I've never really been into headphones or personal listening, I usually enjoy an engaging experience with a normal 2 channel system where the dynamics are also felt as well as heard. That is one of the biggest things one gives up when going to headphones, as the sound is directed right at the ears rather than the body. Yeah—I've seen those "vests" at CES that if you wear it you'll feel the music but, that just seems like a lot of work.
Anyway, I hung out at the personal listening section of the most recent audio show (THE Show Newport Beach) and started getting bored. I did set up an appointment with this company before the show and got close to cancelling, as I can be a commitment-phobe sometimes, but I'm glad I didn't. Once I sat down with these guys it was obviously they were on a huge kick about Bluetooth headphones. See, most of the headphones there are huge and abstract and require separate amplification. I'm not quite there yet; if I'm going to go through that kind of trouble I'll just fire up the regular system. Don't get me wrong, I can certainly see the appeal if one doesn't have the space for a two-channel system but it just seems like a lot of work to lug all of that gear around.
The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to pair these headphones to my iPhone. Once that was online (5 seconds later), I also realized that I had immediate access to all of my music, and wasn't forced to listen to some of the regular audiophile drab that I often hear at shows. I know, some rooms allow personal music but let's admit it, sometimes it can be a little awkward to do that as you're now exposing yourself. Guess that's some of my insecurity going on there, but I do listen to quite a bit of abstract electronica, and I've cleared out rooms before. Anyway, it was really cool to just sit there in a crowd of people and be able to crank these and listen to some Ben Front (Aurora) at full blast. Next thing I notice, my eyes are shut, my feet are tapping, my fingers are hitting the table… I was on a journey.
Then, naturally, the song ended and it was like waking from a dream. Wow! Cool! Not only do these headphones sound amazing, they are extremely versatile. One could, if they wanted, connect a wired source as well. You can even bypass the built in amplifier if you wish to use your own. One of my favorite features is the tactile volume knob that sits behind the right ear. Push in and hold and it goes into Bluetooth detection mode, allowing me to traverse between my iMac, iPhone or iPad (which I tend to do quite frequently.)
Another thing I started worrying about was battery life—I mean not only does it have an amplifier; it also has a wireless Bluetooth system. Well, after a few weeks of hard use that fear went away quite fast. For those heavy listeners out there, worry not, they've got you covered—as you can also install two AAA batteries as a backup! I've only had to use that once, as I was being lazy and not paying attention to the battery meter that shows on your iDevice of choosing (yeah, cool bonus there, right next to the Bluetooth icon, shows the battery strength). Recharging the built in lithium ion battery is quite effortless, one simply connects a micro USB cable to the slot and then into either a USB port, or a wall socket with the included adapter and after a few hours, all good to go.
So—a few other important things to discuss… Like, how do they sound?? How do they feel? Well, to start, if one chooses wireless (hard to avoid once you go wireless, it's just amazing) the Bluetooth stack is the latest offering and extremely high fidelity. Sure, it's lossy, but very hard to tell. If you're curious on more information as to how Bluetooth audio works and how it's compressed, I'm sure there is a ton of info available online somewhere. What do I get with these headphones—accurate timbre, speed, tight bass (they're closed back), sensible highs, just about everything you'd want in a versatile headphone like this one. As I write this, I'm listening to Alessandro Cortini's Forse 2 album, which is quite eccentric as he uses a Bucchla synthesizer so this album is full of interesting organic detail.
I recently visited the Pendulumic booth at the most recent show in Denver (RMAF) and the guys immediately recognized me and asked, well? What did you think? Also probably wondering why the hell this review too so long. The first thing that came to mind was, "they changed my life". Hah—the look I got on their faces after I said that, I immediately knew that I had to explain myself in order for them to not hold onto that any longer. Their first response was that they thought that was amazing—but I began to explain. See, I am a huge music lover (ok who isn't) and I have quite a collection of digital and analog music, and I find that I never have the time to listen, due to personal obligations, kids, etc. Plus, just thinking about powering up my system sometimes just makes me warn out as it's filled with all sorts of components that require warm up, etc. So, now, I can just be sitting there on my couch, and when a link comes up that contains music (online) or a thought crosses my mind with something that I just have to listen to, I can! I always have my trusty headphones sitting next to me. I just power them up, pair it with my device (can skip that if it's the same device I used earlier) and start jamming. I do this in bed, too! Grab the iPad, pair it, and start listening to my collection. I've been able to really connect to my music on a whole different level.
Oh, and a bonus? It has a built in microphone just in case you get a call, so you can have your conversation right away. The volume knob also doubles as a controller, depending on how you push it, it can skip to the next song, etc. Brilliant stuff.
So, if you're interested in jumping into headphones but don't want to mess with wires, amplifiers, etc, these are some serious contenders. OH—and I must mention this, they do listen to their fans. When I spoke with them most recently, they showed me some minor tweaks they made, and one of the biggest complaints I had (and didn't tell them) was that they did get a bit fatiguing and made my ears sore. Well, they changed the foam pads! And oh what a difference, I've been using the rev 2 models for about a month now and no more ear fatigue. Also more comfortable if you are wearing glasses.
If you're a music lover and have times where you cannot crank the big system, these are the next best thing. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Pete Davey
Stance Bluetooth Headphones