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Atomic Floyd SuperDarts +Remote Earphones Review

on April 12, 2012 11:00 am

At first glance, the new Atomic Floyd SuperDarts +Remote earphones look like a souped-up version of the bullet-designed Koss KEB40 or Ortofon e-Q5 earphones. The cord comes straight out the opposite end of the earphone instead of the side of the main shell. It’s obvious Atomic Floyd wants to make a statement with the SuperDarts. They are bold, sexy, heavy and red. Red cords and red accents – bold, indeed.

But that’s nothing compared to an even more unique feature: The SuperDarts are a hybrid earphone. What that means is that the SuperDarts have two speakers per ear; one dynamic and one balanced armature. Dynamic speakers are pleasantly warm sounding, but not as accurate as they could be. Armatures however, are very accurate, but can be harsh and unforgiving on lesser quality files. Atomic Floyd calls this pairing “supercharged bass with acid detail.”

Put the two speaker designs together and hopefully, you get the best attributes of both. Scosche performed this hybrid trick with their IEM856m In Ear Monitors and got impressive results. The downside to this approach is cost. It’s a rare combination that hasn’t been done cheaply yet. Also, while the Scosche earbuds are expensive, the SuperDarts are even more expensive. Here’s the question: Is there an inherent advantage to the hybrid pairing and is it worth the cost? That’s what we’re going to find out.

Atomic Floyd sells their earphones primarily in England, France, Japan and Korea and are currently expanding their markets. For now, they can be ordered online for shipping to the US and Canada.

The first thing you notice is the packaging. Atomic Floyd has spent much effort to make unwrapping the SuperDarts fun. It reminds me of unwrapping any Apple i-whatever.

Can the product can live up to this orchestrated introduction. Short answer: Yes, it does. When you hold the SuperDarts in your hand, there is an impressive attention to detail. Each shell is machined from stainless steel – not the usual aluminum – and they feel more substantial as a result. They are also noticeably heavier. This extra weight has been problematic for me because they occasionally fall out even after being properly sealed. When they do fall out, I just push them back in, but it’s sometimes annoying. I guess the SuperDarts were not designed for exercise. I would have also preferred more than three ear-tip choices. In this price range, there is no reason to not offer more.

The tangle-resistant cord is also a hybrid, of sorts. It’s Kevlar-wrapped cloth extends from the miniplug to the Y connector. From the Y to the earphones, the cord becomes silicone rubber, which can stay cleaner and be more resistant to dirt and skin oil stains. Attached to this cord is a remote/mic, which is almost becoming a necessity with mobile earphones. It has the standard play/pause/receive-and-make-calls functions. It’s cool looking in stainless steel with matching red lettering and black buttons. Also included is an airplane adapter and 1/4″ Stereo to Stereo Mini Jack adapter.

The case – also unique – suffers from design over function. It looks great in black, non-slip silicone rubber and is very simple to use, but it could be a little roomier and protect better than it does. It can’t be completely closed, so dirt, dust, and moisture can get in. Even some $50 earphone cases protect better than this.

But I’m done nitpicking. Once you hear the SuperDarts, you realize the wisdom of a hybrid earphone. What Atomic Floyd calls supercharged, I call balanced. I know, balanced is not a fun word like supercharged, but it is more accurate. Unless you are listening to a bass-heavy song, the SuperDarts do not accentuate or artificially add more bass like other brands can do. Thank goodness. While I am aware how popular bass is, too much bass overpowers the other frequencies and is physically exhausting with extended listening. So, Atomic Floyd can say what they want, but I say the bass is just right.

Atomic Floyd included the SuperDart’s frequency chart right on their packaging. The chart shows an emphasis on bass and treble (dynamic and armature strengths) with a drop in the midrange (vocals). Frankly, if I determined my purchase on this chart, I would pass on them. Don’t be fooled. They sound better than the chart would indicate.

Let me state here that I am listening to the SuperDarts using audio players like Pure Music, Decibel or BitPerfect – take your pick. It’s gotten to the point where I can barely use only iTunes as a player on my MacBook Pro and definitely not on my iMac. These iTunes alternative music players sound much better and can handle various types of music files with ease. I am also using an external digital audio convertor (DAC), which bypasses the computer’s sound card and offers yet another level of improvement. I am currently testing two DACs which will be reviewed soon. However, the SuperDarts also sound great straight out of the iPod/iPhone.

Listening to a high resolution version of “Let Me Roll It” from “Band On the Run” by Paul McCartney and Wings, allowed the SuperDarts to shine as much as their metal exterior. This version was downloaded from HDTracks and is uncompressed. What that means is little or no tweaking was done to the song after McCartney released it to the record label for distribution. Quiet parts are quiet, and when the loud parts come, the drama is much more apparent. The SuperDart’s hybrid design brings out the peaks and depths of one of my favorite Wings song. It is both fascinating and quite fun to hear.

I have all the albums from Ultravox, a synth band that fills every 80s cliche you can think of. They were not an audiophile-quality group, so I seldom listen to them with armature based earphones. However, listening to these lower resolution electronic gems, the dynamic half of the SuperDarts smooths out the rough edges. Warren Cann’s drumming punches through the bass-heavy synth and frequently overwrought vocals of Midge Ure. This is fun music heard through fun earphones.

Chris Wood’s amazing saxophone in Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys” sounds as if it’s drifting in on a fog as the song fades in and 11 minutes later, fades out. The SuperDarts give the song a depth and airiness that’s unusual for earphones. At one point, I kept looking over my shoulder to see who was talking behind me before I realized that it was someone talking (or quietly singing) in the background during the recording. The SuperDarts were picking up all of it and it was eerie.

Atomic Floyd has successfully married competing technologies with the SuperDarts +Remote earphones. I believe this is only the beginning as other companies explore this unusual approach. If you have the means and don’t mind the heavier weight or lack of eartip choices, you will like this dynamic and armature hybrid from Atomic Floyd. Their penchant for bold design, build quality and unique sound coupled with an expanding market reach into other countries can only be helped with products like the SuperDarts.

 

Product Information

Price:$299 US £199 UK
Manufacturer:Atomic Floyd
Retailer:Atomic Floyd
Requirements:
  • Mini plug port
Pros:
  • Successful blend of dynamic and armature speaker
  • Bold design
  • Durable and well made
Cons:
  • Price
  • Weight
  • Skimpy ear tip selection
  • Case

Comments

  1. 1
    btraven says:

    Excellent review and entirely consistent with my reaction after receiving these just two days ago. One other note: delivery from UK to US is simple and fast (and free!) via Royal Mail.

    I am a little frustrated by the fact that these cannot be used for exercise but it may also be the case that sweat is not good for the speakers.

    I am also hopeful that as the ear plugs get some use the seal will be stickier.

    Cheers.

  2. 2
    Bill Henderson says:

    btravan,
    Yes, the exercise part can be frustrating, but as I said in the review, these are not light in weight. :) If you aren’t happy with the tips, I would look into Comply. They make foam tips for just about any brand available.

    http://www.complyfoam.com/

  3. 3
    Nick says:

    I’m using these with Comply Tx500 tips, which pretty much resolve the falling-out-of-the-ears problem to the point where I can use the Superdarts during exercise. I also use a shirt clip, cannibalised from an old pair of ‘phones, because the microphone and Y-connector represent a fair amount of weight to be jumping around when I’m exercising enthusiastically.

  4. 4
    btraven says:

    Thank you for this suggestion. My concern was that the standard plugs were needed to guarantee the full sound character – which is pretty amazing.

  5. 5
    Nick says:

    I’ve found that the Complys tame the treble a little, and settle the bass. Because I couldn’t get a good seal with the standard tips, I found the quality thin and shrill, so for me the Complys have been a substantial improvement

  6. 6
    Michael says:

    I’ve bought SuperDarts 7 months ago. The sound quality is really great but I’ve expected something more bass after reading those all 5 stars reviews – especially a deeper, better bass.

    Generally I like those headphones but I won’t write about the good sides because you can find a lot of them in the other reviews.

    I like to take care of expensive stuff but treating those SuperDarts with kids gloves wasn’t enough:
    The small red logo sticker came out after 2 weeks.
    The red wire is made of fabric which absorbs dirt and sweat – this is why it become very dark now.

    Another huge weakness is the remote which has a design that’s very hard to use. It’s always hard for me to press the middle button – it’s too small. Take a look at iPhone headphone’s remote – the buttons are bigger and on the whole top side. Atomic Floyd’s remote is round and it’s hard to FIND and press the buttons.

    The headphones are also a bit too heavy and they slide out from the ears from time to time.

    I like the great sound quality but I wouldn’t spend 200£ again to buy them. I think my old Creative EP-630 (which R.I.P. now) had deeper bass and had lifetime warranty.

    I think there are cheaper headphones noteworthy than those.

  7. 7
    Bill Henderson says:

    Michael,
    Thanks for commenting. Let’s see if I can address some of your issues:

    I’ve bought SuperDarts 7 months ago. The sound quality is really great but I’ve expected something more bass after reading those all 5 stars reviews – especially a deeper, better bass.
    If you aren’t getting as much bass as you think you should, I would first try different tips. If that doesn’t help, Comply makes some great foam tips made for almost every brand that should increase bass.

    The small red logo sticker came out after 2 weeks.
    The red wire is made of fabric which absorbs dirt and sweat – this is why it become very dark now.
    If this has happened after 7 months, I would take photos and email them to Atomic Floyd customer support. I would think they would back their product. These are not cheap earphones and you should get your hard-earned money’s worth.

    Another huge weakness is the remote which has a design that’s very hard to use. It’s always hard for me to press the middle button – it’s too small. Take a look at iPhone headphone’s remote – the buttons are bigger and on the whole top side. Atomic Floyd’s remote is round and it’s hard to FIND and press the buttons.
    I would say this is a design issue. It didn’t bother me, as I don’t use the buttons that much.

    The headphones are also a bit too heavy and they slide out from the ears from time to time.
    I mentioned in my review how heavy they were, especially when exercising. Like you, they have even fallen out of my ears. This is an issue with many heavier earphones.

    I like the great sound quality but I wouldn’t spend 200£ again to buy them. I think my old Creative EP-630 (which R.I.P. now) had deeper bass and had lifetime warranty.
    Many cheaper earphones have deeper bass, but I caution people that while a lot of bass can impress at first; later, it becomes fatiguing. How much bass is too much can only be determined by the listener and everyone has different likes regarding bass.

    Bill H.

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