Saturday, June 1, 2013

Incase Sonic - the ideal portable headphones

By far the most comfortable headphones ever:
  • Very light at just 6.75 oz. Most full-size cans weigh more than 10 oz.
  • Around-ears type. No pressure on ears.
  • Gentle clapping force.
  • Cloth covered foam distributes pressure evenly on head top.
  • Cloth covered ear pads. Not fake leather.

Very good sound with good bass, I much prefer its sound to anything Sennheiser or monitor headphones. If it does not sound right to your ears, especially at very high volume, simply drill a small 1/8" hole. To remove the ear pads, twist them counter-clock wise.

As you can see, I actually drilled 6 holes to play with and I used a hot glue gun to block them. With 3 holes open, sound is good but not enough bass; with 2 holes, bass is hard (not pleasant); it sounds the best to me with only one hole. Most modern close-back headphones have such holes to suppress resonance.

The cords are perfect (yes, comes with two matching the inside and outside colors, respectively)! They are not too long and not too short; if you do need longer, you can simply use an extension cord. The segment that holds the MIC and 3 control buttons are not bulky, not at all; I used to hate such in-line stuff, because they usually are much bigger than the wire. The wire is thick and rubberized but still light and flexible. With such good cords, I almost no longer want Bluetooth (wireless).

Because almost all smartphones have the headphone jack located stupidly at the top instead of the bottom, a "L" shape (right-angle) plug is a must. The jack on the left side body is a standard 3.5 mm one, allowing you to use any cord you like. I should point out though: the jack is quite recessed and the hole is quite small (6 mm).

A huge benefit of detachable cord and standard jack: you can make it wireless by simply plugging in a Bluetooth receiver! I use a Samsung HS3000, because it supports APT-X that's supported by some Samsung and HTC phones such as Note 2 and Galaxy S3/4 etc. Some receivers such as HTC Car A200 and Avantree Saturn do not have volume and track controls, not good for headphones.

Such BT receivers like the HS3000 are very small and light, only 1/3 oz; not a hassle add-on, not at all. They cost about $40; therefore such a comb is still far cheaper than any APT-X headphones (e.g, the Haman Kardon cost $250 and Sennheiser's are above $300). And, you can use any headphones you like, not just those few expensive ones. Their battery life is usually only 5-7 hours though. I replaced the small internal battery with a large one that goes for at least 15 hours. Yes, the large battery will be charged fine, just takes longer. The total weight is still less than 1 oz. By using strong double-side tape, I attached the large battery to the back and then attached the back cover (with clapper) to the battery. The HS3000 is still used like before, just thicker.

The ear pads have cloth covers, feel very good, not those pleather found on most headphones these days. They are shallow though and I have to insert some foam strips to make my ears totally free in them. No need to do the entire circle, just the back half is enough.

All the surfaces are rubberized, not a single piece of metal or hard conner to scratch your smartphone. They cannot be easily scratched neither. For just $70 (Amazon), you cannot find anything more ideal for mobile and at home/office.

Some alternatives

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 ($99, Amazon): very good sound, less bass than the Incase Sonic but, unlike most monitor headphones, still not lack of bass. Although quite light at 10 oz compared to most full-size cans, still, unlike the Incase, too heavy to be ignored. After about 1 hour or so, I get neck-backache.

Another huge problem: the cord is long and heavy, and not detachable. The first thing I did immediately is to remove the cord and add a 3.5 mm jack.

There is absolutely no any physical damage, the headphones can be returned fully to its original factory status. The 3.5mm jack fits into the original wire hole, without any modification, perfectly and tight, I don't even need to use any glue. The jack is top quality with gold-plated terminals, should last forever.

Except for the weight, I have nothing to complain, in terms of sound and comfort. If the Incase Sonic was not that much lighter and so comfortable, and did not sound so good, this would have been my choice.

In order to let bass more pronounced, I used some strong thick tapes to block most of the front holes and leave only two of them open. Before, the sound was just a little cold and dry to my taste.

Koss Tony Benette Signature Edition ($50, Tuesday Morning): very special sounding, extremely analytic and detailed, especially on vocal. Most experienced audiophiles will appreciate this kind of sound, very much. Koss really knows how to make audiophile cans at incredible low price such as the KSC35. This one even looks audiophile class, with shinny metals and engraved signatures.

The cord is detachable and the jack is standard 3.5 mm, very nice. And the jack is not recessed, you can use any cord! It is not too heavy at 8.3 oz, but it is not as comfortable as the Incase and M50, even after I did the same Incase mod to its small and shallow pads.

I also tried to replace the pads with M50's, no much improvement. Seems to me the extend-able headband cannot extend enough, two or three more clicks out would make it comfortable. This is pretty much my only complain and for so little money there is no reason to not own a pair of this for its sound, detachable cord, lightweight and no-shame look and feel.

More on Bluetooth

About noise isolation

[update] I think I know why the TBSE1 cannot be made comfortable. The headband must be some kind of memory material. No matter what I do - bend it, stretch it, over night... it'll always return to its original position and retain its (too strong) clapping force:

I'm going to return it, headphones have no use if not comfortable.


  1. Any detail information about the large battery you used in hs3000? Where did you buy it and how much did you pay? Thanks,

    1. RadiShack on clearance for $5, for a game device.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Any dumbphone battery should work, as long as the size matches well. I also used a Moto BT50 (for K1M etc.), it lasts even longer but wider.

    4. Thanks, would you mind to tell what game device it is? Or the spec of the battery? Thanks a lot.

    5. Don't remember and I cannot see it now (hidden under the clapper).

    6. Thanks. I want to find a size that can fit, don't want a too wide one.

    7. Simply go to a RS store, you should find one.