Audiovox-owned brand Acoustic Research, a company best known for producing low-cost speakers and turntables, is trying its hand at headphones. On the portable side, the new line includes the ARE05 Noise-Isolating earphones. This inexpensive set may not be the most comfortable or best-sounding earbuds we've laid ears on, but with a list price close to $40, they're not exactly the worst option out there. Budget-conscious frequent-fliers with limited carry-on space should consider the ARE05s worthy of a look.
The Acoustic Research ARE05 earphones are clearly designed with travel in mind--the company even includes a hard-shell carrying case for storage during transport. There are also six different eartips--three sizes in silicone and three sizes in compressible foam--to help ensure a proper seal with the ear, which is necessary in order to take advantage of the noise-isolating quality of the earphones. Unfortunately, the earbuds themselves are rather large and the eartips rest flush, so it can be difficult to get a proper fit unless you really shove them into the ear. As you might imagine, this is not the most comfortable scenario for many people; our ears started to get sore after about an hour of wear.
Another downside to the ARE05's earbuds is that they are made out of plastic and as a result, have a cheap feel. (The hard plastic does no favors for comfort, either.) To the earphones' credit, the cable does not feel so cheap, and it offers a slider at the Y to help prevent tangling. The entire cord measures about 4 feet, which is sufficient for most portable applications. Taller people and those who like to keep a player in a backpack may find it necessary to add an extender, though.
During audio testing, we got some mixed results from the Acoustic Research ARE05. On the plus side, these earphones are capable of delivering some heavy bass. On the other hand, it's not the tightest bass we've come across. Songs with a lot of low-end and a male singer (Beck's "The Information," for example) tend to sound pretty mushy. In other cases, as with Lady Sovereign's "Tango," music had an overly bright quality. Still, the mids and highs are not lost overall, and many songs sound just fine. Not great, but OK. The amount of noise-isolation is heavily dependent on how good of a fit an individual user can get. We weren't able to get much.