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Next I turned to Nitin Sawhney's Broken Skin, an album whose tracks are littered with very low, difficult to reproduce bass notes, and I wasn't disappointed. The sheer power that the X1's have on offer is astonishing for the money with deep bass that grips and drives the music on with unnerving force.
But the X1's strength is, ultimately, also it's biggest weakness. Although the thumping bass isn't quite as head-throbbingly over the top as V-Moda's Bass Freqs - headphones I reviewed here a couple of weeks ago - it's still not exactly realistic. There's control (as I pointed out above) and but not much balance, and this doesn't help the X1s on quieter, more acoustic pop, where bass tends to dominate and drown out other elements of the music. This really shows on more traditional pop, rather than electronic music.
Shawn Colvin's unassuming yet accomplished country-style soft pop sounds bottom-heavy, Georgie Fame's big band sound isn't quite as sharp and clean-sounding as it is with other headphones - even my relatively old Shure E2Cs - and listening to acoustic stuff on the X1s you miss out on all those live atmospherics.
I turned to Wynton Marsalis' Popular songs to see if the X1s could reproduce the piercing trumpet and jazz band sound any better, but I was disappointed. If anything, the X1's sound just a little too warm and laid back in the mids and the highs, where to counter the stonkingly good bass they need much more attack and edge.
Overall, the X1's are pleasing to listen to. They will most certainly make a beautiful complement to your expensive new iPod Touch or iPhone, especially in their smart black livery. And they're pretty comfortable to wear too, though your mileage may vary here.
But their sound quality isn't quite balanced or good enough in the mid-range and top end to cut the audiophile mustard, despite the claims put forward by their marketing department. If your music collection consists of a wide range of styles Shure's SE210's at a similar price are still the better choice.
Scores In Detail
- Sound Quality