It's almost scary thinking back two years. Two years ago, I was trying to convince anyone who would listen that I hadn't wasted my money buying a PlayStation 3 - despite quite a lot of evidence to the contrary at that point - and I had coughed up close to £250 for a set of Shure SE420 dual-driver earphones. Luckily things have changed in the last 24-odd months. Sony's console is now pretty awesome and has seen a significant revision and pricing of earphones has dropped so much that a dual driver set, such as the Ultimate Ears 700 earphones I'm currently using can be had for around £130 - if that's not progress I don't know what is!
The price isn't the only good thing about the 700s, though. Not long ago we were praising the Klipsch Image X10s and Image X5s for sounding great, despite being incredibly small and light. But, amazingly, Ultimate Ears has managed to craft an even smaller set of earphones and cram not one, but two drivers into them. It's a remarkable feat of engineering and makes that price all the more impressive.
Their diminutive size makes the Ultimate Ears 700s a pleasure to wear, even for extended periods or - perish the thought - while active. The 90 degree angle at which the cable meets each earphone means they can be worn either 'normally' with the cable dropping straight down, or 'over the ear' Shure-style, giving a more secure fit and helping eliminate cable noise. It would be nice of there was an in-line remote as I find having to reach into my pocket and remove my iPod touch to skip tracks extremely annoying, but I guess that's my fault for having a player with no physical controls.
The earphones are finished in shiny silver plastic, but luckily it's not the cheap-looking kind. Instead the finish has a slightly smoky, blue quality to it. It's a step down in quality from the metal Image X5 and X10s, but if it's the choice between (presumably) better audio quality or a metal casing then I'm going to pick the better sounding option every time.
One annoyance comes from the red and blue inner colouring of the right and left earphones respectively. It's galling because it shows that someone clearly thought about making the difference identifiable without squinting for the L and R labels but neglected to consider what happens when it's dark. Just about every rival set of 'phones has some kind of physical identification, which is a great help when wearing them in bed - as I am.