Also published on Medium.
If I say headphones to you, I can pretty much guarantee the first thing you will think of is Beats or possibly the frequent flyers will go straight to Bose. It’s true that Beats really have carved open a huge industry for headphones and now portable audio players and the industry certainly owes a lot to Dre and his marketing prowess over the Monster range. With Bose, they hit the nail on the marketing head with the QuietComfort series and soon became an instant favourite for the frequent flyer. I like to compare the headphone market with the watch market to an extent. If someone talks watches then the likelihood is they will have heard of Casio and Seiko and probably even the likes of Swatch. These are the staple brands of the industry who’s marketing and volume of sales and market share is huge. They are in a number of retail outlets, online and in airports and bricks and mortar stores and are constantly in peoples faces. Just like Beats and Bose. However, just like with watches there is a plethora of other brands available. They all may tell the time, but internally they have mechanisms that are worth a substantial amount of money and craftsmanship that adds a lot of value. Brands you may possibly not have heard of such as Ferdinand Berthoud or Jaeger LeCoultre. Similarly there are brands such as Audeze, oBravo, FOCAL and Meze to name just a few that are worth a substantial amount of money. They are all using different mechanisms and technology inside their headphones that differs massively from the likes of Bose and Beats, yet they all play music. Much like when a tourbillon is added to a watch to counteract the effects of gravity and get a more accurate time. These brands are improving their technology to vastly improve the reproduction of the music and set themselves apart from the likes of Bose and Beats. Of the brands currently available I would probably now regard Audeze LCD4z to be the Rolex of the headphone world. Their products offer a unique technology with an incredible sound and the brand is becoming ever more popular, yet they are remaining somewhat exclusive with their flagship costing circa £3.5k. At Audio Concierge we like to be able to offer those extra special products that are that little bit different. It is possible to improve on the sound you get from say your current mobile phone. Simply investing in an alternate brand that may not have such an enormous marketing budget as the big brands. Many mobile phone companies these days spend lots of money researching their built-in audio solution, using a decent pair of headphones or earphones with them really can make a huhe difference to the enjoyment of your music. Many of the commercial headphones and earphone brands like to “tune” their products to have a V shaped signature. This V shape means that you get lots of bass, lots of treble, yet the vocals are somewhat recessed. This type of signature makes the headphones really exciting to listen to as you hear all the sparkle and the bass is really bold, however, intricate music can get lost in this type of V shaped sound, vocals are not as thick and delicate as they should be. The goal of the alternate headphone brands is a “Flat” response. This means that they are trying to achieve an even sound throughout the entire frequency range, from sub bass all the way up through to treble, with things such as high hats and cymbals being accurately represented. In order to achieve this they are all competing with different technologies and investing a lot of money to do so. With that being said, by implementing these various different technologies, all of the headphones and earphones have a unique sound signature that may suit one person yet not the next person. It’s the Audio Concierge’s job to decipher what headphones and earphones would suit your listening preferences amongst the raft of products available. So maybe the next time you need a pair of noise cancelling headphones and think of Bose or you want a new set of every day listens, then think that there is more out there for you than just the Casio’s. They may even give you a better sound and not necessarily for any more money. Whilst writing this I realised that a lot of technical information is provided by all of these other brands to try and promote their products. I feel they are often lost amongst the consumer as the specs often talk about sensitivity and THD and other acronyms that are just not understood from a promotional point of view. The next post I will try and give a brief guide as to what’s what and whether it’s something you need you even worry about.