Cue the VAIN STHLM Originals earphones. A pair intriguingly sculpted by the Swedish for ears that are fashion conscious, but does that also mean they’re focused on sound quality too?
From the get-go we were impressed by the unusual packaging of a charming petite copper tin, housing not mints but the earphones neatly wrapped up within. This is a creative touch and a genuinely useful compact storage location for the earphones. It was blatantly obvious, after removing the earphones from the tin, that we were paying witness to the Scandinavian design wit just oozing from these VAIN STHLM Originals earphones. They’re simple yet also an effortlessly fashionable accessory. This is conjured up by a copper accent, a pleasing alignment of body and silicone tip and, most interestingly, both earphones just clip together magnetically as shown within our photos. The latter design incorporation is something that proves exceptionally useful to prevent tangling of the durable fabric chord and we wonder why no one has ever done this before? For instance, when yanking them out of a pocket or leaving them to dangle from a shirt, they simply will not tangle.
Four sizes of silicone tips are supplied. These tips are slightly squatter than the standard earphone tip and are clearly created this way to keep the overall proportionality of the alluring design; and the actual hole that transports the sound waves from the driver is wider than normal too. Whilst it wasn't an issue for any of our ears, those who do have deeper ear canals won’t get on with them. For our fairly standard small-medium sized ears, we found the VAIN STHLM Originals pleasant to wear for 1-2 hours at a time and the chord isn't an offender for conducting noise when brushed against clothing. Furthermore, the overall noise isolation serves to keep out interference from external loud speakers and voices - but in quieter environments everyone around you will be able to hear the noise pollution of exactly what you're listening to.
The 11mm dynamic drivers produce a warm and sprightly sound style. After listening to the VAIN STHLM Originals over the course of 3 months we know only too well that they're designed to be listened to by quite literally everyone. Classical, jazz, pop, R&B, acoustic, etc., all sound engaging and enjoyable. Really this is the most important thing about any music projection, but if we analyse with scrutiny the finer details we can broadly conclude that these are mostly well engineered earphones inside too. They don't quite grasp the distinction of the similarly price £50 FIDUE A65 earphones with their titanium drivers, but they're not far behind and just lack a little of the clarity and projection within the mid and high ranges. Nevertheless the design notes could possibly be taken into account as a package of good value to compensate.
Stereo is apparent and the spacing between elements of instrumentals and vocals is good too. But there's not much of a soundstage to experience, which is a shame. Bass is foremost the identifying signature character: it’s dark and puts a backbone into most music. ‘No Money, No Honey’ by Charlie Hunter was a great example of how the bass just brings massive emphasis, and yes it’s biased, but who really cares? The trumpets, drums and bass guitar are all jamming away with the mid and high ranges being tolerant. In contrast to this reference a live performance spectacle of ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox & Haley Reinhart. It still possessed the charm within the arrangement of drums and orchestra, but most importantly Haley’s unique vocal interpretation of the song was forthright and powerful away from the instrumentals. On a slight negative, when the drums and orchestra are fully projecting in harmony at high volumes it sounds like more of a battle, which results in a loss of clarity that can appear slightly muffled and tinny on occasion. This is the only generalised flaw of the VAIN STHLM Originals and it’s a clear sacrifice for maximum bass at such volumes. In a final contrast the acoustically and electronically inspired ‘For Real’ by Mallard, played within the louder volume ranges, with its simplistic nature of beats and rhythms and bright vocals, is clear and tight. It’s impactful as a song which is structurally far simpler but relies on all the ranges, and highlights that these drivers can go loud and sharp with breathing room still existent.
Without doubt all areas of design, from where the earphones live to raw aesthetics, is first and foremost the point of the VAIN STHLM Originals. These are earphones for grab and go action with audio quality that is worthy of being your daily sound inlet for all music tastes. Whilst it's true better value earphones are out there, they don't come with such unique and helpful design.