Antec ISO Review

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Antec, founded in 1986, is a company with a long standing history of cooling products with their notorious Antec 900 gaming chassis. Recognised as one of the best cooling companies on the market they certainly don’t have to fight for a space on the top list. However what I have with me today is not a piece of cooling equipment but rather a pair of wireless earphones from Antec. From a company with little to no experience in this sector, I’m sceptical on how their products will perform but with their proven track record in the cooling industry I’m certainly not holding it against them. Complete with in-line controls, Bluetooth compatibility and a striking aesthetic; I look forward to jumping into this review.

Specifications

  • Bluetooth V3.0+EDR
  • 10M (30 ft)
  • 2.4 ~ 2.480GHz
  • FHSS
  • Supports Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) 1.2, Hands-Free Profile (HFP) 1.5, Headset Profile (HSP) 1.1
  • Min 15 dB ~ Max 30 dB (@300 Hz)
  • 40(H) x 23(W) x 15(D) mm
  • Li-lon Battery 3.7V
  • 200 hrs
  • 8 hrs

The box is truly a fantastic design, with a window showing the earphones in their full glory on the edge of the box. On the front there is a photo of the actual earphones and in-line controls. With a red hue behind the photograph it gives the box a really eye catching aesthetic.

Looking to the rear of the box there is information on the specifications and an illustration outlining what’s inside the box.


After sliding out the box I’m greeted with another box of sorts, on the top of the box you’ll find the documentation which includes a user manual and a card showing other audio products by Antec.

Looking closer at the second box you can see that it’s more of a book requiring you to open it up to get inside. Once opened you’ll find:

  • 1 x Antec ISO
  • 1 x USB to MicroUSB cable
  • 6 x Ear Plugs (with 2 attached.)

 



Looking closer at the earphones they look slightly different to typical earphones with the plug design. The difference is due to the angled nature of the plugs; this should aid comfort and offer considerable noise blocking potential. Aesthetically they look great with a bright red cable and a metallic red cap on the back of the individual earphones.


Next looking toward the in-line controls they look pretty good coming equipped with:

  • Play/Pause
  • Volume Up
  • Volume Down
  • Next Track
  • Previous Track
  • Pairing
  • Microphone
  • Shirt Clip
  • Noise Cancelling Mode

The line-in fits in pretty well with the actual headphones sharing a similar aesthetic with the same metallic red and glossy black finish.

Looking at the whole piece of kit I do see one pitfall, the cable just isn’t long enough. When I wear them there isn’t much I can clip it to when wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Now this might be because of my height which comes in at 6 feet 4 inches, but truly it’d be better to have too long a cable than too short a one like in this scenario. Otherwise it looks good; a little disappointing to see a different shade of red compared to the one featured on the actual earphones and in-line controls, but certainly not a problem.

Build quality wise it all feels as solid as something like this can feel, the ear plugs attach detach very well and look like they can stand a bit of wear and tear. The shirt clip also looks very strong and doesn’t look likely to fall apart any time soon.

I’ll start first on the comfort of the earphones, they fit comfortably and securely into my ears with the pre-installed ear plugs but with the option of both smaller and larger plugs everyone should have a size which fits nicely. The in-line controls are of a good size inside your hand with decent overall placements on the controls. The only major concern is the length of the cable in which the only place I could clip it too was the sleeve on my t-shirt as otherwise when walking the controls bouncing around wouldn’t be a particularly nice experience.

The first thing I tested was not actually the sound quality, but the range of it. I was able to comfortably move around the upstairs part of my home without losing connection to my phone which was playing music to the earphones. When going between floors and such the range is reduced significantly being only able to function in the room directly below. I was quite impressed with the range, as really it does quite well, with the Bluetooth specification achieving quite close to the maximum range of around 30 feet.

Next I looked at the battery life which is rated at 8 hours in the specifications. I decided I’d use these on a standard trip out during the day, using them to walk around town and while commuting to town. Doing this for the entire day I didn’t even come close to running out of battery as I was still able to listen for several hours the next day, this makes the device a big winner in my eyes as the ability to last a normal days use is hugely important and with the extra juice leftover it’s even more impressive.

To wrap up we look at the one of the most important aspects which is the actual audio quality of the earphones.

Note: All comments may seem extreme but are to be taken lightly as they are the most minor details exaggerated to give insight to the user.

Test Bench

  • DAC/Soundcard: Audio-GD NFB3.1
  • Amplifier: Neco Soundlabs Mosfett Amp
  • Comparison Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-M50s, Sennheiser HD555s, Sennheiser MM70i
  • Phone: Samsung Galaxy S

The audio quality is what I can only describe as muddy on the high end of the spectrum and blown out on the lower end. What I mean by this is that they’ve sacrificed a neutral palette to offer higher bass at the cost of the highs and mids. There are many reasons in which this isn’t necessarily good, for example for someone who listens to many different genres this can create a bit of conflict meaning that they simply don’t work with other genres.

To test this theory out I listened to three different genres which are very different.

Classical

To keep it simple to test this track I listened to a real classic, which was a little bit of piano from Beethoven. They performed a little bit better than expected when it came to the lower notes but overall the balance of the earphones lacked the treble to really shine within this genre. With a little bit of EQ I’m sure you could tailor this closer to your needs, not only this there are many classical tracks which genuinely love the power of bass which these earphones can certainly offer.

Electronica

For the electronic aspect I turned to The Knife who has always been great for dishing out songs which can be truly great within the mid-range and lower end. As expected the earphones performed well here, for the small amount of highs in the track I was listening to they were sandwiched with bass anyway giving the illusion that they were executed well. Overall a great pair of earphones for this kind of genre, however that being said music in this genre changes massively between artists.

Rock

Finally I look at one of the hardest areas to perform in for these earphones, with their natural affinity toward both highs and bass needing a powerful mid-range to even try and bond the two powerhouses. My choice of artist was Metallica, having a strong following and also being the artist with some of my favourite tracks they seemed like a logical choice. I thought that the ability to play the bassy side of the tracks would help well with the performance in rock but the lacking guitar and vocals was a little bit of a problem, increasing the volume alleviated this problem a fair amount but without significant EQ the bass was rather overpowering.

Summary

To summarize the earphones have a natural affinity towards to the lows and bass sides of things, and anything which relies on this strength more than a little will really shine with these earphones. Although what I’ve written here doesn’t necessarily praise the good aspects of the earphones it’s important to note that most of these problems are more when being compared to the vast difference between the highs, mids, lows and bass as opposed to just being poor on the higher end of the spectrum. Overall a good pair of earphones and especially good if you love your tracks to really pop on the bassy side of things, I however much prefer a more neutral audio signature which may be why I didn’t enjoy these as much as I could have, with that being said however the ISO have definitely earned their space in my box of audio equipment.

I must say that I didn’t have my hopes up when I first got my hands on these as they were coming from a manufacturer with little experience in the audio market and not to mention the ‘Beats’eske visuals.

On the functionality side of things I’m very impressed with its great ergonomics and excellent feel when worn. With the slight niggle on the cable length it’s otherwise a very pleasurable experience. Moving on to the wireless performance I was very impressed with its long range which maintains clarity very well even across the distance of several rooms. Although I do question the fact if it being wireless in the first place was even necessary as really the biggest problem is cable length and with a little bit of length it’d just be a fully-fledged pair of wired earphones, or close to.

Next is the microphone quality which wasn’t particularly bad or good, it more or less mimicked my phones microphone with the added ease of access of being on my shirt meaning  I don’t have to hold my phone to my face.

Next moving on to the battery performance, this was a really strong suite of the earphones being able to last more than an entire day of use. If you were on the phone all day, and I literally mean ALL day, then it could be an issue but for any normal user there is more than enough battery life in these earphones, but again it begs the question, why are these even wireless in the first place?

Now for what I personally feel is the weakest area of the earphones by far which is unfortunately due to the fact that they’re designed to be good in this area. I will say that I enjoyed using them more than the Sennheiser earphones I reviewed more recently, but with a real issue just being the fact that both the Sennheiser’s and these have just focused on bass, which I suppose being that these are a consumer grade pair of earphones isn’t really a massive surprise but I’d love to see something with a tonne of treble as opposed to just bass and only bass.

To conclude I think that the usability of the earphones is fantastic doing almost everything perfect, but the audio performance really lets these earphones down. However if you’re looking for something which functions as a headset, is wireless and incredibly easy to use it’s hard not to recommend these earphones.

As such I’m giving these earphones a design award due to how well everything was executed except for the actual performance.

 

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

A great design with some really strong aspects, if executed a little bit better It’d be a definite buy from me. Good job Antec for providing a product which caters to usability well.

3.8

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