Saturday, 31 December 2011

MEElectronics M11+ In-ear Headphones

So, after being disappointed with the Klipsch Image X1's (Blog review) I decided to give the MEElectronics M11+ In-ear Headphones another go to see whether I had just bought a ‘dud’ pair before as to date they have been my best running headphones to date despite only lasting for 4 months the first time around!  They cost slightly more than the Klipsch X1’s at £20 and only came with a 1 year warranty so I will be making double sure in that period that I haven't received another pair of duds!

MEElectronics M11+ In-ear Headphones
They arrived very quickly and after reacquainting myself with them again in the office and out and about running they are performing admirably despite the recent miserable weather.  Compared with the Klipsch X1’s; the cable noise is extremely low and eliminated/unnoticeable when the cable is worn over the ear.  The M11+ headphones also stay in my ears a lot better, the cable has some memory character which helps keep them in place and they are easy to adjust out running to maintain their fit and isolation throughout the run.  I occasionally feel that the cable is going to slip away from my ear but due to the memory character in the cable this should improve over time.  The remaining cable fits nicely in my running armband.

iGadgitz Running Armband
The M11+ headphones came with about 10 pairs of ear buds of differing sizes so trying to find the optimum fit was easier than with the Klipsch which only came with 3 sets.  As a result, I have been able to achieve an extremely good fit and due to their size i.e. tiny and design they allow deeper insertion in the ear to further improve their external noise isolation, something the Klipsch X1’s struggled with due to the poor number of included ear buds, the larger housing size and their design.

The only minor negative with them that I have found so far is that there is a slight hiss present during quieter music (I believe this is more down to my budget smart phone though) and their music signature is more bass heavy when compared to the Klipsch X1’s.  This is fine for the music I listen too when running which helps me get into a good rhythm.

To conclude; I will definitely be continuing to use the M11+ out running and will be keeping the Klipsch X1’s for work as the poor microphonics are less of a concern when the cable rarely moves and the sound signature is more balanced.  I just hope that the M11+'s last longer this time around as I’m not sure I could give them a 3rd chance no matter how good they are!

For a more detailed review on the M11+ in-ear headphones, check out the Head-Fi forum thread which reviews in-ear headphones (Ref. 2C16 refers to the M11+ headphones).

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Klipsch Image X1 / S2 In-ear Headphones

After extensive research I decided to go back to ‘Klipsch’ for my replacement in-ear headphones as my last pair from them, the Custom 1’s were great and lasted just over 12 months which at the time I thought was poor but after the MEElectronics M11+ only lasted for 4 months this year I thought that maybe the 12+ months that the Klipsch Custom 1 in-ear headphones  had lasted wasn't so bad after all.

Additionally, after further reading around the general consensus was that earphones especially when subjected to sweat and the elements i.e. wind/rain/hail during running just don’t last that long as if they are kept warm and dry so I thought I would give Klipsch another go.  
Klipsch Image X1/S2 in-ear headphones
The research seemed to suggest that the Klipsch Image X1/S2 In-ear headphones would suit my needs, they came with a 2 year warranty so this gave me some assurance that they would last longer than my previous Headphones.  They also received generally favourable reviews on the Internet and the price was right (£15 on Amazon, reduced from £40).  I only paid £20 for my Klipsch Custom 1 In-ear headphones on special offer the first time around and these only came with a 1 year warranty so £15 seemed even better value for their replacements.

So, they arrived and after a few days in the office and out about with them they unfortunately have not lived up to the high expectations I had for them and are no where near as good as my old Klipsch Custom 1’s.  I had concerns the first time I tried them out in the office as the isolation just wasn’t as good as my M11+ in-ear headphones as they weren’t blocking out nearby conversations/background noises very well, so I was dubious at how good would they be against the noise experienced outside during running i.e. mainly from cars and the wind!

Unfortunately, I was right; out and about they were very poor at isolating unwanted noise.  I tried all the differently sized ear buds that came with them to try and get an improved fit but it just didn’t work and as a result the external noise was a constant distraction alongside busy roads and as a result I almost ditched them after my first run.  However, I persevered with them in the office and on a further few runs to give them a decent trial.  Following these runs, they proved to be a real mixed bag with unfortunately more emerging negatives then positives!

Firstly, the positives; comfort is definitely one when a good fit is achieved.  They are extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods and I haven’t had any issues in the office when listening to music for several hours at a time; they are so light that sometimes you can’t even feel them in.  The housings are quite large though and I don’t feel I get as good a fit as my others but they are definitely comfortable to wear.  The sound quality is another positive; they are as good as my old Klipsch Custom 1’s and slightly better than the M11+ in-ear headphones  as there is no hiss present when listening to quiet segments of music although the lack of isolation does make it harder to ‘lose’ oneself in the music, both in the office and out running.

Now on to the deal breaking negatives; microphonics i.e. cable noise was poor regardless of the cable arrangements I tried….and believe me I tried them all out!  These arrangements included cable behind the head but this was not comfortable as when the cable became taunt it had the tendency to drag and tried to turn my head which isn’t comfortable.  I tried various methods to restrict cable movement i.e. armband/shirt clip and I also tried running the cable over the ears which normally works very well on other earphones and even though there was some improvement; the cable noise was still too distracting.  This is certainly an area where my previous earphones, the M11+ excelled.  The best arrangement was when worn over the ear however this led to a further negative discovery in that when they fell out on occasion it was extremely difficult, time consuming and distracting to re-establish and maintain their position as there is no memory character in the cable so they don’t ‘remember’ the position that they are normally in too well.  

Finally, as alluded to earlier, the external noise isolation is very poor even when the best fit is established.  Perhaps when out running it is good that isolation isn’t very good when running alongside traffic although I feel I am very road/traffic aware when out and about but above all else I prefer trying to get lost in music to help me get into a ‘zone’ when running and the poor isolation on these make that extremely difficult.  I also know that it can be just as dangerous running without any form of music as a colleague of mine was hit from behind.

To conclude, after an extremely good 2nd run with them (What makes a good run?), I was almost at the point where I could put up with them despite their flaws.  However, a further ‘normal’ run raised further concerns with maintaining the ‘fit’ when worn over the ear as highlighted earlier.  I gave them one more chance on a long run (6 miles+) to help me make my mind up as to whether to continue using them for running or not and I still struggled with them and they didn’t perform as I expect from running headphones so I’ve decided to keep them solely for office use and its back to the drawing board for finding a suitable running in-ear headphones replacement… 

For a more detailed audiophile review on these in-ear headphones, check out the Head-Fi forum thread which reviews in-ear earphones (Ref. 3A24 refers to these in-ear headphones).

Last blog before Christmas Day, so thanks for reading and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!  Check back in a few days to find out what in-ear headphones I have bought and used since dispensing with these.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

First run in over two weeks...

…thanks to a virus, however, today’s the day, I feel much better after my steroids boost this week to help open my airways; As a result I’m coughing less and breathing is less of a struggle and what with Christmas Day fast approaching I want to get back into Running sharpish as I haven’t run now for about 2 weeks as the virus entered my system and attacked my biggest vulnerability…my chest which unfortunately always leads to issues with my Asthma making any kind of physical exertion difficult. 

One bonus of not running, I have been able to finally finish the long overdue blogs pertaining to the earphones I have been testing over the last couple of months and they will be posted over the next week or so for a bit of light Christmas reading for anyone that is interested…

I have wanted to run every day of the last 2 weeks; the Wii Fit has been telling me 'frequently' that the pounds are piling on and it isn't even Christmas yet, so I have had to reduce my food consumption to compensate.  I'm now at the stage where I want to try and fit in a couple of easy runs before Christmas Day so I can relax more over the festive period and ease back into training.  Until the New Year, I will be looking to rebuild any lost fitness with a few steady runs when I can before I recommence my Marathon training programme.

So, today’s the day for my first running attempt in 2 weeks, my biggest running break ever since last December when the UK was covered in a blanket of ice and snow for several weeks…so, how much fitness will I have lost and more importantly will I remember how to run?

So after about 5km and 35 minutes of non stop running I think it went all right...I tried to keep it slow and steady but my body was fixed on 1 speed only today.  As soon as I started my legs felt heavier than normal, by the end of the run I was almost at the point of using my arms to keep my legs moving.  As expected, my chest was tight throughout so it was a battle to get enough oxygen into my body to keep my legs moving, whilst keeping my breathing under control.  By and large it mostly worked...however, by far the worst part was when I finished the run..

As soon as I stopped, I started coughing and it took a few puffs of my Asthma medication for my breathing to return to normality.  A nice refreshing shower and 5 minutes rest later at my desk I felt all the better for having run….honest!  Despite these troubles for a couple of hours at least after the run, my chest felt clearer so I think it was what my body needed!  Either that or the 10mg of Steroids I swallowed soon after worked really fast!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

2nd Magic Mile Complete

Following the completion of my 1st Magic Mile last month, it was now a good opportunity to see if I could run faster to try and beat the previous time of 8 minutes 14 seconds.

I chose a morning run for my attempt.....bad move!  It was dark, cold, wet and the wind was in my face throughout making it quite unpleasant not to mention causing my earache to return early on in the attempt despite my tight fit earphones.  I also didn't feel as focused or determine and as a result I failed to beat my previous time, coming in 14 seconds slower this time around.

As a result at home it led me to unpack my 'buff' freebie that I got given at the Half Marathon event to see if I could get it into some kind of configuration that would cover my ears and not make me look stupid......not possible.....back to the drawing board for now...perhaps a proper headband is needed!

Anyway this run marked the end of week 8, I am now a 1/4 of the way through my current training programme to run a Marathon, the next few weeks will not be completely to the schedule as I'm away in London for a few days next week and then what with Christmas on the horizon I will just  be aiming to maintain my current level of fitness before resuming my plan when January arrives.