The Medis have zero noise isolation capabilities. Well, okay, maybe they attenuate outside noise by a couple of dBs, but not much. But that’s intentional. The Medis were created for runners and others who need earbuds that allow them to be aware of the outside world around them. At lower volume levels it’s easy to listen to music and carry on a conversation. At higher volume levels all you’ll hear is music.
Unlike the Urbanears’ Bagis, which uses a special rubberized covering for the first section of the cord to minimize microphonics, the Medis cable is cloth covered over its entire length. Because the Medis do not sit in direct contact with you ear canal the cable’s microphonics are far less audible than an in-ear design, so it didn’t need additional attenuation. If you rub the cable near each bud you will hear noise, but it’s not loud.
The Medis can be worn the standard way with the cable hanging straight down or with the cable routed around the top of your ears. Unfortunately, if you route the cable around the top of the ears it will put the mute control two inches behind your left ear—doable, but not ideal. But at least the cable is long enough at 47 inches, so it will still reach an iPod in your front pocket. The cable is also quite flexible so running it down your back or your arm is a snap.
The Medis’ permanently attached cable is terminated with a three-section mini-plug that allows it to control an iPod’s mute function. The Medis comes with two additional adapters, one for Nokia-compatible devices and the other for standard MP3 and stereo devices. The nice thing about these adapter cables is that they also serve as strain-relief quick-releases—if you snag your cable on something the connection between the permanently-attached cable and the adapter cable will pull out first, protecting the rest of the cable from damage.
The Medis comes with a one-year “premium” replacement warranty. What this means is that for a year if the product fails the original authorized dealer, at their discretion, can replace it. Not only is this warranty longer than for most $50 earbuds, it also doesn’t require returning them directly to Urbanears for warranty replacement. Of course the warranty doesn’t cover abuse, which would include trying to use the Medis during the swimming part of your Ironman competition.
• Brighter than neutral with some bass energy.
• Smooth but slightly forward midrange.
• A detailed high-end.
• Decent imaging specificity.
• Fair dynamic contrast.
I mentioned earlier that the fit is the most important and influential aspect of an earphone’s overall performance. With the Medis the fit will strongly affect your perceived bass response. For me the Medis’ bass was on the light side when they were worn in a standard manner, but if I put on a knitted skullcap (not my normal headgear) the cap pushed the Medis inward slightly and made marked a difference in the amount of bass I heard—to the point that the bass could become overbearing. So, you could consider the Medis bass response adjustable, if you don’t mind wearing headgear that comes down over your ears.
The Medis bass resolution overall was good, far better than the thick and woolly sound of the Urbanears Bagis earphones. Because the Medis doesn’t make much direct contact with your ear canals, its bass frequencies are primarily airborne, which give them less impact but better definition. The bass through the Medis is more like what I hear from an open-back headphone rather than a traditional earphone or a closed-back headphone. The bass is clean and well delineated but lacking in slam and visceral impact.
The resolution of detail through the Medis is much better than what you might expect from a $50 earphone. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call the Medis a high-resolution reference monitor, they were much more detailed than the Bagis, Velodyne vPulse, or Ultimate Ears UE200 earphones. Much of this extra, perceived detail was a result of the Medis shelved-up midrange, which gives the whole presence range a little kick in the pants. While not so extreme as to give the overall balance a nasal edge, the Medis’ sonic shift does lighten up baritone and alto voices a smidgeon, and dries out the lower midrange slightly.
The Medis’ upper midrange and treble regions were smooth, but with certain sources I noticed some glare, especially at higher volumes. I much preferred the sound of the Medis when attached to the April Music Stello HP-100 headphone amplifier as opposed to the April Music Eximus DP-1’s headphone output. Somehow the DP-1 excited the Medis brightness zone far more than the Stello HP-100. Driven by an iPod Touch the Medis were not as forgiving of bright peaky recordings as the Urbanears Bagis or Velodyne V-Pulse. In this regard the Medis are more like an audiophile headphone—good recordings reward you with scads of detail while bad ones will show their flaws more readily.