Added Jun 2013

Details: Sony headset designed for the Xperia line of smartphones
MSRP: $79.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price:$31 from ebay.com (bulk packaging); $55 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 15Ω| Sens: 115 dB/V | Freq: 1-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug J-cord with mic & 4-button Xperia remote (works as conventional 1-button with Android devices)
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down

Accessories (1.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes) and shirt clip
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The MH1C is rather well-made, with a metal housing, flexible strain reliefs, and a sturdy flat cable. However, it is this rubbery, j-style (asymmetric) cable that can also make the earphones very to use. The 4-button remote is designed for Sony Xperia phones but offers partial functionality with many other devices
Isolation (3.5/5) – Isolation is quite good
Microphonics (3/5) – J-corded IEMs typically manage to avoid microphonics but the rubbery flat cable in the MH1C still carries a lot of noise
Comfort (4/5) – The skinny housings and flexible tips of the MH1C provide a comfortable fit but the j-cord makes it difficult to wear the earphones cable-up

Sound (8.1/10) – Designed for smartphone users in search of great audio quality, the MH1C provides a warm, clear, and smooth sound only made more impressive by the reasonable price of the headset. The bass is deep and full, with an emphasis on sub-bass rather than mid-bass. Generally speaking, the MH1C has rather good bass quality with less mid-bass bloat than the Audio-Technica CKM500, for example. Considering the bass quantity, control is rather good although it’s still not as tight as the bass of the VSonic VC02 or the pricier Philips Fidelio S1.

The mids of the MH1C are not as prominent as the low end, but they are pleasantly warm and smooth. The treble, likewise, is very inoffensive without sacrificing overall refinement. I did sometimes wish for better overall balance as the bass emphasis of the MH1C results in occasional veiling, but the clarity is generally very good.

Better still is the high volume performance of the MH1C – the earphone remains very composed when played loud and its silky-smooth signature is conducive toward high-volume listening. Compared to the Brainwavz M5, for instance, the MH1C has less prominent mids and highs but is also smoother and more natural. Whereas the M5 can begin to distort slightly at high volumes, the MH1C produces no audible distortion.

The soundstage of the MH1C is a little narrower compared to the half in-ear ATH-CKM500 and the pricier Philips Fidelio S1 but the overall presentation is very good, providing a moderately airy and open sound despite the warm tone with good soundstage width and depth.

Select comparisons:

LG Quadbeat HSS-F420 ($32)

Not unlike the MH1C, the Quadbeat is a stock headset included with many LG smartphones. The sound signature of the Quadbeat is on the v-shaped side compared to the MH1C and its bass, especially subbass, is lower in quantity. The low end of the Quadbeat is a little tighter but the difference isn’t drastic. The LGs also sacrifice some of the warmth and fullness of the Sonys, giving up the excellent note thickness of the MH1C for a bit of added clarity, aided also by the extra treble energy of the Quadbeat. Next to the warm and smooth MH1C, the treble of the Quadbeat sounds brighter and harsher overall.

I ended up preferring the sound of the MH1C, which overall sounded more natural and convincing despite the extra bass. On a user-friendliness note, while I found the cable of the Quadbeat to be a lot more tolerable than that of the MH1C, its extra-soft stock eartips did not work for me and had to be replaced with a set of standard bi-flanges of the MEElectronics variety. The Quadbeat was also more sensitive, reaching loud volumes very easily.

VSonic VC02 ($49)

The VC02 is one of clearest and most balanced sub-$100 earphones I’ve ever heard, with a tiny 3mm dynamic driver providing a uniquely delicate, yet punchy sound. Unsurprisingly, the MH1C has a lot more bass and much warmer overall tone than the VC02. Its mids and treble are recessed in comparison to its bass whereas the VSonic set is rather well-balanced. The VC02 sounds brighter and thinner overall than the MH1C. It is clearer and more accurate, but the treble is harsher in comparison. The bass of the VC02 is surprisingly punchy considering its commitment to an accurate sound but remains tighter than that of the Sony.

In terms of overall usabilit, both sets can be a little frustrating – the VC02 sounds best with a rather deep fit and has detachable cables that are not connected to the housings as securely as I’d like. It really is an enthusiast’s IEM, requiring some care in use and storage. The MH1C is easier to fit and has a built-in remote and mic but also utilizes a cable that is rubbery and microphonic in comparison to the soft and flexible cord of the VC02.

VSonic VSD1 ($43)

The VSD1 was released as a budget version of VSonic’s popular GR07 model, providing a less analytical sound than the VC02 but retaining its technical performance. In comparison to the MH1C, the VSD1 is less bassy, boasting better overall balance and more neutral tone. Bass quality is similar between the two but the VSD1 is a touch clearer overall and boasts more treble presence. As with the pricier GR07, its treble does have a slight predisposition towards sibilance in comparison to the buttery-smooth MH1C. The soundstage is a touch wider with the VSD1 and again the VSonic is noticeably more sensitive than the Sony.

Value (9.5/10) – Despite my issues with its j-style cable, microphonics, and proprietary remote, the MH1C offers fantastic sound quality for the asking price, and beyond. The bass is deep and full, and the overall sound is smooth and inviting. As long as its skew towards bass is not an issue, this is a fantastic mid-range earphone for beginners and veterans alike, and one that offers as much audio quality per dollar as anything else I’ve come across.

Pros: Great deep bass & outstanding overall sound quality; comfortable form factor; good noise isolation
Cons: Rubbery, flat, j-style cable can be aggravating