All this designy goodness is all well and good, but you can just throw it by the wayside if the headphones don't sound good. Luckily, the Turbines don't suffer from this problem. "Paper Moon" from Whiskeytown's Pneumonia album had a rich tonal balance that's rare on in-ear headphones. The song's orchestration was gorgeously portrayed so the basses and cellos had a weighty presence. The high strings were clear, the drums' detailing was exceptional, and Ryan Adams' vocals had just the right balance of articulation and warmth. As for the Turbines' "In-Ear Speakers" tag, well, we wouldn't go that far. They sounded like headphones to us.
But the Turbines didn't flatten dynamics; we heard more of the music's soft-to-loud liveliness than we get from our reference Etymotic ER-4 in-ear headphones ($299). In that sense, the Turbines were more speakerlike. They bettered the ER-4 on just about every count, they had superior high and low frequency clarity. But the ER-4's eartips had a more reliable fit and blocked outside noise better. That was obvious on New York City's noisy subway; the Turbines let more of the racket through. Also, when listening in quieter locations, we were very aware of clothing noises rustling the Turbine's cable. The slightest rub against the cable was very audible.
We next compared the Turbine with Klipsch's Image in-ear headphones ($349). The Image was more comfortable, easily achieved a more secure fit and seal, and delivered considerably more bass fullness on the Raconteurs' Broken Boy Soldiers album. That said, the Turbine sounded more present, the band's thrashing guitars jumped out of the mix, and the sound was more "open," less stuck inside our heads. Impact and pedal-to-the-metal dynamic oomph were superb. The Turbine's bass is certainly full enough and had better pitch definition than the Image. In fact, the Turbine's bass, midrange, and treble tonal balance were remarkably consistent. And all this from headphones that cost half as much as the Etymotic and Klipsch headphones--the Turbine earphones definitely offer the best bang for the buck in this test group. Park them in your ears and let the good times roll.