Buying earphones is a right minefield. You start out your music-listening career with whatever came with your player of choice, then graduate to something a bit more noise-cancelly, then you start buying buds that cost around £30-£60. Then these inevitably break so you buy a similar pair and so on and so forth until, at some point, you ask yourself if, this time, it’d worth spending a serious amount of cash on their replacement.

Well, is it? I’ve been using the £199 Atomic Floyd SuperDarts + Remote to try and find out.

The above has been my exact journey. Having somehow destroyed several pairs of mid-range earphones (simply by using them), I’ve been questioning how wise it would be to go all out on the next pair. And the Floyds are just that: pricey, premium and red all over. How do they fare?

Looks

Once you’ve managed to break your way into the Floyd’s astronaut-grade packaging, you’ll notice one thing: these don’t look like the sort of earphones you get for the mid range price mark. And to be fair, when you’re paying £199, you don’t expect to see an abundance of black plastic. What you get instead is stainless steel. The buds are hewn of the stuff, and shaped like plane turbines.

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This emphasis on better materials extends to the cord, too. The SuperDarts bright red tail is covered in kevlar. It makes them feel a bit more rugged, but I’m not all that sure they live up to their ‘anti-tangle’ promise. Not that they would: making headphones that genuinely don’t tangle in your pocket is probably a job for the boys at CERN.

Long story short: they’re a unique-looking pair of lug-fillers. Maybe a little too different. The actual buds are slightly larger than your average ones due to their extra innards (more on that in a bit), which means that they do stick out of your head quite a bit.

If you don’t have long hair, this has the potential to look a bit like you’ve got two Frankenstein bolts coming out of your temples. In my experience, wearing the SuperDarts definitely turns heads, but whether you think that’s a good thing or not arguably depends on how much of a wallflower you are. They’re not insane looking, but they do stick out a bit.

Sound quality

I know what sounds good, but I’m not about to sit down with anyone and argue the merits of having an extra 7 Hz or 3 decibels. That said, in the same way that most able-eared humans can tell the difference between ‘tinny’ and ‘bassy’, I can hear that the Atomic Floyds are noticeably better than any pair of earphones I’ve tried to date.

That’ll be due to the dual drivers – giving the SuperDarts double the amount of speakers as standard buds. That’s why they’re slightly on the large side, but it’s also why I genuinely noticed parts of songs that I’d not heard before. The sound quality (and especially the noise cancellation) is good. I’d hesitate to say if that alone is £199′s worth of good, but then you’re paying for the whole package here.

Remote

That whole package includes an inline remote – a feature that presumably costs untold amounts and endless man-hours to include, as you never seem to get one with headphones that cost any less than £60. It’s a nice touch and does what you’d expect – skips and pauses tracks, as well as adjusting the volume. There’s also a microphone for making handsfree calls. So far so good, but there’s a problem…

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The SuperDarts’ remote doesn’t seem to like Android all that much. The pausing and skipping functions work, but the volume function doesn’t. Or at least, it doesn’t when paired with a Samsung Galaxy S3. Something to consider if you’ve got a library of songs ripped at different volumes.

Jogging

Whilst we’re on the subject of downfalls, there is a drawback to using such premium materials: they’re not light. This isn’t a problem when you’re walking about, but it makes the SuperDarts uneasy jogging partners. I’ve not had them fall out of my ears, but the weight of the cord and the stainless steel inline remote means that bouncing up and down tugs on your ears in a slightly uncomfortable way. Enough to say that I wouldn’t wear them for any more than a 45 minute jog.

Having said that, I did a run with the SuperDarts in one of the worst storms since the Noah’s arc debacle, and they remained completely unaffected by the deluge. Kudos.

Verdict

If you’re anything like me, the biggest worry in spending a lot of money on earphones isn’t about sound quality – it’s that earphones always break. It’s a genuine concern that spending a lot of money on something that most people treat very badly, and that you know will be replaced at some point in the future, might not be all that wise.

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Having only tested the Atomic Floyd SuperDarts for a couple of weeks, I can’t really tell you how long they’re going to last. I can, however, attest to their sound prowess. And I can say that they feel more hardy and durable than any pair I’ve had before.

Will they eventually break? Everything does, but there’s something in my bones that says I’d have probably bought six pairs of £30 headphones before they do finally give up on me.

Link: Atomic Floyd

  • Anonymous

    Pah, I’ll stick to my £30 MP21′s. Earphones are made of stainless steel, and you get a remote. I’ve had mine 6 months and they are still serving me very well!

  • http://twitter.com/lexplex_ Lexplex

    I’d love a pair of these but I find it hard to justify the spend when the ones that came in the box with my SGS2 outperform the last pair of £90 earbuds I bought. Would be interested to read a direct comparison between the Atomic Floyds, the Etymotics HF3s and the earbuds that came with the SGS2, which were alarmingly good for bundled headphones. How are the ones that come with the SGS3?

  • Talbit

    The main reason earbuds break when considering they are being used for excersizing is the cord being tugged which causes strain on every aspect of the buds. I switched over to the Motorola S-10HD’s for working out and they have been great. Sound quality is good, they are sweat proof, the sound is decent, and I never worry about them breaking because they sit securely on your head, never receiving any sort of physical strain.

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