In-ear headphones are a dime a dozen. Most look the same within their respective price ranges ($20 -$40) but every now and then, headphone manufacturers work to up the ante by coming out with exquisite designs. Now sometimes this proves to be a bust. Sure the headphones look great, but often they sound like garbage – for the price.
But the people over at Quarkie had a different plan in mind. Something along the lines of “what if we created a pair of headphones using British studio-monitor sound quality, paired with a design that will catch every eye, and even a few fingers?.”
And that is how we have the Quarkie in-ear headphones that look like this.
Yet surprisingly, they sound absolutely amazing. Furthermore they use drivers larger than the average pair of headphones (8mm), instead using 13.5 mm drivers. The difference is unreal.
Design, look, and feel.
Quarkie did not cut corners to maximize profit with these headphones. In fact, users are getting exactly what they paid for. The particular unit I received for a review was the “Rusty Bolt”. The headphones themselves feature a realistic looking “screw and bolt” that will make the wearer look like something of a modern day Frankenstein. The company claims the headphone designs are hand-finished, and from what I can tell this is the truth, They are not actually made of metal, as that would most likely prevent them from staying in users’ ears.
However, they do feel pretty sturdy. The built in 3.5 mm cable is cloth covered, and has an included built-in mic with pause/play and answer/end call functionality that works flawlessly with both iPhone and Android phones. The built in module is also the strongest one I have come across on a pair of headphones using hard metal construction, so feel free to squeeze away without worrying about cracking it.
And they never missed a beat. Which is fantastic. In fact, the 13.5mm drivers augmented the experience I had gotten accustomed to from in-ear headphones with smaller drivers.
Rock, Rap, Metal, Trance, and Dupstep: it all came out brilliantly. The bass made the music feel alive and the acoustics provided a rich sound. The bass did not override the acoustics produced and vice-versa. In fact I found these to be fairly similar to the Velodyne vPulse in-ear headphones we reviewed a few months back. However, these have a larger driver, thus they produce a greater kick.
Calls made using the built-in mic sounded decent with nary a hint of loss in sound quality. In general use, such as walking down the street, the sound quality remained flawless. The headphones have excellent noise isolation, provided users make sure to use the right sized tip. However when I took these for a quick run I found they suffered a bit of distortion due to their peculiar shape which caused them to move up and down a bit.
They cost a pretty penny: At $109 USD they are $20 more then the Velodyne vPulse, but the sound justifies the higher price. The headphones on include multiple tips for (small, medium, and large). However they do not come with a carrying pouch, which should be a given for headphones at this price. As for the design? Well it certainly is interesting, but I think the company may have thrown itself into a little bit of a bind. Fanciful, even “cute” designs are usually reserved more for the child/teenager crowd, and most of those users are not likely to spend anywhere near $100 on a pair of headphones. Likewise many parents are not likely to spend such a high price on the headphones. Especially being that the company is not a name brand like say, Monster or Skullcandy. So the most likely remaining market for these headphones are individuals who crave the truly ‘unique’, such as artists and Hipsters.
Thankfully that market exists and hopefully, the company will continue to produce amazing sounding headphones with exquisite designs, and hopefully a few, ahem, “conservative” designs.
Rating: 9/10PS: Digging this story, news or review? Let us know! Comments open.
About Benny Sabghir: Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I enjoy all aspects of consumer electronics - especially writing about it. I also enjoy hitting the gym, running and discussing the history of my three favorite wars - The American Revolution, The Six-Day War, and the Star Wars Trilogy. Currently in Jerusalem, Israel. Find me on Google+ View author profile.