It’s been our experience that you get what you pay for, more often than not. The ExtremeMac FS1 earbuds, however, fall into the “not” territory. The $150 for-sale sign hanging on these little buggers easily qualifies them as the most expensive earphones of the group, but they certainly didn’t sound like it.
While it’s true that bass forms the foundation of most any tune, an audio-production system shouldn’t clobber you over the head with it. Wearing the FS1 buds was like listening to a band while sitting inside the bass player’s amp. The lows in Beck’s “Nicotine & Gravy” were fuzzy, ill-defined, positively amorphous blobs that threatened to smother the song’s inherent complexity and precise timing. And that cracking snare drum attack on Steely Dan’s “Jack of Speed”? Positively neutered.
But there’s one lesson Etymotic could learn from ExtremeMac: There are more than two sizes of ears in the human race, and ExtremeMac provides no fewer than six different earplugs: two foam sets and four silicone. We found a foam set that rendered the FS1 buds very comfortable and blocked nearly all the environmental noise (aside from our fingers tapping on the keyboard), but they sure didn’t help these bass monsters sound any better.
Month Reviewed: October 2006
+ EAR CANAL: Diverse collection of plugs; cool carrying case.