We’ve reviewed a number of impressive pair of headphones over the course of 2014, but none that pack the special sauce found in the new Alpine Over-the-Ear headphones. Alpine claims these $300 headphones let you “feel the music.” They do, and that’s just one small part of the reason these headphones are standouts in an ever-more-crowded market. Let’s dig deeper.
Let’s get this our of the way up front: These headphones are stunning. The white pair I was sent for review have a glossy finish that is just beautiful. I imagine the piano finish on the black version looks even better, but I suspect they are fingerprint magnets. And while the headphones are made of plastic, the build quality is excellent.
“Crisp, refined angles, precision-molded curves, all wrapped in solid blocks of color.”
The unboxing experience is superb. The package opens by lifting one side of the box and you are immediately greeted by the headphones. They sit waiting but are held in place by two pieces of velcro. Very classy!!!
Beneath the headphones are the two cables- one 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable and one USB to microUSB cable for charging the headphones.
“Your music should be felt, not just heard…”
The headphones themselves have 40mm twin high-performance drivers. These, in turn, are powered by amplifiers and digital signal processors that serve up an amazing audio experience. The great sound is, of course, the result of more than just the hardware. In the case of these Alpine over-the-ear headphones, the sound ushers from the technology packed into them.
Alpine recognizes that, “part of the joy of live music is the physical experience of the sound waves” and they set out to recreate that experience in a pair of headphones. This is accomplished with their patented TKR3 Full Frequency Immersion technology
TKR3 is •Tuned •Kenetic •Resonance 3: TKR3 Technology addresses the fundamental issue with speaker drivers. Typical standard headphone drivers simply cannot move enough air to create an immersive low frequency experience without damaging your ears. TKR3 utilizes the headband structure to transmit acoustic low frequency to blend with our tuned 40mm drives.
In other words the headband is actually part of the audio experience Alpine delivers. It really works. In fact, if you are listening to a bass-heavy track and you place your hand on the top of the headband, you can actually feel the vibrations.
Honestly it is one of the cooler innovations I have seen in headphones, and the result is freaking awesome.
Of course the headphone cable has an inline controller with a built-in microphone so you can play or pause your music, adjust the volume, and take a call. The controller is nicely made, easy to use without having to look at, and it is positioned in precisely the right place on the cable for using the microphone to carry on a conversation.
The headphones are also surprisingly comfortable. They are actually a bit lighter than they might first appear. Combine that with nicely padded ear cups, and you have a pair of headphones that you can all but forget you are wearing. And because the ear cups are as thick as they are, you’ll also enjoy some passive noise cancellation when wearing them. No, these won’t do the trick if you are on a long plane flight, but they will let you enjoy a bit of audio-isolation when listening at home.
For those of you who dig numbers, here are a few for you to check out:
|Frequency response||15Hz – 24,000Hz|
|Sound pressure level||107dB ± 3dB at 1kHz max|
|Total harmonic distortion||<0.1%at1mW/1kHz|
For those of you who aren’t numbers people, let’s put it this way — these sound as good or better than any pair of headphones I have ever used.
Video Review of the Alpine Over-the-Ear Headphones
Features of the Alpine Over-the-Ear Headphones
- Exceptional sound that you can feel with TKR3 Full Frequency Immersion Technology
- Customizable sound settings with Alpine Level Play iPhone app
- Powered digital amplifiers
- Fully programmable audio processing for separate bass and equalization
- Bluetooth Low Energy for easy-pairing with your iOS device for user-programmable sound settings
- Level Play app scans, analyzes, and organizes your music library into “energy” levels and gives you the option of a randomized song flow from a particular “energy” level
- Fixed rechargeable Li-ion battery with up to 10 hour capacity
- Dynamic circuitry allows for listening in case of fully depleted battery
The app scans, analyzes, and then organizes your device’s music library into “energy” levels. The Level Play app then presents you with a randomized song flow from one of those “energy” levels. In addition, Level Play lets you choose custom sound settings.
I initially thought the Level Play app, free in the iTunes App Store, was merely a gimmick. I was dead wrong. The Level Play app is actually serious business and it works amazingly well.
Not only does it work surprisingly well but if does, at least in my experience, a far better job of collecting and serving up music of a related nature than Apple’s Genius Playlist functionality. Add in the fact that it also pulls out music from you collection that you might not otherwise think to play and you have the opportunity to rediscover the music in your iTunes library.
In addition, the app lets you fine-tune the sound with both programmable bass and EQ controls. You adjust them in the app and they are immediately sent to the headphones using Bluetooth Low Energy.
- Intensity based music discovery and player
- Rich graphical interface
- “Mark the drop” and “play from the drop”
- 5 Band EQ (equalizer)
It is a bummer they did not see fit to use the Bluetooth functionality to also turn the headphones into wireless cans. Let’s hope they release a sibling product that does let you cut the cord. If they do I’ll be first in line to purchase them! Yes, I like these headphones that much.
In short, these headphones are amazing. They look great, are comfortable, and sound fantastic. They let you experience your music in a way that is subtle but impactful at the same time. If you are looking to pay $300 for a pair of good headphones these should be on your short list. No, let me correct that… If you are looking to pay $300 for a pair of good headphones these should be at the top of your short list. Check them out here. Buy them from Apple here.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Alpine Over-the-Ear Headphones
What I Like: Look amazing; Very comfortable; Sound fantastic; When used with the free iOS app the built-in technology gives you more control over your music than other headphones; Level Play functionality is much more than a gimmick
What Needs Improvement: Bluetooth is only used for sharing audio settings between the app and the headphones; Battery only lasts for about 10 hours per charge