These futuristic little earbuds are the Atomic Floyd MiniDarts -- in-ear headphones with a microphone for answering calls if you're using them with an iPhone. A clicker button controls music playback. They're yours for £150, exclusively from the Apple Store, so let's ram them into our lugs and see how they handle...
These tiny buds remind us of tiny bullets. Metal construction with grooves etched around the ends of each headphone make for an attractive look, and the metal certainly feels sturdy, so we don't think the body section of these headphones is about to fall apart spontaneously. That said, the cabling moves around a fair bit at the end of each bud, so you might see some damage there longer term.
That cabling between the ears and the remote is worryingly thin, although it's thicker from the 3.5mm jack to the in-line remote is thicker. That part is covered in woven fabric, so should prove more sturdy in the long run. The remote is nicely styled -- a small, metal medallion with a microphone on the top and an attractively etched button in the centre, which is used for various things which we'll come to in a bit.
Generally, the design on show here is great, and these are some classy looking headphones, even if we do worry about that slender cabling. But they're going to be jammed in your ears most of the time, so you'd be justified in caring more about how comfortable they are than with how cool they look.
They're not the most comfortable things we've ever jammed inside our own heads. The metal construction makes these tiny terrors quite heavy, and because there's nary an earloop in sight, you'll just have to jam them straight into your ears and hope for the best. That does mean that they're reasonably easy to actually pop in and out though, which is handy if your coworkers just won't stop poking you and asking you questions when you're trying to rock out in peace.
The cable isn't particularly long, so while it'll serve you fine if it's just trailing from your ears to your pockets, it's probably not long enough for -- for instance -- reaching around the back of an under-desk PC tower to plug in for work-based listening.
Enough beating around the bush though, let's plug these babies in and see how they sound...
Listening to angular alt-pop The Matches' Papercut Skin, we can hear the MiniDarts offering an impressive degree of clarity in the high-end, notably around the tinkling hi-hats in the first thirty seconds, which ring through loud and clear. A good start.
Moving swiftly along to Just a Girl by No Doubt, we're listening for clarity on the opening guitar riff, which if you're listening through very high end headphones sound very crisp and crunchy. They don't sound quite so precise through the MiniDarts, instead they're a little dulled. These aren't audiophile-grade headphones but still, you might miss that extra clarity. We attribute it to a slightly muddy bottom-end...
That's normally something only pigs have to worry about, but we can't deny that the bass response from the MiniDarts isn't quite as tight and controlled as we'd like. Make no mistake, when you're listening to bass-heavy tunes like Da Blow by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz the MiniDarts deliver a powerful, humming bass thump, liable to rattle your earbones in a satisfying manner, but it's a slightly muddy sound, and we can hear the low end bleeding into the mid-tones, obscuring other parts of the mix.
The central button on the remote can be used to answer calls or hang up if you're using an iPhone, and quite cleverly also serves to alter music playback. Tap once to play or pause the flow of awesome tunes, tap it twice quickly to skip to the next track, and tap three times for the previous track (or back to the current track depending on how far through the song you are). We found all of these things worked very well indeed.
These headphones also come with an adaptor that plugs into a computer's microphone and headphone inputs, and a 3.5 to 6.3mm adaptor. Plus three pairs of rubber buds in small, medium and large flavours, and a little case to hold everything in. Magic.
These are some neat headphones, though the bass, while powerful, sounds a little muddy to our ears. They're well constructed and stylish with some neat features, but they are expensive and have a few design downsides. You can get comparable sound quality from other headphones, so unless you're wedded to the design, we'd recommend you check out buds like the Shure SE115m+s, which are available cheaper.
Or, if you're looking for something stylish for significantly less cash, have a look at the Monster iBeats by Dr. Dre.