The forthcoming iPhone 7 has long been rumoured to do away with the traditional audio jack. 3Sixt got ahead of the game by introducing its Digital Lightning Buds wired headset in July.
Let's start with the mechanical aspects. The buds themselves are reasonably low profile but do stick out of the ears a little, which could be an issue if you listen in bed or in an airline seat during a long flight. As usual, the tips are provided in three sizes – we normally need medium, but this time we had to go large, which suggests there may be a problem for people with big earholes. A good seal is important for excluding ambient noise, and also to help stop the buds falling out as you move.
The cable is flat — which helps avoid tangles — and is several centimetres longer than the nominal 1.2m of most of the earbuds we use, and that could be a mixed blessing. In some situations it might mean the buds stay in your ears rather than being pulled out, in others the extra slack could be more likely to snag. We don't know the formulation of the cable's outer covering, but our experience with cables with a similar silicone-rubbery feel is that they are much more likely to retain their original flexibility over a long period, which is particularly important for earphones.
As the name suggests, the buds plug into the iPad or iPhone's Lightning port. That would appear to rule out simultaneous charging and listening, but if you know of a Y-adaptor that actually works in this situation, please tell us in the comments.
The Lightning interface means the digital to analogue conversion is done in the buds, not by the device. That's one reason why they cost $119.95. But then Apple's analogue in-ear headphones are $129, and you can easily pay two or three times more.
So how do they sound? As long-term iTWire readers may know, your reviewer admits to being at the 'tin ear" end of the spectrum. But the Digital Lightning Buds were much better than either pair of earbuds we use regularly. That applied to spoken word as well as music. 3Sixt's buds seemed to give a more natural balance of bass and treble, and — without wanting to stray into audio-wanker territory — the sound seemed lighter and more realistic.
Frankly, we were surprised by how good they sounded. It's not that we have anything against 3Sixt, just that our reaction to most audio products is "yeah, that's OK."
3Sixt Digital Lightning Buds are available from LS Travel (at airports), Newslink, Optus and Telstra.