If you are unfamiliar with the name MartinLogan, it’s possibly because you’re not dropping thousands of dollars on high-end electrostatic speakers that use a completely different method than, say, a typical tweeter, to deliver audio. The good news, for those without thousands to spend on their speakers, is that MartinLogan now makes earphones, like the Mikros 70. At $149.95 (list), this in-canal, lightweight pair sounds quite different than an electrostatic speaker pair, but offers quality performance nonetheless. Built-in iPhone controls add some value to the price, but the Mikros 70 does little to distinguish itself in a very crowded field—and bass fiends should definitely look elsewhere.
The Mikros 70 is part of the spare, non-descript school of earphone design. The company name is emblazoned in tiny white letters on the earphone’s narrow black earpieces. Along the left earpiece’s audio cable, which is also black, a chrome-and-black in-line remote for Apple iOS devices houses a built-in microphone and controls for volume, playback, and track navigation. Call clarity is neither amazing nor poor—your call partner will be able to understand you clearly, but because we are dealing with cellular fidelity, don’t expect excellent articulation.
The end of each narrow earpiece also has some chrome accent work, but basically, the earpieces utilize a very narrow design that isn’t likely to attract much attention. Thanks to their shape and lightweight body, the earpieces also fit quite securely. The Mikros 70 ships with five pairs of eartips of various shapes and sizes. A black, rigid zip-up pouch is also included.
On deep bass tracks, the Mikros 70 does not distort, even when playing at maximum, unsafe listening levels. The Knife’s “Silent Shout” and Thom Yorke’s “Cymbal Rush” both present different types of low frequency challenges, but on neither track does the Mikros 70 succumb to distortion. It also delivers a noticeable level of bass response, so we know the Mikros 70 isn’t employing the old trick of entirely avoiding a frequency range in order to avoid distortion within that range. This is what you should expect from a $150 earphone pair.
However, the Mikros 70 doesn’t deliver a terribly intense bass experience, either. The low frequencies are rich, but not strong. Occasionally, certain low (but not sub-bass) seem to get a bit of a boost, and the Mikros 70 will sound a hair more robust than it typically does, but generally speaking, this is not a pair for bass lovers.
The treble performance of the Mikros 70 is, like its bass response, nuanced. It’s not the crispest-sounding response you’ll ever hear, but it does nice things with the treble edge of Bill Callahan’s vocals on “Drover,” a track that, on the wrong earphones, can sometimes deliver his unique baritone voice in a muffled manner. Higher percussion drum hits have a high-mid presence to them, but lack much sparkle or truly high frequency brightness.
This is most apparent on classical tracks, like John Adam’s “The Chairman Dances,” where we get a nice sense of the lower register strings and deeper percussion, as well as the high pitched wood-block hits. But where the wood blocks at the end of the track often stand out brightly, on the Mikros, their presence seems slightly toned down. Basically, the Mikros 70 is a pair that tends to focus on the mid-range elements of a mix, while subtly reproducing much lower or higher elements. I found that it complimented classical music nicely, but those seeking a bit more high frequency flare or boom from the low-end will want to look elsewhere.
In the $150 range, there are seemingly unlimited options. If you’re looking for more booming bass, the Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats are not likely to disappoint, and as an added bonus, they are gym-friendly. If you like the idea of the Mikros 70′s reserved response, but want just slightly more low-end, the Phiaton Moderna MS 200 offers a similar approach to the frequency range, but with perhaps a little more presence in the sub-bass realm. The Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphonesare slightly more expensive, but offer a better sense of depth, space, and treble—and more secure fit. If you’re looking to spend less money, the AKG K 350delivers a nice, balanced sound at a far lower price.
The MartinLogan Mikros 70 is not a disappointment; it simply isn’t a standout in this crowded field. Electrostatic speakers are famous for their rich bass and an excellent, life-like reproduction of audio that creates a great sense of space. It’s hard to do that with an in-ear pair, but the Mikros micros 70 at least still delivers its refined response without a hint of distortion.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc