- Impedance: 16ohms
- Max input: 200mW
- Plug: 3.5mm L-type plug
- Driver: 9mm
- Sensitivity: 84+/-3dB
- Cord length: 1.2m
- Nice, balanced sound that is just the slightest bit bassy
- COmfortable, positive fit
- Solid earbud construction
- Cable could have been made of better material
- I now have a new everyday pair of headphones I know I will love to use.
I recently regressed musically to that heady time period in college where I was listening to a lot of trip-hop. The genre-the offspring of hip-hop and electronica that hates both its parents-is a combination of heavy beats, a healthy serving of synthesizers and wispy vocals. It has quite a bit of range to it, and is very thick and complex. Back in college, I liked listening to it at home, on large speakers, but if I had no choice, or I was out on the road, I’d make do, though grudgingly, with earphones. They didn’t sound too great, but, hey, they were handy.
In this second trip-hop phase of mine, I wanted a little more performance from my gear, and fortunately, a pair of Maxell in-ear passive isolating earphones landed on my lap for review. I have always liked the convenience of earphones, but often loathe the sound they produce. I was using a new, but very pleasant-sounding pair before the Maxell MXH-CA200 arrived, and so was curious to see if those could be beat.
The Maxell comes in a nondescript pack that contains the headphones, extra tips and the manual. It was quite Spartan, but had all that I needed, so I got right to it. The drivers are machined out of aluminum and have a bit of heft to them, which is great news, since extra weight and a solid build mean a more stable platform against which the speaker cones can push.
The cord is 1.2-meters long, and terminates in a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. There are no extra controls, buttons or other doodads on the cable, so compatibility is not going to be a concern. The stock buds, which were medium, as far as I could tell, fit perfectly. On some earphones, the buds start to work their way out after a while. These ones were very comfortable, and didn’t bind or press uncomfortably against the ear, while still offering excellent sound isolation.
With a track playing on my smartphone at less than half the volume, I was listening very comfortably without any outside interference coming in to take me out of the experience. Even in the outside world, such as on the train, only the loudest, or lowest frequency sounds made it through the seal. This is great not only because it allows you to focus on the music or drown out the outside world, it also means you can listen at a much lower volume than non-isolating headphones, potentially saving you from hearing damage.
As I mentioned above, I was listening mostly to trip-hop tracks that are thick, and all over the audio spectrum. The first thing you will notice is how whole the lows are. They don’t break up and are very round sounding. It’s also important to point out that they don’t overpower everything else in the track. In Lamb’s “Softly,”There is a very nice double bass intro, which extends to the rather thin vocal section. On other headphones that I have tried, the bass steam rolled the vocals to the point where a quick trip to the equalizer was necessary.
While the bass played nice with the rest of the frequencies, the highs and mids were likewise nice and clear, though a little less “sparkly” sounding than I would like. I didn’t need to adjust any of the equalizer settings to be satisfied with the sound, and in fact, liked the audio a little less once I started boosting other frequencies. It’s a very balanced pair of headphones that leans slightly towards the low end. Louder volumes worked well on the earphones, though I can’t imagine a reason one would have to bump the volume up so high, again due to the nice isolation offered.
There are a few nits worth picking before we quit. The main one is the cable. The cable on this pair is plastic, much like that found on much cheaper, bargain bin earphones. It tangles quite easily if you aren’t careful, but on the plus side, is pliable enough to not crack after prolonged use.
Another problem is telling the L and Rear apart. There is a small letter on each of the drivers, but that is it. You can’t really tell by touch or quickly identify which is which, so I resorted to putting a knot on the left ear, to make things simpler for myself.
I’m very impressed with the Maxell MXH-CA200 headphones. I thought I had found a favorite pair in the ones I was using previously, but I now know I was wrong. These guys are going with me everywhere I go.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, October 2013
Words by Ren Alcantara