My first earprint: A review of the Even H1 headphones
As anyone looking for a holiday gift for a music lover knows, there are a lot of headphones out there. In such a crowded market, manufacturers have a tough time standing apart from the pack. UK-based headphone maker Even has found a unique way to, um, be heard out there, however. Its earphones and headphones allow users to receive a customized "earprint" that supposedly tailors the sound to the way in which they hear. We took them for a sonic spin.
Such a product seems a bit obvious. After all, we wear eyeglasses based on how we see, so why not wear headphones based on how we hear? Yet there just aren't a lot of customizable headphones out there. The Nura phones that arrived earlier this year are one notable exception.
Even first hit the market with a set of earbuds this summer and has now released its headphones, which I was able to get my hands – and ears – on just recently.
Just like the earbuds, there is a small module located on the cord that runs from the headphones to whatever device you're listen from. When you first get the phones, you double press the button containing the Even logo and it begins a hearing test that plays eight short pieces of music in each ear. Your job as the headphone wearer is to push the Even button the second you start to hear the music each time.
The setup process was super smooth and really did last under the promised time of two minutes.
Once the system has gotten your input, a custom "earprint" is created that is supposed to enhance your listening experience. To compare listening through the earprint filter and just the unadulterated headphones, all it takes is a press of the Even button.
So, how did they work?
Pretty wonderfully – eventually.
When I got through my first earprint, I noticed that a preponderance of the vocals were hitting my left ear. The unbalanced feeling made me keep wanting to turn my head to the left in order to center the sound. Fortunately, it's easy to reset the phones with a double click of the Even button, so I walked through the process again. While this time the balance issue was gone, I found that the bass had gotten extremely muddy, even to the point of distortion at intense moments in tracks. Back to the earprint process again, I wound up with the sound hitting my left ear too much again. After five times walking through the process, I found a sound that feels just right and is perfectly balanced between my two ears.
Toggling the earprint filter on and off really demonstrates how impressive the phones are. While there is decent sound with it off, when you click the filter on, it's like going from listening in black and white to listening in color (if that makes any sense). With decent headphones, you're always a bit aware that the sound is coming from your two ears, even though it should feel centered inside your head or the room. With the H1s with the filter on, it felt like I had a set of ears on the top of my skull too, and that my head was being cradled in sound.
At one point, I paused the music and switched to another quality set of phones and my first thought was: "How do I adjust these things?"
The sound the H1s delivered was rich, bright and nicely balanced between the high and low end as I listened to everything from Metallica's "Atlas, Rise!" to Miranda Lambert's "Highway Vagabond" to Bonobo's "Kerala." Bass was satisfyingly situated somewhere near the base of my skull and didn't clobber out the treble or vocals, although it does occasionally start to fuzz out during particularly drum-heavy tracks at higher volumes. They're no Beats, so bass lovers might want to look elsewhere.
Aside from providing a really pleasant listening experience, these headphones also feel like they're constructed like cans way above their US$179 price tag. Wood grain panels adorn the outside of each ear cup and these are attached to the headband with heavy duty metal accents that pivot smoothly. The headband slides very nicely as well, although I do wish the starting size was a bit smaller than it is. I think I have an average-sized head, but I couldn't adjust the phones small enough to fit snugly – they were comfortable and felt secure, they just weren't snug.
When the phones arrive, you have to plug the cord into each side – white goes into the side you will use for your left ear and black to the right. Once you've done that and created your earprint, you need to remember to put the headphones on that way each time you listen. I flipped them around at one point and, although not extremely noticeable, the sound was definitely more comfortable in the correct position.
The module on the cord that lets you create your earprint also serves as a volume control and pause button. The module will need to be charged occasionally via micro USB, which is a minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless.
To try before you buy, you can get your earprint from Even's website and then give it a go by toggling it on and off during a couple of tracks. I have to say, though, that when I tried the earprint online, I wasn't that impressed. As the company points out, the tech works a lot better in the headphones than it does online. A lot better.
In my opinion having a pair of custom-tuned headphones that sound as good as they do is well worth the pricetag, but if you find it a little too steep, you can pick up the earbuds for $99. Either way, they're a set of phones that are sure to impress all but the most discerning audiophiles on your holiday shopping list.
Product page: Even