If you are like most people then spending over $20 – $30 on a set of ear phones (or headphones) is probably not high on the list of things to do. You will generally go ahead and use whatever comes with the device until it breaks and then look for the cheapest replacement you can find, generally at Walmart or the like. After all… earphones are earphones right? You aren’t going to get “better” anything from them because they are too small to actually bring much to the table in the way of sound presence and bass.
You might be surprised to learn that you can spend up to $1500 for a good set of earphones! We aren’t going to talk about the $1500 earphones because most of you would probably not be interested outside of actually reading about them. The other reason is they are nearly impossible to get from companies. They know as well as we do that outside of ego, there is very little to justify the expense of a $1500 set of earphones. Sure they can make earphones sound a LOT better… but after you get past the $200 – $300 range, they just seem to taper off into products that are nearly indiscernible from one another.
This is why companies like Shure will send out their $200 – $300 earphones for review, but what I can’t figure out is why companies like Ultimate Ears won’t send out anything more than their cheap $70 MetroFi 220′s. Most companies lead with their best product, in fact it can be a challenge to get one of their mid-line or value products becuase they are worried about getting slammed. Ultimate Ears makes $1300 custom earphones (most of the people who Ultimate Ears says has them are sports professionals, so I’m not sure why that is relevant since they are unlikely to have an informed opinion about something so outside their field). Ultimate Ears also makes a whole range of earphones from $70 – $1100 that aren’t “custom”.
When we asked to review one of their high-end earphones we were told all they send out is the MetroFi 220′s. So here they are, and at $70 they aren’t bad. I’m not sure that paying $50 extra for bass is worth it though. That’s what you get. A good portion of Bass. It’s not a thick rich bass, but it is “bass-ier” then the $30 earphones you can get at walmart. I should throw in that they are only “bass-ier” than the $30 Walmart earphones if you can get a good fit with the cheap plastic ear plugs that come with it.
The wires that lead down are still really thin, and are likely to develop issues within a year of use (I’m going on past experience with UE earbuds, the last set they sent a few years ago didn’t make it through the current year without that annoying short that causes one earphone to stop working and then pop on, and off again).
I really started writing this article with the intent of conveying that the Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220 Earphones where decent, and they are, but cheap is cheap and for $70 earphones shouldn’t be so cheap. There is nothing to them, no more than $5 if I had to guess worth of parts and pieces. Aside from the “Ultimate Ears” branding (which to be honest I’ve yet to see a reputation that is solidly based on fact and not smoke and mirrors pop out) I’m not sure how they justify the expense.
You get a small plastic “tic-tac” style case for them. Even the case is kind of kludgy and takes getting used to (opening it can be challenging). I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say that the Ultimate Ears company needs to reconsider their stance on the 220 rule. They need to start sending out earphones that show what the Ultimate Ears people bring to the table, because if these MetroFi 220′s are any indication, they need to get that guy from the Shamwow informercials working for them and start doing those 1 hour 2am commercials.
Summary: Epic Fail, cheap construction, poorly designed “Universal Fit” plugs, poorly designed case, too pricey for what is offered. The Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220′s would be a solid offering at $35. They are better than the $30 offerings you can get at Walmart provided they fit.