Scosche is a well known audio company that makes a huge profit on their car audio accessories. However, they have also made a number of IEMs and earbuds for the average mobile, on-the-go user. Many of these headphones have been in a really affordable range that suited more of the beater headphone category. However, Scosche recently introduced the REALM series of audio products. These REALM series products includes car audio, but more importantly, also has headphones. With the REALM series, Scosche walks into an area that they haven’t before; one that many companies haven’t dared stepped into. The REALM series is supposed to be reference grade in both of their headphones and IEMs. The REALM IEMs (from now on, when I say REALM, I mean specifically the IEMs) offer two drivers: one dynamic and one armature to take advantage of both of their strengths. For the most part, it does; in other ways, it may not. Read on on for the full review:
- Driver: 10.7mm Dynamic + Balanced Armature
- Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 30 kHz
- Sensitivity: 106 dB +/- 3 dB
- Impedance: 5 ohms
In the Box
- Scosche IEM 856md headset
- Hard carrying case
- Soft leather carrying pouch
- 6 pairs of tips (Single Flange: S/M/L; Dual Flange: S/M/L)
- Remote clip
- VOIP adapter
- ¼ inch adapter
The design on the REALM series takes plenty of ques from the Beats series, since they have the flashy, large size to them that does catch eyes. Although this does have negative downsides in other areas, in the design area, they tend to make people like them. In a sense, it really brings to life the statement: the bigger the better.
As stated earlier, the 856s remind me of the Beats series in design terms, except that all the color is stripped. They do not look exactly like the Beats series, they just resemble them. The over-ear REALM headphones are really reminiscent of the Solos. The black glossy plastic really doesn’t stand out as much, but the shiny silver circular badges placed on the end of each earpiece have the word Scosche silkscreened on them in an extremely unobtrusive way. There is a flat cable coming out of each earpiece which seems to be the style nowadays.
The entire REALM series is advertised to be reference quality. Most end-users don’t entirely know what this means. Essentially, reference signatures tend to be flat; they allow you to hear the music as it was recorded and not color anything. For the most part, these headphones do a decent job of this, but it still isn’t perfect in reference terms. The overall quality is still great though.
The bass on these have a large body on them that doesn’t bleed into the mids. There is a huge punch in the bass with really powerful impact which is definitely a welcome attribute. You can literally be slapped silly by the low-end at times. The bass isn’t as fast as many armatures, but can still hold it’s own in terms of speed. The bass has a very natural presentation and decay as well. The texture on these is enjoyable, but really nothing to brag about since the large body really takes away from the texture a little more than I’d like. I still find the bass on these a good natural quantity despite being a slightly bass-heavy phone. There still isn’t too much, but at the same time not too little. The bass has great presence, but could use better texture.
The first thing that popped into my head when I listened to these was, “Wow! The vocals really pop out on these”. This characteristic that the 856s had never went away after burn in. The vocals were just really nice. Scosche definitely made it a mission to ensure that details and clarity were present with these headphones, which is also a huge plus as they did accomplish this mission. Just about every guitar string, violin hum, saxophone squeal, and most other instrumentals can be heard clearly. Clarity was definitely something Scosche attempted to master on the IEM 856s, and they did. Timbre is not the 856s middle name. This is something that I found lacking, you could hear all the the instrumentals, but at times I couldn’t tell one guitar from another unless I focused on it. I could hear one from the left, one from the right, but they didn’t have that dynamic quality on them that differentiated the two guitars apart. Other than that, these mids are about perfect.
The treble on the Scosches, although the worst part of the headphones, are still good. The highs are balanced well with the mids. The main culprit here is the fact that they could become slightly smeared at times. The highs have pretty good clarity, but do lack some details. They have good sparkle and extension though, which is a huge plus as it gives the treble the life that it needs to shine high in a fine way. The treble is really enjoyable, but the slight smeared feeling is what brings the high-end down.
Isolation on these is not the greatest, I’d rate them at good overall. They aren’t the worst I’ve seen in IEMs, but they aren’t enough to tune out a loud bus when listening to softer music. If you are listening to heavy music, it will be ample to tune out the exterior world. Otherwise, external noise can easily leak in and make you lose focus on songs.
This IEM is one of the better ones I’ve used in terms of microphonics. The microphonics are there, don’t get me wrong, however, they are a lot less prominent as the flat cable does help this out. There is an included clip that snaps on to the remote and mic that can also rid of all the microphonics. Wearing them over the ear will yield the same results.
The audio on these is actually really great. The sound has a nice overall balance and keeps the details and clarity without sacrificing the body and being too thin, something many mainstream users dislike. Although they are designed with similar aspects to the Beats, they will wipe the floor with them in terms of sound quality.
Now, Scosche does try to ensure that you can protect your 250 dollar headset if you so choose to (I’d recommend protecting any headphones) by offering users not one, but two cases that are included with the 856s. The thermoformed hard case also comes with a clip so you can clip it to a bag or something, you really can’t misplace it. The pouch is a lot smaller and portable; it’ll still serve its purpose by protecting your IEMs when not in use.
The headphone jack on these are among the best I’ve seen. The headphone jack is rock solid from its construction all the way up to the materials used. The plastic used on the headphone jack is extremely strong, thick, but also pliable at the same time. The 45 degree jack also allows the jack to resist more stress over its lifetime.
The cable is the one place where I have a problem with the headphones. The flat cable was made to be tangle free. During the first week of use, I managed to tangle the cable multiple times. The thinness of the flat cable also concerns me. However, I do trust that it will survive some damage.
The housings, although plastic, are really tough and will last a long time even if they are abused a bit. They can scratch, chip, or anything else of that nature, however, I do feel that they will do their job and protect the drivers inside. I do have one small gripe though, unlike the headphone jack, the strain reliefs on the housings are extremely thin, weak, and feel like they can tear effortlessly.
The build on the 856s are still good overall; the core things are protected well and I don’t see these breaking that easily. You’d expect good build if you are dropping a quarter grand on a pair of IEMs.
Large housings are of no help when it comes to comfort. These IEMs are able to be worn up over the ear or straight down. Wearing them straight down may cause them to fall out though, especially if you are active. I naturally wear all my IEMs over the ear, and this is indeed the most comfortable way to wear these. The selection of tips also helps ensure that you get the best fit for the greatest comfort and highest audio quality.
Now I haven’t hid this in any way throughout the review, these headphones don’t come cheap at the steep 250 dollar MSRP. To be honest, this is a common price for many IEMs. However, as you start getting really expensive you do have to ask yourself, “does the audio quality match the price?” In this case, it almost does. There are also a number of cheaper IEMs that match these in terms of audio quality. The nice design, great comfort and audio quality along with a strong build do help this out a bit. The IEMs also come with a remote and mic with a unique design where the mic is separate from the remote; this remote should be useful for just about every iDevice user. Overall, the value isn’t a five, but instead a hefty four and a half.
Scosche does do a decent job making these reference quality IEMs able to be used for monitoring, however, they still aren’t the flattest IEMs I’ve heard. Overall, they still are pretty flat; the bass is still heaviest here though, but just by a slight margin though. The price is going to be the major down-side here, which just makes me ask the question, “how much is audio quality worth?” With a large flashy design, the Scosche REALM IEM 856 headset offers great sound quality at a hefty price.
I’d like to thank Mark for the product sample