In cold weather, it’s your extremities you have to worry about. Anything that dangles, waggles or sticks out needs extra protection - and the most important of the lot during the cold months are… your ears. The SubZero Midland Headset is a clever melding of two bits of ear furniture - it's a pair of headphones and a set of earmuffs in one.
This isn't the first time we've come across such a mutant pairing, but it is the first pair that didn't immediately seem like a cheap throwaway gimmick. The SubZero Midland Headset comes in two main forms. There's a fabric-backed version that comes in an array of colours for around £30 and the leather edition, seen here, which is £10 or so extra. Both are lined with fluffy quilted material that is softer than the inside of the average headphone.
Rather than looping over the top of your head, they curve around the back, with a ratcheted adjustable neckband. This also has some padding here - this time it's foam rather than fluffy stuff. The mechanism of the band isn't great, with one side of our review sample much stiffer than the other, but it held its position reliably enough.
How do they feel? We took the Midland SubZero Headset out in some earlobe-worrying temperatures to see how they fared. Having to cram in the 40mm speaker units of the headphone part of the equation, its insides aren't entirely fluffy and soft, but for the most part feel just like an ordinary set of earmuffs. The drivers sit flush with your ear, leaving nothing awkwardly protruding.
They grip fairly tightly onto your head, but because the pressure is distributed across the 10cm diameter circular-ish ear pads, there are none of the comfort issues we often see in on-ear headphones. They are, in short, very comfortable.
The SubZero Headset also successfully takes that awful edge off a chilly breeze. With just an inch of padding, they won't leave your earphones exactly toasty and warm in sub-zero temperatures, but they do make the aural discomfort of chilly weather melt away. However, we did find that the neckband doesn't get on too well with scarves and bulky coats, requiring some fiddling about with fit to stop them from vying for the same space.The cable is modular
As they cover your ears entirely, they offer some noise isolating properties - not as much as set of in-ear or over-ear headphones, but enough to stop traffic noise from ruining your music completely. They have a closed-back design, so you don't have to worry about your music leaking out into the cold night air.
The SubZero headset also packs-in one extra feature - a handsfree housing. This little metal cylinder sits roughly 25cm down from the right ear pad and lets you take calls with an iPhone. It also acts as a remote control for all of Apple's current iOS devices. There's just a single button to do this - one press acts as play/pause, two taps skips forward a track and three acts as rewind. But are they worth listening to music with?