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The chore of finding just the right discreet personal audio solution is a great problem to have. In-ear headphones and earbuds are as plentiful as ninjas on Halloween. Still wading through the morass of options is seemingly never-ending. We do like the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear though. Long-standing audio expert Harman Kardon aims to intensify that bottomless well of options as they toss in the Harman/Kardon Beautiful Sound NI Precision in-ear headphones for iOS devices.
The Harman/Kardon NI headphones are rather modest in appearance. They pack a bit more style and sophistication than the plain-Jane dB Logic EP-100 headphones, but they don’t have that classic style that comes with the iHome SD63 Soundesign Retro headphones. The earbud backings are squared with rounded and embossed backs opposite the earbuds. The in-line remote features a mic and a 3-button design, which should be familiar to any iOS device user. Use the remote for volume control, play, pause, track skipping back and forth, and a truncated host of phone functions (only answer and hangup). It’s simple and works well with responsive easy to reach buttons. I have to say, it’s also quite snazzy decked out in chrome and black trim.
The pack includes the Beautiful Sound NI earbuds, which end in a standard .35mm connector and three separate sizes for your silicon earbud sleeves. Medium seems to be the best fit for me in most cases, while the wife’s tiny ears will jettison anything larger than the smallest of sizes. You also get a magnetically sealed box for easy transport when not in use. It comes in a flat black matte color with “Harmon/Kardon” discreetly etched in the lower right corner. They’re truly so stylish, not even the Creative Labs HS 930i2 earbuds could hold a candle to them.
The performance really matches the look: smooth and modest. Audio playback in both music and movies is very smooth with no distortion, hiss, or unwanted feedback (at max levels). The frequency for Harmon/Kardon NI in-ear headphones is 20k-20k and the unit utilizes a 3/8 (9mm) driver system. I have absolutely zero complaints. Clarity is rich and powerful with its only rival to date being the a-Jays we reviewed a few months back. Those will run you about $30 less. While the V-Moda Virbratos earbuds take the comfort and innovation trophies and will hit for about $20 more than the Harmon/Kardon NI earbuds.
But for a $100 you could do worse. The NI earbuds perform quite well but still exit the race behind the a-Jays which are more than 25% less. On their own, they stand firm and tall. But other offerings leave me uncomfortable to recommend these over some similarly priced solutions. And, for a pair of buds that aren’t too expensive, you’ll want to check out our iD America Spark Hi-Def in-ear headphones.
Bottom Line: A bit overpriced next to some similar options on the market. Still, the performance is solid and the look and feel are spot on!