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Samsung’s EHS71 is a high-contrast stereo headset (earphones) with an in-line mic created for the high-end market where listeners are particularly finicky about their audio. Whether it’s music, audible books, talk radio or just listening to the conversation at hand during a mobile call, the Samsung is aimed squarely at a market that is downright brutal when it comes to pleasing audiophiles looking for the right sound quality – or at least somewhere close to it.
So where does the EHS71 sit in the spectrum? I own the Sony XBA-4, Pradigm Shoft E3M, Klipsch Image S4A Headphones and (may the Sound God have mercy on me) the Bose OE2 headphones. Aside from the Bose, my bar is pretty high when it comes to high-end sound. And since we don’t do reviews in a bubble, I’m definitely mindful to make comparisons against those mentioned headphones but since this unit also has an in-line mic, the product suggests that it should be used on smarpthones with media players. It’s such a weird combination since higher-end headphones do away with the mic and are just that – headphones.
The EHS71 has an interesting design on the box and it definitely makes use of the space to create that appearance that something expensive is in here. Case moldings also keep the headphones safe and sound making it attractive. The package comes with a velvet case, extra silicone ear cushions to accommodate a variety of ear sizes and a clip to keep the mic in place for mobile talk.
The headphones have a simple yet refined look to them making good use of brushed aircraft-grade aluminum and high grade wires that are tangle resistant. The in-line mic is plastic but that’s no big deal breaker there.
Fitment is decent. And like most noise isolating headphones, the ear cushions can come off the ears. If you plan to jog with this thing, make sure you have the clip. Fitment is always going to be a debate when it comes to silicone ear cushions. Some will love it while some won’t. In my personal longtime experience with these types of headphones, I doubt any of these models could stay in your ear during a constant run around the neighborhood.
Now for the real part. I’ve tested these headphones with everything I’ve had in the house. Some of devices I’ve tested the headphones with included a Sony 7.1 A/V Receiver, HTC Arrive, iPhone 4S, Samson Go Mic, Win7 PC with eVGA Motherboard and Samsung ‘s own Galaxy Player.
When it was attached to the HTC Arrive, the headset and mic worked beautifully for mobile use. I usually drive around town with headsets on to talk hands-free. Talking to friends and family wasn’t much of a problem at all. Even with all the wind and ambient noise from all the traffic and construction work, everyone seemed to have heard me fine. The box doesn’t tout noise cancelling but it’s close to the very excellent Samsung HM7000. My wife got a chance to toy around with it on her iPhone 4S and when I got a chance to listen to her talk on the mic it seemed to have worked beautifully. For such a small mic, the clarity comes through fine. She did claim to hear a bit of rustling from the clothing but that’s definitely not a deal breaker. Listening to variety of music on both the iPhone 4S and HTC Arrive seemed to be average at best. From the bass heavy tracks of satirical group known as The Lonely Island to the more subtle guitar sounds of Gotye, the EHS71 sounded like it got a chink in its armor. For a whole day, I spent my time trying to refine the audio settings for both the iPhone and WP-based Arrive. Bass levels seem weak and that was after adjusting the headphones tight enough to fit into my ear comfortably to make sure I get good fidelity. To really see this through its paces, I needed to do some more focused personal listening to move past those first impressions.
So I decided to take the headphones where I play with a little more wattage. I plugged the headphones to the Sony A/V receiver (STR-DH series) made sure the flanged tips of the headphones slid in snugly and created a good seal when I applied just the right amount of pressure. Ultimately, I wanted to take the headphones on a spin for some serious listening.
Gang Gang Dance’s Mindkilla, Jessie J’s Domino and Yelle’s Que veux-tu (Madeon Extended Remix) were the three tracks I used as reference. All tracks are laden with heavy, intricate percussion, and rich synthesizers of various colors and tones. The EHS71 was percussive and provided tight bass, but seemed dead at both extremes of the audioband: Low-end slam was more like a low-midrangey lump, and synthesized bells and cymbal pings lacked top-end sparkle. The tonal balance was certainly forward, instruments pushed towards the front at a relatively narrow soundstage. With the volume turned up from the Sony A/V Receiver, dense layers of synthesizers fuzzed out and could not clearly be distinguished.
On Nero’s Me & You (Dirtyphonics Remix), the EHS71 couldn’t really handle the intense and varied frequencies. Nero’s jagged scales and circular patterns dive and twirl over, in, and around each other to paint a rich sonic landscape as the group’s synthesized tracks paints a picture of a professional driver racing a car out of anger. Sadly, the distortion reveals itself as Me & You’s sets up the imaginary professional driver into a crash course as the sounds catch wind when the track reaches my favorite part – transforming synthesizers, heavy snare hits, sharp hi-hat, etc.
I know it sounds like I’m torturing the poor thing but to ease the pain on the headphone’s weakness, the track sounds best when paid full attention to, rather than listened to during a run. Actually, I take that back. It’s a bit worse. Headphones like these are hard to find accuracy in audio when fitment plays a large part in sound quality.
It just seems like nowadays companies craft product lines with specific models for specific consumers: “Accuracy” for the audiophiles, bass boost for the music lovers, treble boost for crazy people. I, however, tend to appreciate a company whose designs share a family resemblance from the top to the bottom of a line. Unfortunately, the EHS71 covers only two of these three things and, sadly, it doesn’t include the audiophile group. Especially when the price point is at $129.99, it’s hard for me to recommend.
The Samsung EHS71 is a clean-looking, beautifully built in-ear headphone (with mic which works beautifully on mobile talk), but the admirable design elements don’t offset its mediocre sound.