Ted Baker Rockall review
Ted Baker has fashionably stepped into audio, bringing with it with a range of bespoke device designs. The Rockall headphones - named after the location on The Shipping Forecast - are of the over-ear variety, designed to appeal to those with an eye (and an ear) for detail.
Lavishly packaged, the Ted Baker Rockall headphones bring a premium experience with them and you'd expect nothing less considering the £179 asking price, or from the label on the box. But are they any good, or just using brand identity to lever their way into a bustling market?
It's (not) all about design
Leaving the audio properties to one side, the Ted Baker Rockall headphones have been designed to stand out. Not in the way that Monster might with something outlandish, but by bringing a sense of cool to the audio occasion.
Rockall comes available in three different colour schemes: black, brown and white. We opted for the brown, which we felt best embodied that retro styling. The soft faux leather of the headband and earpads is paired with stainless steel cups and sliders for repositioning them over the ears.
The fusion of premium materials results in a distinctive look and a luxury feel, a welcome escape from the black or silver headphones that typically dominate the over-ear headphone market.
The metal arms of the headbands house the hinge at the top, which seemed sturdy enough in the time we spent reviewing the headphones but has a little give to it. It's difficult to judge whether this will loosen over time.
The arms also slide for size adjustment. There are brass nuts on the outside that look like they're to tighten it up, but they're just decoration and don't do anything apart from spin around.
We found the fit to be good, although we had them at the smallest available position, so some people - children or small-headed adults - might not be able to get them to fit quite so well.
As the cans fold inwards the Rockalls are also perfect for travel or stowage in your bag. There's a case for them included in the box, although this is always black, rather than matching the brown or white colour scheme of the headphones themselves.
The cable is detachable, aping one of the features of premium cans, which certainly helps when they get ripped from your head when caught on a door handle by accident. The cable itself is of a flat tangle-free design and we found that quality to ring true.
There's an inline mic and controls too, designed to support Apple devices. It will still work with other devices and we had no problem making and receiving calls on an Android handset either. We had no complaints about the audio quality when making calls, both through mobile devices and connected to a PC using Skype.
The inline controls offer a central button to answer or hang-up, or play/pause music, as well as volume controls. If we had one criticism of the cable, it's that the plastic body of the mic and the plastic cable divider reinforcer don't match the quality materials you'll find elsewhere. The buttons are a little disappointing, because they are a point that you'll touch frequently and should have been stainless steel to match the rest of the headphones design.
There's also a 1/4-inch adapter included for attaching the Rockall headphones to hi-fi equipment.
Sound quality to impress
Ted Baker isn't just applying its design finesse to OEM headphones, as these cans have been designed from the ground up by Ted Baker. That might be a little surprising as Ted Baker is known for funky shirt prints and exquisite jacket linings, rather than audio goods.
But it seems that Ted has acquired some talent on its mission to move into audio and the Rockall headphones don't disappoint. These aren't form over function, and not only do you get a set of headphones that look great, they sound great too.
We tried the Ted Baker with a range of different devices and genres of music with universally pleasing results. There's good bass response without it being too overpowering and plenty of detail from tracks. That's true through the volume range too and we found the Rockalls to be free from distortion at higher volumes, although these aren't the loudest headphones out there.
The result is well balanced. They are unlikely to appeal to those who want to look like a club DJ, but across the board the balanced delivery should appeal to those with broad music tastes.
The earpads are soft enough to provide a good seal against the ear. They can get a little warm inside on hot summer days, but do provide a good deal of isolation from outside noise, without leaking your tunes to the outside world too heavily. We've been happy to use them on public transport without the intrusion of the real world.
The isolation helps the music sound great, although if we had one criticism it would be to say that the earcups need a little more articulation to help them sit naturally on all head shapes to ensure the best audio delivery. We found that sometimes they wouldn't be sitting perfectly which can result in inferior sound delivery.
The Ted Baker Rockall headphones are something of a surprise package. Often when a fashion brand applies its name to technology it means little more than just that: a branded device with no other redeeming qualities. The Rockall headphones step away from that and make a statement by delivering quality design and quality sound, which is very much to Ted's credit.
If you're a fan of Ted Baker, or want something with a distinctive retro look, then the Rockall headphones might well be for you. They offer something different from the Beats by Cupertino masses and something to distinguish the wearer from the Sennheiser or Bose faithful.
Ted Baker succeeds in delivering a solid package for £179. Arguably there are headphones that will deliver an equally good audio experience for less money, especially if you look to the on-ear options, but the real message is that buying into Ted Baker won't leave you with a lemon. You'll get to look good while listening to great sounding music and we can't help liking them for that.