If you go to any electronics store or big-box retailer you're bound to run into hundreds of different earphone options. From earphones with decorative designs, those with noise cancellation, and those specifically designed to make your music sound great – there are tons of options out there to choose from.
If you're a gamer, or often place calls over the web, then finding a great pair of headphones with a built-in microphone can be exceptionally useful. The SuperBeam earbuds by Andrea electronics are just that, a great pair of headphones that also have microphones built in to each earbud, allowing you to capture audio, as well as use the headphones for things like gaming and placing phone calls.
The folks at Andrea Electronics were nice enough to send me a pair of their SuperBeam earbuds to take for a test drive for the past few weeks. So how'd they hold up?
3D audio capture/playback
Unlike traditional headsets that have one microphone, the SuperBeam headset has a microphone built into both earbuds, making it possible for you to record audio that sounds a bit more realistic, simply because you're capturing the audio just like one might hear it through each ear. Andrea calls the dual-microphone recording "3D" because the sound arriving at each microphone is in natural phase and duplicates real ear sound capture. Headphone playback is then somewhat virtual 3D, simply because it is reproducing the sound just as you might naturally hear it.
The earbuds live up to the claim, and audio I recorded was crisp and clear. You can definitely hear a difference between sound that was recorded using the dual-microphone setup on the headphones, and audio that I have recorded using just one microphone connected to my computer.
I really liked that the microphones were connected to the earbuds themselves. I had to watch out for my hair getting in the way of the sound or brushing up against the mics while recording (a hazard of having long locks that can potentially get in the way), but overall I found the design a ton more convenient than the headphone + microphone setup I've been rocking, and the quality much better than what I've been able to get out of headphones with a single microphone attached onto the headphone cable.
There's also a built-in volume control on the headphone cable, which I found to be exceptionally usefully for temporarily turning the volume up or down on something both while at my computer and out walking my dog and listening to tunes on my phone.
The SuperBuds are designed to be used specifically with your computer, and for that reason come with a super-long cable so you can potentially connect them to the back of a computer tower and still comfortably use them. While I definitely appreciated the long cable when I was in front of my PC at home, I found it to be a little much when I would try and take the headphones out connected to my phone or MacBook Air, and ended up having to hold a bunch of the cable with my phone while walking simply so I wasn't constantly hit by a flailing cable. I wish there was some built-in way to shorten the chord for such occasions.
I also had a bit of difficulty keeping the earbuds in my ears. The SuperBuds come with three different-sized buds, so you can find the right size for you. The medium-sized buds were too big and popped out fairly regularly, so I ended up going with the smaller of the options, and often felt like the weight of the earbuds was a bit much on my tender lobes during prolonged use and got to be pretty uncomfortable. That said, I was trying to rock them for several hours (5-6) at a time. In most cases the earbuds would be used for shorter recording sessions or phone calls, during which I would have had no issue. My everyday buds are also much smaller, so my ears were also not used to the added weight – but could have eventually gotten used to toting around the larger-sized buds.
Overall impression If you're looking for a pair of earbuds with a built-in microphone, then Andrea's SuperBuds earbuds are a no-brainer. Their design makes it easy to capture high-quality sound easily, and the phones produce great sound for listening to tunes, videos, etc on your home computer.
Andrea's SuperBuds retail for $129.99 and are available on the company's website as well as a number of other retailers.
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