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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gadget Review: iHome iB50 Active Noise Canceling Headphones

Review by Nick H.

Headsets are often flashy, but they have some other very specific functions. This can range from delivering good microphone audio to software to help adjust the equalisation. These often are used on home entertainment centres or when someone is spending hours on a PC. Headphones, meanwhile, usually have a smaller set of things they focus on, attempting to provide excellent sound and comfort - often for extended periods of time on a plane or in public transit. The iHome iB50 headphones do their job well at a reasonable price, but are not the best-in-class either.

The first thing I looked at with these headphones was how comfortable they would be for long periods of use. Thankfully the thickly padded ear cushions and adjustable headband made for comfortable use. The earcups also have some swivel to them, providing a little more customisation. While these are lighter than say, a gaming headset, it might have been nice if the underside of the headband had some sort of additional padding as well for the sake of further comfort. Still, for watching a movie or listening to music on a flight, they provided enough breathing for my ears that I never felt sweaty or uncomfortable through long stretches of use.

The cable that the iB50 comes with is a nice one. It is a cloth cable with an in-line wheel control for the volume. While it appears rather durable, I love the fact that it is detachable. For one, it makes carrying it a bit easier (and it comes with a travel pouch as well), but should the cable break down the road, it can be replaced with another. This can be a very nice feature for people who put a lot of wear and tear on their headsets.



My son has a nice set of Hesh headphones he wears everywhere, but has worn the 3.5 mm cable out nearly half a dozen times over the last year. It is a proprietary cable as well because of how the earcup is designed, which makes it a much more expensive replacement (at least until he finally got fed up with that and filed down the channel on the cap to make it wider so more generic replacement cables could be used). The iB50 is a bit more friendly in its accessibility there.

Other notes on the design is an in-line microphone that played nice with all of the phones I tested it on and while the unit is lightweight in construction, the rubberised coating on the headphones makes them feel light they are higher quality to the touch. For those worried about the aesthetics, they are mostly black with some red trim in two places and a circular silver band on the outside of the cups.

Now for the sound quality, which is good across the board. The iB50 handles a range of tones and volumes quite nicely, with volume turned up all of the way and still resisting any sort of crackling or distortion except the absolute loudest of scenes with the deepest of bass tones. They are not flawless, I have had some Sennheiser headphones that provided a richer audio experience, but the iB50's held its own.



The noise cancelling is of the active variety that uses batteries (which do not drain very quickly in my testing) to power the circuitry. The noise cancelling is excellent for lower range sounds, but provides almost nothing for higher range. These were clearly designed for people who wanted to help negate the rumbling of a car or train or air plane. On that front, the iB50's do a pretty solid job. I found that it drowned out other rumbling sounds (like a refrigerator or an air conditioner), but if you work in a cubical farm and want to drown out your co-workers or use them to ignore your wife and kids (sorry, but me time is for me), these will not do the trick. I am unsure if this is by design or not, but it makes the iB50's more useful in travel than around the house (where I am surrounded by kids and cats).

The iB50's are geared towards people who want a comfortable listening experience and spend a good deal of time travelling with them. They work well with a phone, MP3 player, my Vita or 3DS and a handful of nice design choices and noise cancelling that helps to address at least one half of the sound spectrum makes them useful. They provide good but not great sound while remaining comfortable for fairly long stretches of time, all at a reasonable price point.


- Nick H.
US Editor




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Gadget Review: iHome iB50 Active Noise Canceling Headphones
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