LINK: Pump Audio | PRICE: £60
Traditionally DJs use headphones. But with increasing regularity, earbuds (or more accurately inner ear monitors or IEMs) are making an appearance. For me this is largely driven by the more universal use of electronics in our lives, and wanting to slim down the amount of stuff we lug around. One pair fits all.
Acceptance of IEMs is still relatively low, and yanking HD25s from the ears of most DJs isn’t likely to happen overnight. But somebody has to try, thus a few companies make IEMs that they feel are capable of delivering solid audio wherever you might be. And one of those companies is Pump Audio, who graciously dropped some of their bright orange MIX IEMs into the mail.
Me and earphones don’t get along. My ears lack the antitragus aka the knobbly bit that form a natural hook for earbuds to sit in. Thus when it’s time to sell my old iPhone, the earbuds are still in the wrapper. So I have to use IEMs as opposed to earbuds, which is a little wearing after a while, but the audio quality delivered is for me exponentially better and isolates like a mofo.
I do have a few sets to compare with — some older Ultimate Ears that make me look like a spook, and the Flare Audios. And while they’re all quite different IEMs, I’ll at least have some high quality examples with which to make qualitative comparisons.
They really count. While I continue to have real issues with lavish packaging aka expensive landfill, they are subsiding with the advancement of recycling. But Pump Audio has definitely paid attention to the likes of V-MODA when it comes to user experience. Thankfully the box is smaller than most, and the whole package brings a user experience beyond the price. You feel like you’ve spent beyond your budget, which is a good feeling even if you do never use the box again.
One last thing — the bright orange is an obvious draw for the DJWORX brand. But you’ll be relieved to hear that they also come in plain old black too.
IN THE BOX
Aside from the MIX IEMs themselves, you get a decent selection of odds and ends to compliment your experience, namely three different sizes of silicone and memory foam earbuds, a cable clip, and a small but solid zip up case. You also get the numerous booklets in all the languages ever that you’ll never read, but are legally obliged to be in the box anyway.
About the memory foam buds — after my experience of Flares, I’ve become a fan of Comply tips. After a reasonable amount of time, I find the silicone ones make my ears ache a little. I would definitely recommend trying memory foam earbuds to everyone. Pump however recommends using only theirs (available from the Pump website if you need spares), but I find Complys to be better, although they don’t come in orange.
Having established that it’s a high quality brand in a high quality package, does this extend to the actual product? Happily yes. The cable is a flat coated rubber affair with integral phone controls, that’s tangle-free and capable of withstanding a good amount of abuse. I know because these have been on trips (both foreign and domestic) and been my daily abused sofa IEMs. They’ve been roughly handled in and out of my bag, and being regularly trodden on while watching and listening on the sofa.
The actual fittings are made mostly from metal with pliable plastic cable housings. The MIX is definitely an all-in-one IEM, with replaceable ear pieces, so much so that I couldn’t find an easy way to open them up to take a peek at the drivers without damaging them.
Having abused them solidly for a few months, they’re as good as new. I do generally take care of everything in my possession, but I have no doubt that these will last for a decent amount of time. It’ll largely depend on how roughly you handle your stuff. Oooer.
Aaah… here we are again in the fuzzy grey area of describing how a product sounds. The easiest place to start (and is often the yardstick for some) is with the numbers. Firstly the range is 12hz-28khz, a range that goes some way outside of the generally accepted 20hz-20khz audible frequency range. I don’t know if it’s an indicator of my experience, but the bottom end in the MIXs is HUGE. Listening to films for example delivered an epic low-end grunt, which in turn makes them ideal for more bass driven music too.
This doesn’t mean that they’re muddy though. The mids and highs are definitely there too, but the bass does colour the rest of the range a little for my ears. For this reason, I wouldn’t want to master with these though — the bass-led sound really doesn’t sound clean or linear enough to give a true response.
One thing I will say — these are loud. I barely have to nudge volume controls above 1 on my Rane Sixty Four to get crazy volume levels. It went from zero to hurt in the smallest of turns. My iPhone faired much better though, as did my MacBook Pro. Just bear in mind that a hot output might not be especially friendly to the MIXs.
I won’t make any vague flowery proclamations describing the sound. But Pump MIXs are very bass heavy, clean, and loud.
In such a saturated market, it’s hard to make price comparisons, nor can I be arsed to wade through shopping sites to make arbitrary decisions. So I asked myself this — would I pay £60 for these? And having handled and used them, I feel the answer is yes.
The overall package is great, the quality feels right, and they deliver sound wise too. It’s important to consider the warranty too — you get a standard two year warranty, but if you register your purchase on the Pump site, you’ll also get an extended 5 year warranty that while not offering full free replacements, you’ll definitely get a significant discount on a new pair.
So for me, the Pump Audio MIXs do offer excellent value for money.
As mentioned previously, the IEM market is busy and covers a range from a few quid up to thousands. You could reasonably stab around in the sub-£100 bracket and be guaranteed to get a decent pair without too much trouble. Reading Amazon reviews also offers a degree of confidence in making the right decision too.
So going my own experience of higher end IEMs, the Pump Audio MIX IEMs feeling like a solid buy. I certainly don’t feel like I’m stepping down, and while I do have some small reservations using them with pro audio gear with hot outputs, and where a linear response matters, the MIXs feel like an excellent all-purpose purchase.