Shure Music Phone Adapter Review

Shure MPA-3c
While I’m not thrilled that Apple chose to make the iPhone’s headphone jack inaccessible to most high-end headphones, adapters are popping up left and right. The best one I’ve seen so far is the MPA-3c from Shure. For $40, you get a 32-inch cable with an integrated microphone that turns any set of headphones into a cell-phone headset. You also get a little bit of control over the iPhone without having to remove it from your pocket, which will save you from having to deal with the iPhone-envious jerk sitting next to you when you want to send/end a call or pause your music.

Full review after the jump.

I’m an audio geek, so I’ve got some pretty snazzy headphones like the Shure SE-420 and Ultimate Ears 5 Pro; if the iPhone is supposed to double as an iPod, then these great-sounding earbuds are necessities for me. But thanks to the iPhone’s recessed headphone jack, I need to use an adapter.

The Shure Music Phone Adapter (MPA-3c is the iPhone-compatible model) gives me the option of using these headphones for listening to my John Coltrane and Bela Bartok albums (encoded in Apple Lossless format, natch) as well as making hands-free phone calls. Not that I love using the iPhone as an actual phone, mind you, since AT&T sucks in New York City.

The integrated mic reduces ambient noise when I’m talking to someone, so the only communication snag is the AT&T/iPhone combo’s rotten call quality. A small gray button on the back of the mic ends and sends calls, or if you’re listening to music, pauses the audio —three extremely useful functions. (The MPA-3c also works with the Motorola RAZR V3i.)

Shure MPA-3c closeup
It beats out the Belkin adapter because of the on-board control button as well as the cable’s flexibility; the Belkin is rigid, causing some awkward stares at the odd pocket bulge, and it doesn’t have the integrated mic. The MPA has a little clip that holds the cable to your shirt so the mic doesn’t flop around while you’re walking.

It would be nice if the MPA also had a volume control, but at least the iPhone has dedicated hardware buttons for that. It would be even cooler if Shure could miniaturize their Push-to-Hear module and fold it into the MPA so you could press another button and use the mic to hear what’s going on around you. Maybe next year?

Bottom line: If you’ve got high-end headphones and an iPhone, the MPA is absolutely essential.