In a world where $100-and-up earbuds seem to rule the roost, it's always pleasing to come across a decent pair at half the cost. The Maximo iM-490S iMetal Isolation Earphones fall squarely into this category. They may not offer the cleanest audio response or the most durable design, but these earbuds deliver on bass, comfort, and portability--and all for less than $50. If you're on a budget and like lots of low-end, the iMetal is worth a look.
If you like your earbuds to look like jewelry, you should be pleased with the iMetal earbuds' chrome-like finish--it's definitely more stylish than standard. The silver 'bud housing extends a half-inch down each side of the Y-cable, which is thinner than we'd like. This causes some concern for durability and tangling, especially since these 'phones lack the slider that can help prevent snarls. From earpiece to straight plug, the cable measures about 48 inches--plenty long enough for portable use. Maximo also includes a 24-inch cable extender, which make the headphones work for home applications, as well.
Adding to the iMetals' appeal as portable earphones is the inclusion of a clamshell carrying case with a built-in cable wrap. The case also has a mesh pocket for holding eartips (Maximo includes one set each in S, M, and L) or similarly tiny items. The eartips are the standard silicone variety, which I usually have trouble fitting properly in my small ears. However, in this case, the medium size worked just fine, and I was able to achieve an adequate seal for bass response and noise isolation. In fact, I found the iMetals to be quite comfortable, but should note that the actual aperture (where the eartip attaches) is quite large and may cause problems for those with small or irregularly-shaped (i.e. not perfectly round) ear openings.
Sound quality is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the iMetal earphones. On the one hand, you get super-thumping bass and a surprising amount of high-end detail. Mids, however, can have a slightly bright or digital quality to them. Also, clarity isn't the greatest at times because of the overwhelming low-end. Many songs have a muffled quality--almost as if you were listening underwater, except you can still hear a lot of detail. Some styles of music, such as jazz, don't really suffer from the problem, but others (electronica, rock) are tainted. Still, if you place all your favor in the land of bass--and you don't have lots of cash to drop on headphones--the iMetals could do just fine.