The Rs 1,000-2,000 price bracket is saturated with IEMs that range from different variations of disappointing to titan-killers that give rivals costing twice as much a run for their money. However, the earphone spectrum rarefies beyond the two thousand rupee mark, where the variation in sound quality between contenders isn't as dramatic as it's evident in the lower end of IEM totem pole. Priced at Rs 2,499, Creative's brand new HS660i2 joins the sparse ranks of mid-end in-ear earphones such as the Brainwavz M1, SoundMAGIC PL50, and Sennheiser CX300. The brand is well known amongst the IEM-worshipping crowd mainly for its budget-conscious EP-630 IEMs, which offer great value for money, if not the most balanced performance. The HS660i2, however, is targeted at the more discerning listeners, who seek more than just plentiful bass in their IEMs.
The Creative HS660i2 sounds excellent for the price, but is let down by poor build quality
Design, build quality and hands-free
These mid-end Creative offering bears a striking resemblance to the CX300 with its characteristic hemispherical enclosures. However, this IEM opts for the flamboyance of chrome accents surrounding the pastel shades of five variants available in white, blue, pink, green and black. This is in stark contrast to the understated design cues of the Sennheiser. While the CX300 bears a protective cable guide originating from the enclosures, the HS660i2's wire emerges from the chassis without any such safeguard against wire-stripping tensile forces. Not surprisingly, initial consumer reports on the Internet have instances of users reporting such damage. Moreover, the cable is too short to be used with anything but your iPhone or PMP. Then again, this isn't exactly supposed to be a desktop audio solution. To put it in a nutshell: the white version I have received for review looks quite adorable, but that still doesn't change the fact that the overall build quality and finish levels don't quite justify its asking price of Rs 2,499.
The angled acoustic chamber does wonder for soundstage and imaging
Ergonomics and isolation
That still doesn't mean that the Creative HS660i2 needs to hide behind the chaos of the city to sound acceptable. Its excellent sound quality shines through even in the tranquil confines of your house. As mentioned earlier, this IEM's tonal balance is on the darker end of the spectrum, which makes it especially ideal for commuting. However, unlike most darker sounding alternatives at this price range, the HS660i2's 9 mm neodymium drivers have better control over the quality and quantity of the low-end frequencies. Despite just some 15-odd hours of break in, the bass is surprisingly tight for a product selling at this price. The bass authority is admirable, while also ensuring that the lower rumbling notes decay with pleasing agility. This means, the HS660i2 can handle bass much better than the boomy and imprecise fare found in the Brainwavz M1 and, to some extent, even in the Sennheiser CX300. Needless to say, EDM tracks from David Guetta and his ilk sound quite punchy and interesting with these earphones. Just don't expect these to go too low and pack the punch of more expensive multi-driver IEMs.
The inline mic and controls work reliably only with iDevices
Verdict and price in India
What you have here is a mid-end IEM sporting brilliant tonal balance that allows it to sound well with almost any genre of music. It's comfortable and keeps ambient noise at bay well enough to be used in noisy Bombay traffic. The soundstage is wide and expansive with a strong centre image and great separation between instruments. The icing on the cake is that this is one of the rare IEMs that delivers great quantity and quality of bass, without compromising on mids and high-frequency detail. The only problem is that the Creative HS660i2 seems to fall apart the moment you take it out of the box, whereas the hands-free functionality doesn't seem to work on most non iDevices.
The cable is short but is sized just right for phones and PMPs
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