Review: Incase Capsule In Ear Headphones

As numerous and popular as they are, inexpensive earphones are challenging to review for a couple of reasons: first, cheaper earphones tend to receive less attention in the quality control department, so they’re often easy to damage and sometimes don’t even sound the same from unit to unit, and second, their sound quality tends to be unremarkable — the major differences between them are in looks, features, and frills. With these caveats in mind, we’re briefly reviewing a collection of four recently-released and relatively inexpensive earphones today: Altec Lansing’s Bliss Platinum ($70), Audio-Technica’s ATH-CK400i ($60), Incase’s Capsule ($50), and Ultimate Ears’ 350vi ($60). They’re all from major manufacturers who we’d trust to produce at least reasonably consistent earphones from unit to unit, and though none is a blockbuster, each has a couple of features that set it apart from Apple’s free iPod and iPhone pack-ins.

Review: Incase Capsule In Ear Headphones

Depending on your frame of reference, Capsule will either strike you as really unusual and distinctive, or as a very familiar concept with some interesting little tweaks.

Sold in four color combinations—black with green accents, white with pink, brown with orange, or gray with blue—Capsule is effectively the same general sort of plug-shaped canalphone we’ve been seeing for years now, but refined with the sort of soft curves and sharp color contrasts we’ve come to expect from Incase’s design labs. A really neat drawstring carrying pouch is included, with a wrinkled matte vinyl on the outside and soft fur-like lining on the inside. It more closely resembles a nice coat than a typical earphone carrying case.

Subtle L and R markings let you know which earphone is which, while the deliberately rubbery, anti-tangle cabling diverges from the Apple norm by housing its three-button remote control and microphone unit in the center of the earphones at neck level, a much-preferred location that wound up making very little difference in microphone sound during our testing.

Volume up, play/pause, and volume down buttons are clearly marked and extruded in the design, and the curved, J-shaped headphone plug both looks good and fits into virtually every iDevice case imaginable. While none of these features is remarkable in and of itself, they all come together to create a very appealing $50 earphone package—one that is well-conceived on every level and convenient for the user’s every need, regardless of whether Capsule’s being paired with an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.


Review: Incase Capsule In Ear Headphones

There are no surprises here in terms of comfort or performance: Capsule’s just good across the board. We found the earphones’ oval-shaped silicone tips comfortable from the get-go, though the earphones are medium-sized rather than small by today’s standards, and sit as much outside your ear canals as in them, reasonably isolating you from ambient sounds.