Monday, August 27, 2012

Atomic Floyd Minidarts +Remote earphones review

Atomic Floyd Minidarts +Remote (© Atomic Floyd)
With all the brilliance our small island has experienced this summer, there's never been a better time to celebrate everything that's British. Good timing then for British music accessories brand Atomic Floyd to introduce a new set of 'phones to its critically acclaimed range - the Minidarts +Remote.
The new design takes its lead from the Superdarts range, replacing the circular microphone on the previous design with a stainless steel inline mic and remote on the left hand side.
Speaking of design, this has to be one thing that makes the Minidarts, and any Atomic Floyd earphones for that matter, stand out from the crowd. From the packaging down to the cable, these are a pair of earphones that have had design considered at every single level.
The red Kevlar cable makes tangling almost impossible, and if it does manage to work itself into a knot at the bottom of your bag, the material prevents it from getting too tight, meaning it untangles with ease.
The titanium base of the earphones has an almost steampunk feel, stylish yet industrial-looking, topped by a choice of three SoftSeal earphone tips. These tips are comfy enough, but you'll know you're wearing them - we would've liked to have seem them even softer to improve comfort for longer wear. We found the medium tips, which come already loaded, to be the best fit for us, but it's worth trying out all three to make sure you get the best fit.
That's because the fit will affect the performance you get from the Minidarts. Get it just right and the two-way noise isolation works a treat - you won't have that screaming child interfering with your tunes, and you also won't annoy your fellow commuter with sound leakage, even at louder volumes. Get it wrong, and you just won't get the audio performance that these 'phones promise.
And that audio performance doesn't scrimp on power. Comparing them to other in-ear headphones, they had significantly more oomph in the volume department. But not all music benefitted from blasting up the volume - sometimes keeping the volume a little lower prevented the sound muddying, allowing the various parts of a track to shine through more, and allowing you to notice things you maybe hadn't previously.
It's worth noting that the Minidarts give a very rounded, balanced sound and won't deliver the deep bass performance in the low-end that some bass-heavy music listeners might crave. If you're looking for a bass performance to rival the likes of Beats by Dre 'phones, you certainly won't find that here.
That's not necessarily a bad thing - it means that the earphones deliver a similar performance with various genres of music rather than being focused on one type, a plus for the more eclectic music fan. That said, we found they particularly sparkled when listening to more "delicate" music - Ben Howard's album sounded sublime - and its high- and mid-end performance far outshone that in the low-end.
As for the audio performance when taking a call, this has been improved compared to the previous design, where the mic sat at chest height on the Y-split of the headphones. The mic is now built into the inline remote, which sits further up, underneath the left earphone. Call quality was excellent, with callers not even knowing we were on a headset.
The remote is also a welcome addition, meaning users can accept or decline calls, and of course control your music, without needing to dig your phone from your bag or pocket - though this is limited to iPhone/iPod users only. As it's placed so high up the cable, you can't actually see the remote's controls when you're wearing the earphones. This just means you just need to familiarise yourself with it on the first wear so you know what you're doing. And it's pretty straight forward - there's a volume up and volume down button, then a middle button that will pause the track (one click), skip forward (two clicks) or skip back (three clicks).
The one drawback to the Minidarts +Remote? They're pricey. They're currently selling on the Apple Store for £179.95, which is quite an investment to make, especially when you can get a decent pair of earphones for less and the arguably better Atomic Floyd SuperDarts for just £20 more. But if you've got the cash to splash and want a pair of earphones that are stylish, built to last and deliver a strong all-round music experience - the Minidarts +Remote are certainly worth a look in.

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