Arctic E461-BM Earphone Review - A Closer Look and Final Thoughts

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The silver and black is simply-stated, and the overall design is rather neutral.  The plastics used in the housing feel very light, but yet they are sturdy and the seams well-meshed.  The cable is somewhat stiff, which helps prevent tangling, but was found to be a bit stubborn at times.  The rubber chord-wrap and carrying case are a nice inclusions to keep the cables neat on-the-go.  A microphone splitter is also included for talking over Skype or other voice messenger on your computer.  The in-line controls are also made to work with your favorite music-playing "iProduct," and was found to work with mixed results on several Android phones.  The back-side of the earphones are also ducted as part of the visual design, which I think it a nice way to incorporate it.  An added quality to the build that I like to see is the cap on the chord junctions so that the wires don't get stripped or pulled out of place, usually the bottleneck in durability for earphones.


Acoustic Performance

I had listened to these headphones for a few days before looking at the specs on Artic's website. My very first impression, made while listening to heavily produced modern rock at medium volumes, was that the sound was full but slightly "bloated". While the quality of the sound coming through these is more-than-acceptable, it is far from being without colorization. This means that the headphones are engineered from a hardware point-of-view to essentially have a built in equalizer, and while this is extremely common for both stereo speakers and headphones, it is in direct contrast to the statement in the specs on Arctic's website. "A flat frequency-response curve shows that E461 is equally sensitive to all frequencies. No frequencies would be exaggerated or reduced, resulting in a more accurate representation of the original sound." Any audiophiles reviewing these headphones would likely have a hard time holding back their laughter after reading that, but is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. From an audio engineering standpoint, this is the company saying "we know what you want better than you do". While customers surely like to believe that they're getting true, unaltered, flat frequency response, most of them wouldn't like the sound if it were true, and an even larger number of them probably wouldn't be able to afford an earbud that actually achieved it. Take it from a guy who's default listening experience comes from studio monitors arranged with his head in an equilateral triangle with desk chair height adjusted for proper tweeter placement.  A good example in the mainstream market is that of Dr. Dre Beat's lineup, which is often criticized by the audiophile community as being bass-heavy.  However, much of the mainstream music these days sound great with pre-engineered voicing.  Flat, true frequency response doesn't necessarily lead to a better listening experience.



So what are we dealing with here? I mentioned "bloated" already, which may be a tad too critical. Better adjectives might be "full" and "boomy", depending on what you're listening to. I definitely would not call the highs "airy", because they feel quite suppressed in my opinion. I tested these with many different genres, different decades of recording style, even movies, and I think most casual listeners will really enjoy these headphones. For things like modern rock and hip-hop/pop, which will be common usage for most, these do an excellent job of separating out different instruments and tones during listening, while the sound still feels tight. I am continually impressed with the bass that companies are now able to achieve from these small drivers, and these are no exception. Excellent bass at "medium" volume levels, where the speaker is not being pushed so hard that it starts to lose quality. Another notable quality of these headphones is their high volume/high input performance. The aforementioned disparity in the higher frequencies allows them to be enjoyed at what could normally be an ear-splitting line level. The conclusion to draw for sound reproduction is that the casual listener will be very satisfied with the E461-BM, especially for the price, with a take-home price of around $50.



These are comfortable. Since we all have different ears, there is always room for people to complain when it comes to comfort, but for me these feel really good. The E461-BM comes with six different sets of silicone earbud caps, which should compensate nicely for all those different ears out there. The other nice thing about these is that they don't "thud" that badly when you walk, move, or hit the wire, which I find absolutely ruins some in-ear headphones.


Final Thoughts

The simple design and neutral color scheme means the E461-BM should appeal to a wide audience, and the in-line controls add a dash of extra functionality to differentiate them from many earphones out there.  The voicing of the drivers also fits well with most mainstream music, although genres which utilize highs, such as classical, miss out a bit.  The chassis is very light due to the usage of neodymium magnets and plastics, but does not feel cheap.  And for the price at around $50 to your door, the E461-BM provides a pretty good value in a very crowded mid-range earphone market.  The included silicon caps come in a variety of sizes, so the odds are you'll find them as comfortable to wear as we did.  The ultimate choice of which earbuds to choose in the $50 may come down to personal styling preference, but the overall peformance of the E461 was pretty solid for its price range.

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