id America Metropolitan Sound
The id America Metropolitan earphones run $30 a pair. That's about as bargain as you can get especially considering that they have an in-line mic and control. The closest thing I have on hand that is at all comparable is the RHA MA350 In-Ear Headphones. The RHA set my personal benchmark for the $40 price point but they are just straight headphones - no in-line controls or mic. They have a similar construction and design featuring all aluminum enclosures, fabric covered cable, and compact (and light) design.
To find a similarly priced offering, I had to go to my stock iPod earbuds. Currently on the Apple website, the stock (old style) earbuds with in-line controls and mic cost $29. I have no reason to believe that Apple did anything to the stock earbuds other than tack on an in-line control/mic unit. To compare the id America offering to the Apple, I had to dig through a few boxes but I eventually found a pair that hadn't been tossed.
To start with, the id America Metropolitan headphones are as comfortable as any in-ear headphones I've worn. The sound isolation is acceptable though not exceptional. The Metropolitan headphones sit very flush though not totally inside of your earcup. The overall presentation of the id America Metropolitan earphones was very dependent on the source material. I found them to have a quite understated bass response. With bass heavy material, the id America Metropolitan showed that they had good extension and output but with less bass heavy material, the bass response seemed lacking. A little bass boost with the id America Metropolitan headphones will help give it a lot more even presentation.
Midrange was mostly strong and well defined, though there were areas where it sounded thin. With well-recorded material this was less of a problem (mostly because of the quality of the recording), but with material that was heavy in one area the Metropolitans had a hard time sounding natural. Even within the same album, some tracks would sound very good while others took on a more FM radio quality. This was all due to where the emphasis was placed in the frequency response in the song.
The top end of the id America Metropolitan was where I really ran into problems. It sounded to me like the driver was compressing at the higher frequencies. With well-recorded material, this was less obvious, but with modern pop material, the top end sounded very compressed and tinny. Long listening sessions with the id America Metropolitan headphones were difficult if I didn't limit my music selection to high-quality recordings at fairly moderate volumes.
Imaging with the id America Metropolitan headphones was surprisingly good. I've experienced headphones at higher price points that didn't have as precise of imaging. Compared to the Apple offering, the id America Metropolitans won hands down. Yes, the Apple headphones have more complete controls, but the sound quality was certainly better with the id America Metropolitans. If you are looking for a step up from the stock earbuds, the id America Metropolitan headphones are a decent choice.
The comparison with the RHA MA350s was less clean cut. The RHAs cost $10 more (a third more than the id America offering) and don't have an in-line control unit or microphone. The fit was similar and the enclosure material and design nearly identical. The bass response was much better with the RHAs and the top end and overall presentation was much more consistent and natural. The id Americas, however, did have the in-line controls and the bass wasn't nearly as overstated as it is with the RHAs. As it stands, I think the extra $10 for the RHAs is well spent if you care more about audio quality than in-line controls. If a bit of compression on the top end doesn't bother you (and the number of people running around with the stock earbuds leads me to believe that many of you don't mind at all) and you really want in-line controls, the id America Metropolitans are acceptable.