Ultra Cool Throwbacks
Dec 13, 2012 (Updated Dec 16, 2012)
Review by Bill Brott
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Lightweight, Good Range, Great Overall Sound, Excellent Value
Cons:Cord feels a tad flimsy
The Bottom Line: If you're in the market for good headphones, and don't have the several hundreds necessary to buy the ones with a cool name---try these.
The hunt began several weeks ago when we decided to clean up the live sound of a very tight, but loud and jazzy praise band I perform with. One problem we’ve had is the fact that the band is so large and varied. Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, (Sometimes both guys on electric), Piano, Auxiliary Keyboards and Synthesizers, Two Trumpets, Trombone, Saxaphone(s) Alto, Tenor, sometimes both as well as the occasional Baritone Sax, Drummer, Extraneous Percussion, and yours’ truly on Electric and or Upright Bass. Now let’s throw in a praise team of six vocalists, each with a unique range and independent microphone, and you start to get the picture of the soundman’s nightmare waiting to happen. Because most of the musicians and vocalists are studio quality types, we’ve made a go of it with standard plug and play amplifiers and/or direct boxes, and an incredibly talented sound crew mixing it all down with clunky stage monitors everywhere, and a rather large computer aided mixing board for multi-media presentations.
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The trouble is, good soundmen know that when you mix the instruments from the signals on stage, you have to attenuate the reverb and delay factors in order to fit the room/concert hall/club/open stage, etcetera in which the band is playing. Have you ever seen one of these guys before a concert going around and clapping loudly in the corners of the room in order to see how live (amount of natural reverb inherently present from a room’s design) the room is? That helps them judge the degree of play they have to work with. When the musicians listen to their monitors they can get a false sense of what sound is actually coming out, not to mention, the different sense of time and beat vs. what you feel under your fingers, vs. what is actually projecting from the stage monitors, and the actual final signal that is hitting the ears of the crowd from the main sound system. It is only milliseconds of difference, but in the heat of battle, when playing down a chart in 5/4 time at 160+ beats a minute, things can get a little touchy if you’re slightly off your game.
That’s when we went completely away from stage monitors, and everyone was given a little mini-mixer/monitor that you plug a set of earbuds or headphones into. This forced everybody to listen to the overall mix as we play, in order to keep things consistent no matter where on stage they might happen to be. Everyone now has the chance to attenuate the amount of bass, treble, vocals, brass, etc, they hear (rather than asking the soundman to turn it up in a specific area monitor only to have someone else request he turn it down later), but everybody hears everybody simultaneously—no grey regions.
Now as a person on a meager teacher’s salary, subsidized by epinions and church gigs, I wasn’t in any position to lay down the dough for headphones costing 100’s, and occasionally 1,000’s of dollars. I don’t care for earbuds, because they get too close to my eardrums, and I find that dangerous. Besides, way back in the day, when I was fairly good, I used to wear headphones in the studio so that I could make sure I was grooving right along with the click track. I read the specs on a lot of headphones, and the claims on these were out of this world. (7hz-22khz) So on a whim, I went with these. What did I have to lose for $30?—Well, I didn’t lose much. In fact, I actually gained a lot. Here’s what I got for my $30.
Frequency Response—4 ½ Stars
Admittedly the range the manufacturer claims these babies have is above and beyond the human range of hearing. (7hz-22khz) Hey, what do I care? I realize that the lower frequencies are not to be heard, (average human hearing bottoms out at 20 hz so 7 is really a stretch) but I guarantee they can certainly be felt, and or sensed. I have played my upright bass for students when deaf people were part of a small and intimate audience. I allowed them to come touch the sides and the table (top) of the instrument as I bowed the lower frequencies. They felt the vibrations through the wood, and smiled. That was a very moving moment for me, and one which gave me great insight. Because my bass is tuned differently, (weirdo that I am) , and carries a low note of A0 on the scientific pitch grade, I can create some seriously low and wide vibrations. I needed earphones that could allow me to feel those lowest of low overtones, even if (theoretically speaking) they cannot be heard. These fill the bill in spades. They perform better than many of the higher priced models that carry famous names attached to them. (Though again 22000 hz/22khz is above and beyond the average human range of 20 khz) On the high notes, I can hear the trumpets blast a High C and catch the actual articulation of the note as well as the pitch. That is something I attribute to a vague sense of “feel” as much as actual pitch dissemination. Extended range and/or capacity is something most musicians refer to as “headroom”. For live studio type mixes—these phones are awfully hard to beat for the price.
If that’s the case—shouldn’t they get 5 Stars? In a word—NO! Here’s why. Most people won’t be buying these phones to use as mini-monitors for live performance. In fact, most of those people will be ponying up the 100’s if not 1000’s of dollars necessary to make this happen. Most people will be buying these to listen to CD’s, or MP3’s on their iPods etc. Sadly, that’s where these ring a little false to me. When listening to CD recordings, it became obvious to me that both ends of the listening spectrum have been enhanced on these by juicing the signal with phony mids. It’s an old trick that amplifier companies have used for years in order to make even the crumbiest electric guitar/bass sound good. Fortunately, these phones aren't as obviously overloaded with phony mids as are some others I have tried. Now that’s good news for you guys that still like to plug into CD’s on an Old School Boom Box, but the real stereophonic snob is going to be a little disappointed. (You know the guy—old tube powered amp, JBL Speakers the size of an old Pontiac, and a magnetically tuned Turntable to boot.) Those folks will want the expensive headphones with the flat line signal over these any day of the week, rather than the spectrally enhanced models.
40mm drivers are big for a pair of headphones. I’m sorry, but I just don’t want a pill-sized neodymium head-blaster (aka earbud) parked up against my eardrum. My tympanic membranes have seen enough abuse over the years. These are quite good at what they do, large enough to to allow frequency separation, without pumping in an overly sized boat load of phony mids, and yet not so large as to make them feel heavy. If you are going to wear these babies for hours on end, these won’t weigh you down, or leave a skin indentation if you’ve had to wear them over extended periods. The padding is comfortable too, and eliminates the majority of ambient noise, without making you completely unaware of the other musicians you might be working with, or a partner who might be bringing you a coffee or hot cup of tea if you’ve grown attached to your CD/DVD Player.
Styling-- 5 Stars
Hey man, I dig retro, and these just ooze with throwback. There are a lot of colours available, but I had to go with the lime green. They just seemed to scream retro-organic sound. I like the wire adjuster, and the over head band, as well as the “Big Foam Ear Muff” look attached to the Lime Green Over Ear Driver Covers. If you remember the old KOSS headphones from back in the day, these are a sweet reminder of how we used to listen to an album on a Thorens Turntable, powered by a Macintosh Tube Amp.
Build Quality—3 ½ Stars
They are well above average, and they will last—BUT--- 1.2mm on the cable is just not something that an old hand like me gets used to. It seems sturdy enough as it hasn’t let me down yet—but it does feel fragile. I’m sure they will hold up, as they have done well for me over the past month. I do wish the cable was longer as well. The length of 3.9 feet is okay, but it restricts me on stage as far as turning my head too far, or leaning back and talking to the drummer. At only 1.2mm of thickness, I would think 6 feet wouldn’t be asking for too much. The plastic has held up, as has the foam in the earcovers, but something tells me that a year from now, they will definitely be showing serious signs of wear.
Overall Value—4 ½ Stars
Hey, I got these for half of their original MSRP of $59.99, so I’m down with it. I certainly could have done worse. I actually demoed several phones that go for $100-150 that couldn’t hold a candle to these, and my wife’s $40 earbuds need replacing every few months. At $30—these are mighty tough to beat. If you dig the retro look and feel as much as I do----you’ll really dig these phones. I find them more than up to the tasks I have entrusted to them, and would gladly buy another pair of these if they buy the farm anytime soon.
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