Alpine is best known for building in-dash car audio systems, but they've done a terrific job designing a more intimate audio device: Alpine Headphones. The instant I wrapped these sleek, comfy phones around my head and hit play on my iPhone, I could literally feel my music.
That's because Alpine has put a bass transducer in the headband that essentially turns your skull into subwoofer. Sure, it's a little gimmicky, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. I love bass, and I'm not exaggerating when I say these headphones made me remember why I love music.
This being the company's first very first foray into the headphone market, these headphones aren't perfect. While the thumping bass beat will make a bass-lover cry tears of joy, the phones do have a few design shortcomings. If Alpine enjoys market success with this first round and takes user feedback to heart, I imagine its second-generation product will be damn near perfect.
A curious design
Alpine's headphones are futuristically sexy. They look like high-end headphones without looking like any other high-end headphones on the market.
The set I evaluated sport a matte white headband over shiny metallic diamond-shaped ear cups that swivel in for flatter storage. They're also available in a glossy black finish.
The headband is lined with bouncy black padding with a slightly rubbery texture, and it provides just the right amount of tension to keep the phones on your head without giving you a migraine. These are some of the comfiest circumaural headphones I've worn.
But they're made for lounging--not working out. The headband is a bit too heavy to stay on your head if you're moving around a lot, especially in a horizontal position (think sit ups, push ups, etc). I'm not sure they're water resistant, anyway, so it's probably best to leave these headphones home when you're out for a morning jog. Sizing adjustments can be made via the cups, which click up and down to extend the headband's reach.
These pretty phones sport a few confusing design choices, though. For example, there are no markings to denote the left and right channels. Tradition dictates that the cord attaches to the left side, but Alpine shouldn't expect consumers to know that. In fact, I've seen a couple of seasoned headphone reviewers report that the power button and audio ports are under the right-hand cup.
Label your cups, Alpine!
The phones come with two braided cables: A USB cable for charging the battery, and an audio cable for plugging into your device. Wait a minute, aren't these Bluetooth headphones? Well yes, they are. Sort of. Audio is transmitted through the included audio cable; Bluetooth is used only for the internal settings and audio tweaking using Alpine's Level Play app (free, but available only for iOS devices; an Android version is in the works). This bothers me. If I'm going to the trouble of pairing my headphones and running down my iPhone's battery, I expect to be able to move around freely while doing so.
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