Wednesday, September 4, 2013

California Headphones Ups The Ante

If there is one design trend that needs to continue, it's the one that includes quality materials. Pushing plastic aside in favor of metal, leather or wood is clearly the way to go. A few more dollars is nothing when the objective is to make everything less disposable.

One area where this concept hit a home run last year was at California Headphones. They created a metal and leather headphone model meant to deliver a high-end audio experience in a vintage package. The result was a pair of headphones that DJs might never want to own. But I love them.

California Headphones delivers something special for rock music and country.

The first immediate difference is in the construction. They are made with metal, leather and a woven detachable cable. It makes the headphones feel durable, more so than most. They have a retro look.

They are also tuned to deliver better sound quality for rock and country music, which means the bass won't overwhelm or pound away in your ears. Instead, the quality was invested in 40 mm drivers that are richer and punchier with better mid and high ranges. There is some truth to the claim.

While the Silverado headphones would be pressed to compete with Sennheiser and Bose, they sound great at optimal volume (as opposed to high volume). They might even add something to the music, especially older, classic rock, well before the bass distortion. (Audiophiles might not appreciate it.)

According to the company, the sound is achieved with what they call a Natural + Vocal Centered audio technology that uses metal sound chambers with titanium drivers. The idea is to deliver a concert-like experience as opposed to polished or perfect. There is a tone added to the sound that some will love.

If there is one criticism to point out it's that California Headphones is relying on marketing and packaging to make an impact. They aren't necessarily trying to reinvent or improve audio as much as they are offering a style on the opposite end of the spectrum. The concept almost screams steampunk, even if the designers never use the term.

However, that's not to say they lack quality. In fact, I was pretty impressed with the noise-blocking feature. They beat many other headphones that I've tried over the years. I'm equally thrilled with the jack, which allows you to plug in two sets of headphones. Just be aware that sharing music will draw more power from your device.

A few graphs about the creator and concept behind it. 

California Headphones The original idea was the brainstorm of Tim Hicks and designed by David Adam. Before launching a crowd funding campaign, Hicks wanted to design a product that achieved three things: the ability to capture big vocals and acoustic guitars, to last longer than most headphones, and come together with a better design inspired by the headphones worn by World War II aviators.

Hicks was planning to launch the headphones long before considering a crowd funding campaign. What the campaign did was solve another challenge. Rather than assembling small batches, he was able to launch the company with on large preorder. It made things easier and more cost effective.

The Silverado Headphones Tune Up 5.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The attention to detail, everything from the die-case metal hinges to the 360 degrees of articulation, are very well thought out. The headphones are soft, fitting over the ear, and feeling comfortable for a longer period of time. The frequency response is 20-20,000 Hz.

In addition to the premium Silverado model, the company also manufactures a pair of headphones for under $100. I passed because the less expensive model didn't fold up and fit on the ear as opposed to over it. Other people have said it sounds pretty good, but loses some of the warmth of the Silverado.

You can order the Silverado direct from the company. You can also find new Silverado Over Ear Headphones on Amazon. Some resellers offer the headphones at a discount. Always be sure to check a reseller's ratings and terms before making a purchase.
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