House of Marley uses "the power of Bob" to help make its headphones sing. The Redemption Song over-ear cans reviewed here are, like all products in the company's range, named after well known Marley songs. But are these distinctive on-ears as timelessly classic?
Is This Love? The Redemption Song on-ears sure do give us a rollercoaster ride of design highs and lows.
The distinctive cans feature soft cushioning for on-ear comfort, yet the rather small, deep openings press on the ears and aren't all that comfortable for long use. At least that's what we thought at first, given the way the whole design pinches the brain like a vice. But give the Redemption Song on-ears a week's wear and things soften up nicely for a far more comfortable feel - though we still don't find them as comfortable as some other brands out there.
The adjustable headband has an aluminium interior that can click into seven different positions to ensure the earscups sit correctly, whatever size of dome you have.
The look is also unquestionably distinctive. The red, yellow and green material set underneath the top of the tanned leather headband is the same tri-band colour as the material used to coat the removable cable. No doubt that it's colours of Jamaica here, in a stand-out, almost outlandish, fashion. But that's all part of the cool; it's a lot of the draw in the first instance.
The outside of the earcups are made of wood. It's such a distinctive part of the design that, at first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking it wasn't real. But it is - genuine, FSC-certified beech wood in fact. That also ties in with the brand's "earth-friendly" ethos, which ensures materials and components are responsibly sourced and recyclable.
A canvas carry case is also included in the box, a great bonus to transport the headphones around in. The material feels durable and goes hand-in-hand with the Redemption Song on-ear's fashionable appearance. They won't be for everyone, that's for sure, but they're far less crass than some of the "look at me" embroidered or logoed over-ears also available on the market.
Look and design have their own impact, but sound is an obvious and crucial factor when considering a pair of headphones.
In general the Redemption Song on-ears sound good. The range of frequencies delivered by the 40mm coiled drivers is well balanced and doesn't push too hard at one end of the spectrum or the other. So while there's certainly bass, it's not an overbearing force in the mix. It just hums, rolling along nicely. Perhaps not quite a Jamaican bass-bin-heavy sound system Sellotaped to the ears, but we think the Redemption Song's lean towards balance is a good thing, and there's still enough of the low-freq stuff to bounce your brain around a little.
We did do a side-by-side "listen off" compared to the Sennheiser HD25-II over-ears and found the House of Marley model didn't have quite the same degree of separation. It's more natural, if not a touch "muddier" and lacks "sparkle" at the top end - that might be considered "flat" to some, but that kind of balance will be preferential to others.
Sound isolation is reasonable, but if you're marching through the Concrete Jungle, or just chillin' on the Tube, then push that volume too high and others will get a hint of what you're listening too. Not a full-blown Apple in-ears "listen to me", of course, more a subtle mid-high frequency leak.
The Redemption Song headphones sit at the top of House of Marley's on-ear category and, despite being made of wood, sure don't sound wooden to our ears. There's plenty of bass in the mix but not too much, which makes for a pleasant listening experience, though we'd still like more "sparkle" from the higher frequency range.
Not the same can be said about comfort at first, because of a tight-to-the-head pinch. But stick with them and these cans will loosen up for a far better fit over time and with extended wear.
Sound-wise these on-ears hold up well against similar competition at their £150 price point. It's generally Positive Vibrations: yhey've got the look, the style and are even made with a nod to the environment too. Now if that doesn't embody headphones that reach further then the competition, then we can't think what else does.