When walking the floor at the last CES, one booth stood out above almost everything else. The setup for House of Marley featured a DJ, hired dancers and a wealth of products all available for us to touch, feel and most importantly hear. The company, which focuses on ecologically-friendly audio gear, sent me a couple sets of their headphones and I’ve been using them for a couple of weeks to get an opinion formed.
First off, you have to note that you’ll be paying a bit of a premium for House of Marley products. Not only are they branded, but they’re also making sure that almost every part is recyclable. Much like buying organic food or an electric car, you’re still getting food or a car, but you’re going to pay a bit more.
That said, both of the offerings I got from House of Marley are strong, and they aren’t so premium-priced that they’re outclassed in their respective ranges. On top of that there are little touches — such as using natural ties instead of twisted wires to keep cables in place — that help to reinforce what you’re paying for. Let’s take a closer look at the in-ear models and we’ll cover the on-ear phones later.
Conqueror In-Ear Headphones
I’m extremely picky when it comes to headphones. When you start talking about in-ear models, that factor gets increased greatly. Nothing can ruin a listening experience quite as quickly as taking a crap set of headphones and putting them even closer to your eardrums.
With the Conqueror model ($99, direct), you won’t have this problem. Like all of the House of Marley in-ear models, the Conqueror headphones are designed to work with your iPhone, including up and down volume, as well as an answer/end button. If you choose to go with a straight cable, you’ll save yourself $20.
The packaging is recycled, and the aluminum in the headphones is recyclable. The company also supports 1Love, which means that you will too if you choose to purchase House of Marley products.
Once you have the headphones unpacked you’ll find that there’s a nicely-crafted cloth case for them to be stored in while packed away. I would argue the company’s choice of using a double snap-closure, but it’s effective if a bit of a pain to maneuver with one hand.
The headphones feature a 9 mm driver, with a frequency response of 12Hz – 22kHz. I’ve tested the headphones with numerous genres of music, ranging from reggae (of course!) to drum & bass as well as classical. Audio reproduction was accurate across all ranges, but tended to sound better with organic drums and female vocals. That’s not to say that the headphones slack elsewhere, but the advantage to their sound is definitely within these two areas.
Cloth-wrapped cables are standard on all House of Marley headphones. I wish that there was an option to get away from the Jamaica-inspired color scheme, but I didn’t find the color choice to be gaudy. I just prefer something a bit understated.
It’s not uncommon for in-ear headphones to come with a couple of different sizes of cushions. The House of Marley models take this idea a step further. You’ll open the box to find them with single cushions like the ones pictured above. But you’ll also get 2 sizes of double-flange cushions, which block out noise more effectively while helping to ensure a better fit. I personally use the smaller, double-flange cushions and they’re the most comfortable in-ear headphones I’ve worn.
In the same price range as the Conqueror headphones you’ll find great offerings from UltimateEars such as the 600vi, as well as Shure’s SE215. Both of these are amazing choices in the $100 price range, and you’ll be well served by purchasing either of them. I can’t recommend the Conqueror headphones above either of these models based on sound quality alone, but I have no qualms in recommending the House of Marley products as being in roughly the same category.
With all House of Marley products, it comes down to the value that you find in knowing that you’re buying something that’s eco-friendly and from a company that supports further good causes. If that’s worth a couple of bucks of your hard-earned cash, then you’ll be quite happy with these.