Thursday, November 29, 2007

Injecting Sound into Your Skull



Back in the day, I wasn’t a huge fan of headphones. No matter how people tried to convince me I couldn’t really appreciate Dark Side of the Moon until I heard it blasting directly into my lobes, I just couldn’t sit tethered to a stereo system. Consequently, my neighbors were treated to an ever-changing cornucopia of my musical tastes, probably to their betterment. In the meantime, I was blissfully surrounded in sound, courtesy of my Cerwin-Vega PA speakers.

Of course, that was before late night knocks on my door from the local constabulary warning me my neighbors didn’t necessarily share my musical affections. I went through a number of headphones as a result of those visits, and even begrudgingly learned to appreciate them. That was also before the tinny advent of earbuds and their greatest champion, the MP3 player. Maybe my ears are just shaped wrong, or perhaps I had a psychological aversion to audio q-tips in my lobes, but the buds never quite worked for me.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone. Earbuds may offer a certain convenience in size, but they’re a throwback to the portable transistor radio—they simply don’t offer a full sound. Plus, they aren’t really designed for an active lifestyle. So it’s no wonder that a growing number of people have gone retro and embraced headphones as the way to enjoy their music on the go. Headphones designed specifically for MP3 players is a a growing market, and no company has embraced it more than Skullcandy. They offer a full array of headphones (and even earbuds) engineered with audio excellence in mind. They also look really cool, as headphones go, to give that certain street cred oomph.

Skullcandy takes it up a notch with the MFM Pro Mp3 Player Headphones. Endorsed by renowned snowboarder Marc Frank Montoya, these DJ- style phones also offer an integrated, detachable 1 gig MP3 player.

These are a first of their kind headphones, offering superior sound quality for the price (just around $200) and are also equipped with a detachable MP3 player/ recorder that works independently of the phones. I love the design and function of the MFM headphones, having lived with them for three months now.

There’s quite a bit to love about these headphones, as these specs will attest:

-Built-in detachable MP3 player with direct USB upload/download-DJ style headset with 90 degree swivel earcups
-Optional battery pack instantly turns the built-in 1 GIG MP3 into a portable MP3 player- -Plays MP3, WMA & DRM files
-1 GIG Flash memory for music or data-Built-in voice recorder, with voice activated recording (VAD) support-Deleting files is possible from the device-MP3 Player can be used as a mass storage device-USB v1.1-40mm power drivers-Auxiliary audio jack with detachable connection cable
-MP3 Player can be used as a mass storage device-Headphones can be used with other audio devices-MP3 player can be used with other headphones

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What sets these phones apart from anything else on the market is the integrated MP3 player. Slightly smaller than a Zippo lighter, it fits snugly into one earphone for use with the headphones. With a 1 GIG flash memory, it hardly competes with iPods, but that’s not its intent. The MFM headphones aren’t really designed for sedentary audiophiles—they take an active lifestyle for granted. The 1 GIG memory stores over an hour of music—plenty of space to serve as a soundtrack for a workout, or even a trip to the local grocer.

The MP3 player also functions as a voice-activated recorder when separated from the headphones. It’s good for “notes to self”, but doesn’t have the range to go beyond that. Still, it’s a nice touch.

The headphones themselves, equipped with 40mm power drivers, are very good at high and low frequencies, as might be expected in a package designed for the action-oriented. Bass thumps in your jaws when you wear these phones—I found Johnny Cash and Jay-Z particularly pleasing. More intricate music, particularly jazz, loses a bit in the mid-range, doesn’t fare quite as well, as some nuances are given up to bass and high end.

It’s a miniscule price to pay when you consider the advantages of the package as a whole. I’ve used the MFM headphones during runs, and have become addicted to them as my computer headphones, as well. If you’re looking for an all-purpose set of headphones, you’d be hard-pressed to surpass the MFM Pros.