Vortex Pro Design and Build Quality
You have likely seen Moshi Audio products. You may think you've never heard of them before, but I can pretty much guarantee that you've at least seen their offerings. The make chargers for your iDevices, screen protectors, keyboards, adapters, and much more. Of course, they also make headphones. More specifically, they make earbuds. Their most recent offering is the Vortex Pro earbud. Based on the highly successful Vortex design, the Vortex Pro seek to upgrade the sonic performance as well as the compatibility with iDevices (see our Moshi Clarus Headphones Video Review here).
The Moshi Vortex Pro headphones have a number of unique and interesting things going for them. First, they offer not only the normal silicone-tipped ear pieces, but also a set of memory-foam tips. The memory-foam tips are just like the earplugs you may have used over the years. It requires you to squeeze the tip to compress it, stick it in, and hold it in place while the foam expands. This creates a tight but comfortable fit. It is great for noise isolation as well. The silicone tips come in small, medium, and large sizes and are, in my experience, at least as comfortable as other silicone tips. They are not at all firm, which makes the connection to your head one more of suction as the silicone grabs the walls of your ear canal rather than through compression (by shoving them in there). I found the silicone tips on the Moshi Vortex Pro to be much more comfortable than the Sony XBA-1iP In-Ear headphones I recently reviewed.
The Vortex Pro headphones have an unusual pyramidal shape and are quite heavy. This conveys a feeling of quality and sturdiness that other earbuds just don't provide. The enclosures are constructed out of steel alloy with a brushed finish on the sides and a mirrored one on the end (with the Moshi name engraved on them). There is an R and L to indicate the proper ear, but this is also (cleverly I thought) indicated by the color of the silicone. There is a red and white of each size (red is intended for the right). On top of this, the control unit and mic is attached to the right ear. With all these reminders, there is no reason to put the headphones in reversed.
The cable, rather than having a rubber coating, has a braided cover. This gives the cable a feeling of cloth rather than one of a high tech device. It is a grey color and supple to the touch. Where the cord splits into two, there is polished steel (or plastic, it was hard to tell) cover with a rubber tip. The tip slid forward to reveal that the inside was completely sealed against the elements, a nice touch. The 3.5mm plug at the end was also covered in a polished steel cylinder. The control panel, on the right earbud cable, was black plastic with soft rubber controls (volume up and down plus a center "control" button).
If you haven't gotten the impression that the build quality was high on the Moshi Vortex Pro... well, I'd suggest reading this review again. All that steel and attention to detail conveyed a sense of quality, durability, and outright care by Moshi as to how their product looks and performs. There was very little I didn't like about the Moshi Vortex Pro as I removed them from the box. The pyramidal shape and heft was very cool, the braided cord was unique and interesting, and the steel accents on the cable complimented the overall design well. There is no one that will see you with these earbuds that will mistake them for another. They scream "unique" and, to me at least, "high end".
The only problems I had with the earbuds as far as build quality were the memory-foam tips. I installed them and used them for a while and then decided to switch back to the silicone. When I did, the memory-foam on one of the tips ripped completely off the part that holds it onto the Vortex Pro earphone. My guess was that this particular one wasn't glued together properly. While I could still use the memory-foam tip (if I was careful), I didn't want to for worry that the foam might be left behind in my ear when I removed the earbud. Turns out Moshi was aware of the problem and already has a fix in the works as well as customer support for existing users:
We've identified that there is an issue with the
memory foam eartips and are currently redesigning them so the problem
will not happen again. In the short term, we are contacting everyone who
has purchased the Vortex Pro directly and offering them the updated
replacement eartips; we're also happy to replace eartips for anyone who
has bought the Vortex Pro from another vendor.
There have also been user reports on the Vortex earbuds that the braided cord has been a failing point. I didn't notice any spots of wear or weakness in my tests, though they were far from exhaustive. The cable did tend to kink and hold bent shapes more than I would have liked but nothing that made me believe that I would have a problem with them. I did feel, however, that I had to be more careful with the braided cable.