The $US299 Legacy over-ear headphones from Miami audio startup A-Audio are an absolute joy to listen to, and they’re absolutely worth your money.
For $US80 more, however, you can get A-Audio’s Icon headphones, which are nearly identical to the Legacy headphones in terms of looks and feel — but they’re wireless, and they have built-in playback controls right on the ear cup.
To me, these added features easily make the Icon headphones a worthwhile buy over the wired Legacy headphones.
Before I dip into my review, I just need to state the importance these headphones being wireless, since that’s really why you’re spending the extra $US80. Wires are ugly and annoying. You trip over them, they fray, they catch on things, and sometimes, they’re responsible for you breaking your phone. (Yes, that happened to me.) They’re a hindrance in every sense of the word.
That’s why I would gladly spend the extra money to own A-Audio’s quality Legacy experience, but sans wires.
It’s so nice not having to dig in your pockets for your phone every time you want to pause or adjust the volume; on the Icon headphones, it’s as easy as pressing a button in the center of the right ear cup to pause and play, or clicking the top or bottom of the ear cup to raise or lower the volume. You can also fast forward or rewind tracks from that same ear cup, as well as answer and end phone calls. All the on-board controls are built into the headphone’s design, and they’re all so easy to use.
Having reviewed other headphones with on-board controls, the A-Audio Icon headphones have the most intuitive controls by far. I never needed to remember how to perform a certain action after doing it the first time.
Like the Legacy model, the Icon headphones offer first-class sound from A-Audio. These guys really understand what studio-quality headphones are all about. The highs are crisp and clear, and the bass is really deep and resounding without ever feeling distorted. I have yet to be disappointed by the sound quality of an A-Audio product.
There are three audio modes on these headphones: normal audio, active noise cancellation, and a bass enhancer. You can switch up audio modes on the fly with a single button on the bottom of the right ear cup.
I loved the bass enhancer on the Legacy headphones, but I actually preferred the normal settings on the Icon headphones; the other features are worthwhile, and it’s really easy to switch between settings, but I found the “normal” audio to be extremely accurate and enjoyable.
From a design side of things, if you weren’t a fan of how the Legacy headphones looked, you’re not going to like the design of the Icons. It’s that simple. These headphones look a little bit goofy on top of your head since they’re so bulky — but honestly, I didn’t mind at all. Some people wear headphones to make a fashion statement; I care much more about having a pair of really comfortable, really good-sounding headphones, and that’s exactly what the Icon offers.
When I’m wearing a pair of headphones, I want to forget they’re on my head. I want to be able to have free range of motion and have the sound be able to follow me. Thankfully, since the Icon’s headband is snug without being too tight, and since it’s completely wireless, the headphones were extremely comfortable everywhere I wore them. For example, I took these headphones on the subway for over a week, and even though I sat on plenty of erratic trains and bumped into plenty of strangers, my headphones never shifted or fell off my head.
And best of all, they were able to deliver consistent quality sound for over a full week of commuting. A-Audio says the Icon headphones provide up to 12 hours of wireless listening, and I certainly believe that to be the case.
The Icon headphones have some other goodies too, like a built-in mic, and a luxury travel case — these headphones are surprisingly collapsible and portable. But when I wasn’t wearing them I preferred wearing the headphones around my neck — you can even twist and fold the cups down so they’re not pushing up against your cheek.
In all, the Icon headphones really do have it all: A powerful, accurate soundstage, a comfortable design, and they’re wireless, which is truly liberating on many levels. If you’re willing to throw down nearly $US400 on a pair of headphones you’ll love, there are plenty of great headphones out there, but what A-Audio has achieved with the Icon headphones is nothing short of exemplary. Audiophiles and casual listeners will love what they hear from these phones.