Review on House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC Headphones
- Three levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening experience in any environment
- Alexa-enabled for voice access to music, information, and more
- Noise-rejecting dual-microphone system for clear sound and voice pick-up
|Price history for Bose QuietComfort 35 II Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones— Wireless, Over Ear Headphones with Built in Microphone and Alexa Voice Control, Silver|
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The Review on House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC Headphones
Pros Rich bass depth and crisp highs Decent noise cancellation for the price Cable included for passive listening Cons No EQ or noise canceling control Not for audiophiles looking for accuracy
We go into every review of budget-friendly noise canceling headphones with an open mind, but the reality is that the number of affordable models that deliver high quality noise canceling is quite low. And so we’re pleasantly surprised by House of Marley Positive Vibration XL’s Active Noise Canceling (ANC), which is better than expected at $149.99. In terms of audio quality, the drivers deliver a nice balance between rich bass and clear highs. Ultimately, everything these headphones offer are pretty or surprisingly good, which is enough to make them stand out as a solid option in the thin category of budget-friendly over-ear ANC headphones. A cool, green design
The Positive Vibration XL ANC headphones feature recyclable aluminum with FSC-certified wood details on the outer panels of their ear cups (over-ear). The ear cushions are amply padded with memory foam, as is the underside of the headband, ensuring an exceptionally comfortable fit, even during long listening sessions. Like most House of Marley products, the materials here, including the fabric on the headband, have a sustainable/eco-friendly focus. The headband adjuster has detents so it is possible to get a precisely balanced ear-to-ear fit.
HOM Positive Vibration XL ANC Lifestyle
The side panel of the left earcup contains ANC on/off and Ambient on/off buttons. On the side panel of the right earcup is a central multi-function multi button responsible for playback and call management, while plus and minus buttons control volume (with a short press) and track navigation (with a longer press) – we are never a fan of combining these two functions at the same time buttons, because it becomes very easy to accidentally skip a track. The included USB-C to USB-A charging cable plugs into the USB-C port on the left earcup. The headphones also come with a 3.5mm cable with inline controls for playback, track navigation, call management and a built-in microphone. Both cables have a braided fabric sleeve.
Internally, 40mm dynamic drivers deliver the audio. The headphones support the SBC Bluetooth codec, but not AAC or AptX.
What’s missing? Many of the ANC headphones we test have apps, but there aren’t any here. This means no adjustable EQ and no ANC controls beyond on/off.
House of Marley estimates battery life is about 26 hours with ANC, or 35 hours without. Your results will depend on your volume levels and your ANC usage. When the battery runs out, you can use the included cable for passive, wired listening. Positive Vibration XL noise reduction and audio performance
The Positive Vibration XL ANC headphones deliver decent noise cancellation. During testing, the circuit did a solid job of ringing back deep low frequencies like you hear on an airplane. It’s also done a commendable job with a shot of a busy restaurant with dishes ringing and loud conversations (played by near-field monitors at a high volume).
Compared to a category leader like the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, it’s clear that House of Marley’s headphones add a bit of high-frequency hiss to mix – it’s a common aspect of budget-friendly ANC and tends to mask frequencies that the circuit can not eliminate completely. In addition to the added hiss, the ANC is less effective than the Bose model across the entire frequency range, which isn’t surprising considering these headphones cost less than half the price.
The sound signature is slightly affected when the ANC is turned on. It doesn’t sound bad, mind you, but with the ANC on things get a little louder and clearer, while the bass response stays more or less the same. The Ambient listening mode that allows you to hear your surroundings works well and is easy to quickly turn on or off.
For audio performance, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, such as The Knife’s “Silent Shout”, the headphones deliver a powerful low-frequency response. At high volumes, the drivers don’t distort on this challenging circuit, and at moderate volumes, the lows still sound robust and full.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover”, a track with much less bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the overall sound signature of the Positive Vibration XL ANC. The drums here get a little extra bass – they sound rich, but not overly thunderous. The same can be said of Callahan’s baritone vocals – they have a rich low-mid presence, nicely balanced with a clear high end. The acoustic strumming and higher register percussive strikes are also strongly present – this is a chosen up mix, with rich lows and clear highs, but the balance between both ends of the frequency range is well done. It may not be the precise sound signature purists are looking for, but the drivers do a good job of avoiding muddy terrain or boosting the bass too much.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop takes on enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain some of its spiciness, but the vinyl crackles and hiss, mostly relegated to the background, sounds a little more prominent. The higher frequencies are quite sculpted, not uniformly amplified. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are presented with a solid presence, but it’s actually the bass-boosted sustain of the drum loop that seems to carry most of the low-frequency punch here. The vocals are neatly delivered, with perhaps a bit of hissing added.
Orchestral tracks, such as the opening scene of John Adams’ The Gospel Against the Other Mary, sound a little more bass-boosted than necessary – it’s not a bad sound, but the instrumentation in the lower register can sound a little bass-heavy and resonant, while the instruments with a higher register sound crisp and clear, but a little pinched and sculpted in spots.
The headphones’ built-in microphone provides solid intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone, we were able to understand every word we recorded. There was a small amount of Bluetooth distortion in the mix, as is usually the case with wireless headphone mics, but the signal was strong and even picked up a fair amount of low-frequency response. Budget-friendly noise cancellation
At $150, House of Marley’s Positive Vibration XL ANC headphones sound about as good as they should and the ANC is better than expected. If noise cancellation is your top priority and you must have the best, this isn’t it. But if $150 is your budget and ANC is a feature you’d enjoy these headphones deliver better-than-average performance for a sub-$200 model. That said, the best ANC in this price range can be found in true wireless models, such as the $130 Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro. As for over-ear headphones under $200, the Sennheiser HD 450BT is an excellent option if you can find them on sale. If you want to spend less and skip the ANC, the $100 Jabra Elite 45h headphones are a great alternative.
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