Just a short time ago, when it came to my music listening, I was content. My headphones were fine, my streaming music was fine. Ignorance was bliss. Then I received a pair of Blue Mo-Fi headphones for review. They completely shifted my paradigm of what good sound is. In fact, these might be the best headphones you can affordably buy and they come from a very unexpected source.
Headphones from a Microphone Company
The sources headphones come from these days are greatly varied. You have designer headphones coming out from musicians, from DJs, from branches of guitar amp companies. In that vein, Blue has decided to give them their try. If you’re not familiar with Blue, they are are a microphone company. They make everything from stage vocal mics to studio mics, to USB desktop and even mobile mics. Their livelihood is making a singer, instrument, or radio host sound great and they’ve brought that knowledge to headphones. Honestly, it’s not as big of a leap as one might think.
A Different Pair of Headphones
One thing you’ll notice about Mo-Fi is that they look a little bit different than your standard headphones. They have a very minimal skeletal design with dual hinges to adjust the width outward and up and down hinges to adjust the headphones to your ears. This allows the headphones to fit anyone’s head from someone like Cali to my colossal noggin. There’s also a tension dial that makes them comfortable to even someone like myself with TMJ. The cans features 50mm fiber reinforced dynamic drivers. They are designed to push out the sound as recorded, not color your music. That’s not surprising since one of the jobs Blue envisioned for these is studio monitoring.
That isn’t the interesting thing about these headphones. They also include an integrated active amplifier. The amplifier and drivers were designed in tandem. The amp does the work of powering the drivers instead of your computer, leading to a significant gain in volume. To power the amp, there is a 1020 mAh battery good for up to 12 hours of playtime. That may be rather conservative because I’ve had a whale of a time getting them to run out of juice. Part of that is because they shut the amp off when you remove the Mo-Fi. That’s 12 hours of listening, not 12 hours sitting around because you forgot to turn them off. If they have run out of battery life, you recharge them through MicroUSB.
You also get a nice bag of goodies with Mo-Fi. There’s a soft case, 1.2m chord with iOS controls, 3m long cable, a 3.5mm to 1/4″ adaptor, two prong adaptor, and a Blue branded MicroUSB cable for charging. Ironically for a microphone company, the iPhone cable does not have a microphone. Actually as I look at my Nessie and the Mikey digital sitting on my desk, that does make sense. The one downside to these cables is that, while they are of very good quality, they have a long connector for the recessed jack in the Mo-Fi headphones. If you need a replacement, you probably can’t get it locally.
Update: Blue informed me that the inline controls cable does indeed have a pinhole Microphone. I was incorrect in saying it didn’t have one in the previous paragraph.
A Concert For One
The sound quality with the Mo-Fi is exceptional, even when used in passive mode. You will hear things in recordings that you never knew were there. It’s like listening to them on a really good Hi-Fi stereo system, but without bothering your neighbors. When listening to high quality audio files like FLAC or AIFF, the results are pretty astonishing. They’ll even make quite a bit of difference in 256 kbps ACC files like are sold in iTunes. The bassline becomes audible instead of blending in with the background and the beat of a world class drummer is going to hit you like a ton of bricks. That is what music’s supposed to be. There’s no digital trickery or modeling here. These are pure analog. Even in passive mode, these are clearer than any other headphones I’ve listened to. Just with less volume.
What the amp does not do is color the sound. It brings out what’s already there. You won’t have the low end overwhelm your guitar parts as tends to happen with some dance and hip-hop focused headphones. It brings out what’s already there, even on the extra bass setting. That doesn’t mean they’re lacking in bass. Play a little rap and you have that room thumping bass, but for one instead of bothering your neighbors. I’ve never heard a pair of headphones that leads itself to every kind of music until now. I’ve listened to Classic rock, hard rock, southern rock, metal, neoclassical rock, old country, new country, blues, folk, jazz, big band, and even classical. They have the same effect of brining out the recording on all of them. If I sound really impressed, it’s because I truly am.
As I said earlier, these aren’t just for listing to music, they’re for making it. Reference headphones are a special class designed specifically for their accuracy. Blue claims that these are the class where they can be used for studio reference work. I don’t disagree. Look, I haven’t gotten my mitts on the $1,500 AKGs studios use, but these are excellent for real time monitoring and playback. The active amp will actually bring out little impurities you otherwise would not have noticed. An inadvertent cough here and a breath there will make your producer work a bit harder and most of the time you can’t even hear it. Here you can.
However, the sound quality might have some unintended side effects. It makes good recordings better, but lower quality recordings are very noticeable with Mo-Fi. They won’t have the clarity, or extra bass kick. If you’re listening to streaming music, honestly, you’re probably better off switching to some decent in-ears. You’ll be disappointed in the music.
Pricing and Availability
These are either incredibly expensive or amazingly affordable depending on who you are. They’ll cost about $350 on the open market. If you’re a consumer used to anything up to $199 Beats, yeah they’re more expensive, but you get what you pay for. They’ll contend with even more expensive headphones. For the price they are, I think it’s an absolute steal. Blue could have charged $599 and gotten customers to pay it.
Final Thoughts and an Editor’s Choice
Companies typically don’t hit a home run the first time out. Mo-Fi is akin to hitting a game winning grand-slam in your first at-bat. They’re designed for a no-compromise crowd of musicians who are detail oriented. Because of this, Blue left no stone unturned in the design. They could have done without auto pause. They could have done without the integrated amplifier. They could have even done without the unique design that will adjust to just about anyone’s head and still charged $350 for these. But they didn’t. They have all of them and it’s a much more comfortable experience with much better sound and volume than you’re used to. They’re good enough to be used for studio work. I liked these so much, that I’m giving them a Geek Beat Editor’s Choice Award. If you want to listen to music as it’s supposed to be, either get $1500 reference grade headphones or these.
- Amazing sound
- Superior clarity
- Doesn’t color sound of recording
- More than enough bass when it needs it
- Integrated amplifier gives it a ton of volume
- Adjusts to any size of head
- Long battery life
- Automatically paused when you take them off
- Extremely Affordable for sound quality
- No Microphone on cord with inline controls
- Semi-Proprietary long 3.5mm connectors for recessed jacks