Earlier this year we reviewed Shinola Audio’s In-Ear wired headphones, and today Shinola released new In-Ear Monitor (IEM) headphones that are wireless and cost almost half the price.
Shinola is a Detroit-based company known for their popular and affordable luxury watch brand. They certainly know the intricacies of engineering fine jewelry, but to achieve this new audio feat of engineering they collaborated with the Portland-based company, Campfire Audio.
These are truly beautiful in-ear headphones. The design is quite unique, and like a luxury timepiece, they will not go unnoticed. The first feature you’ll notice is the cable; it’s braided in textured fabric and shaped to be worn around the neck. There’s a thicker and stiffer portion of the cable that maintains a curved shape to fit comfortably around the back of your neck, and thinner more flexible arm cables that take them from chest-to-ear. Nicely, the whole package is flexible enough to fold into the included pouch or straight into your pocket. The other hard-to-miss feature is the beautifully polished stainless steel earbuds. The buds can even detach from the cable if you ever need to swap out the cable or a bud.
Bluetooth was what we craved most after reviewing Shinola’s wired IEMs, and we got it! Shinola did a nice job implementing it too. The headphones support Bluetooth 4.2 with AAC, aptX, and aptX HD. There’s an inline 3-button remote control with a built-in microphone. The battery lasts 12 hours, longer than average, and it supports fast-charging with the USB-C standard. We don’t have many of these cables yet (C to standard USB A), so we were bummed to only have gotten a mini cable, just a few inches long.
Shinola is wise to have partnered with a company with at least a few years in audio manufacturing. Campfire Audio helped them put together a really high-quality pair of buds. Monitors are supposed to sound flat or free of tuning that’s favorable to a specific genre. It should give you the most accurate reproduction of your music, as it was intended to be heard. Surprisingly, we think they sound better than the more expensive wired pair. We found the wired pair to be a little too bassy for monitors.
These wireless in-ear monitors, on the other hand, are very well balanced. Voices shine and you can hear the vibrant details of every instrument. There’s a wide soundstage, which we found made these IEMs really enjoyable and fun to listen to. Depending on the recording, you can pinpoint which direction sounds come from. There’s a lot of detail and clarity, and just a bit of distortion at higher volumes.
We are big fans of the form, the design, and the audio. The biggest upset for us was the ear-tips and the in-ear fit. It comes with small, medium, and large silicone ear tips, plus medium-sized memory foam tips. Memory foam is ideal for noise isolation and the aural experience, but with enough movement, it squeezes right out of my ears. I had worse luck with the silicon ear-tips, which quickly demonstrate the weight of buds, slipping out of my ears. Usually, it’s the cord weight that pulls earbuds out, not the buds themselves. Ironically, there’s virtually no cord weight with the neckband. We’ve been using smaller memory foam tips from the wired version, and it has been perfect.
You don’t buy a luxury watch because it tells time that much better than the competition, you buy it for its fine craftsmanship, reliability, quality, and of course the aesthetics. Pricing in at $250, Shinola Audio’s Bluetooth In-Ear Monitors are very much the same. If you want a beautiful pair of wireless earbuds, with a clear emphasis on engineering and design, competitive Bluetooth features, a long battery, and premium audio, then you‘ll be well satisfied with your purchase… assuming the ear tips are not a problem for you.