The Brookstone Clear Dual Drive earphones intrigued me from the moment I saw them. Not because of their unconventional design or the three-button remote and microphone attached. No, I was most intrigued by the fact that these are almost a mirror image of an earphone from Radius; a Japanese based firm which produces the HP-TWF21 “W N°2” DDM 2 (or just DDM2 for short) which is a very complicated way of saying the earphone uses two dynamic drivers in the same housing to produce its sound.
The DDM2 is an earphone that typically retails for about $300 and these Brookstone earphones, which look so similar and also claim to implement a dual dynamic driver setup, retail for a fraction of the price at just $60. Being as curious as I am, I snapped up a pair some months ago and have finally gotten around to writing a review on these most intriguing of earphones.
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Packaging and Accessories: Simple cardboard packaging but designed fairly attractively and professionally. Accessories include three pairs of silicone eartips and a drawstring carrying pouch. Just enough to be adequate, I guess.
Design and Build Quality: Entirely plastic build with paper filters over the nozzles and the thin cables and lacking strain relief on the 3.5mm four-pole jack don’t inspire ideas of longevity. It seems adequate but its long term usability is rather suspect.
Comfort and Isolation: These are a vented dynamic driver with a half in ear design so top-tier isolation shouldn’t be expected. Isolation was below average in my testing so these won’t be the best for blocking out noise during a commute or in crowded, noisy areas.
Comfort wise, the half in ear design was fairly comfortable for me during my use with a shallow fit and with Sony Hybrids (as the stock tips are rather mediocre). The housing rests in the outer ear canal, so those with average sized outer ears shouldn’t have much of an issue wearing these.
Knowing the obvious visual similarities between the Dual Drives and the Radius DDM2, I was curious to see how these sounded. Having never heard the DDM2, I can’t make any comparisons between the two but from what I’ve heard, the DDM2 offers top tier sound quality. With that in mind, let’s see if the DDM2 doppelgangers can make similar claims.
The low end on the Dual Drives is unsurprisingly full and well-rounded but never overpowering or out of place. It’s punchier than it is textured or rumbly to my ears and extends pretty deep before rolling off at the deepest of notes. Bass is smooth and provides a nice platform for the rest of the sound.
Moving upwards, the midrange is clean and clear, if a little dry. This dryness sometimes imparts a grainy sort of character to the midrange which can also make it sound a bit dull at times. It’s not lacking in midrange detail and can stand up there with some of the better IEMs in this price range like the RE0 but falls a bit short. The upper midrange is a bit peaky in response and makes some vocals sound a bit shrill and sibilant but was nothing deal breaking.
The treble I found to be mostly even handed, dry, airy and fairly open sounding. Extension is rather good; going up to high ranges before rolling off at about 14 KHz or so. The soundstage produced by these is above average in terms of depth and width but the presentation seems slightly off. That’s not to say it isn’t good, and it does present a good sense of space and positioning but it sounds a tiny bit hollow and not the most natural.
All said, the Dual Drives are rather neutral in response and don’t seem to lack in any particular frequency. These respond well to equalization, which, at least for me, made them livelier and even replaced my RE-262s for a while and that’s saying something. I’m not saying that these are on the same level in terms of detail or refinement, because they’re not, but the sound was still quite pleasing.
For $60, the Brookstone Clear Dual Drive earphones are definitely a good pair of IEMs as the sound quality is almost up there with the best in the sub-$100 price range and the added microphone and three-button remote is great for iPhone and smartphone users, as this is probably the best sounding headset you can get near this price. But, the main caveat with these is that their build quality is rather disappointing and makes me question their longevity and the isolation is definitely subpar.
That being said, Brookstone does offer a one year warranty on these which is nice to see in this age of 30 – 90 day warranties becoming increasingly popular. With that in mind, if you’re not looking for complete isolation from the environment and need a great sounding headset for your smartphone, the Brookstone Clear Dual Drive earphones are worth a look.