There’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to buying headphones. The more money you spend, the more you’re going to get in terms of sheer audio quality. It’s not unheard of to see audiophiles spend upwards of $1,000 on a pair of high-end cans.
The highest tiers of audio equipment are overwhelmingly occupied by products from the likes of Bose, Bang and Olufsen and AKG. But there’s a new player on the market, hoping to provide a similar audio experience, but at a price-point that is sure to be more palatable to consumers. It’s the A-Audio Legacy.
These cans will set you back $300, and are the flagship product of Miami-based A-Audio. Never heard of them before? Understandable. They only opened their doors in 2012, and this is their foray into the audio market.
They’re also facing some stiff competition. Cans from established manufacturers exist in this price point, namely the $379 Sennheiser Momentum, and the $429 Beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium. How does the A-Audio Legacy compare to these well-respected fighters? Read on for my review, and how you can win a pair for yourself.
Making Use Of The A-Audio Legacy
These over-ear headphones come with three distinct modes worth mentioning. The first is an unpowered mode, which doesn’t require the use of batteries, and plays music as an ordinary pair of headphones would.
And then we have two powered modes. These depend on two AAA batteries, but are actually incredibly useful. The first is a noise-canceling mode, which makes it easy to listen to your favorite music, when in a noisy environment.
I’ve been testing out the A-Audio Legacy for the past few weeks — they have been with me on four flights, countless train and bus journeys, and while I was working on articles in my living room, with a noisy washing machine rattling nearby.
I’ve found the A-Audio Legacy headphones are more than capable of filtering out the ambient noise that emanated from the aged Boeing 717 on my way from Stockholm to Helsinki. Likewise, they also make it possible to listen to even the quietest indie-folk music on a noisy train.
Finally, there’s a bass boost mode. Admittedly, the majority of the music I listen to couldn’t really be described as ‘bass heavy’. I’m no Skrillex fan. But I do listen to jazz. I tested this setting with some tracks by David Hazeltine and McCoy Tyner. I was surprised to see how powerful the double-bass tones were. It was almost as though I was listening to an entirely different track.
Included with these headphones, there is also a number of accessories worth talking about.
The A-Audio Legacy comes in a black, shrink-wrapped box made out of a thick, corrugated cardboard. Opening it is a matter of tugging on a ribbon, and gently pulling away the facia, which is attached by a piece of velcro.
The headphones themselves are cable-tied to a thick piece of plastic. Unscrewing the ties, and they pull away.
Included in the box is also a carrying case. This is constructed out of thick, robust plastic, with a faux-leather finish, and will protect these headphones from any knocks and bumps.
There are also two unbranded AAA batteries, as well as two cords to connect the A-Audio Legacy to your phone, tablet or computer. One comes with a microphone, allowing you to use the headphones as a hands-free kit, the other without.
The microphone is certified to work with the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, but I was curious to see how well it worked with other devices. I tried using it to make a few calls with my Blackberry Q10. As I expected, it worked flawlessly with my device. Audio was crystal clear, and the call recipient didn’t complain of any problems.
There’s also some light reading included, in the form of a thin documentation booklet. There’s not a lot to talk about here. It just shows you how to change the batteries, and how to turn the noise cancellation mode on.
A-Audio say the aesthetics of the Legacy are inspired by Italian and Swiss design. I’m not necessarily sure of that. But that’s definitely not a critique. They’re certainly not ugly, by any stretch of the imagination.
There’s been a trend for over-ear headphones to either come in garishly luminescent primary colors (I’m looking at you, Beats Audio), or with an uninteresting, slightly-utilitarian look (ahem, Sennheiser). The A-Audio Legacy bucks that trend.
The cups themselves are built out of a melange of sleek chrome and plastic, giving it an almost industrial aesthetic, whilst the ear-muffs are built out of a cushioned, comfortable foam. Connecting them is a cushioned, stiched band of black fabric and plastic, making this incredibly comfortable to wear.
Which brings me on to an important point. Headphones are uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods. But somehow, these aren’t. I’ve spent entire days wearing them, and whilst they can get a bit sweaty, they’re certainly not painful to wear.
How It Performs
Some headphones are better suited to certain genres and styles of music than others. With this in mind, I was eager to comprehensively test the A-Audio Legacy with as broad a range of music as possible.
I tested the headphones with four songs covering a broad spectrum of genres, as well as a podcast to see how it handles spoken word.
The first was Well Enough, from William Fitzsimmons’s latest album, Lions. This heavily acoustic-driven song is treble-heavy, with Fitzsimmonds singing in relatively high octave. With a cheap pair of headphones, you’d expect to hear some distortion or flatness, but that simply wasn’t the case with the A-Audio Legacy headphones. The cans accurately and faithfully reproduced this track, and everything felt incredibly crisp and bright.
Then it was time for a bit of hip-hop. My test song for this genre was Otherside by Macklemore. This samples the bass riff from the song with the same name from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Again, I was impressed. The headphones expertly handle low notes, with no excessive reverb to speak of.
Representing electronic music, I listened to Knee Play 1, from Philip Glass’s modern opera Einstein On The Beach. This is a synth-heavy track, with multiple vocalists speaking simultaneously against an electronic organ backdrop. This was crisp, and each vocalist was easy to distinguish.
Finally, covering rock, I listened to Hurt Me by Melbourne band The Jezabels. This is another treble-heavy band; they don’t even have a bassist! And much like Well Enough by Fitzsimmons, everything was superbly crisp and bright.
I also listened to an episode of the fabulous This American Life podcast, from America’s public broadcaster, NPR. There’s not really the same metric for music as there is for spoken word, but still, it sounded crisp, and beautiful to listen to.
Living With The A-Audio Legacy
I’ve been using this product for a while now. I’ve taken it with me on vacation. I’ve worked whilst listening to music with them. But what is it like using them on a daily basis?
Quite pleasant, actually. One major concern is battery life. Taking advantage of the very capable noise-canceling and bass-boosting modes, these headphones can be incredibly power-hungry. Despite that, I was able to get at least two weeks of heavy usage out of two AAA batteries.
Another concern is portability. The A-Audio Legacy is not a diminutive piece of gear. But, despite its relatively large size, it’s pretty comfortable to lug it about with it draped around your neck. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the included carry case.
Should You Buy It?
I’m a big fan of the A-Audio Legacy. For its relatively low price (at least for high end audio gear), it offers a great deal of value, and will add an incredible level of texture and richness to your favorite music. If you’re ready to take your tracks to the next level, you need these headphones.
MakeUseOf recommends: Buy it. It offers a high-end listening experience, at a price that’s hard to argue with.
How Do I Win The A-Audio Legacy?
The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
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