Two of the perks about writing reviews for Geek Beat are the opportunity to try out new technology and also new entries into an existing field. Sometimes it’s the latter that’s more rewarding. This is especially beneficial when you’re thinking about dropping your own cash on a product. In this review we’ll look at an offering from a new player in the high-end headphone arena: A-Audio.
When Cali asked me about doing a review for A-Audio’s Legacy HD headphones, I wasn’t expecting much as I already have high-end headphones from my days of heavy travel in Corporate America.
Then she showed me the box. My inner Gollum immediately awakened, and thought, Ooooo, shiny, my preciouuss… “Um, yeah, sure. I’d be happy to check them out. You know, anything for the team!” I greedily rubbed my hands together. She gave me the box and a weird look, then hurriedly walked away.
Miiiiiiiiiinne, my preciousss! Miiiiiiiiiiiiinne!
This may sound silly, but there’s typically a lot of thought and research that goes into product box design. The marketing folks at A-Audio scored a huge hit. The box is made of nice materials, has a sleek feel, and a very attractive appearance. So what, you say. Think about it for a second, I say. If the design team put that much effort into the box, think about what the sound engineers did with what’s in the box. Unless it’s all show, of course. But there’s only one way to find out.
The first thing that impressed me was the weight. Normally you’d think of heavy headphones as a negative. But A-Audio pulled it off. This set is predominantly black with iconic, stylistic chrome pieces. Real metal, thus the weight. Not chrome-painted plastic junk. When wearing the headphones, you don’t notice the weight because the cans have thick-cushioned leather over-the-ear supports, as well as soft padding covering the entire headband, not just a token piece in the middle.
I bought my headphones to help with flights. They’re comfortable for a while, but I was disappointed to discover on one particularly long flight, my ears started feeling sore after about three hours. That flight still had six hours to go.
I didn’t have the opportunity to go on a transatlantic flight to test the Elite HDs. Regardless, I plunked them on my head, determined to wear them at least two hours straight.
We’ll come back to this.
Active Noise Cancellation
The Elite HDs have Active Noise Cancelling. The concept is a good idea in theory. The phones create an interfering sound pattern which is designed to block the unwanted noises from the outside world. Some sets accomplish this better than others. I have tinnitus so I have been wary of using ANC headsets. The ANC sets I’ve tried in the past only amplify the tinnitus, which is a very annoying experience. But, approaching these headphones with an open mind, I’m delighted to say the tinnitus was actually reduced. I’m not a sound engineer, and I don’t know why these are so much better than other ANC sets I’ve tried, but that doesn’t matter. The results are what matters. But out of curiosity I’ll do some research.
I know it’s one thing to look cool with your high-end headphones, but most of us care more about sound quality. The Legacy HDs do not disappoint. The set has a manual three-setting switch: AUDIO (ANC turned off), ANC, and BASS. The ANC and BASS (which also combines ANC) settings use battery. A nice feature with these headphones is that if you rock the night away with the phones powered and run out of juice, you can still listen to your tunes in AUDIO, or passive mode just fine.
That said, the Legacy HDs are absolutely amazing with the Bass boost on. The boost doesn’t turn the phones into a subwoofer so you can annoy your neighbors by vibrating their windows as you drive by. They’re not meant to be. The boost increases the fullness of the ranges. Highs are crisp and not tinny. The mids are easily definable. The lows are pronounced and not overpowered by the higher ranges. Again, the Legacy HDs still provide an enjoyable listening experience in straight audio mode. But wow, the bass with ANC powered on is just simply magnificent. I don’t normally get this enthusiastic about a product, nor have I listened to every high-end headphone to compare. But I did try out about a dozen sets when I was travelling a lot. These are, no exaggeration or “over-hyping,” the best headphones I’ve ever used.
The Rest of the Story
I wrote most of this review at the new Geek House, which is undergoing final construction. I listened to my Focus@Will account while using these Legacy HD’s. Focus@Will has multiple genres to choose from: classical, cinematic, alpha chill, up tempo–which is like club, etc. The bass definitely thumps your head, for example, listening to up tempo, even at a low volume. Anyway, I’d been working away for a couple of hours, oblivious of most construction sounds, air conditioning, tinnitus, talking, frenzied activity… when I noticed Cali was trying to ask me something. I didn’t hear her at all. I took off the Legacy HD’s and a monsoon of sounds flooded my ears. It was so loud I actually laughed in amazement.
The connectors are 24K gold-plated. The Legacy HDs have buttons for Volume Up/Down and Play/Pause on the cable. It comes with a nice looking hard case for travelling and a built-in pouch for the cables. Both headphone cans have an input for the audio jack, so you can choose which side you want the cable to run. It also comes with an additional cable so someone can daisy chain off your music, movie, TV show, etc. and listen in. Two all black (another nice touch) AAA batteries are included. The cover on the right can is magnetic, which is a cool touch. Pull off the tethered cover, drop the batteries in place, then snap the cover back on. No tools required, or annoyingly difficult covers to remove. One final note: A-Audio’s Legacy Headphones won the “CE Week 2014 Best in Show” Award.
The Audio-A Legacy HD headphones are available now at a suggested retail price of $299.
Why are you still reading this? Buy them.