Wearables

Review: Crest Edition BT headphones offer great sound quality on a budget

Review: Crest Edition BT headp...
Not everyone will take to the bright orange and matte black colors here, but we think they rock
Not everyone will take to the bright orange and matte black colors here, but we think they rock
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Not everyone will take to the bright orange and matte black colors here, but we think they rock
1/5
Not everyone will take to the bright orange and matte black colors here, but we think they rock
The right earcup is home to touch controls
2/5
The right earcup is home to touch controls
The headphones fold down for transport in an included hard case
3/5
The headphones fold down for transport in an included hard case
When powered on, the headphones immediately enter Bluetooth pairing mode
4/5
When powered on, the headphones immediately enter Bluetooth pairing mode
Not as light as originally advertised (now corrected), but these circumaurals feel comfortable on the head
5/5
Not as light as originally advertised (now corrected), but these circumaurals feel comfortable on the head
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A few years ago, iconic music gear manufacturer Marshall Amplification joined forces with Sweden's Zound Industries to take its legendary signature sound to the bustling headphones space. Fellow Brit amp maker Orange Amplification followed suit with the O Edition, and has now gone wireless with the Crest Edition – which we've been trying out.

At a glance

  • Great sound quality for the price point
  • Light and comfortable
  • Long battery life
  • Not everyone will appreciate the iconic design

We've been using a pair of Marshall Major on-ear headphones pretty much since they were released, and have been impressed by the sound quality on offer. We also had a pair of the wireless version of the Monitors for a while, until they mysteriously disappeared during a house move. Like the latter, the Crest Edition Bluetooth headphones from Orange are circumaural, which means the earcups enclose, rather than rest on, the ears.

Before we get to the all-important sound and overall performance, let's quickly recap the given specs. The headphones rock 40-mm drivers and have a reported 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range, 126 dB (1 kHz at 0.5 VRMS) sensitivity and 16 ohms impedance. They offer passive isolation from the outside world, but the cushions are deep and large for a comfortable fit and decent seal – which means that outside noise does get noticeably reduced.

On our kitchen scales, these headphones weigh in at 258 g (9.1 oz) – a little heavier than the 256 g given by Orange. That's nowhere near the impossibly light 20 g initially noted on the product page (now corrected), but they still feel pretty light on the head, which is good for the kind of long-haul music listening that the up to 27 hours of per charge battery life caters for.

Not as light as originally advertised (now corrected), but these circumaurals feel comfortable on the head
Not as light as originally advertised (now corrected), but these circumaurals feel comfortable on the head

The plastic construction might not be to the liking of high-end users wanting to sample the Orange sound signature while on the move, but the headphones seemed well put together and felt pretty sturdy, and the hinges allow them to be folded down for transport in the included carry case.

All of the user interaction with these wireless over-ears takes place on the right earcup. To the front is a clicky power on/off button, and the headphones immediately enter Bluetooth pairing mode when turned on, which makes for zippy connection to a source device. If you're reconnecting, then that's even quicker. The outer face of the earcup is touch-enabled for controlling volume, playback and call-taking through gestures.

Performance-wise, we found the touch surface on Sennheiser's PXC 550 wireless headphones to have better tracking accuracy. That's not to say that the Crest touch area was unresponsive, but we did have a few misfires and the occasional need for repeats to get the desired action triggered.

Bluetooth pairing was extremely painless, very quick and the connection was pretty strong with few dropouts. And battery life was pretty much on the money, though we didn't rock around the clock in one uninterrupted session during our review period. Listening to music on the commutes to and from work will likely mean that you only need to top up using the supplied USB cable once, or maybe twice, per month.

As we mentioned when we introduced the Crest Edition headphones last month, Orange has provided the sonic oomph for many, many musicians since the company launched over 50 years ago. Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page first decided to use Orange amps in 1970, Noel Gallagher from Brit band Oasis made use of the company's amps for their first album, ZZ Top selected Orange for the band's 1997 "Get Rhythmeen" tour, pop queen Madonna once asked the company to supply amps that color-matched the stage setting for shows, Slipknot's Jim Root has his own signature Terror head, and guitar goddess Orianthi became an Orange ambassador in 2018.

So, with such a solid reputation for delivering top notch sound, how did they perform?

I have a bunch of MP3 and FLAC audio files stored on my smartphone, Fiio digital audio player and my laptop, and chose the energetic Batitude by Polyphia to kick off the listening marathon. Over Bluetooth, the Crest cans opened up the stage nicely, giving the instruments room to breathe with the signature offering a punchy – but not overpowering or muddy – lower end, a solid mid section and crisp, clear highs.

The right earcup is home to touch controls
The right earcup is home to touch controls

It was a similar story for the lengthy journey through John Coltrane country, then visiting Nutbush to experience the raw power of Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, getting lost in the tight rhythms of New Model Army, riding with BB King and Eric Clapton, traveling through Russia by way of Austria courtesy of Russkaja, heading into the swamp with Rattlin' Bone, enjoying the sound of silence with Disturbed, and circling back through intricate guitar chops at the hands of the very talented Yvette Young.

Naturally, we also took a number of detours to enjoy some sonic scenery from Orange Amps artists like Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Tiago Della Vega, Clutch, and the Manic Street Preachers. It would have been rude not to.

At each stop along the way, the Crest Edition headphones delivered a balanced, tight and vibrant listening experience. We wouldn't say it was studio monitor good, but at this price point we were quite impressed by the overall sound quality. We did need to up the volume on both music source and headphones to get the best from these over-ears though, the delivery just wasn't as sharp at lower levels. And those fond of booming bass at the expense of everything else may have to look elsewhere.

Removing the headphones during playback won't cause the music to stop like it does with some other Bluetooth models. Taking calls by tapping the side of the earcup seemed natural enough and callers came through loud and clear, though it was noted how quiet I sounded when chatting.

In the box, along with a USB charging cable and a roughly oval travel case, there's an audio cable. Plugging one end into the port on the underside of the right earcup disables the power and the headphones become regular old analog ear candy. We'd say that the sound of digital audio files got something of a quality bump in this mode, even when not helped along by a digital-to-analog converter, which is a welcome compensation for having to cable up when the battery runs out.

The touch surface also gets disabled in wired mode, so you'll have to control playback on the source device by clicking and double-clicking the button on the inline control of the cable. This is home to a microphone too, which takes over from the sleeping mic to the bottom of the earcup housing.

The bottom line

When powered on, the headphones immediately enter Bluetooth pairing mode
When powered on, the headphones immediately enter Bluetooth pairing mode

The Crest Edition headphones sound pretty good in both wired and wireless modes. We have heard better sound quality, but we've had to pay quite a bit more to do so. They're comfortable too thanks to lightweight construction and plush cushions. And the decent battery life means more time away from a wall outlet.

These over-ear headphones don't offer active noise cancellation, which is a shame, but they do manage passive isolation quite well. And there are those who won't like the bright orange and deep black colors, the litho-like prints of Pan and Britannia (from the Orange crest, or coat of arms, hence the name) on the headband and the matte finish, but I think they look great.

They're available now for US$115.

Product page: Crest Edition Wireless Headphones

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