Let's face it; if you've just spent a fair wad of cash on a shiny new Apple iPhone 3G the idea of spending another £100 for the likes of the Etymotic Research hf2 iPhone Headset is hardly ideal. But, if you have any audio quality standards and still want to answer calls your options are pretty limited. If you've already got a decent set of headphones then there are microphone adapters available for a relative pittance, but the potential dubious quality of microphones and cable management issues they create make them an imperfect solution - even the Shure MPA can be awkward to use.
Happily, as is often the case in the headphone market, Sennheiser has filled the middle ground with its new MM 50 iP Headset for iPhone. Based loosely on the company's CX 300 in-ear set, they're available for just under £40 online, though some retailers have them listed for closer to £50. At £40 they represent pretty good value for money, even if CX 300s alone cost only £18, since this is a fully integrated solution with a first generation iPhone compatible plug - we'd probably think twice at £50 mind.
Like the CX 300s, though, there's no case included - something we always like to see. You do, however, get three different size tips ranging from small to large, with medium in the middle - fancy that! They provide a nice, tight and comfortable seal, too. Unlike some in-ear headphones the MM 50s aren't too heavy and are quite small and discreet, so there's no need to feel self conscious when walking the streets.
Moreover, though the sound isolation is still very good, this isn't the most penetrating set so anyone who has been wary of going in-ear should find them a nice gentle introduction. This comfort is aided by a smart asymmetric design, with a shorter wire on the left and a longer one running behind the neck to your right ear. It helps alleviate the unseemly clutter of wires and ensure the extra weight of the microphone doesn't upset your listening.
As for the microphone, it performs pretty well. Stand next to a jack-hammer and you will have problems, but stations, trains and the usual public locations proved no real barrier to intelligible conversations. As is required there's a small button for call and playback control, with one press acting as Play/Pause and a double press skipping tracks - one press also answers calls. If one were being hyper-critical the button would be easier to locate were it proud, rather than flush, but it's there and works just fine.