Review: House of Marley Riddim On-Ear Headphones

House of Marley stands apart with unique headphone design (February 12th, 2013)

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: House of Marley

Price: $159

The Good

  • Unique Style
  • Good Sound
  • Earth-friendly materials

The Bad

  • Some discomfort over time

House of Marley is a fairly new entrant in the headphone market, arriving in late 2011 among a host of other celebrity branded headphones. In order to standout in the crowded market, House of Marley decide to make it their goal to not only offer top audio-quality products, but to do it in a way that is as environmentally friendly as possible. All of its products use earth-friendly materials wherever possible, which immediately allows the products to stand apart from the standard glossy plastic designs. We at Electronista took the time to check out the Riddim On-Ear Headphones to see how they stack up against the competition.

Style

Among a market of glossy, plastic designs, House of Marley has done a superb job of creating a stand out product without sacrificing the ever important "cool" factor. The design I looked at, known simply as City, features a grey canvas exterior accented by a brown leather interior. If the graffiti inspired design doesn't suit your tastes, the Riddim line features three other options including Desert, Midnight and Sky. Each which includes a carrying bag that mirrors the design of the headphones.

The fact that the entire design is based around earth-friendly materials is a welcome change. The canvas exterior feels soft to the touch and should be able to stand the test of time without showing excessive wear and tear. All of the metal components have also been constructed from a recyclable aluminum, and the few plastic parts have been crafted from recycled plastic.



Comfort

Everyone has their own opinions when it comes to headphone design, and I must admit I generally avoid on-ear designs. As a glasses wearer I find that on-ear headphones create a lot of pressure between my ears and the arms of my glasses, which very quickly turns into an uncomfortable listening experience. While the Riddim's were not faultless in this regard, I still found that I could wear them for longer than similar designs I have tried in the past. It took around two hours before any discomfort became noticeable while wearing glasses, and even longer when forgoing the glasses for contacts.

When you initially put them on, the first thing you notice is how impossibly soft the ear cushions are. The design of the Riddim's is fairly compact and doesn't appear to provide much room for the ear pads to give. Yet as soon as they hit your ears you can feel the foam pillowing around your ears. This thick cushion also helps to dampen some of the surrounding noise. While a far cry from active noise cancellation, the dampening effect was noticeable enough that volume could be kept at a comfortable level without being drown out by surrounding sounds.

The Riddim On-Ear Headphones also feature the same fabric covered cord that is found on all of the company's headphones. While only a minor feature, the time saved from having to untangle a cable is greatly appreciated. This particular model also integrates a three button remote with mic directly into the cable, however it should be noted that volume and playback controls are only designed to work with Apple devices. The center button should answer and end calls for most other smartphones.



Sound Quality

Because of the obvious connection the company shares to reggae music, it's products are instantly preconceived to be bass heavy. However, spending some time actually listening to music quickly disproves this. While not as crisp and clear as my AKG K 240 MkII's, the Riddim's were certainly no slump in the sound department. The headphones were tested with a variety of genre's ranging from D'Angelo's neo-soul album Voodoo, to the late Dave Brubeck's Time Out, to top 40 hits from Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and John Mayer. In all circumstances the Riddim's provided an enjoyable listening experience that reflected some of the nuances of every tested genre. Those who like to listen to their music at high volumes will also be happy to hear that very little distortion is noticeable when pushing the 40mm drivers to their limits.

While not bass heavy, the Riddim's do pack a punch and are capable of delivering a thick low end. Midrange frequency's are also well represented, but the high-end seems to get slightly lost in the mix. This is not to say that upper frequencies sound bad, just that they are less present then the mid to low frequencies.



Conclusion

Despite being a part of a flooded market, House of Marley has managed to carve out a unique identity. From the use of earth-friendly materials, to unique designs, and top audio quality for the price, the Riddim's are certainly a pleasure to use. Overall build quality is superb, and despite the lack of a folding design I had no fears tossing the Riddim's into a bag alongside a laptop and other odds and ends. Comfort concerns are somewhat minimal as they are personal to every wearer, however, if you have had issues with on-ear headphones in the past the Riddim's pillowy cushions will likely only provide short-term comfort. Anyone interested in the Riddim's but concerned about the on-ear design should make sure to check out the Rise Up over-ear headphones, as they employ the same electronics and a similar, albeit slightly larger, driver.

by Bradley McBurney


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