Over the ear headphones have a distinct advantage in that they can screen out much of the ambient noise surrounding the listener. But when confronted by the hum from an air conditioner or that of a jet plane’s engine, an unruly crowd or just some family members talking in the background, the best results come from the headphone’s having noise-cancellation technology built in. This consists of a microphone and circuitry that “hears” outside sounds and strives to cancel it out. As will be seen, I-MEGO’s Walker JR Noise Canceling Headphones not only scores well on how they do this, but provide a reasonably comfortable fit for what is a pair of quality 40mm drivers.
The Walker JR has a smooth gray appearance, with a simple “X” like design on the outside of each cup: i-MEGO is not trying to go heavy metal or psycho with some design. They’re not quite full sized, but each cup is still more than large enough to fit over an adult’s ears without crimping. Looking more closely, I saw that the headband had a pivoting rod attached to each head cup: this not only provided some swing for securing the cup around the ear, but also looks to last longer than other plastic swiveling mechanisms headphones in this price range use. This design also enables the Walker JR to fold up smaller than over the ear headphones of this size normally do.
A mini-jack cord plugs into the left cup (not having a permanently attached cable is a plus to me), while the right holds the “AA” battery that powers the noise-cancellation. This cup also has an “On” switch and red LED to indicate power. The weight of the battery in the cup is negligible, and I was impressed by how streamlined the design for the battery compartment was — once the battery is in you’ll forget it’s there. And although the cups fit snugly around my ears, I was easily able to put on my glasses afterwards.
Now I wanted to test the headphone’s noise cancellation abilities, so I approached a free-standing fan. I turned the fan on and listened to the hum that the blades generated, along with the sound of the air being forced outward. I waited a minute to grow acclimated to the sound and then switched the noise-cancelation on. I immediately heard not just a drop in the overall volume of the fan, but a change in the quality of the sound: where it was once strong and forceful with its own personality, now it was weak and more like white noise. So I know that the noise-cancellation worked (that it had a mike in each cup probably made it more effective than if there had only been one), and could see using it by itself the next time I’m seated on a plane close to an engine. But now to test it with music.
I began by playing 30 seconds of the Beach Boys version of Do You Wanna Dance? on my computer (lossless file). I then returned to the beginning and repeated the 30 seconds, only this time with the noise cancellation turned on. I immediately could make out more nuances in the upper ranges than I could hear before and the really deep bass didn’t have the muffling effect that was the case before. I then repeated the test, only this time with Good Vibrations. Again there were nuances of sound that ambient noise had earlier defeated: the tambourine, for example, had more clarity to it and the vocals more “bite.” I also tried listening to some classical music and found the strings and brass to benefit greatly with the noise cancelation. My final test was all about the lower registers: I put on the Doors’ This is the End and let it play out, concentrating on Morrison’s low and often less-than-melodious tones, which at all times were clear and free of dissonance. I wore the headphones for a good 3 hours at a stretch and my ears didn’t complain either.
Bottom line: I-MEGO doesn’t have the name brand of a Sennheiser or the promotional oomph of a Dr. Dre, but what the Walker JR lacks in “brand awareness” it makes up for in sound quality, thanks to a compact, competent construction and noise reduction capabilities. This makes the $139 retail nothing to complain about. Especially since that also includes accessories like a soft pouch, airplane audio adapter and 1/4” headphone jack.
40mm drivers, Compacting design for travel, Detachable audio cable
Minimal artistic cup design
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.