I treat headphones really badly. I estimate I’ve broken more than US$600 worth of in-ear headphones since we started travelling in 2006. In comparison, my Apple Powerbook has only collapsed in the last few months, and we bought that mid-2005.

In my attempt to destroy every set of find the best headphones for me, I ended up with the Sleepphones that I love so much: they’re great for sleeping on trains, planes and busses — plus you can pull them over your eyes as a make-shift eye mask. I wear them to bed, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, nearly every night.

Next up, I replaced my Sennheiser earphones with a pair of Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220vi. It’s been a long time since my Sennheiser were at their best. In fact, I destroyed them so badly it took my mate Chris 25 minutes with a soldering iron before I could bring them back from the dead. They had been hibernating in my electronics kit for about a year before that.

Warranty, you ask? Sennheisser stockists in Austria, Australia and New Zealand all refused to take them back, since I had bought them in the United Kingdom. And I wasn’t paying courier fees to send them back myself.

The MetroFi 220vi review

These are simply the best-sounding headphones I’ve owned at or around this price-range (which is, admittedly, the highest I’m willing to go). I’ve read over how they achieve this and, technically, it’s quite impressive. From a user’s point-of-view, it adds up to great, clear-sounding music.

One of my favourite bands is a Kiwi outfit by the name of Eight. They disbanded a few years back (and I made it to that last-ever gig!). They’re reminiscent of Sigur Ros at their most intricate, multi-layered and rock-focussed. Basically, there’s a lot going on – from the deepest bass, tight percussion, and some of those high-pitch vocals and squiggly bits. (At this point, you can be glad I’m a traveller, and not a music writer!)

The point? Eight sounds awesome with these headphones. Much better than the $25 cheapies I had been surviving on, and the re-engineered Sennheisser headphones which I was glad to go back to. I’m really glad MetroFi sent me a pair for review (and I’m not sending them back).

I was excited about the mic

The exciting thing about the headphones was that they had a built-in microphone. I could finally use my iPod touch for Skype calls, voice memos, and on-the-fly podcasts! The mic is clear and has been working well on both the iPod touch and the two laptops. Skype calls are going well, and I’ve been using them to narrate various screencasts too. I haven’t gotten around to starting those on-the-fly podcasts yet, though.

I was excited about the mic, but I was pleasantly surprised by the plastic case they came with. A case! For my headphones! No more winding them around my iPod. No more tangles with keys and video camera in my trouser pockets. No more earbuds ripped from the cables. The plastic case is a traveller’s dream.

Comfort and discomfort

When you’re spending dozens of hours listening to material on trains, planes and automobiles, it’s important to have comfy earphones. The earphones came with three sets of white rubber earpieces: small and conical, wider and conical, wide and mushroom shaped. My old combo was left-ear narrow; right-ear mushroom.

It’s important to have comfy earphones

I tried that for a few weeks and it just wasn’t working out. Right-ear narrow seemed to work well with the MetroFi sizing but I’m stuffed if I can find a comfortable left-ear option. Everything’s uncomfortable and the ear-piece keeps creating wax or working its way out of my ear — meaning I’m constantly playing with it and re-adjusting it. I’ve tried working through all the rubber attachments from my most-recent Sennheisser headphones, but they’re no good either.

The moral? They’re half-comfy for me! Acceptable for shorter journeys; a pain when it comes to longer journeys. I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to find a good solution soon. Otherwise I can pay lots, like WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. Or not.

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