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GadgeTell Review: id America Spark Headphones

Sections: Audio, Headphones

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There are a lot of headphones out there. A lot. As difficult as it may seem for shoppers to navigate all the options out there to find that right one, it’s likely even harder for manufacturers to make a name for themselves.

When in doubt, people tend to be more likely to go with a name they recognize. It’s a safe choice, sure, but then one misses out on those diamonds in the rough. One such diamond that delivers excellent sound quality at an affordable price is the Spark headphones by id America.

Design

id America Spark headphones

The essence of a sparkplug

The Spark headphones from id America certainly have a distinct look, especially if you get one of the two-tone color options. The inspiration behind the design comes from spark plugs; id America used a deft hand to capture the essence without taking it too far. The casing is machined from aluminum, which makes it both lighter and more durable than most plastic-constructed headphones.

The cord isn’t too thin, though it’s made of that standard non-springy type of rubber. It’s kind of kinky, but at least it doesn’t catch on clothing too much. The headphones include a simple clip, which helps to tame the cords some while being worn.

The headphones now feature an L-shaped 3.5mm plug instead of the original straight version. It’s makes me sad when a manufacturer overlooks the plug, since L-shaped ones tend to be more durable and always easier to pull out. Cheers for id America.

The wire junction and button remote/mic are encased in aluminum and plastic, respectively. Though they provide good protection, I wish they had rounder edges at the end as to not catch on buttons, collars, etc.

id America Spark headphones naked

Closeup without the tip on

While id America was thoughtful with certain aspects of the Spark headphones, they did leave out a slider to tighten cords up toward one’s neck. It would have been helpful to include one, considering how unruly the cords can be.

The button on the remote works with my Amazon MP3 app, but not my Google Music app. Single presses for pause and play are easy, though the multi-presses for next and previous song can take a bit of practice to nail down the timing.

The “premium leather” case is a nice touch, though it made me giggle. The cylindrical shape doesn’t make it so pocket-friendly, but it does provide a place to stuff the Spark headphones in when they’re not in use.

Comfort

No matter how good of sound quality your headphones have, it won’t mean much unless they’re also comfortable. Comfort and fit are subjective, and the only way to tell if it works for is by testing it out. The Spark headphones have a standard fit. They go straight in without any fancy ergonomics or curves. I’ve worn them for hours at a time without discomfort, in part due to the lightweight aluminum body.

There is no contour or cable angling to make it less susceptible to being yanked out from activity. The medium-sized silicone tips fit my ears perfectly. All the tip sizes are soft while providing enough resistance to maintain a good seal.

The noise isolation is good. I know there’s better out there, but these Spark headphones give me a solid six foot bubble once they’re in and music is on. Even at a reasonable volume, someone would have to yell at me in order to break through.

Sound Quality

My standard go-to headphones are the Klipsch Image S4. They handle the majority of music I enjoy, providing clarity and precision within an expansive soundstage. Though clean and technical, the lows produced by the Image S4 lack punch and boom. This is where the Spark picks up the slack.

id America Spark headphones plug

Closeup of remote, connector, and plug

The Spark headphones bring bass that is likely to please most everyone. I’ll be the first to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to bass-heavy music, as the Spark headphones deliver a fuller sound compared to the Klipsch. You get a nice boost to the lows without losing any depth or layers. However, this oomph does have the tendency of affecting the lower end of the mids.

It’s likely a matter of personal preference, but I feel the mids are boosted too much. Compared to the Image S4, the Spark’s mids are noticeably louder to the point of encroaching on the vocals. I like vocals to have prominence and distinct separation.

The Spark headphones can tend to warm notes and layers together when more instruments are playing. It becomes a little more evident with faster-playing songs, such as “Awaken” by Dethklok. At 3:33 of A Perfect Circle’s song, “The Noose”, when the song softly explodes with vocals, low and mid instrumentals, and synth sounds, the Spark’s mids overpower everything, throwing the balance off. Much of the song’s intricacies are drowned out, lacking the finesse I prefer.

The highs and vocals are accurate, excellent. It was hard to tell much difference in highs between the Spark and Klipsch headphones. I listened to “Lateralus” (koto ensemble version on YouTube) and the Spark handled all the instruments well. The mids did their intensity-thing, though it wasn’t as pronounced for this example.

Line noise is typical with the Spark headphones and far less pronounced than the Image S4. Again, a good cable clip (or two) helps to hold the cords down to prevent excess thumping. For any headphones.

Phone Calls

Not bad! I was wearing these while taking my daughter on a walk at the park, and took a phone call. Though not quite as good as a Bluetooth headset intended for voice conversations, the id America Spark headphones were good enough for a full conversation. I had to repeat a few words here and there, but anyone can also chalk that up to wind or road noise.

I heard the other person perfectly clear. Having an in-line remote to accept calls is a lot more convenient than I ever would have expected. It certainly beats out asking someone to hold on a minute while fishing for a Bluetooth headset. I’m probably going to consider this feature for all of my future headsets.

Verdict

Overall the id America Spark headphones offer excellent sound at an even better price. You can pick up a pair for around $40 on Amazon.

id America Spark headphones insert

“Premium leather” case included

Compared to the Klipsch Image S4, the Spark headphones perform virtually toe-to-toe in terms of sound quality. Casual listeners might not notice much difference, except for maybe the improved bass and greater push to the mids.

I do feel the Spark’s mids crowd the vocals, which is my biggest criticism. But this observation was from weeks worth of some serious focus-listening. I’m sure if Ijust popped the Spark headphones in while doing chores or spacing out during a long car ride, I wouldn’t have picked up on it so much.

The Spark’s soundstage is not as roomy as the Image S4. At times, the Spark headphones made some songs sound like they were playing in a livingroom instead of a theater. The Image S4 presents music that is slightly more precise and distinct, but the Spark headphones are the S4’s equal when it concerns highs, clarity, and vocals. The Klipsch Image S4’s bass may be tighter and cleaner, but the Spark’s bass output is bigger and boomier without sounding artificial or excessive.

In the end, it’s really going to come down to the types of music one mostly listens to. Those who listen to music that is bass-heavy are surely going to prefer the id America Spark headphones, especially since the overall sound quality is top notch. You’ll also save a few bucks on something that looks unique and isn’t a typical “mainstream” option.

The Spark headphones by id America are not gimmicky and absolutely hold their own for performance and audio enjoyment. My recommendation for purchasing the Spark headphones is that you choose a color combination and not the solid black. Not only does it highlight the machined detail better, it’s more fun to look at.

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