Fact: Some things are inexpensive and they perform poorly, and then there are some expensive things which are made to last which perform splendidly.
When I received the Shinola Canfield On-Ear Wired Headphones, I had no doubt that their construction was top-notch; I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if their sound would justify their $495 price. Shall we find out?
The old adage, “you get what you pay for” comes to mind, but it doesn’t always prove true. There are things that are cheaply made that perform well and last surprisingly long, and there are things that are splendidly made that perform adequately well, but they can’t ever quite justify their asking price; Vertu phones come to mind.
There was no doubt in my mind as I unpacked the Shinola Canfield On-Ear Wired Headphones, that they were something special. The Canfields are possibly some of the most beautiful, best made, and — for lack of a better word — luxurious I’ve ever tried. I couldn’t help but be sad they weren’t available in a wireless version, but when I’m sitting at my desk it’s not necessary. My 13″ MacBook Pro is a 2015 model; it has a headphone jack. Sometimes it pays not to upgrade.
Included in the package are the headphones, a crush-proof travel case, a braided no-tangle Y-cable, a 1/8″ (3.5mm) to 1/4″ (6.35mm) adapter, a microfiber pouch for the cables and adapter, a signed certificate of authenticity (with initials of the Acoustic QC and Final QC testers along with the date they were tested), and a booklet that contains the technical specifications, safety information, operation instructions, care instructions, and the warranty information.
Available in black and silver, cognac and silver (which I received), and a glossy black (that costs $550), the Shinola Canfield On-Ear Wired Headphones are a stunning and substantial combination of stainless steel components, interchangeable lambskin ear pads, and a top grain leather headband.
Everything about the appearance of these headphones is tasteful, sumptuous, and luxurious. Honestly, they look like they should cost $495. But most people don’t buy headphones just to admire them as they hang on a stand, so Shinola will need to bring a bit more than excellent craftsmanship and good looks to the table.
With two shades of leather wrapped around a cushioned headband, each pair of On-Ear headphones will become more comfortable with every use.
The Canfields weigh about 12 ounces which puts them firmly in the neighborhood of other higher-end headphones we’ve reviewed in the past. Their design is simple yet elegant; the only branding visible is the Shinola lightning bolt.
The lambskin earcups are about 1/2″ thick; measuring about 2.75″ long by 1.5″ wide; they are very much meant for on-ear vs. over-ear. If you tend to wear larger, 3D earrings, they may not be comfortable with the ear cups; I tend to wear simple dangles, and I found the ear cups to be comfortable for long listening periods.
Utilizing a custom 40mm dynamic transducer for a unique listening experience. Memory foam ear pads encased with lambskin provide unparalleled comfort.
The lambskin ear cups are held to the speakers magnetically. It’s worth popping them off at least once to take a look, because like fine jewelry, the parts you don’t usually see are still lovely to look at.
The headphones’ speakers have a vintage feel with their stainless grilles.
40MM Shinola Dynamic Transducer
Closed-back, Supra-Aural ear cushion
20 – 20,000 HZ
|SOUND PRESSURE LEVEL||
105 DB ±3DB/MW @ 1KHZ
|TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION||
2% THD @ 1KHZ
120 DB SPL/V @1KHZ
|WEIGHT (WITHOUT CABLE)||
|DIMENSIONS||6.9″ x 7.5″ x 1.4″ | 17.5cm x 19cm x 3.6cm|
Because these aren’t wireless headphones, there are no buttons, lights, or other controls on the earpieces; at the bottom of each side, there are 3.5mm headphone jack ports.
The stainless bottoms of the headband are marked R or L so you won’t ever wonder which way they go on; the 12″ headband has a sturdy extender on each side that makes the headband 15″ long when fully extended; on the smallest setting, they fit my head well.
The fabric wrapped, no-tangle Y-cable has 3.5mm plugs which have an R or L engraved on the jack that connects to its respective ear cup. The microphone is a classy little matte silver block that hangs about 4.5″ down on the right side of the Y-cable. The remote has a volume up and volume down button with a smaller multi-function button in the center. Pressing the multi-function button once will answer a call or hang it up; if there is no call, pressing it once will play or pause the music. Pressing it twice quickly will skip to the next song; pressing it three times quickly will skip it to the beginning of the song, pressing it three times quickly again will take you to the previous song.
Shinola says that the Canfield headphones are “designed specifically to perform with any smartphone, portable media player, or tablet.” They worked well with my 2015 MacBook Pro, as well. But Shinola says that for a “truly critical listening experience, [you should] combine the Canfield headphones with a headphone amplifier.” Duly noted.
I found that for the types of music I listen to, the Shinola Canfield On-Ear Wired Headphones were adequate, but not spectacular. Let me back up for just a moment.
I like a wide variety of music, but I tend to skip country music entirely (unless it’s the classic stuff — like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson. or the occasional Robert Earl Keen), and I’m not a huge EDM fan, though some of the music I like crosses into that territory.
Music played through the Canfield’s sounds mellowed out and too heavy on its somewhat muddy midrange. Bass is not as distinct as I’d like, and some higher notes are tamped down. Booka Shade’s Babylon is a synth-heavy song that lacks its usual hypnotic and bone-felt bass thump because the bass feels like it’s bled into the rest of what’s going on in the song. When the vocals come in, they sound muddy and unclear. I see this same problem again on Electric Love; BØRNS’ singer Garrett Clark Borns’ voice is tamped down, unclear — like someone slid the equalizer down on the high-end a notch too low, the midrange is thick and a bit too much; the usual experience I get when listening to this song just isn’t as rich (or energizing) as I’ve come to expect. MGMT’s Little Dark Age sounds, well, wrong. It’s like someone pushed the midrange slides on the equalizer up way too high; again, the highs and lows have been tamped down; it’s muddy. I feel like I’m listening to the music through a layer of something that’s muting the points I usually enjoy; it’s veiled. I’m not saying it sounds bad, but it’s not right.
Look, I know that part of the problem is that I have access to many sets of excellent headphones from all price ranges in my personal collection to compare these to, but listening to the same song through several sets of headphones is exactly what you should do when you are thinking about spending so much on any pair.
When I judge headphones — especially ones that cost above $300 — I’m going to check them against others to see which sound better to me, because that’s what’s most important, even if they aren’t as nicely made or aesthetically pleasing. I keep a pair of $400 Bower’s & Wilkins P7s, $549 Master & Dynamic MW60s, and a pair of $99 Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500s on my desk. Even though these headphones are all wireless, they each played the same songs more clearly and more distinctly, with better highs and lows, without muddy mid-ranges, and without the tamped down or veiled effect.
What it boils down to is this: Shinola is absolutely producing some of the best made and best-looking headphones you can buy anywhere. The problem is that for the money they are charging, you won’t get a headphone listening experience that’s on par with other headphones for similar (or less) money spent. I feel like Shinola has taken a page from Vertu’s handbook — make the exterior out of the finest materials, but under the hood — where it really matters — the customer could get much more for less money elsewhere.
I really wanted to love these headphones, and perhaps, if great sounding music wasn’t so important to me, I would. Their build quality is amazing, but the sound they produce? Not so much.
The Shinola Canfield On-Ear Wired Headphones retail for $495, and they are available directly from the manufacturer.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Exquisitely designed with only the best materials; They feel like they should be expensive; They are beautiful to look at; Sound produced is good enough, but not phenomenal; Included 1/8″ (3.5mm) to 1/4″ (6.35mm) adapter; Comfortable for extended wearing periods
What Needs Improvement: Terribly expensive; They may start feeling too heavy with extended wear; You can get similar sound from lesser-priced headphones; Not great for bass-heavy or treble dependent music; Not available in wireless version; These will not satisfy audiophiles