Anyone who has owned an iPod or other MP3 player knows the discomfort that can be caused by stock earbuds. In fact, fit is one of the chief reasons to replace those 'buds with something more worthy of your ears. In the realm of comfort, we've come across few pairs of in-ear headphones that hit the nail as squarely as Maximo's iMetal iM-590 Isolation Earphones. This $60 set may not sound as good as some competitors in its price range, but the superior noise isolation and ultra cushy fit make it a solid option for frequent fliers with a penchant for comfort in a compact design.
Maximo knows a little something about comfortable design, as evidenced by the company's iM-490S earphones. In the case of the iMetal iM-590, we attribute the cushy fit to two factors. First, the earpieces are elongated to fit deeper into the ear, rather than short and squat as with the Ultimate Ears MetroFi 170. Also, the silicone eartips are double- and triple-flanged, which means no part of the metal earbud rubs against the ear; rather, it's completely covered by the soft silicone barrier. Beyond fit, the iM-590s offer a fair amount of style with their chrome accents and cloth-covered cable.
With the iM-590 earphones, Maximo includes a nice array of accessories. There's a nice, hard-shelled carrying case with a cable manager and pouch built into the interior, as well as three sets of flanged eartips. You also get a dual-pronged airplane adapter, a 2.5mm plug connector (for use with some cell phones), and a removable shirt clip. If the 4-foot cord isn't long enough for you, there's an additional 24 inches in the form of an extender cable. A slider at the Y-junction of the main cord helps prevent tangles when the earphones are not in use. One thing that is missing is a mic/call answer button for taking calls on your music phone, so don't get these for that purpose.
During testing, we pitted the Maximo iMetal iM-590 earphones against the similarly priced Ultimate Ears MetroFi 170. The iM-590's bass response was notably mushier than that of the MetroFi, which tended to make music sound more muffled overall. The clarity and high-end detail representation from the MetroFi was also better than that offered by the Maximo set. However, we preferred the warmth of the iMetal earphones to the brightness of the UE model. Also, the features and comfort of the iM-590 have the MetroFi in spades. And because the iMetal 'phones fit us better, we found the noise isolation to be superior. All in all, the iMetal iM-590 earphones provide decent sound quality over a variety of genres, and we can recommend them as a huge improvement in comfort over the stock set that came with your MP3 player.