It seems silly to hold exercise-focused earphones to a different set of standards than regular earphones—after all, if the pair sounds good, it could be your all-the-time pair, not just the one you take to the gym. That said, the iHome iB75, a $99.99 (direct) Bluetooth in-ear option, seems particularly suited for the gym, not only because of its water-resistant design, but because its sound signature seems to be purposefully sculpted to bring out the bass and the beats of your exercise playlist. The iB75 could use more treble to balance out the mix, but it offers a secure fit and plenty of controls to manage your mobile device wirelessly during your workout.
The iB75′s design is intended for exercise, and is thus ruggedized to a certain extent, while remaining lightweight. The black earpieces house multiple controls, and if there’s any complaint, it would be that the controls are very tiny, and not the easiest to memorize—but the upside is, of course, the flexibility to control music and take calls with ease, and wirelessly. A red cable runs behind the head, connecting the earpieces to each other, and silicon eartips and fin combinations ensure an extremely secure fit while you’re moving around.
All of the controls are situated on the right earpiece. It has dedicated Volume up/down and Track forward/backward buttons, as well as a Bluetooth pairing button that’s also the Play/Pause and Call answer/end control. The volume controls on the iB75 work independently of the controls on your sound source. It’s unfortunately pretty easy to accidentally press one control when you meant to press another—skip a track when attempting to adjust the volume, for instance. This is both because you’re blindly navigating the controls, as with any in-ear Bluetooth pair, but also because there are controls on both the top and bottom of the right earpiece. You might accidentally press a control on the bottom panel when placing your thumb and forefinger on the earpieces to make a selection. So, it takes a bit of getting used to, but the inclusion of more controls is always a plus—it’s just too bad that some of them couldn’t have been placed on the left earpiece.
The microphone and the micro-USB connection (which has a rubber cover) are also located on the right earpiece. The iB75 ships with a USB charging cable, three pairs of silicon eartips, three pairs of ear fins for a stabilized fit, and a drawstring carrying pouch. iHome estimates a battery life of about 8 hours talk time, 7 hours for music playback, and 100 hours for standby power, but your results will vary depending on how loudly you listen to your tunes.
The pairing process with an iPhone 5s was straightforward and easy. Like most Bluetooth earphones, the annoyance of a flashing blue light will be invisible to you, but in full view for anyone near you whenever you’re paired.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the iB75 doesn’t distort, even at top (and unsafe) listening levels on both the earphones and the sound source. Lovers of massive, booming bass might be thrilled by the sound signature here—it’s quite powerful—but if you like some crispness with your booming lows, or you’re seeking a more flat-response pair, you’ll want to look elsewhere. This is clearly an earphone pair meant to accentuate the lows in songs to motivate your workout, not a pair intended for critical listening.
This is immediately apparent when listening to Bill Callahan’s “Drover.” His baritone vocals on this track are given plenty of extra low-end presence, but they lack any real high-mid edge, and the track sounds muddy as a result. The drums on this track also receive a heavy extra helping of bass, and the result is a very unnatural sounding mix. As I said, however, this isn’t a pair designed for analyzing the finer points of the Callahan catalogue—it’s designed to bring out the thumping bass lines and beats in music you’re likely to listen to when working out. So if you happen to listen to classical music or folk while you exercise, you’re going to want to find a different pair.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop gets a huge dollop of added bass, and the sub-bass synth hits that accentuate the beat are also quite intense through the iB75. Even bass lovers might wish the beat had a bit more high-mid, treble-focused presence to it, however—the track sounds powerful, for sure, but a bit muffled.
If you’re seeking a brighter or more balanced mix for your Bluetooth workout experience, consider the Sennheiser MM 100—it’s on-ear rather than in-ear, but ideal for the gym. If you need to stick with an in-ear option, the JayBird BlueBuds X is a more balanced in-ear option. If you’re primary concern is the exercise-friendly aspect of the design, and you don’t need Bluetooth, the Sennheiser CX 685 SPORTS is a great option in this price range. And finally, if you’re just looking for a cheap Bluetooth set, the Outdoor Technology DJ Slims is another on-ear pair (in-ears tend to be pricier), but it delivers laudable audio for its low price. For $100, the iHome iB75 delivers thunderous lows without distorting, and allows for full playback control and track navigation. There’s nothing it gets wrong, really, except that it could use more treble in its mix, but certain bass lovers will find exactly what they’re looking for in this water-resistant option.
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