Medis is a district of Stockholm, Sweden, located at exactly N 59º 18’ 54.46” by E 018º 04’ 20.91”. How do I know this? It’s written on the outside of the Urbanears Medis earphone’s box. And why is the location of Medis on the box? That’s just the way Urbanears does things.
The Medis are the second earphone for Urbanears I’ve covered recently. The first was the $35 Bagis, which proved to be quite a value. But other than sharing a similar overall design aesthetic, the $50 Medis have little physically in common with the Bagis. While the Bagis are a noise-isolating sealed in-ear design, the Medis are an on-ear, unsealed design with no noise isolation or noise cancellation. Indeed, this means the Medis is essentially that most rare of rare birds: a true high performance “earbud.” In short the Medis isn’t “better” as in good/better/best, but a completely different product designed to be used in situations where an isolating in-ear design wouldn’t be desirable. Urbanears carries the concept of the right tool for the job to a logical and well-designed conclusion.
One aspect of the Medis design that it shares with all the other Urbanears earphones is a celebration of color. You can get Medis in black, teal, raspberry, orange, tomato, sage, indigo, mocca, mustard, cream, grape and dark grey. My review samples were black, which is too bad, since I’m sure I would have looked fetching in mocca. But if you want to make sure you never leave your Medis lying on a locker-room bench I’d opt for tomato.
The Medis have a different driver than the Bagis so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they have a fundamentally different sound. The published Medis frequency curve shows a gradual 5 dB lift, which begins around 750 Hz. All the frequencies between 1kHz and 7 kHz are hotter than the rest of the Medis’ frequency range. At approximately 7 kHz there’s a 2 dB spike before the Medis begin a gradual roll-off that leaves them 40 dB down by 20 Hz. This harmonic frequency curve gives the Medis an added helping of clarity, especially in the human voice range.
Why would someone choose a non-isolating, unsealed on/in-ear headphone design like the Medis? They are ideal if you plan to wear ‘phones somewhere that you must be aware of your environment, such as when you’re out running, biking, or strolling on urban streets. Also, for some people the pressurization of a within-the-ear-canal ‘phone is too uncomfortable to tolerate. The Medis design offers a refreshingly open option.
• 15.4mm handmade drivers.
• EarClick construction secures the earpiece to your outer ear at two points.
• Tangle-resistant 47-inch signal cord.
• Comes with remote-compatible stereo plug for i-Phone, Blackberry, HTC, etc.
• Has adapter cable for standard stereo MP3 players
• Includes 4 sizes of ear pads
Ergonomic Highlights and Lowlights
The more earphones I review, the more aware I’ve become that the way a pair of earphones fit is the single most important aspect of their performance because it affects all other performance parameters. Based on fit alone the Medis obtained high marks for innovation. They aren’t the first earbuds to use a two-point system to keep them in place in your outer ears, but their solution is unique. The Medis interchangeable rubber pads serve to hold the earbuds in place by fitting under your upper ear ridge. The B&W C5s uses a somewhat similar approach but instead of interchangeable rubber pads, B&W employs an adjustable metal loop and more conventional ear-tips. I tried all four different supplied bumpers and settled on the largest ones. I didn’t think my ears were that big…
Urbanears has dubbed the Medis as an “EarClick” design. The first time you put on the Medis you’ll understand how they came up with the term. To put on the Medis you rest their bases on the lower curve of your ear, bend the bumper slightly and give the buds a slight counter-clockwise twist. Once in place, I found the Medis were as secure and as hard to pull out as a pair of well seated in-ear-canal earphones. The Medis are well marked as to which is left and right, but if you do accidentally try to put the left bud in your right ear you’ll discover that each bud is specifically shaped for an individual ear. The left bud will simply not fit into your right ear.