In-ear headphones offer portability and isolation from outside noise, but they rarely re-create the spacious sound of the full-size "cans" that wrap around your ears. And getting them to stay in place can be a challenge.
The Bowers & Wilkins C5 ($180) solves both problems, giving you a more natural sound than most in-ear models can while staying put during workouts, commutes and general headbanging.
Why we like them
To combat the underwater feel of having your ears fully plugged up, the glossy black-and-silver buds have filters on the outside faces that let some sound out and some ambient noise in. That may sound counterintuitive, but the result is more accurate "spatial cues." For example, you can tell where voices and other sounds are supposed to be coming from in a movie scene. With music, you can pick out the individual instruments better. [ Best Portable MP3 Speaker ]
An adjustable, semirigid loop on each earpiece nestles into the ridges of your outer ear, keeping the silicone tips firmly in your ear canals without feeling like they might wind up in your gray matter. The C5 also comes with a quilted carrying case featuring an integrated cable winder to prevent tangling when you carry it.
Another nice touch: The inline iPhone-compatible microphone and controller rejects ambient noise while picking up your voice clearly during phone calls. The three-way button has a groove in the center that lets you, just by feel, find the options to turn the volume up or down and select the play, pause and skip tracks/videos options without looking. [ Trygger iPhone Case Makes Sunny Photos Look Better ]
Keep in mind
The Bowers & Wilkins C5 blocks out just enough noise to let you enjoy your music, but it's deliberately not as tomblike as high-end active noise-canceling headphones. However, as with most in-ear headphones, you'll hear a bit of "cable thump" as the wires bounce around when you are charging down the street. Try putting the cabling under your shirt or blouse to keep it from flapping about.
The Bowers & Wilkins C5 sound is very detailed, with excellent bass. It has a unique, snazzy design with an inline mic that works well for calls. And it stays in your ears comfortably without being intrusive. We couldn't ask for more.
Bowers & Wilkins C5 Key Specs
- Weight: 0.7 ounces
- Cable length: 4 feet
- 3.5mm stereo mini jack
- Inline mic/controller for iPhone/iPod/iPad (only)