Published on August 1st, 2012 | by Greg0
Moshi: Amazing Audio And Accessories
Not long ago, we had some visitors drop by our offices. We had heard from this company in the past, learned about their gear at CES, but hadn’t really gotten a chance to go hands-on. The name might call to mind a squishy Japanese anime character, but Moshi is serious about their business, and they produce a wide line of best-selling mobile accessories and peripherals. We’ve been enjoying some of their iPad screen protection, like their award-winning AirFoil Film Protector, and tomorrow will be taking a look at some of their lineup for the new MacBook Air 11″.
But today we’ve got two sets of their headphones, offering distinctive styles and solid audio performance, and surprising us in a few positive ways. We’ll start with the Moshi Vortex Pro, which might at first glance be mistaken for a fairly regular pair of earbuds, though a sharper and shinier than most- we’d even use the word sexy. But pick them up and you’ll immediately notice a difference- they are hefty and dense, offering a solidity that’s shocking compared with most others that you might have tried (like the stock ones included with your phone or MP3 player). Weight can be a tricky thing- in audio gear, it’s critical, since good drivers are necessarily a bit heavy. But you don’t want them too be uncomfortable or fall out- and happily, the Vortex Pros held up to tugs and runs and everything but serious pulls once properly fitted. Billed as “audiophile grade earphones”, our standards are in fact pretty high- we’ve used many of the best available. Some offer dual-drivers (see below), some offer heavy bass at the cost of other frequencies, but we haven’t seen any others with the unique triangular shape and steel alloy construction. Cables are good (braided, well-made), and the included remote/mic was pretty normal.
The most obvious other change was the carrying case, also unusual in it’s heft and triangle shape- but we weren’t big fans, since it’s pretty large, heavy, and takes some getting used to. Both memory foam and silicone tips in a few sizes are handily included as well. But it’s audio performance that shines here- all of the interesting tweaks and changes in the world wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t sound good. But they do, reliably, against just about any music that we tried. There was a slight, barely noticeable background hiss at times, but other than that minor note which only two of our staff could hear, everything else was pretty golden. Try listening to tracks like Yeasayer’s “Ambling Alp” which features a lot of very subtle and layered sounds, and very distinct separation, and you’ll be shocked at the difference. Audio from The Black Keys was equally impressive, deep and rich, warm and authentic, only weakening a bit and offering some distortion on harder hip-hop and bass-heavy songs from Sbtrkt. Some earbuds tend to sound a bit clinical or flat; we didn’t notice that at all. Excellent performance, great styling, and a decent price- these earbuds take high marks, especially for those who listen to a lot of music at higher frequencies, where these clearly excel. Available now for $150.
The Moshi Clarus Headphones are a completely different animal. They look straight out of a sci-fi movie set, and we got looks nearly everywhere we went while listening to these. The Clarus (Clarii?) are basically earbuds, but with a significant twist- you’ll need to use the angular, ear-wrap-around loops, like you might with a Bluetooth earpiece. This allows them to sit on the edges of your ear canals instead of fitting tightly inside- which means that noise isolation is minimal, but it ostensibly helps reduce listening fatigue. In a vacuum- a quiet room, for instance- that would be a great thing, when we might want to listen for a lengthy session. But out and about, where most of our writers are most likely to pop on some music, isolation can be key. Thus, these are a weird twist, and we couldn’t quite figure out their place in our listening world.
There’s no doubt that they sound great though- incredibly well-balanced for fairly lightweight on-ear headphones. Dual-drivers no doubt help the experience, thanks to a dedicated woofer that helps overcome the need to be tightly fitted. A separate dedicated higher frequency driver handles the rest, and they definitely met the claim of an “immersive listening experience with enhanced transparency and accurate sound imaging.” Best on jazzier tracks where a broad spectrum of instrumentation and vocals happen at the same time and tend to end up muddied in lower-end audio gear, they lost a bit of clarity on poppier tracks, which tended to sound a little flat, even when using high-quality encodings. Words like “intense” and “energetic” were tossed about, and on occasion, “harsh” as well- there was plenty of distinctiveness, even after burn in, which meant you could identify flaws easily, with no covering blanket over bad production or low bit-rate files.
Folks who wear glasses, though, might find the earloops a bit of an obstacle. Also, there’s the $200 pricepoint- not bad for audiophile gear, by any means, but at the level where Etymotic, Bowers and Wilkins, Sennheiser, beyedynamic, and Grado amongst others produce some amazing gear. The technology is great, and the styling is interesting- and some may find these comfortable and perfect for an office or other ‘all-day’ listening experience. Available now, and with the same decent mic/controls and cabling as the Vortex Pro.