Review: House of Marley headphones
Big name branded headphones mightn't be anything new, but unlike the others, House of Marley brings some serious feel good vibes, solid audio and environmental cred into play.
I'd stumbled upon House of Marley earlier this year, and having finally managed to get hold of some of their headphones, have spent some quality hands on review-time. Here's what I found.
THE HOUSE OF MARLEY
The House of Marley line of headphones, iPod docks and other audio accessories are aimed at the premium end of the market, specifically buyers wanting eco-friendly audio products that are made with sustainably sourced materials.
This may sound like the sort of marketing speak you'd find in a brochure or on a box, but House of Marley have gone to big efforts to utilise zero-waste production processes.
Best of all, chunk of the company's profits go directly to the Marley family's charity, 1love.org, which is dedicated to supporting youth, peace and environmental causes worldwide.
The eco friendly feel of House of Marley products is largely due to the materials used, which include sustainably harvested woods (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council), recycled aluminium, organic cotton and recyclable packaging.
All three headphones I tried out were lightweight, comfy, and thankfully sounded pretty good too. This isn't terribly surprising though, as the Marley family, not wanting to gamble their good name on any old tosh, have opted for quality over quantity when it comes to the audio components used in these cans.
Each is also aptly named after a Bob Marley song.
STIR IT UP WITH SOME OVER EAR GOODNESS
Based on their good looks alone, the Stir It Up headset had piqued my interest before I'd even had a chance to have a listen.
Where the average design of most headphones tends to involve acres of plastic and inspiration from the post modernist urban Tupperware school of design, the materials used and the construction of the Stir It Up headset was a definite step up.
They're not only beautifully made, they have some serious environmental cred too; construction materials are all earth friendly, including FSC certified wood, aluminium and cotton, with plastic kept to a sensible minimum.
From the outset it was obvious that a lot of thought had gone into the Stir It Up headphones, starting with their tangle-free, fabric insulated cable which in use didn't transmit noise to the headset when it rubbed against clothing. In short, there was a whole lot to like about these cans.
At the end of the cable was also a three-button iPod/iPhone controller with an integrated mic, for taking and making calls as well as controlling music on IOS devices.
Clever design aside, the Stir It Ups were also comfy in use.
The combination of plush leather earpads and a padded canvas headband both made for comfortable listening, and a reasonable amount of sound isolation.
Last, but by no means least, the Stir It Up comes with a canvas carry bag, making them easy to take on the move. If only there'd been an adaptor to allow the three button controller to work with non-Android gear.
Being Bob Marley branded, you'd expect the Stir It Ups to crank out some serious sound, and thanks to the use of 40mm coiled drivers, they definitely delivered on the Oonst front. Where cheaper (and sometimes dare I say it, more costly) headsets can deliver similar amounts of bass, audio from the Stir it Ups was controlled, not booming, waffly or undefined. Similarly, mids and treble felt balanced without being shrill, making for a natural warm and non-fatiguing listening experience.
Frequency Response: 15Hz - 22kHz
40-millimeter dynamic moving coil speaker drive for sound reinforcement.
Driver Type: 40-millimeter dynamic coil.
Connector: 3.5mm (gold-plated)
Construction Materials: Recyclable Aluminium , FSC certified Wood, Organic Cotton, Leather, Rubber, Plastic
Cord: 52" fabric cord
REVOLUTIONARY OVER-EAR ACESSORIES
Where the Stir It Ups were crafted out of a mix of alloy and wood, the Revolution sported more of an industrial look, being crafted out of alloy.
Done out in a Darth Vader friendly black finish, the Revolutions look like they should deliver some seriously brutal audio. This was borne out in use.
The Revolution deadphones are made from recycled aluminium with white accents on a black on white padded cotton headband.
This design might be a little less eye-catching than the Stir It Ups, but the still maintain the company's eco-cred by being mostly constructed out of recyclable materials right down to their tangle-free fabric insulated cords with hardly any plastic used at all.
In use they felt solid yet were light and comfy, giving the impression they were built to last.
Firing up some Kiwi dub saw the Revolutions spring into life.
Salmonella Dub and Katchafire showed off just how much raw bass was able to be precision fired directly into my brain.
Similarly, catching movies proved to be an equally positive experience, with the Revolutions ample bass adding oompf to action scenes, while robust mids and treble meant vocals were clean with no discernible distortion, even from the acres of bass on supply.
Like their Stir it up counterparts, the Revolutions also have a padded fabric headband and snug leather insulated cups.
Though they were a tight fit around my noggin, the upside was that very little external noise was discernible and they felt great to wear.
The Revolutions also come with a cool reggae themed cotton carry bag.
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20+kHz frequency response
Driver Type: 40-millimeter dynamic moving coil speaker drive.
Connector: 3.5mm (gold-plated)
Construction Materials: Recyclable Aluminium
Cord: 52" (fabric covered)
IN-EAR REDEMPTION SONG
Moving onto some in-ear headphones, I plugged in the Redemption Song ear-buds and experienced the audio equivalent of a concussion as the delicious bass line from Salmonella Dub's Beat the Game was blasted at me.
Using smaller drivers can sometimes result in sacrifices to audio detail, yet the sonics supplied from these pint size buds was pretty big with crisp highs, deep lows and a fairly detailed sound stage unfolding around me as I listened.
Looking at the Redemption Song buds, beautiful is the first word that springs to mind.
Finished in dark FSC certified wood, they have more in common looks-wise with a musical instrument than something you'd stick in your ears.
Supplied with the same fabric insulated tangle free cord as their over-ear siblings, the Redemptions reeked of quality. Rounding out their tasteful design, they also incorporated a set of controls and mic for iPods and making calls with iPhones and other IOS devices.
Poorly designed in-ear headphones can literally be a pain to use, however this definitely wasn't the case with the Redemption Songs, which I wore for a better part of a day, often forgetting they were plugged into my head until the phone rang, or I decided to change music tracks.
A big factor figuring in this wasn't just a well thought out and comfy design, (not to mention the bundled choice of 5 silicon ear tips), but was also the use of high-end 9mm drivers in tuned enclosures which delivered silky smooth audio with a natural and organic sound that is all too rare in so many of earbuds I've tested.
Frequency Response: 10Hz - 22kHz
Driver Type: 9mm driver, 16 ohms (neodymium magnet).
Connector: 3.5mm (gold-plated)
Construction materials: FSC certified wood, Recyclable Aluminium, organic cotton, rubber, plastic
Cord: 52" fabric cord
Having spent a serious amount of hands-on time with all three headphones from the House of Marley, I'm hooked.
While tthere are cheaper headphones out there, I'd happily pay more for these headphones for several reasons.
Not only did all three impress on the audio front, but they each looked as good as they sounded (which was pretty good). Add to this the feel-good factor that comes with knowing you've bought audio gear that'll have as little impact on the environment as possible, not to mention that some of your hard earned cash is also going to be used to do a little good in the world via the 1love charity and there's a whole lot to like.