Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi Noise Isolating Earphones Review
Most of us are familiar with earphones. These ‘small speakers’ have been out for as long as I could remember bundled with portable devices such as those retro Gameboy’s and today’s MP3 players.
Earphones come in several varieties, are easy to make and inexpensive to produce. They are convenient compared to full-size headphones that you don’t want to bring along with you and both exhibit different characteristics. Typical earphones are ones that you stuck on the out outside of your ear canal. They are still present in today’s market but that is quickly changing.
New earphone designs now allow the penetration of the actual driver inside your ears sealed but what looks like earplugs creating a barrier between what you hear and external ambient noise. By cancelling outside noise, you don’t need to use as much volume as before to hear music and it provides an experience that feels like you are hearing the music live at a concert allowing you to feel connected to your music. In fact these new noise isolating earphones provide superior noise reduction than anything out there right now, providing a minimum of 10dB reduction of ambient noise and that number goes upwards from there from product to product and material to material.
Note: Many names can be given for these new earphones. In-ear earphones/canal headphones, canalphones, in-ear monitors (IEM) all mean the same thing. I’ll call them canalphones.
Ultimate Ears has just recently announced the release of their new MetroFi Series line of canalphones. As the name would suggest, these products are targeted toward regular folks like you and me -- the commuter, city dwellers who take their music everywhere they go – ranging from $49.99 to $99.99US.
About Ultimate Ears
Ultimate Ears defines itself as a manufacturer of fine listening devices that was founded in 1995 by Van Halen sound engineer Jerry Harvey. Since August 2008, Ultimate Ears was acquired from Logitech.
Pulled from the Logitech website: “In August 2008 Logitech agreed to acquire Ultimate Ears, which offers a range of earphones for portable-music enthusiasts as well as a line of custom-fit in-ear monitors for music professionals.
Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi Features
The Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi comes in a very attractive plastic packaging that is very simple to open as opposed to those bloody plastic blister packages that you can cut your fingers with. Product features and content listing is listed at the front and back of the product. The actual product is prominently shown in the foreground and showcases the sexy glossy look of the in-earphones. These earphones look really amazing.
Purchasing the MetroFi 220vi noise cancelling earphones for $99.99US will provide you with the following items with your purchase…
The MetroFi 220vi is one beautiful looking canalphone. The gloss exterior looks like chrome and in my opinion sports a gunmetal accent depending how light shines on it. I know that nowadays that some people purchase things on looks alone and the MetroFi 220vi has looks to die for, just too gorgeous to describe. Whether that translates into great sound quality remains to be seen…sometimes looks and quality don’t go in the same sentence.
Included with the MetroFi 220vi are one pair of each size soft, silicone ear cushion inserts. These are clear colored and have a soft squishy feel to them. They are comfortable in my ear and have good grip, staying in the canal of my ear even during heavy head shaking. Installation of these silicone inserts is very easy and requires very little effort, there is no need to tilt and try to fit them on, sliding them on and off is all that is needed with the MetroFi 220vi canalphones.
One of the nice little touches I love about the MetroFi 220vi is how it is color coded. This seems like a small thing but in actuality it works wonderfully well as I do not have to turn the canalphone upside down to see if it’s meant for the left or right ear, I can spot the red accent and realize that it’s for my right ear. Amazing how a simple thing can be so useful.
The MetroFi 220vi’s speaker driver is open and is not covered by a mesh so sometimes a little earwax can go inside this opening. You can try to tap it out, blow it out or use a toothpick to clean the opening. It would have been nice if Ultimate Ears provided some sort of tool for this, but nonetheless it’s relatively easy to combat.
When using canalphones a characteristic you will come to experience is one that feels like you’re somehow underneath water where you can hear you’re every movement. That’s the same feeling you will have when wearing canalphones but the movements you hear will be from the cord shuffling about against your body and also your own voice/breath. There’s nothing you can do about the latter but with the former, a clip that could hold the cord against your shirt would probably help.
I have small ear openings so I utilized the small silicone inserts since the bigger ones would not fit. The first time I inserted them into my ear, it felt strange and provided a somewhat hurting sensation. I suppose it was because my ear openings were being stretched than it was used to, very similar to how it would feel like pulling on your skin. After a few days of use, I got use to the sensation. I’m not entirely sure if Ultimate Ears could make even smaller inserts, but I would sign up for those since it would clear away the stretchy sensation. But nonetheless, the seal it gives is remarkable and it doesn’t fall out.
The silicone inserts provide very good noise isolation. Ultimate Ears claims a 16 db noise reduction (that’s very noticeable, like two to three times less noise) and while I cannot scientifically validate that number, it makes quite a difference in real world testing. It drowns out lots of external noise and prevents me from hearing people who were calling my name, they had to come and tap me on my shoulder to get my attention.
The Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi has great sound quality and excellent noise cancellation. I will never go back to regular earphones again. Canalphones is where it’s at; they sound great and drown out external noise like no other. The sound is just as good as a quality headphone. While the MetroFi 220vi isn’t the best sounding unit I’ve heard, its right up there and I can only imagine what the more expensive offerings will sound. For the price, the MetroFi 220vi would be a great choice for on the go music.
First of all I tested the MetroFi 220vi on my computer with an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 soundcard instead of testing it on any sort of MP3 player. I chose this for sound quality reasons; this setup provides unparalleled sound quality over any source available to me. Next I listened to audio CD’s and 320kbs encoded MP3’s, OGGs and FLACS with a flat equalizer.
I also “broke-in” the canalphones through about 48 hours of “pink-noise” looping over and over. This is to supposedly open up the dynamic drivers the MetroFi 220vi contains.
When I test anything sound related, the most important thing I’m looking for is balance between low, mid and high frequencies. I should not be able to distinguish a prominent characteristic if the product is balanced.
Low frequency – The MetroFi 220vi provides thumping bass. There is no doubt that the MetroFi is perfect for you if you like bass. I just cannot believe the amount of bass these small canalphones put out, I’m very impressed. The delivery is smooth and there is little to no distortion at higher volumes. This is not the problem area of this canalphone.
Mid frequency – The MetroFi 220vi provides very good mid-frequency reproduction. Voices are generally clean and with good reproduction and instruments sound clear. For the most part this area is generally not the problem area of this canalphone but it is the area leading to the problem.
High frequency - Between the mid-to-high frequencies, I desire more treble for clarity and the MetroFi 220vi I have tested is lacking in this department by just a little bit meaning the balance is being upset. The treble is being overtaken mostly by the low-frequency and a little bit from the mid-frequency reducing overall vibrancy. The sound coming from the MetroFi 220vi I would say is 95% vibrant, but missing the 5% because they are being drowned out. Playing with the equalizer does help a bit when you lift the mid and the highs by just a bit.
I like the Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi a lot and feel it deserves your consideration. I don’t think you will be disappointed with the product but you have to take into consideration what it’s targeted for and how it performs. It’s targeted for on-the-go use and if you like bass, this is for you. If you like vocals the MetroFi 220vi is good but desires a little more treble.
I would not hesitate in recommending the Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi, it does a lot more good than what it struggles with and that’s just by a little bit realistically speaking.
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