I love reviewing expensive headphones because it’s fun to dabble in luxury. But even if reviewing a $900 pair of headphones is fun, it has a downside: I can’t recommend it to anyone I know. Even a set like Sony’s 1000xm3 headphones that really make a good case for their price tag are a hard sell. It’s fun, then, to look at headphones that dip down in the price range that my friends will actually look twice at so that I can help them decide whether to pick up a set of headphones or not. Case in point are the Strauss & Wagner SI201 in-ear headphones.
Now, I should start out by saying that I didn’t actually try these out myself. That’s because these are headphones for a specific audience of which I am not part: iPhone owners.
Big cord, small audience
The SI201s are Apple-specific headphones in that they completely forego the 3.5-inch headphone jack and instead use a Lightning plug. That’s going to limit who all can wear these, but it also means they might be a great fit for that audience. Since I don’t have an iPhone, I dropped them on the desk of my editor-in-chief, Sean Aune, who does.
For Sean, some issues with the build made these headphones a tough sell right from the start.
A long cable on a set of studio monitors makes a lot of sense. On a mobile device, though, a set of headphones isn’t really going to go any further than the end of your arm or the bottom of your pants pocket. The cable on the SI201s clocks in at 4.5 feet.
That’s not exactly a rope built for climbing, but it’s more than your average set of walking-around headphones really needs. Sean felt the cable was a snag risk unless he ran it through his shirt or otherwise contained it.
The positioning of the controls felt strange for him, too. The positioning is likely decided by mic placement, but it can still be frustrating to get used to controls until you really memorize them. That they don’t provide any significant touch markings makes them that much easier to forget.
Too much isolation
On the audio side, Sean struggled with the SI201s, too. The SI stands for Sound Isolating. My personal preference is that the more sound isolation, the better. I often work out of a coffee shop, and that means sometimes that I end up sitting under a speaker. I like anything that lets me cut out extra sound. But if you don’t need that kind of separation, the isolation can be a little bit much. Sean found himself taking the SI201s out anytime he wanted to move about his office, as the isolation made moving feel strange.
In terms of the audio itself, Sean found the SI201s to be initially appealing but found them to break down upon further listening. His first impression was that they were rich and deep. Further listening, though, suggests otherwise. Sean listens to a lot of Flogging Molly, an artist with a huge sound made up of lots of different instruments. Being able to separate the various sounds is crucial, and Sean found the audio squashed, with the instruments turning more into a wall of sound.
Taking all that into account, it’s hard to recommend the SI201s overall. If you care about sound isolation and don’t mind a lot of cord, they’re not a bad buy at $50. But they’re also not going to provide ideal sound for the price, either.
Disclaimer: We spent a few hours with each set of earbuds before writing this review. Thank you to Audio46.com for supplying the headphones for this review. Check out these and other earphones under $50 from Audio46.com.