Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones review

Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones review

Price: £169.95
Supplier: www.johnlewis.com
Score: 8/10

Bowers & Wilkins are well known as one the crown jewels of the British hi-fi industry, if not of British industry in general, so it’s always a little bit exciting when it releases a new product. With many of its speakers costing eye watering amounts, its recent foray into headphones has been quite surprising for the affordability of its products—its top-of-the-range P5’s come in at just £250 for example—not bad for a company that will sell you speakers that sit firmy in the “if you have to ask you can’t afford it category.”

The P3’s are a product unashamedly designed to fill a gap in the market. At £250 are the larger P5s are serious propositions, but at £180 the P3’s have an eye on the group that is looking for high quality but in a more practical and affordable package.

A key advantage over the P5s is that the P3’s fold up. You could slide them into a largish jacket pocket or put them in a hard case is provided so you can pack them in a bag. Take care opening that hard case though as it snaps shut rather eagerly. In fact, it’ll have your hand off if you’re not careful.

The P3’s certainly look like as classy as you’d expect from B&W, with a soft touch finish and smart silver edging. The look is refined and tasteful rather than streetwise, and make for a very different statement compared to the likes of Monster headphones. With the Bowers & Wilkins logo imprinted large of the sides you’ll be broadcasting you’re appreciation for a different approach to audio than the mainstream and that’s certainly reflected in the performance as well.

B&W were keen to make the P3’s as comfortable to wear for as long as possible. Key to prolonged listening while retaining comfort is acoustic fabric. The ear pads are made of heat sensitive memory foam that feels soft, but firm and is designed to mould itself to your ears after prolonged use. I can report it works and after brief periods of discomfort, I could wear these comfortably for hours. The ears can get a little hot after a while, but that’s the nature of wearing something covering the whole ear.

The ear pads are held on with a neat magnet system, underneath which sits the cable. The default one has an in-line controller designed for iOS devices only. An alternative cable is supplied for other brands but there’s no inline control for them.

It has to be said that the in-line controller itself is one of the weaker parts of the P3 design. It feels insubstantial and it’s difficult to distinguish between the controls. Pressing up or down alters the volume and pressing it in the centre pauses—and frequently when I wanted to do the former I ended up doing the latter, which can rather take you out of the mood of whatever you’re listening to.

And listen you will. The Bowers & Wilkins P3’s offer an audio experience that is very much in keeping with the brands traditions. It’s a fine refined sound. Paul McCartney’s recent Kisses on the Bottom is composed of the ex-Beatles take on some Jazz standards and the P3s are all over this. The cool breezy atmosphere and delicacy of the piano and the timbre of Macca’s smoky vocals are well clean and detailed. Higher frequencies and a wonderful mid-range come together to make a fantastic sound.

One of the odd things about the P3’s is the bass. Compared to the likes of typical Monster over ear headphones the P3’s base is full, but well balanced and neutral. Some may prefer the way Monster’s go about their bass business, but in fact the B&W P3’s are a lot more accurate. That’s not to say that the P3 don’t have deep rich, and creamy bass – they do. Try Sly and the Family Stone, or Billie Jean or something up to date like Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack and you’ll know what I mean.

At times though the bass can seem to lose a little control, making things a touch muddier than I would like. Oddly, one area this makes a difference is with Podcasts. With deep, bassy speech, the P3s can sound a little boomy, making them harder to listen to than cheaper headphones that lack bass and instead emphases higher frequencies, which give voices a more brittle tone that can easily be followed. (One solution on the iPhone was to use the Vocal Eq setting, though you can only do that with the native iPhone audio app).

What the P3s do a really great job of though, is giving a sense of space to your music. You can place instruments in a band and separate out the parts, which makes everything very involving and often dramatic. Their airy sound really bring the soundstage to life making it a more natural experience than that of say, the Atomic Floyd in-ear headphones I reviewed recently.

By way of comparison I had a quick listen to the Bowers & Wilkins P5 and found that the P5 were even richer and more detailed. B&W hasn’t killed its own more expensive goose with the P3s.

If you’re deciding between the two you have to balance up cost, practicality and sound quality. If the latter is a priority the P5s are the better choice, but you’ll have a less practical package for the commute.

For me personally I’d take an in-ear pair for regular commuting and use an over ear pair for more critical listening. In that situation I’d prefer the P5s but then you are paying £80 more for them. If the cost saving and the increasing portability of the P3s appeal then rest assured you’re still getting a very fine sounding pair of headphones.

Verdict:

Bowers and Wilkins has produced a set of headphones that improves on the more expensive P5 in portability, but doesn’t quite equal them for sound quality. Based on the price, this is a well judged position for them to be in. Which is more important is up to you, but on strictly audiophile grounds the P5s have the edge, and niggles with the iPhone in-line controls blot the copybook from the otherwise high quality package. That said, I like the P3s a lot and personally, I’d take the P3s over any comparable Monster headphones, thanks to a more natural, accurate sound.

 

Atomic Floyd SuperDarts headphone review

Manufacturerhttp://www.atomicfloyd.com/
Score:  8/10

When I was asked if I wanted to review a set of Atomic Floyd headphones I took the approach of saying yes first, and doing my research later. Having never heard of the brand, it turns out that it’s a new manufacturer of high-end headphones with a focus on robust build, idiosyncratic design, and sound quality. It’s good see a British name competing with the likes of Klipsch, Monster, but it’s a tough market to compete in as the premium headphones market has really taken off. This is because people are finally starting to realise that it’s worth forking out for a decent set of headphones rather than putting up with the crappy pair that come bundled with most smartphones and music players.

At £200, the SuperDarts are clearly a serious proposition so they will need to do a lot to impress. Yes, you can certainly spend a lot more, but for most it’s a lot of money to even consider for headphones.

Design and features

The SuperDarts have a distinct look. With their silver honeycombed pattered base and black ear plug they resemble microphones, albeit very small ones that you put into your ear.

As you’ll note from my unboxing, the packaging immediately imbues a feeling of quality. The box is encased in a vacuum packed wrapping embossed with the Atomic Floyd logo (which reminded me very much of the Rebel Alliance logo from Star Wars – just me?) and the rest of the lavish packaging keeps the sense of quality high. If you’re not keen on excessive branding however, you might have issue with the Atomic Floyds. British they might be but there’s no sense of conservatism here – the brand name is written on these headphones in five places and there are two logos too.

If you’re wearing a pair of headphones every day robustness is important, as I’ve found to my cost with two sets of Klipsch headphones that didn’t survive. Both sounded great, but this was of little comfort when both failed to survive the rigours of a daily commute.

The SuperDarts deal with this by having a cord encased in Kevlar. Not only is it strong but it means that when the cord does get tangled up it’s far easier to unpick.

The earpieces are solidly made, as does the in-line iPhone control, the mid-cable point and at the headphone plug end. The latter is impressive as this is often a weak point on headphones. That said, the upright design of the plug means it sticks out so it’s not as good as the angled plug that the Dr Dre Tour Monster in-ear headphones that cleverly let the cable run along the top of your phone.

The in-line controls are easy to use, and it feels solid enough in the hand so you can pause, play and  change volume without looking. Call quality was also fine on a busy road, so the microphone is decent.

A long standing issue I’ve had with in-ear headphones is that I have undersized ear canals. As such, unless the ear plugs are small, the earphones will just fall out. I was a bit disappointed to find that there were only three sets of plugs in the box with the SuperDarts – you get more choice with Klipsch or Shure. I ignored the larger set, and tried the medium set and found these were too big. The smallest fitted, but just about. I found that the headphone itself is large and the ear plug didn’t provide much cushioning and as such, were not as comfortable as I would have liked. They were fine for an hour or so, but after extended listening I needed to take them out to give the old lug holes a rest.

 

The other issue is that due to the less than perfect fit, they tend to fall out when commuting. A small tug on clothing and they pop out, especially on the left side, which is slightly heavier due to the in-line remote. Atomic Floyd do offer a set of headphones with hooks to keep them in place and those might solve that issue. I got round it by hooking them round my ear, which seemed to do the trick, but it’s only a workaround.

In terms of tech, the SuperDarts  feature twin drivers – so each earpiece contains a dedicated driver for mid and high-end frequencies and another for bass. When fitted snugly with a good seal, they provide a good noise isolating experience and no sound leakage either.

Sound quality

Sound quality was excellent. Unlike other headphones from certain brands, (yes Monster, we’re talking to you), the sound is even handed, with no unnaturally extended bass. The bass is intense and full but not overly warm and doesn’t swamp the higher frequencies. Acoustic guitar is bright and jangly when it should be, and electric guitar is searing and crisp. The highs are clear and fresh and there’s a lot of detail in the mid-range.

That said, they don’t have the expansive soundstage compared to very different headphones such as the Bowers & Wilkins P3s, which more readily let you identify instruments in the sound space. Rather it’s direct – it feels as though it’s being injected straight into your brain. The more upfront sound works well for pop and rock, but it is more tiring. I don’t think a classic listener would enjoy these – certainly not for extended periods.

Overall though, it is very good. Bass lines are tight and rhythmic and the mid-range reveals the nooks and crannies of the sound. The only set that I’ve heard that are better are the Shure SE535’s but these cost almost double.

Verdict:

The SuperDarts tick a lot of boxes. Their looks might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s undoubtedly distinctive and they are very well made, so likely to withstand the rigours of a daily commute. Crucially, they sound great, with a rounded and detailed sound that you’d need to spend almost double to better. However, I can’t ignore that fact that I found that they are not the most comfortable to wear for long periods and have a tendency to fall out my ears when on the move, which blots the copybook for an otherwise very accomplished and desirable set of headphones.

Atomic Floyd SuperDarts Unboxing

Earlier this week I was scanning through my junk mail folder, as you do, when I noticed that an actual proper, message that had been sent to me via a comment on this very blog.

It was the PR company for Atomic Floyd, a brand of headphones that up until that point I had never heard of. Would I like to review a set of its headphones, which it said, and who am I to disagree, were awesome.

Excellent.

Well why not.

And here they are.

The Atomic Floyd Super Darts + remote are in-ear headphones with an inline remote for use with an iOS device. The brand makes much of the build quality of its product and on first impressions I’d certainly be inclined to agree.

The darts are made in metal, with a thicker than average cabling. It’s all quite solid and sturdy, which for a product that you might use on your commute is an important factor.

The headphone box was contained in a sealed vacuum packed plastic bag, which was pretty cool, and as you can see from the pictures, the packaging was pretty spectacular too. A good start. But do they sounds as good as they look?

You’ll have to wait for the full review, which I’ll follow up with shortly. For now – check out the pics.

Oh, and check your junk mail folder. You never know…

 

Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphone launch at Abbey Road

Last night I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the launch of the brand spanking new Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones. As you may know, Bowers & Wilkins are a legendary high-end speaker manufacturer, associated with quality and class, so it was odds on for a fine evening.

What made it extra special for me was that the launch was at Abbey Road studios in London, in Studio 2. This is arguably the most famous recording studio in the world, as it’s the room in which The Beatles recorded most of their music. As a dyed-in-the-wool Beatles fan this was pretty exciting stuff.

Of course many other acts also have recorded there too – Pink Floyd, for one, so in rock terms it’s virtually hallowed ground.  (That said, Cliff Richard also used to record in there. Sorry Cliff – loved your Young Ones record. No I mean, the one with the actual Young Ones). It’s a studio that’s still constantly used (indeed the party was over by 9pm as we were chucked out to make way for someone else) but it was nonetheless a huge thrill to think of the Fab Four sitting, composing and recording so many of their tunes in the room where I was chatting and casually drinking a beer.

Bowers & Wilkins has a long established connection with Abbey Road – its speakers have been used as reference monitors in there since the late 80s – and the company had placed many of its current products around the room, including one of its Diamond range speakers, its P5 headphones, its well known Zepplin iPod dock, and a single flagship Nautilus (that’s £5,500 to you sir).

A grand piano sat at one end of the room. Had Paul McCartney tinkled away on the ivory keys on this very piano? Yes, probably.

The launch was delightfully mellow and unstated a brief introduction to the company and products by two of its senior members. We were then treated to a live performance by a band called Portico Quartet that we were told had just been had been nominated for a Mercury Prize. Spotify describes them as “a contemporary modern jazz and ethnic fusion”, which sounds like a load of pretentious bollocks – but actually it was pretty cool, mellow and trippy.

The twist was that the performance was being recorded and we were each given a pair of the new P3 headphones attached to a wireless mic that was tuned into the mixing desk. We were therefore listening in to a live recording being made in front of us. This was then mixed and mastered, and on leaving the studio we were presented with a pair of P3s and an iPod shuffle on which was placed the recording of what we’d just seen and heard so we could listen to it on the way home.

Nice.

It was, without too much fanfare or pomp, the most enjoyable press launch I can remember going to for a long while.

The P3s

But what of the P3s themselves? These are the baby brother of the very successful P5s and have the advantage of being smaller, more lightweight, more portable (they fold and are supplied with a carry case) and at an RRP of £169.99 – less expensive. They are also superbly comfortable to wear, both for short and longer listening sessions and also look incredibly classy and cool – which is no more than you would expect from Bowers & Wilkins.

The one thing I’ve not mentioned in that list is sound quality. Needless to say, the P3 are truly excellent, especially for the price. I’ll home straight in on the bass, which is beautifully rich, full and rhythmic. It’s great how you can follow a bass line and pick out the intricacies and subtleties of the playing.

That said, I have to admit to some reservations. My first impression are that while the sound is really excellent, there’s something missing that I can’t yet put my finger, or at least my ear, on. Is there a lack of crispness at the high end? Is the sound a touch –  muddy? I’m not sure. I’ll leave it to a dedicated review to make a final judgment.

Clearly though there’s a lot of love, passion, and great engineering that has gone into the P3s and I’m sure they are going to a a massive success for the company. And they could not have picked a more fitting location for the launch that Abbey Road Studio 2.

 

 

Klipsch Image X10i earphones review

Price: £198.27 from www.amazon.co.uk
Score: 9/10

Pros: Sound quality, comfort
Cons: Only guaranteed to work correctly with iPhone and iPod touch.

Recently I had the pleasure of trying out the Klipsh S4i headphones and found them to be a fantastic sounding and comfortable to wear pair of earphones. For around £85, they are certainly one of the best you can buy. So can Klipsh really justify charging around £200 for its X10i headphones? It does seem slightly odd that there’s no pair filling in the price gap between the two sets, so can these really worth the huge step up in price?

In a nutshell, they are. And how. Let’s get right down to it- the Klipsch X10i headphones are fantastic. The X10i’s are an update of the X10 that have been around for a year or so, but add an inline three button remote and integrated microphone, making them a perfect match for the iPhone, enabling users to answer and end calls with a press of the centre Play button and skip between tracks. It will also work with Voiceover, as used on the 3rd Gen iPod shuffle. The other distinguishing aspect of these top-of-the-range earphones is that they are incredibly small and light, weighing just 10.5g and making them less fatiguing to wear for long period.

The set feels special as in the box you get a faux leather case to carry them, a 3.5mm to phono plug connector, and an airplane adaptor. Most crucially though, Klipsch includes a selection of ear tips to ensure you get the perfect seal. This is important to ensure that you get an airtight seal thus providing you with real sound isolation which means you can play your music at lower volumes. You’ll also get a fuller and truer bass response from the headphones, which will have a massive impact on sound quality.

Klipsch provides five sets of ear tips, two with ‘double flange’ tips that it claims will give the tightest fit and best sound isolation. However, I knew straight away that these would not fit my ear canals, and though I gave it a go I was proved right. Fortunately, the smallest ear tip provided me with a snug fit, ensuring great sound isolation and tight bass. Klipsch suggest you push the headphones in and then pull them out slightly to get the snuggest fit possible.

Klipsch is the only manufacturer to offer oval shaped earbuds, which it claims more naturally matches the shape of the ear canal to ensure a more comfortable fit. It seems to work too, as I found I could wear the X10i’s for a hours at a stretch without it proving uncomfortable. Considering you’re sticking something in your ear, that’s impressive.

As soon as I got hold of them, I was very keen to give them a try. I unboxed them, released them from their impressive packaging and plugged into my ears using those small ear tips, and went straight to my goto track for bass, rhythm and vocal clarity – Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, encoded using Apple Lossless. The X10i’s delivered, and in spades – the slap of the drums, the movement of the bass, the hi-hats, the vocals – the sheer drama of the track is all there, plugged directly into your skull.

With all types of music the X10i’s are fantastic monitors of the sound, to the extent that if you’re using low bit-rate material you’re going to come a cropper as the X10i’s will ruthlessly reveal any flaws in your source material. As such, I was glad that I’ve most of my CDs have been ripped at a minimum of 192Kbps AAC, and have recently moved to 320Kbps AAC – probably overkill, but I’m happy to have the overhead and it produces smaller file sizes then encoding losslessly.

While I had no issues with the very good S4i’s, listening the X10i’s is like wiping your glasses and being able to see clearly – like moving from a good quality SD picture to HD. What’s impressive is that there’s a balance to the sound, with no one aspect being neglected or becoming overpowering. The mid-range is finely detailed, the bass is full, and the top end is precise and clear. It’s all good.

What’s surprising is that Klipsch only uses a single driver, whereas competitors in this area use three or more. This helps keep the size of the earphones down and enables them to be as tiny as they are.

The only areas I did find of concern is that as with the S4i’s the connector for the earphones plugs in vertically rather than at a right angle. This means that if I have my iPhone on the desk in front of me the right way so that I can see the album artwork the X10i cable has to be bent round at an angle, putting pressure on the cable, which isn’t ideal. Additionally, when you come to pull the earphones out of your iPhone you must be careful to do it at the base as otherwise you could easily pull the cable out. When you spend this much on a set of headphones, that’s not something you want to do.

Another issue I encountered was when I tried to use them with another phone – a Android powered Samsung Galaxy S. While I wasn’t expected the in-line remote to work with the Galaxy S, I was expected the earphones side of things to work – but sadly I was disappointed. The output sounds as if the headphones are not plugged in properly making them unusable. It’s clearly connected to the Apple chip inside as strangely pressing the play button makes the headphones work as normal. Clearly, you’re not going to hold the button the entire time, so sadly the X10i’s are completely unusable with the Galaxy S.

If you’ve just got the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 , or a recent iPod however, the X10i’s are simply an outstanding choice. If you really want to hear every detail in your music, answer phone calls with a press of the button and have a comfortable listening experience then the X10i’s really deliver.

Klipsch S4i headphones review

Klipsh S4i Headphones:
Price: £89.99
Supplier:iheadphones.co.uk
Rating: 9/10

They say there’s no such thing as bad music, just inappropriate headphones. Oh hold on, no, that’s bad weather and inappropriate clothing, isn’t it, but nevermind.

Recently I was looking for the ideal set of headphones to pair with an iPod shuffle 3rd gen to take to the gym, and tried the combination of a set of Sennheiser/Adidas PMX680 sport headphones combined with the Logitech earphone iPod adapter.

The iPod shuffle 3rd gen, for its sins, doesn’t offer any controls on the device itself, so you need a pair of compatible headphones with in-line controls on them, or an adaptor. (Naturally this is daft – as Apple has itself admitted by putting them back for the latest version).

Of course the adaptor route is a bit of a hack so I was intrigued by an alternative – the Klipsh S4i headset. Could this be what I was looking for? They sport an in-line control designed specifically for Apple, and it lets you skip tracks, control volume and a built-in microphone so you can answer calls without removing your headphones. It also claims great audio quality, though the downside was that at £90 they were double the price I had paid for the music player.

There was also one other problem – these were in-ear headphones. In all my life, I’ve never found a set of in-ear headphones that I could actually wear – and believe me I’ve tried. As was documented back in 2006 by my former Editor Riyad Emeran in his review of the Ultimate Ears super.fi Pro headphones, all attempts at getting any size of in-ear headphones to remain in my left ear canal met with devastating failure. Whatever I did, however hard I pressed, the headphone frustratingly just popped out.

Time though, as they say, is a healer, and is well known to affect the size of ones ear canals (yes, I know, that’s nonsense), so I thought I’d give it another go.

Package

Three sets of earplugs are supplied, which like the Three Bears come in large, medium and little sizes. I tried the first and it was too salty big, the medium was still too uncomfortable. To my surprise though, when I tried the smaller one, something amazing happened – it was just right! Even after an extended period of time it didn’t become uncomfortable and even more remarkably, it didn’t simply fall out when I moved my head. Could the Klipsh S4i’s be the one!

The Klipsh S4i’s come with a solid metal case containing the headphones, neatly arranged with a cable clip and a poking device for removing earwax from the cover – unpleasant buy necessary.

Design and Features

The S4i’s are available in both black and white and the gloss finish looks appealing. The in-line three button remote sits three quarters of the way up the cable, which is a comfortable place to access it. It also contains the microphone and when a call comes in the phone rings in the headphones, and the call can be answered with a press of the middle button. Taking a call outside on the street my voice was clearly heard over the traffic, even though the microphone isn’t be the ear. The person at the other end did not realise I was on a headset, which is a good sign. The buttons are also of better quality than the Logitech adaptor and have a rounded feel that make them easier to press. There’s also cable tie that slides up to the ear phones to reduce excess cable hang if you like.

The cable plastic has a premium quality sheen to it that helps prevent it kinking up too easily, but it is slightly too thing and it feels that it could break or snap if subjected of a bit of rough treatment. In fact on one occasion I yanked a touch too hard removing the S4is from my iPhone and the white cable came out of the black housing at the end. I managed to push it back into place, but this was far from ideal. The cable at the end also lacks the 90 degree angle that many headphones offer, which means that you need to be careful not to bend and fray if not looked after.

Sound quality

Of course the really important part is simply sound quality. The great news is though that these are really excellent sounding headphones, that offer fantastic quality for the price. After prolonged use I’d have no qualms spending twice the cost of the player on these.

With the headphones firmly in there’s a great sense of sound isolation, though it’s not absolute, which is probably a good thing. Feed it decent bit-rate material and you’re rewarded with a full, rich and warm sound. Small details in the music, such as finger clicks, and vocal tweaks are done justice, as are vocal harmonies and complex guitar lines.

The bass is pleasant and full but I did find them a touch restrained. These are civilised rather than stompers and it you want to cut a rug rather than bob along you might wish for a little more aggression. But there’s no denying the accurate rhythmic quality, and the convincingness of the mid-range and sparkle at the top-end. It’s all there- you don’t feel you’re missing anything from the music. Perhaps much, much more expensive earbuds would provide even firmer bass and even clear imaging, but it would be subtle. For the money these really are great sounding pair of headphones.

Overall

The Klipsh S4is are a pretty special set of headphones for me, as they’re the first in-ear bud style set that I’ve ever found to be comfortable, and finally lets me enjoy the advantages of having a small, light set of headphones that I can take with me on the train, or to the gym, without having to have a bulging jacket pocket. They look good, the remote and mic do a great job and best of all they sound truly excellent for the money. There are some minor concerns over the cable durability, but as long as your careful, you shouldn’t have a problem. A highly recommendable set of headphones.

Sennheiser/Adidas PMX680 sport headphones and Logitech earphone iPod adapter review

Sennheiser/Adidas PMX680
Price: £33.38
Manufacturer: Sennheiser
Supplier: Amazon.co.uk
Rating: 8/10

Logitech Earphone Adaptor for iPod shuffle
Price: £14.99
Manufacturer: Logitech
Supplier: www.logitech.co.uk
Rating: 8/10

If you’re interested in tech it probably didn’t escape your attention that at the tail end of April the Apple iPad, billed by many as a revolutionary product, went on sale in the UK.

I however, bought an iPod shuffle.

For a start, the iPad starts at £400, while the Shuffle costs just £45. I also bought it as I was wanted a better pair of headphones than those that are supplied with the shuffle to take to the gym, and frankly I’d look ridiculous on the treadmill holding an iPad.

However, no sooner had I got the iPod shuffle home, I realised the while the shuffle may be truly, astoundingly, gaspingly (ooh new word!) small it’s also has a major design flaw.

The reason is simply that if you perform a fast motion, such as running the earbuds will simply fall out, which I say is something of an issue for a iPod that you’ll I would imagine most people buy specifically for sports.

OK you may say, why not just replace them with any other headphones?

However, as we all know the iPod shuffle has no screen, but on the third gen version, the Play/Pause and skip controls are located directly on the headphones themselves. This means that if you plug other headphones in, you can’t actually play your music.

However, sanity’s loss is third-party iPod accessory manufacturers gain. There are two routes you can then take – you can either buy a set of headphones such as the Klipsh S4i (review coming soon) with the Apple controls built in – or you can get an adapter that lets you use any headphones.

Belkin sells just such an adapter, available from Amazon.co.uk for just £4.15, but the reviews on the site are heavily critical of its build quality, so I immediately looked for an alternative.

Fortunately, there is one in the shape of the Logitech earphone adapter for iPod. This does cost £15 but I’d rather it didn’t fall apart on me. This seems well made but the buttons have a different shape to those on the supplied shuffle headphones. The central button is flat while the volume up and down and thin and flat but it didn’t take long to get used to.

As for the headphones, I was looking for something that would first and foremost actually stay in my ears while running. I also wanted decent sound and thirdly I didn’t want to pay a fortune, as these would only be for gym use.

Fitting the bill then on all these counts are the Sennheiser/Adidas PMX680. As you can see by the name this is a co-branded set, though I’m unclear what actual input Adidas would have other than to lend its name to the product to emphasis the sportiness. The slightly garish black and vibrant yellow colouring is certainly the sort of thing you’d see on an Adidas trainer.

The PMX680’s sport a neckband design that ensure than the earbuds are pressed into your ears and while the plastic construction means that it’s both lightweight and waterproof – which I guess means that it won’t short circuit if you sweat too much.

The cable is reasonably thick and doesn’t feel like it would snap too easily. The supplied cable is quite long and has an in-line volume control on a dial with a clip on the back for attaching to a shirt. This middle section could actually be removed leaving a much shorter section making it much easier to handle and if you’re using it with an iPod shuffle with the Logitech adapter this arrangement makes sense.

The headphones come with a set of foam covers for the ears buds, and ship with a nicely textured carry case with a Velcro finish.

To my immense relief the PMX 680’s passed the gym test with flying colours, staying on while running without any discomfort and at the same time offering a significant upgrade in terms of sound quality to the shuffle supplied buds.

There’s a much richer more detailed sound than with those infamous while buds. Bass is impressively smooth and fulsome, the mid range was balanced and the highs were sparkly and clear without being shrill or tiresome. Overall, it even compared very favourably with my trusty pair of Koss Porta Pros that I’ve been using for years. These do have even more bass, which I like, but are actually not quite as good in the mid-range.

For a set of headphones aimed at the sports market the performance of the PMX-680s comes as a real bonus, and these could conceivably be used as a main pair for everyday use rather than just for sports.

Effectively then, the combination of the Logitech earphone adapter and the Sennheiser PMX680s make for a cost effective upgrade to the iPod shuffle bundled headphones. I’s just a shame you have to pay more again that the iPod shuffle costs to actually make it a usable option at the gym.