Headphones have been around in one form or another ever since the first radio was created for consumer use. Today we get “brand names” based off of celebrities and athletes and music producers. This all seems to indicate that the appeal is directed emotionally at the potential buyer. And it seems hard to argue against it being effective, even if the product falls way short of providing quality results.
But if the basic purpose of a pair of headphones is to provide a secure listening environment for a person, sans surroundings “noise”, then a headphones designed with an added purpose should be lauded. Because you’re getting more for your money than otherwise, and the headphones are having a bit more effort put into their construction.
Wicked Audio’s SOLUS is such a headphones. To start, it has a nicely designed exterior — all black and red meshed together. Of course you don’t see that until you’ve taken it out of the box which is “hip.” Yeah, it commands attention with the same black/red color scheme and even throws in a slatted front panel. So once you get the headphones out from the plastic insert, you can notice a few things — like that they’re the reason the box was so heavy. The SOLUS Headphones are full sized jobbers that cover your ears in a way similar to the flaps on the side of an old fashioned winter kiddie cap. Doing this means that sound isolation from the outside world doesn’t have to rely on electronic microphones and acoustic audio canceling waves. And when you look at these guys, their size kind of appeals to the emotions too. Because big usually means “better.” At least to most folks.
The black and red color scheme makes the headphones “pop” to the eye but what is even better is that the large ear-cups look like they can comfortable to wear for an extended length of time. Pushing my finger against the ear-cup padding confirms that — it’s deep. I also investigate the tooling that holds the ear-cups to the frame. Yes you can fold the headphones in to reduce their footprint, but I’m more interested in how well they swivel for adjusting the headband so it seats snugly but not crippling so. Turns out it’s all good because the swiveling is solid and the overall feeling is that nothing is going to break off in your hand. Meanwhile the cable has a bit of weight itself as it’s braided (a nice safety measure against being bent, that) and you can add to that an in-line volume control that’s too large to get lost.
Now because of the way the headphones swivel once collapsed, it’s easy enough to hold one ear-cup up to your ear without having to put them on. That can be useful if you’re DJ’ing — guess what, the SOLUS are designed for that purpose — hey, there’s that more for your money bit I was talking about earlier. The other control on the cable is a “DJ” switch — it disables the stereo and sends both audio streams into both ear-cups. Welcome mono.
Not to get all geeky, but the 40mm drivers “driving” the sound shouldn’t be passed over as same-old: the frequency response on paper may be 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, but it’s how it sounds in your head that counts. Pretty good actually (helped along by the physical size too). The snug fit does mean that after an hour or three your ears will start to feel the pressure, but it’s an acceptable trade-off for getting a good seal against surface noise intruding on the audio you’re listening to.
Now I don’t expect much classical music to make its way through the SOLUS — more likely rap, hip-hop and pop to be sure — but the results of listening to a little Mahler wasn’t bad at all. There was decent separation and more than adequate bass response. But for those who think Mahler is the name of a dog food treat, let me say that you’ll hear Kate Perry’s vocals fine (should you want to), along with that of any Internet sensation that’s been downloaded into MP3. The combination of full sized ear-cups make for much better listening if your smartphone or tablet is involved, especially where bass is involved. The “DJ” feature has other uses too –for example, ensuring you’re hearing all the sound when swiveling off an ear-cup to listen for the UPS guy who’s too darn late already. Or if listening to an audio book. Other uses abound out of the “DJ” realm as well.
Bottom line: A smart design coupled with large, comfortable ear-cups make wearing the SOLUS headphones a no-brainer when the session is extended. $100 may not buy you much these days, but they will get you the SOLUS – and probably you’ll have some cash left since retail is rarely invoked nowadays.
- Extension cord included
- Nifty packaging
- Carry pouch doesn’t afford much protection
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.