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Just six months ago, we took a look at Arctic Sound's E361 earphones. They were not only stylish and affordable, but also capable of producing enjoyable, accurate sound. Barely half a year later, Arctic has us taking a look at their newest earphones - the E461. Compared to Arctic's previous product, the E461 costs $27 more (49.95 vs. 22.95), features lower sensitivity and impedance, but has slightly better frequency response for the low-end. Lower impedance means that the unit will be more efficient in using electrical energy, whereas lower sensitivity implies that the earphones need more power to sound loud. On paper, these two items should balance one another out. Hopefully, however, the E461 proves to be a solid upgrade to the existing E361. The improved low-end (on paper) is a certainly welcomed addition.
• Frequency Response: 17 Hz - 26 KHz
• Impedance: 12 ohm
• Sensitivity: 96 dB/mW
• Cable Length: 1.3 m with 3.5 mm plug
• Weight: 14 g
• Limited Warranty: 2 years
• Stainless steel mesh filter - protects the driver from ear wax and other debris
• Interchangeable silicone caps - provide snug fit to every ear and seal out noise
• Hardened aluminum capsule - leads to higher clarity and improved linearity in lower bass
• Neodymium magnet driver - ensures rich transient response for precise details
Arctic Cooling's Product Page
Price: $49.95 @ Arctic Cooling
Artic's new packaging is certainly an improvement. They kept the same general theme, but left out extraneous information and condensed the physical dimensions of the box. It's a lot less overwhelming for a consumer, while still providing all of the necessary details. The cardboard is still a bit on the thin side, but, thanks to the sturdy plastic window, the E461 shouldn't get crushed during transit.
The front of the packaging is actually a magnetic flap that can be opened to reveal the E461's features. On the side of the box you can find a list of the contents (besides the manual). Arctic has definitely upped the accessory bundle for the E461.
Inside the Packaging:
The carrying case is significantly sturdier than the carrying case included with the E361 earphones. You also won't have to worry about the metal emblem scratching any of your possessions. And, the exterior of the case has a carbon fiber-like sheen; it looks very professional. Arctic has also decided to leave out the in-case cable winder and instead opt for a more versatile external unit. They've included a total of six sets of silicone caps; two types ("bullet" tip and rounded) with three sizes (small, medium, and large). Having so many extras is nice, especially considering how easy it is to lose silicone caps (I always recommend using foam tips). Finally, there is a multi-language manual (you can view the manual here), cable clip, and a TRRS splitter. The TRRS splitter is definitely nice if you would like to use the microphone with a laptop or another, non-TRRS supporting device.
The E461 Itself:
The E461 earphones are sleek and stylish. The front of the driver enclosure, the strain relief, and the silicone caps are all jet black and are a nice contrast to the plastic chrome housing. The earphone nozzles are well notched, so silicone tips will stay attached to the unit. One of my largest complaints with the E361 was the weak earphone strain relief, so it's definitely nice to see somewhat of an improvement.
Arctic has also beefed up the audio connector's strain relief - this should prevent premature device failure. Unfortunately, the cable is still rather thin. This means that, unless you always use the cable winder, you are going to be stuck dealing with a knotted, tangled mess of cable. As with the E361, I would really like to see Arctic use sturdier cabling. I am pleased to see that Arctic has replaced the tacky, "touch-sensitive" control unit and has instead opted to use a matching, matte black unit. The single button has a satisfying click and, while a little high on the cable, is positioned well enough to make changing songs or accepting phone calls easy enough. The high positioning, while a bit detrimental to the in-line controls, definitely puts the on-board microphone exactly where it needs to be. Unfortunately, unless you are using the cable clip, the flimsy wiring make it difficult to keep the microphone in an ideal position.
Moving in to testing, I figured that it would be beneficial to finish evaluating the cabling. Unfortunately, the thin cable is fairly microphonic. This means, especially for active use (weight lifting, running, et cetera), you will definitely rustling over the earphones. It's not the worst that I have heard, but if you prefer listening to your music at lower volume levels, it can be distracting.
In terms of overall comfort, I am somewhat disappointed. The inclusion of a wide array of well-machined silicone tips is generous, but the actual fit is somewhat poor. The E361 earphones nicely curved into the ear and easily provided a snug fit. While testing the E461 earphones I found that the only way to get a proper fit was to use the earphones in an over-the-ear fashion. But, because of the thin cable and lack of memory wire or cable molds, over-the-ear usage is cumbersome. Not only that, but the shape of the housing causes some in-ear discomfort. Also, even with the correct tip, they seemed to have a difficult time staying in my ear canal; the "bullet" tips amplified this issue.
If you, however, are interested in mostly using the E461's headset features with your mobile phone, you should be pleased. Thanks to the solid positioning of the microphone, recording is incredibly clear, crisp, and definitely not sibilant. The individual on the other end of the conversation will have no issues hearing or understanding you. And, the in-line remote control functions very well (with iOS devices). You can initiate voice dialing, answer a call, end a call, and even refuse an incoming call - all from a sleek remote. For music playback, you will be able to play/pause or go to the next/previous track.
As with the E361, the treble (or "high-end") is somewhat disappointing. Vocals sound especially hollow and the sound signature is lacking in character. There is no "sparkle"; the sound is less enjoyable and more fatiguing than I traditionally like. Fortunately, the treble isn't tinny and is still decently represented - you won't have much difficulty isolating vocals and cymbals. But, the high-end's harsh characteristics do make the E461 earphones weak for indie rock and pop-infused, electronic genres. Per the box, the sound signature is definitely linear and flat. Unfortunately, unless you are using expensive audio equipment and monitoring sound or working on a mix, you generally want a little bit of "fun" and certainly do not want a big roll-off in the high-end.
The mid-range is a little bit better. There isn't a huge amount of resolution or detail, but separation is satisfactory and lower pitch percussion sounds decent enough. If you're up to the task of playing with an equalizer, definitely boost the high-end of the mid-range frequencies to receive a much fuller sound.
I decided to save the best for last. If you're looking for clear and clean bass, the E461 earphones deliver the low-end. You won't be getting large, powerful thumps, but will definitely hear a low-end profile that isn't muddy or distorted. The bass isn't overpowering, but still manages to remain satisfying.
The E461 is nearly the inverse of the E361. Instead of lacking bass and having a strong mid-range, the E461 has better low-end, but a weak, boring mid-range. If you are looking for a versatile pair of earphones and the microphone/headset functionality isn't particularly important, I would definitely recommend you look elsewhere. The microphone functionality is better than the E361's, but the E461 isn't particularly fun to use for long periods of listening - both because of comfort and sound signature. For the solid headset features, I could definitely recommend the E461 if it was at a lower price point. As it stands, you might actually want to take a look at the original, less expensive E361 earphones.
Microphone is well-placed and records clear audio
Impressive accessory package
Clean, crisp low-end
Cabling is thin and microphonic
Comfort is definitely lacking
Sound signature is disappointing
Thanks go to Eason Chung at Arctic for the opportunity to take a look at the E461!
I got a some what similar head phones except they are not as rounded. Although they do fit nicely and don't bug me or anything but they tend to fall of if you do exercise or move alot. They are good when you are sationary or do little movement like walking. Overall they aren't bad and give me good audio quality. Sadly i dont know the brand or name but i got them off of ebay around 6$ and for thet price they do their job. Nice rieview on these earphones !
They are pretty decent for the prize.
I am about to do a review on another set of earphones that I believe will blow these away in terms of price to performance.
If there is interest, it might be fun to give them away for a contest.