- Review Price: £40.00
If you read my Apple iPhone review you’ll be well aware that it’s not a perfect device. Despite the fact that the user interface is second to none – I’m actually writing this review on my iPhone while sitting on a train – there are a couple of annoying little issues that take some of the shine off Apple’s new baby.
One of those annoyances is the fact that you can’t plug normal headphones into an iPhone since the socket is recessed into the casing. Of course the bundled headset fits no problem, but the sound quality is poor, and if you have a high quality set of earphones you’d surely want to use those instead.
That’s exactly the situation that I found myself in when I tried to plug my Shure E500PTH earphones into my iPhone. Thankfully Shure is well aware of this problem and has come up with a solution, the MPA.
The Shure MPA is probably the best accessory that an iPhone user can buy, especially an iPhone user who has a set of Shure earphones. MPA stands for mobile phone adapter, which is pretty self explanatory – what you’re getting is an adapter that lets you use any headphones with an iPhone, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
As well as being a cable that will fit into the iPhone 3.5mm socket, the MPA also incorporates a microphone allowing you to create a hands-free setup with high quality audio performance for music. Add to that the ability to play/pause and skip tracks without touching your iPhone, and it looks like Shure has a pretty strong offering.
The beauty of the MPA is that it works perfectly with the modular nature of Shure’s high end earphones. All of Shure’s current SE line up, as well as my E500s are modular, so the actual earphones are on a very short cable. This means that if you choose to use the MPA, you’re not left with a mass of cable hanging around your chest. In fact, the MPA configuration isn’t much different from using your Shures with the standard extension cable that came bundled with them.
The MPA is made from the same heavy duty cable that I’ve come to expect from Shure, although this time there’s an angled plug at the end rather than a straight one. The microphone module isn’t too bulky and there’s a sliding clip mounted on the cable to fix the mic within a comfortable distance from your mouth.
At the back of the microphone unit is a single button which has multiple uses. Pressing this button once will play/pause your music, while a quick double press will skip tracks. A press of the same button will also answer a call if your phone is ringing, and another press will hang-up when you’re done.
Call quality is very good. Unsurprisingly, the quality at my end is superb when using my E500s, but more impressive is that people I have spoken to using the MPA couldn’t even tell that I was using a hands-free set up. Ultimately, you’re getting the best of both worlds – the choice of using great earphones with your iPhone, with the advantage of not having to unplug and get the phone out of your pocket when a call comes through.
The MPA cable is about 87cm long, so it should be able to stretch from you trouser pocket and allow the microphone to sit close enough to your mouth, for clear speech pickup. However, Shure’s choice of clip is somewhat questionable. Because the clip is attached to the cable, rather than the microphone, the mic/button unit tends to hang at a downward angle, rather than pointing up, as you’d want it to. Personally I’d rather have seen the clip attached to the microphone, making for a tidier cabling arrangement.
It’s also a shame that you can’t control the volume from the MPA, although there is a limit to the amount of functionality available through the headphone socket. One answer would have been an impedance based in-line volume control, which Shure already bundles with its high-end earphones. I’m not a fan of this type of volume control, but ultimately you wouldn’t have to use it if it was there, and there will always be those who’d welcome it.
Like pretty much everything that Shure makes, the MPA doesn’t come cheap at around £40 – but also like pretty much everything Shure makes, you do get what you pay for. If you already have a set of Shure earphones that you’d like to use with your iPhone, then the MPA is, quite simply a no brainer. If you’re using a different brand of high quality earphones, then the thought of having a mass of cable hanging around your torso may put you off. But then, if that does put you off, you’re pretty much deciding that you’re going to have to unplug your earphones every time your phone rings.
Shure has come up with the perfect solution for everyone who can’t bear the thought of using Apple’s bundled headset with their iPhone. If you’ve already got a set of Shure earphones this is a truly killer product, and if you haven’t go get a set of SE210s and an MPA to go with it.
The downsides to the MPA are the poor clip implementation and the fact that it’s pretty expensive, especially when Gordon has already dug up news on a similar product that is set to cost a fraction of the price. That said, I have no idea how good the sound quality will be from that device, whereas the MPA excels. Needless to say, I’ll be carrying my Shure MPA with me everywhere I go from now on!