In a world awash with fashion-led, celebrity-endorsed headphones it's refreshing to see a proper hi-fi company bring out a product that is technically brilliant and endorsement-free.
So while the EB-50 headphones tick all the boxes on paper – high-spec components encased in military-grade aluminium, designed by one of the world's most respected manufacturers – what's the reality?
A microphone and button on the cable allow the EB-50s to work with iPhones and other handsets with the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. A carry pouch is included, alongside an accessory box housing a quarter-inch adaptor, an aeroplane adaptor, over-the-ear hooks for sporty types, a tie clip, a cleaning cloth and six types of in-ear plugs.
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Breaking the EB-50s in gently with some John Martyn, it is obvious that these headphones are a class act. The detail and clarity exposed on Solid Air is second to none. Even with the standard, mushroom-shaped ear plugs the headphones offer an impressive level of noise isolation from the outside world. Choosing the best fit from the colour-coded sets of ear plugs improves things further, although I stopped short of trying the brutal, Rawlplug-esque plugs that promise the ultimate in isolation.
What about Huinya, the oddly spectacular 2003 collaboration between The Tiger Lillies and Russian ska punk band Leningrad? Here the EB-50s cope brilliantly with the source material, picking out every detail and reflecting the dynamic range of the tracks. My only slight quibble is that they are perhaps too accurate. Listen to this album through an average home hi-fi and you're transported to a spiegeltent somewhere in eastern Europe, but through the EB-50s it's clear you're listening to a studio recording.
How would the headphones cope with Beck's glitchy remix of David Bowie's 1999 track Seven? Where the original follows a conventional rock melody, Beck's remix layers Bowie's vocals over Fender Rhodes piano chords, electronic drums and a bizarre array of samples. It may be the antithesis of easy listening, but it is a great test, turning most headphones and speakers to mush. The EB-50s, though, give each instrument, drum track and sample in its own space.
The sonic detail exposed by the EB-50s is breathtaking. Having tested many in-ear headphones in recent years I can confidently say this model blows other sub-£200 sets out of the water in terms of sheer technical ability.
If I'm being hyper-critical, the knurled finish on the earphone barrels rubbed against my ears, causing mild discomfort. I don't consider it a deal-breaker, but it's a minor annoyance that I wouldn't expect in this price range.
Positives Amazing sound quality from a tiny package.
Negatives Clinical performance doesn't suit all recordings.