These ear buds from Atomic Floyd arrived a week or two ago now and I have been using them around the house, on the train and wherever I can to try and get a handle on them.
Firstly the packaging is tremendous. Atomic Floyd are clearly going after the Beats audience here – and why not? It’s a big target market and with the right product placement and association they could be the next big thing. Realising this made me wonder why they had sent me a pair? I’d have sent them to every Premiership footballer, Rugby player and Cricketer. Then to anyone with more than 50,000 followers on Twitter. Every tech editor in the news press, T3 magazine and anyone else that cares more about style than substance when it comes to audio equipment. A gobby fat audiophile, with a rack full of valves and a loft full of old speakers would not be my first port of call. Maybe there’s more to these than the styling?
It occurred to me that perhaps they really think these stand up to scrutiny in the sound department! Perhaps these have some substance. Certainly they stood a chance. The buds themselves are made of stainless steel, there is a range of plugs to ensure a snug fit in the ear (so important for isolation and bass re-enforcement). On the downside they come with an inline remote – rarely a good sign for sound quality, the remote only works with apple devices, but let’s give them a chance. The blurb on the web site speaks of “added muscle for compact earphones. A big beating heart pumping bass under glossy mids and acid sharp details. With two speakers in each ear, every note and every layer sing out like you’ve never heard. 2-Way Noise Isolation means your music stays in your ears and the world stays out. And an inline stainless steel remote and mic deliver total volume and playback control.” Two drivers, proper isolation, solid bit of kit. Nice wires, lovely metal 3.5mm jack..
The wheels fell off a bit when I saw that graph.. see where it says “super charged bass”. The graph underneath shows the sucked out mid range and boom tizz sound I was hoping they would avoid. I had hoped that they had sent them to me because they actually sound good. The only way they can sound really good is if that graph is a lie. If they know that’s how they measure why would they advertise it?
Sadly that graph tells a lot of truth. The natural sound of these is quite “boom tizz”. There was little mid range warmth or clarity. Yes I get “super charged bass”, which was rather good and I got “acid sharp details” which is almost as painful as it sounds, but the “glossy mids” weren’t quite there. The odd vocal intro would lead me up the garden path, the vocals sounding clear and yes “glossy”. But they were soon glossed over when the rest of the band kicked in.
I did manage to squeeze a nice sound from them by setting the EQ in my MP3 player to roughly the opposite of that graph. And so, with the EQ set to counter the characteristics of the SuperDarts, I got to listening.. Elbow’s Lippy kids (track one on Build a rocket boys) starts with a Piano and bass guitar over some strings. The piano is smothered somewhat by the bass, Guy’s voice comes over well, but that bass is still a little bloated. The opening of Steely Dan’s Black Cow is a rich and fruity bass guitar, snare drum and plinky piano. But it all sounds slightly thin and reedy. The mid and upper bass are just not in balance with everything else.
So I gave up, set the EQ back to neutral and played some Skrillex. That’s what they are designed for right? Now in fairness this was fun, bass drops went crazy low and the whole point of these things became apparent, Dub-Step is fun from time to time, but not my normal choice. Also worth noting that no matter how loud and low Flying Lotus went no one else in the room could hear it. Not that I would have cared, I was enjoying my own private party, the kids laughing at dad grooving on the sofa. A bit like this.
My son is 12, he thinks these are DEAD COOL! He’d be target audience if they weren’t £200.00! My son has a good ear for HiFi though. I wonder how he’d get on with them beyond the obvious playground kudos of £200.00 headphones. The dub step is all his, so I bet he’d love them, at first – he also has Stevie Wonder, Radiohead, Gomez and Bob Marley on his MP3 player so we’ll see how long that love affair lasts.
.. boxing day is my bet.