Webster defines the word sound as; “mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium (as air) and in the objective of causing hearing.” In other words, sound is waves of different pressure intended to impact our ears. This is exactly what the House of Marley set out to do when they began their work on a line of headphones. Inspired by the works of the Great Bob Marley and the Reggae sound these products seek to encompass the not only the sound, but the feel of the music you listen to. In addition to audio quality the House of Marley also claims to have very eco-friendly products. They accomplish this by using recycled material and parts they call sustainable. So let’s take a look at the House of Marley Redemption Song On-Ear Headphones and see if they can really convey not only the sound or the music we listen to, but the feeling and emotion.
The Box and Goodies -
The box the Redemption Song headphones arrived in was indeed made of recycled cardboard. This did not stop it from looking good though. In fact the faded look that House of Marley (HOM from now on) gave it actually added appeal to it. You get a picture of the headphones right on the front with a information on them in several languages. You will also note that at the bottom of the box are the logos for Apple’s three main products (iPad, iPhone, iPad) meaning that these are designed for use with them including controls for volume right on the cable.
Spinning the box around to the right we find a window showing off the actual headphones. You can see that the claims on both the website and the box are already being proven. The materials here are not synthetic, but actual wood, leather and cloth we are already impressed at this point (but then again when we first saw these at CES two years ago we were impressed).
The back goes into more detail on the product here and also talks about the inspiration for the entire line; Bob Marley himself. We also get some specifications on the Redemption Song headphones (although not much really).
In addition to the environmental friendly design of the products the company House of Marley also supports the 1Love organization (1love.org) a charitable organization whose goal is to strive for hope, unity, and sustainable responsible living. 1Love assists other organizations with the same goals and was founded by the Marley family in honor of Bob Marley.
Inside the box we found our new set of Redemption Song headphones safely encased in a shell of recycled cardboard. Once this was opened we got our first look at these rather impressive headphones and the items that the House of Marley included. For your $199.99 you get the Headphones, a braided removable cable and a canvas carrying bag.
Although usually not a fan of bags and cases the one that arrived with the Redemption Song Headphones was very nice looking and high-quality. Ok, HOM, you have impressed us so far and we have not even taken a look at the actual headphones… fortunately that is next.
The Redemption Song Headphones -
Made of recycled or sustainable (naturally occurring) materials the Redemption Song headphones are impressive to look at. You can tell at first glance that these are a quality set with none of the usual plastic or tacky fake leather. Here you have the real deal from the real beach wood to the real tanned leather even down to the cloth braided cabling.
The Redemption Song headphones also have a very comfortable weight to them. They are not light by any means but the weight they have sits very comfortably on your head. This weight also does help to reduce secondary vibrations in the headphones that can affect sound reproduction. Before we get too far let’s start a quick walk around the Redemption Song On-Ear headphones to make sure we cover everything.
Behind the audio for the Redemption Song Headphones is a pair of 40mm moving coil drivers that are capable of a 15 k – 22 KHz frequency response and also allow for move impact from the sound they deliver. But just having a good set of drivers is not enough. These are tuned for the materials they are encased in; after all the best speakers in the world can be killed by putting them in a bad cabinet. The engineers at HOM know this and have made sure to tune the audio accordingly. The ear cups that will sit on your ear are made of tanned leather (nothing synthetic here) and not only provide for comfort but are also breathable. When they are on your head they provide a good seal to help shut out noise that could interfere with your listening enjoyment. On the back of the ear piece is a thin slice of real beach wood. This adds a nice aesthetic touch to the Redemption Song Headphones. Around these (as we have mentioned before) is a recyclable aluminum ring. This is cut a little thicker than some but this only adds to the weight and stability of the headphones. The ear piece rings are connected to the head strap along an adjustable slide a thin braided cable connect the two drivers through the head strap with a small coiled loop at each side to complete the look.
Moving on to the head strap it is also made of sturdy aluminum, but enclosed in more tanned leather. Along the outside of the head strap HOM has also put in a cloth inset that proudly shows off the colors of the Reggae Culture (which come from the colors of the African flag which is usually symbolized by the colors red, yellow, green and black, but also include the green and yellow from the Jamaican flag). The head strap is also padded but here the leather holding the padding is vented to allow it to compress easier (which means more comfort).
Unlike many on-ear headsets the cable that connects you to your audio device is not permanently connected. There is a small 1/8-inch port that you plug the included cable into. Speaking of the cable this is without a doubt one of the nicest one that we have tested out. The cable is sturdy and covered in a cloth coating (again with the red, yellow, green and black colors). The cable has gold plated connectors at each end (these are nice, but unless the port you are plugging into is gold they do not do much they are a nice touch though). HOM did include audio controls for the iPad, iPhone and iPod, but unfortunately these will not work on other devices the button in the center (with the House of Marley Symbol) should connect and disconnect calls on most smartphones though). Still for the iFaithful this is a great feature. Along with the controls you also get a 90-degree angled 1/8-inch plug which helps to reduce the change of bending or damaging the plug once is connected to your audio device.
Back at CES 2011 we talked with the guys from House of Marley and they told us that they were going to were not going to skimp on hardware, but wanted to make very high quality audio reproduction devices. So far from our casual look over the packaging and the headphones they have certainly done that. Now let’s see if the audio quality can live up to the marketing statements…
With audio gear it is hard to be objective. After all different people like different music and even people that like the same music might like to listen to it in different ways. To make sure that I cover the audio products that we get here at DecryptedTech I like to have more than one opinion. Usually I gather 5 other people to listen to different audio types (gaming, movies, MP3 and CD-Audio). I then ask for a rating of one to five with one being the worst and 5 being the best for each category. As an added item I also ask for a single word to describe the audio quality. I then follow up with my personal feelings and observations. The HOM Redemption Song headphones are meant more for music reproduction. We also wanted to try them out in our other environments so we will cover them hear, but will focus on their performance with music and in particular digital music.
Music (MP3 and CD-Audio)
For Music I have a few favorite tracks that I like to use. These are not always other people’s favorites but they serve as a baseline and have some impressive audio features to them that can distinguish between good audio and bad. One of them is Stevie Ray Vaughn’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing. It is an amazing track. Others are A Day in the Life by the Beetles, Are you Experienced by Jimi Hendrix, and Cage the Elephant’s Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked. To this listing we added some jazz, funk, and of course Reggae (Bob Marley of course). The numbers for this along with their corresponding one word comments are below.
Wow, that is all I can say about the audio quality from these headphones. This is in comparison to the Sennheiser PC350 AND the Sirus headphones. Neither of these other two over-the-ear headsets was able to reproduce the same level of audio we heard from this on-ear headset. This is unusual as nine-times out of ten an over-the-ear headset is going to give better audio performance. This was not the case here at all. The audio was clear with nice separation between the highs, mids, and lows. Many times when you extend the lower end of the frequency range the low end gets muddy and pulls away from the mid-range sounds. This causes a blending of these which distorts the separation of instruments. We did not see any of these when at all on our ZuneHD, Our Desktop PC with an Asus Xonar Xense and on the Tech On Model 55 Tube Amp VERY impressive. Some of our listeners described the experience as “like listening to the song for the first time”. They said they were hearing things in the music that they had never heard before.
Although the Redemption Song Headphones were not designed for gaming the extra room at the low end gives us something more. This is very evident in games like Medal of Honor and Modern Warfare 3 where the sond of the gunfire took on a whole new feel. Even in games like Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning the audio was great and brough a whole new depth to our gaming experience.
The numbers are shown below, while the words used to describe the gaming quality were;
Movies was an easy one also, I have several Bluray titles that are great for this including Pirates of the Caribbean. So I loaded up this title and then dropped in a couple of other movies that have good surround effects. The response was not as good as the gaming, but still the surround piece did seem to impress. The numbers and words are shown below.
The movie experience was also very impressive. There is something to be said for a pair of headphones that can accurately reproduce good clean low-end sound. This allows you to feel parts of the audio experience in a way that many other headphones cannot emulate. We were more than impressed with the audio here even without surround sound.
Although the Redemption Song Headphones are heavier than most they were still comfortable to wear. We did not have any discomfort until we had been wearing them for almost three hours. At that point our ears began to feel a little cramped and we wanted to take them off. This is still very good though as normally we would not want on-ear headphones on for any length of time.
Value is another very subjective topic. What is expensive to some might be a deal to others. You can look at this topic in multiple ways. One is raw price and the other is what you get for the money. Each is accurate and both are correct ways to look at price/value. We tend to look at features, performance and real-property when we discuss value. However, we also take into account the raw cash cost of the item. The House of Marley Redemption Song On-Ear Headphones will set you back $199.99 which sounds like a lot for a pair of headphones for your iPod. However while these might be designed for use with Apple’s products this does not stop them from working with every other product out there (with the exception of the volume controls). Our testing has shown us that they are more than a match for headphones that cost more and while those other headsets are made of plastics and synthetics the Redemption Song is made from natural materials. With the combination of the materials used and the audio quality $199.99 is not that much to spend after all.
When we first talked to the House of Marley at CES 2011 we were impressed with the concept of these products. We took the chance to listen to them at the show and were impressed with the performance. However, having worked in the audio industry (and the PC industry) I also knew that demos can be deceiving. Now that we have a pair of these in the lab and have run them through our tests, we can honestly say that the impression we received over a year ago was spot on. These are designed with audio reproduction in mind. Forget the thought that since these were tuned using Bob Marley’s music and Reggae that you we only going to get high-end brass sound with some overpowering bass. That is simply not the case. If you pick up a set of these you can be assured you will not be disappointed regardless of the type of music you listen to. Even our favorite song to audio testing (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rendition of Little Wing) left us astounded with the quality of these headphones.
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