Among the many cool people that I got to meet at CE Week 2014 in NYC earlier this summer was Christian Iacovelli, who was in town to promote his company, A-Audio. He and his team were kind enough to send me a sample of the new A-Audio Legacy headphones, and I’ve had a few weeks to put these through their paces.
If you haven’t heard of A-Audio, it’s not too surprising. The company seems to be only a little over a year old, so they’re not exactly a household name just yet. But they’re beginning to attract a lot of attention, and, in fact, the A-Audio Legacy headphones won a “Best in Show” Award at CE Week.
First Impressions Of The A-Audio Legacy Headphones
Let me start off by sharing the fact that I’m a bit of a sucker for packaging. While we all know that you can’t judge a book by its cover, we also know that first impressions are important in marketing. And when I see that someone has put this much effort and care into designing a package, they’ve got my attention.
A quick glance at the box reveals a stylish contrast of black and silver. One of their press releases states that “A-Audio Headphones and Earphones draw their aesthetic inspiration from a culmination of Italian and Swiss design”. This is evident at first view of the glossy photos of the headphones on the matte black background. Nice full views on the front and back face of the box, and side views on the edges.
The box opens by pulling on ribbon to lift a side flap which is held in place by magnets, and even feels good to open and close. Whoever designed the packaging has done an excellent job of piquing my interest in what’s inside.
What’s In The Box
The A-Audio Legacy headphones look really cool to my eye. Everything about them has the look of high quality. The metallic parts are aluminum and stainless steel and some chrome plating. The cushions are stitched leather. The level of craftsmanship is obvious.
A slight drawback is that the chrome does show fingerprints. But the guys at A-Audio seem to have anticipated this, and included a microfiber cleaning cloth in the package, which is a nice touch. I should add that the unit I tested was the “liquid chrome” flavor. I presume on that the other option, “matte phantom black”, fingerprints won’t be an issue at all.
There are two cables: one with a microphone and control buttons, and one plain cable. The connectors, all 3.5 mm, are all gold plated. There’s a 1/4 in. (6.3 mm) adapter, which certainly will come in handy for me, sooner or later.
The “luxury travel case” indeed looks luxurious with its leather wrapping. An accessories bag is velcroed inside. There’s also a pair of AAA batteries, which we’ll need to run two of its three modes.
Plugging In The A-Audio Legacy
It’s worth noting that there are audio jacks on each side of the headphones, to accommodate personal preferences, or the particular situation you’re using them in. The dual jacks also allow “tethering” by running a cable out to another pair of headphones. This should also prove useful in the recording studio.
The A-Audio Legacy headphones are said to have “3 Stage Technology”, which actually refers to three modes of operation: Bass Enhancer, Active Noise Cancellation, and “Audio”.
The “Audio” mode is simply straight, unenhanced audio, and therefore doesn’t require batteries. A nice feature which is often overlooked in active type headphones. If batteries run out when you’re on the road, you can always fall back on the Audio mode. Though this is the low-end mode, so to speak, the sound quality is already exceptional.
But it’s when we kick these headphones into the higher gears that we really see the power that they wield. I’ve tried other headphones with ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), and have been frankly unimpressed, and in some cases unable to tell any difference when it’s switched on. Until now. ANC on the A-Audio Legacy Headphones really works.
As I write this, I’m sitting close enough to my dishwasher, (which has a motor that’s on its last legs, and makes a helluva racket), that it would be difficult to have a conversation. Switch on ANC mode, and the noise is gone, even when listening to soft music or speech at low volumes. The sounds seems brighter, crisper, and fuller too.
The Bass Enhancer mode is superb. It was difficult to imagine that there was room for further improvement, but switching this mode on provided more volume and an awe-inspiring bottom end. I’ve played a plethora of music of different genres and instrumentations, and was unable to get the bass to distort, at any volume. Crank it up and the A-Audio Legacy headphones just keep getting better.
Frankly, I can’t find enough superlatives to use about the sound quality. I’ve yet to find a track which I felt didn’t play well through these headphones.
Comfort And Durability
I’ve got no complaints here whatsoever. The A-Audio Legacy headphones not only look and sound great, but they also feel great. Both the padded earpieces and the padded headband are filled with memory foam, and covered in soft leather.
The headphones are a bit heavier than some, weighing in at .7 lbs. But the aforementioned cushioning handles its weight well. I can’t say that you won’t notice you’re wearing them. But I’ve used these for long stretches of time, and never noticed any discomfort at all.
The cushions are snug and mold to the ear, providing a solid seal from external noise, even without using the noise cancellation feature. The earpieces swivel 90 degrees, which offers more variation in fit, and also an easy way to break that sound seal when I need to speak with someone or hear something in my surroundings.
The earpieces can also be extended and retracted to fit anyone, and respond with a satisfying series of tiny clicks as one makes size adjustments.
The press release for the A-Audio Legacy Headphones calls them “the best headphones $299 can buy”, and after spending some time with them, I’m inclined to agree. At this price, this is obviously not a product for everyone. It’s for someone who’s looking to invest in a serious pair of high-quality headphones. And while the price is in the “under $300 range”, everything about them looks and feels, and more importantly, sounds more like a high-end, high-priced model.
- Driver diameter: 40 mm
- Driver material: Mylar
- Driver magnet: Neodymium
- Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20KHz
- Sensitivity Audio Position: 102dB@1KHz+/-3dB
- Sensitivity ANC Position: 113dB@1KHz+/-3dB
- Sensitivity Bass Position: 115dB@1KHz+/-3dB
- Impedance: 32 Ohm@1KHz
- Weight: 0.7 Lb
- Cable Length: 4 ft
- Plug type: (1/8 in) 3.5 mm gold plated
After spending a few weeks with these headphones, the only fault I can find with them is that they are, as the package states, “Made for iPod /iPhone / iPad”. Of course, the audio technology is fully compatible with any modern audio devices. It’s only the control switch on the microphone cable which has compatibility issues. Sadly, I got no results from any of the controls on either an Android device or a PC.
But this seems a tiny concern, as the A-Audio Legacy Headphones otherwise provide a thoroughly exquisite user experience. The company’s mission statement says that “A-Audio crafts headphones that embody avant-garde design, provide uncompromised comfort and deliver unparalleled sound.” I’ll say that they’ve succeeded. I’ve never used a better set of headphones.