Following up on its earlier Pipe earphones, Danish design house Aiaiai has worked with Kilo Design to develop Tracks (€55), a stylish pair of 40mm driver-equipped padded earpieces connected to a fully metal headband using your choice of one of three colors of slider joints. An in-line microphone and single-button remote are included, as is a simple carrying bag; a slightly less expensive (€50) version is available without the microphone, each version in three different colors.
Due to ongoing concerns we’ve had regarding the consistency of sound from canalphone to canalphone with smaller audio developers, we declined to rate Pipe, but the on-ear Tracks is a somewhat different story. As should be expected for the price, the 40mm drivers are fine—not especially optimized for deep bass or high treble, but rather given a centrally-focused presentation with just enough mid-treble and mid-bass to render music of various types acceptably, letting guitars sound rich on the low end and drums stand out on the high end without being especially sharp. The midrange is somewhat muddled, but again, that’s not a huge surprise given the type of drivers here, and their pricing; this isn’t an audiophile pair of earphones.
Adding to the fact that its remote control is essentially a generation behind current three-button models, offering only the call and multifunction play/pause track control found in original iPhones, the single button here was a little less than perfectly responsive: we had problems getting it to reliably skip tracks using double-taps, and sometimes, to play or resume songs. There were no complaints about the in-line microphone, though, which sounded basically indistinguishable from the mic in Apple’s original iPhone Stereo Headphones.
If there’s any thing that’s either going to sell you on Tracks or doom them to a historical footnote, it’s the design, which is deliberately minimalist and may or may not be comfortable on your head. We found adjustment of the earpieces to be easy but not especially satisfying due to a lack of locked-in ratcheting positions, and we’ve never been huge fans of on-ear headphones, which put pressure on your ears and leak whatever you’re hearing to people nearby. Should you find the look of Tracks appealing, we wouldn’t discourage you from giving it a shot, but we’re not hugely enthusiastic about the overall package; it’s worthy of a limited recommendation, and then, primarily to fashionistas.
Company and Price
Compatible: All iPods except iPod shuffle 3G, iPhone, iPhone 3G/3GS