Review: Yamaha EPH-50 Headphones

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For avid earbud users (and abusers) the entire concept of “noise-canceling” is a feature that just never seems to work correctly.

No matter how snug the bud, there’s just no way to eliminate the clamor of the outside world (especially for those of us who work in places as rowdy as get-gadget). Yamaha’s EPH-50 headphones may not change any minds about this, but their slick — albeit slightly goofy — design offers hope.

The EPH-50s are fairly standard in-ear headphones, but the guts, unlike many spherical or barrel-shaped designs, are spread out flat, like a saucer, so they mostly cover the concha (the inner bowl that leads into the external auditory meatus).

The disc shape provides a suction-tight seal but also just a bit of the over-the-ear cupping action found in full headphones. So if you’re in the office or on the street, outside noise is minimal. It’s not totally noise-canceling, but it does keep most of the racket out.

How do they sound? Pretty good, actually. We tossed Motown, Dave Brubeck, Jay-Z and even a few Glee covers (don’t judge!), and the EPH-50s delivered solid sonic quality.

Then we hit them with the big guns: a mixtape of “I Want You” by Theophilus London. London can work enough styles — soul, hip-hop, Calypso, electro, a smattering of rock — into one track to test nearly every range in one madcap three-minute outburst. The EPH-50s passed this test, just not with flying colors.

Admittedly, these are not the best buds we’ve ever heard, but the dynamic drivers pack decent bang for their 100 bucks; deep bass, clear vocals and some competent separation. The highs were a little airy but not unbearable.

What is unbearable, however, is after a few hours the disc design puts some decent strain on the inner ear.

They’re not perfect, but for a compact design that delivers big-can sound, the EPH-50 buds deliver. Just be careful not to wear them for too long.

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