Full disclosure here. I am not a fan of earbuds. Period. Or at least I wasn’t. I’ve always preferred an over-the-ear or slung back style of headphone as it seems whenever I find a pair of buds that will even stay in they tend to make my ears ache after more than a few minutes of use. While I would not go so far as to say I have been converted, I would say that my fervent disdain for in-ear monitors has been squashed by id America’s Spark headphones.
Clocking in at $65 USD, I expected that these headphones would sound pretty good but end up getting a little tinny with high highs and flat with really heavy bass. I was pleasantly surprised. The sound quality and the depth of these headphones really is quite impressive. The Sparks’ 8mm drivers put out crisp, clean mid-to-high sounds and respectably deep, textured bass. I did find the lows coming out a bit flat during Schoolboy Q’s “Hand’s on the Wheel” with the volume cranked to 80% on my Samsung Galaxy S 4G. In other words you will really have to try to get these to top or bottom out. I know that the audiophiles out there are shaking their fists and yelling something to the effect of “That’s not a good audio source!” but hear me out. I’m coming at this from the angle of the average user. Most people are not going to use an in-line amp for their $65 earbuds and will almost certainly use them with a mobile device of some sort.
The sound is well improved by the flanged silicone tips that come with the buds. The package comes with 3 sets of tips in different sizes so you’re sure to find a decent fit. I’ve found that they do a fair job of blocking external sound but anything noisier than say the sound of typing on a keyboard while you write a product review is going to be apparent even with the audio turned up.
Construction & Design
Even more than the solid audio quality, I love the build of these headphones. It is very evident that a lot of thought went into the design, the feel and the construction of the Sparks. On the id America website they state that the buds were inspired by automotive sparks plugs and this is pretty clear after looking at their machined aluminum bodies. Both drivers are enclosed in ribbed housings that are themselves inserts for the external bodies of the headphones. These have 3 precision carved sections that allow you to see the driver inserts. The design of these is really pleasing to the eye. The Sparks even come in a surprising and really attractive array of colors that make our polished on brushed aluminum review unit look almost bland.
If I have any gripes about the build of these headphones it has to be with the built-in microphone/play-pause button and the cable sheathing. All of the housings on these buds are aluminum aside from the microphone which is encased in a cheap feeling plastic. This is a serious misstep for the cost in my opinion. I would prefer this not even be a part of the design as I have never once used an in-line mic in a pair of headphones and never intend to. I was unable to test the mic and button however, these are apparently designed specifically with the iPhone in mind and I am an Android user. Cheap plastic buttons aside my only other issue, or want rather, would be for the cables to be sheathed with fabric cording rather than the overly stiff rubber coating that id America went with. Again for the price I think that this would have only been fair and would lend the headphones a much more luxurious feel. As a bonus the Sparks do come with an attractive looking cylindrical hard case for storage when you’re not head bobbing to the next chiptune track from Saberpulse. This was a nice touch and it’s actually something I’ve found myself taking the time to use.
Overall the audio quality is really solid. I didn’t find much in my eclectic music catalog that could throw these off their game unless I really cranked the volume up. The build quality is really high and I just plain enjoy looking at these headphones. Their machined aluminum bodies are lightweight, comfortable and attractive. I don’t have too many unkind words for these in-ears that I honestly expected not to care for. As a matter of fact I may actually buy myself a pair of the “Camel Gray” ones soon.