Aiwa Shellz Review

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Aiwa Shellz
Brief: Distinctive but sadly discontinued clip-ons from Aiwa, new pairs of which can still be found overseas and on eBay

MSRP: $19.99 (discontinued)
Current Price: N/A

Build Quality (6/10): The glittery shells of the Aiwas are made of plastic with a bit of metal trim. The plastic clips are not removable and cannot be reshaped like the KSC75 clips but do swing upward on a hinge for easier fitting. The transparent cabling is rather soft and flexible. Like so many mainstream clip-ons the Aiwas are j-corded and the cable terminateswith an angled plug.

Comfort (5.5/10): The Shellz fit similarly to the majority of clip-ons except for one thing – the clearance between the earpads and clips is quite small and my portly ears feel rather constrained when jammed in there. On the upside, the Aiwas are more secure on my ears than most clip-ons. The pads, too, are cloth rather than foam and actually feel quite pleasant.

Isolation (4.5/10): Quite typical for a medium-sized supraaural and better than the average clip-on

Sound (6.25/10): Glitzy looks and swiveling clips aside, sound quality is where the Shellz surprised me most. Released in Asia as the HP-EC1 and worldwide as the HP-EC101, 103, and 104 (color variations) back in 2001, the Shellz pre-dated the legendary Koss KSC35s by two years and the KSC75s – by four. Despite this, their sound is very competitive today. The Shellz remind me of the pricier Yuin G2A clip-ons – their sound signature is similarly balanced and controlled. The bass is tight and punchy – not as rumbly as that of the KSC75 but also not nearly as bloated. The midrange is slightly forward and vocals have good presence and air. Clarity and detail are excellent and the mids are extremely crisp, making the Koss clip-ons sound distant and slightly muddy in comparison. A slight bit of warmth is present but the Shellz are certainly closer to neutrality than the KSC75s are. The high end is sparkly and prominent, less laid-back than that of the KSCs but not nearly as grating as that of (un-equalized) Sony MDR-Q68s. Presentation is airy but the vocals are somewhat intimate due to the forward mids. Positioning and separation are quite decent and again remind me of the Yuins. Overall a very enjoyable sound signature and a steal at $15.

Value (8.5/10): Though the Aiwa Shellz have been discontinued for some time, it is still possible to find NOS sets online, especially outside of the US. The isolation and build quality of the headphones are quite typical of low-end clip-ons and comfort suffers slightly due to the tight clips, putting the Shellz slightly below the Sony MDR-Q68 in overall usability. The sound, however, is surprisingly balanced, accurate, and enjoyable, making the Shellz worthy of an honorable mention here despite their age and poor availability. And yes, they do come in a toned-down black color scheme in addition to the glittery blue and red versions. Those looking for a stable and reasonably-priced clip-on for exercising or general use may do well to grab a set of the decade-old Aiwas before they’re all gone.

Manufacturer Specs:
Frequency Response: 15 – 24,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ω
Sensitivity: 102 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 3.5ft (1m) + 2.3ft (0.7m) extension, j-cord; Angled Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: N/A

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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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