will, our A- rating will remain the same for the new bundled version of SmartShare; the prior version was a little more expensive than we’d have preferred for something so simple, and the new version is, too, but brings a little extra value to the table. Griffin will also sell the Headphone Adapter separately for $10 for those who want to use previously-purchased SmartShares with their iPhones.