After being impressed with the House of Marley’s Redemption Song On-Ear headphones we have now spent some time with their Zion In-Ear head phones. These follow in the same style as the Redemption Song headphones and are made of recycled or renewable materials. They also follow in the trend of being tuned for high quality sound and are designed for use with Apple’s lineup of products (iPad, iPod, iPhone) but will work with just about any media player or smart phone (with a few exceptions). With a price tag of $99.99 we are hoping that these headphones give us the same level of performance that we saw with the Redemption Song. Follow the bouncing ball and sing along as we tell your just how well they perform.
The Box and Goodies -
As we mentioned in our review of the Redemption Song On-Ear headphones, the House of Marley is taking the green product idea seriously. The packaging is made from recycled cardboard and although we cannot confirm this, it looks like the ink used is a non-solvent based ink (although that could also be an effect). The front of the box gives you a nice picture of the product over a picture of a woven background.
Under a flap on the front you can get a quick look at the actual headphones and the Apple volume controls. Under the front flap you will also find some inspirational words about Bob Marley in several languages.
Flipping the box over to the back we find another image of the Zion headphones with some additional detail. These details will be important to anyone that is looking for a high-quality headset. The side of the box shows the House of Marley’s support for the 1Love.org charity, just like we saw on the Redemption Song headphones.
Upon opening the box we were a little surprise to find a plastic tray holding the headphones and the different sized ear cups. With the green friendly wording the push by the company I would have thought more recycled cardboard, although you can also have recycled plastic as well. In addition to the set that comes on the Zion headphones you also have four other sizes of ear cups to make sure you get the right fit.
Under the tray we found a very nice canvas bag for the Zion headphones (again just like the Redemption Song). This is a great value add for this product and helps to being the $99 price tag into perspective.
The House of Marley Zion in-ear Headphones -
The House of Marley built the Zion In-Ear headphones using the same principles that were used with the Redemption Song headphones. Aluminum, Wood and fabric all help to reduce interference with the audio reproduction while the16 ohm, 9mm moving coil driver and neodymium micro speaker nestled inside a tuned channel makes sure the audio provided has a live quality to it. The frequency response of this combination is an impressive 10 Hz to 22 KHz.
Just like the Redemption Song headphones we were surprised by the weight as most in-ear products are very light. The Zion has a little bit more to them, but not enough to make them uncomfortable to use. The Aluminum back also has a nice sculpted shape that makes putting them in your ears easier. We found that they simply twisted into place and stayed there. We did not had to push them into our ears like was have with other headphones before.
Although the combination of wood and brushed aluminum is quite nice looking (we had several questions about them) it also serves to reduce unwanted vibrations in the headphones (this reduces the “mud” in the sound as well).
The fabric covered cord is designed to help reduce static in the line so that you do not have electronic noise in your music. Along the cord the House of Marley put in a three button control module and microphone. This has options for volume and also to answer calls. Although the volume controls only work on Apple devices, the call button (the center one with the HOM logo) does allow you to connect and disconnect calls on any phone. The call quality is very good (surprisingly) although wind did appear to affect the mic more than we liked.
Overall we the Zion in-ear headphones are just as impressive as the Redemption Song are from a design and construction standpoint.
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. Although the House of Marley Zion in-ear headphones are primarily meant for music and video we wanted to make sure we covered all of their audio capabilities and still tested them with all of our normal tests.
Gaming was the easiest one test and also the easiest one to observe. Although you typically would not use in-ear headphones for gaming (Although Steel Series and IceMatt did for a while) we still wanted to make sure we covered everything. To do this we used to of our favorite games Modern Warfare 3 and Medal of Honor. Both of these games have good quality sound and with the explosions and multiple layers of audio running they can quickly find holes in your audio gear if you know what to listen for.
The numbers are shown below, while the words used to describe the gaming quality were;
Our gaming experience was much better than we thought it would be. I was surprised at the quality and volume of audio we found with the Zion in-ear headphones. Explosions, gunfire and other sounds that generally need lower frequencies sounded great. There was no positional audio effect that we noticed, but that did not matter as the sound felt like it was coming from inside your head. One of the most impressive things was the way the Zion in-ear headphones made the ringing from close grenade explosions (in Modern Warfare3) seem more realistic.
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 and video quality was every bit as good as the gaming quality, perhaps a little better. Again there is no surround sound or positional audio effect, but that did not matter as much as we would have thought. The sound was just good. Listening to the battle scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean showed us that the Zion in-ear headphones are more than up to the job of playing back the audio for your favorite movies.
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. Other 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 keep in line with the spirit of the House of Marley we also added in some Bob Marley to our normal testing. The numbers for this along with their corresponding one word comments are below.
The musical performance was also very good; we found that it trounced even our IceMatt Siberia in-ear headphones that we have been using for years. In fact we will be retiring those old headphones and replacing them with the Zion after this review.
With five different ear pieces to choose from it is hard not find a comfortable fit for the Zion headphones. We found that we were able to wear these for very long periods of time (over four hours) before we started to feel any discomfort. The soft rubber of the ear pieces help this as does the design of the back of each ear piece. With the way it is designed you can simply twist the ear pieces into your ears without needing to apply much pressure.
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. As we said before, the Zion in-ear headphones will cost you $99.99. This is about average for in-ear headphones with the specifications that the Zion has. The House of Marley Zion in-ear headphones have added value with the inclusion of the extra ear cups and the carrying pouch. This (as we mentioned before) helps to justify the $100 price tag as does the volume controls (if you own an Apple device) and the built in microphone for your smartphone.
As with the House of Marley Redemption Song headphones we are very happy with the performance of the Zion in-ear headphones. They performed well in all of our audio tests and were comfortable to wear (many in-ear headphones are not). The quality of the build is obvious and shows that these will last you a long time (again unlike many in-ear headphones). The price is on par with other headphones with the same specifications, but you get a few nice extras for your money. We have to say that the House of Marley has done an excellent job of putting the Zion in-ear headphones together. With their outstanding sound and great quality we are happy to award them with our Gold Key award. If you are looking for a new in-ear set of headphones we highly recommend picking these up.
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