Tech Reviews: Play By Ear
Five headphones that caught our attention
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Headphones
Subtly designed, unobtrusive, and ridiculously functional, these well designed headphones from one of the world’s most heralded names in sound technology deliver a warm, rich, aural experience that belies the device’s rather modest (when compared with the other products in the portfolio) price tag. There’s no active noise canceling, but they do a pretty good job of muffling out external noise and a built-in microphone helps them double up as a headset as well.
Beats by Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre launched the solid-looking Studio line of headphones in 2008 in partnership with Monster, and they’ve been selling like…well, Dr. Dre albums ever since. In 2012, the collaboration ended, and Beats now offers a range of six headphones at various price points.
The noise canceling is adequate, and the sound is best described as banging — suited for hip hop, dance, or anything else with a thumping bass track. The headphones do leak a fair amount of sound, but if you’re listening to them that loud, you’re risking permanent hearing damage anyway. Be sure to check out the Beats Wireless and Beats Pro as well before picking these up to avoid any buyer’s remorse.
Parrot Zik Headphones
Paris-based Parrot has been around for about two decades, but of late, they’ve been catching our attention with some seriously well-designed and functional products that don’t just get the job done — they tend to do it better than anyone else as well. Case in point: the Parrot Zik, which the company bills as the “most advanced headphones.” We agree; at the risk of sounding like an American frat boy, the Ziks are pretty…sick. Slick design (courtesy design impresario Philippe Starck) meet insanely cool features (touch control on the ear surfaces, motion detection with automatic pausing when you take them off, great noise canceling, bone conduction technology, and most importantly, spectacular sound quality) to produce headphones we were rather thrilled to find in our Christmas stockings last month.
Sennheiser OMX 680 Sports Headphones
When it comes to sports headphones, we’re not asking for much. Sturdy, sweatproof, and functional is pretty much all we’re after. If they sound great, that’s a bonus. Sennheiser’s OMX 680s sound just fine and have also achieved something pretty rare: when the first pair we owned was rendered unusable after a year of hard use and a kitten-chewing-wires incident, we went right ahead and bought another. A word of caution: the combination of the behind-ear support and in-ear headphones can start to hurt after about an hour and a half, but if you’re working out for that long, you probably want high-end headphones anyway. Or you know, run faster and get more done in less time.
Marshall Major Black
If you are regular at music gigs you should have seen Marshall amplifiers on stage; they’re fairly ubiquitous among guitarists, most notably for the trademark Marshall crunch” sound they’re known for. You can now bring that same old-school design, history, and awesome by association (Marshall has been the preferred amplifier of choice for The Who, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Slayer) cachet to your ears.
The Marshall Major Black is inordinately well-designed, and the sound is remarkably clean and crisp. They are also very comfortable on the head — mainly because of their lightweight form. These are a great pick for purists; those looking for a slightly higher-end version can spring for the Major 50FX that features a special tribute (gold detailing and a headband) to the company’s founding in the Sixties.
Varun Bubber is a Bombay-based writer.
Send feedback to him over Twitter at @vbubber.