House of Mar­ley Re­demp­tion ANC

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - Leif John­son

Price: £179 (inc VAT) from fave.co/35ql2B9

Will you be re­deemed by wear­ing the Re­demp­tion ANC buds from the House of Mar­ley? Likely not, but if you’re con­cerned about the usual Earth-un­friendly meth­ods of mak­ing de­vices like this, you’ll at least walk away with a load off your con­science.

They’re not biodegrad­able, but they are made from re­cy­cled sil­i­cone, and House of Mar­ley even found a way to work sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als like bam­boo and wood into the de­sign. Along with their sound qual­ity and gen­eral stylish­ness, that’s a good rea­son to be happy about these buds,

but it may not take long be­fore you start wor­ry­ing about the short­com­ings of some of the ac­tive noise can­celling and other fea­tures.

DE­SIGN AND CON­TROLS

They make a good im­pres­sion even when they’re in the charg­ing case. The case it­self is un­for­tu­nately bulky enough that it doesn’t fit eas­ily into jeans pock­ets, but I kind of like its black, pucky body and the way it’s crowned with a square of bam­boo. (It doesn’t hurt that House of Mar­ley’s logo is pretty nifty, too.) When you com­bine the Re­demp­tion’s case with the colour­ful ny­lon USB-C charg­ing cord it comes with, the whole pack­age looks a lit­tle like some­thing you might find on one of Etsy’s classier pages.

At least there’s sort of a good rea­son for that big case. The Re­demp­tion ANC buds can last an im­pres­sive seven hours on a sin­gle charge, and the case grants three more full charges. A row of four lights along the front en­sures you al­ways know just how much of a charge is left in the case, and on the back you’ll find the USB-C charg­ing port it­self, perched right above the Blue­tooth pair­ing but­ton. Pair­ing should be easy enough with­out it for the ini­tial setup: I sim­ply opened my iPhone’s Blue­tooth menu, opened the charg­ing case, and I im­me­di­ately got a prompt to pair the in­di­vid­ual buds.

I didn’t mind the hefty charg­ing case so long as I kept it in my bag – but un­for­tu­nately, the buds them­selves are pretty hefty, too. They look a lot like Ap­ple’s first­gen­er­a­tion AirPods aside from the black body and the wood run­ning down the stem, but they’re also no­tice­ably thicker. And that’s with­out the three dif­fer­ent sizes of rub­ber ear tips they come with to help with the ANC,

as well as a pair of wrap­around ear fins that help keep them in place. I’ve al­ways wor­ried about my AirPods fall­ing out even dur­ing a brief jog, but to my sur­prise, the Re­demp­tion buds stayed in even dur­ing a brief run down the block. They also have a wa­ter re­sis­tance rat­ing of IPX4, so they’ll shrug off sweat from a work­out but not a down­pour on a rainy day. Still, they’re quite big. You’re never go­ing to for­get they’re in your ears.

Like the AirPods, you con­trol the Re­demp­tion ANC through a se­ries of taps on the stems. Two taps on the right stem plays or pauses your mu­sic, two taps also al­lows you to an­swer or end a call, and three taps let you skip to the next track on your mu­sic. (Sorry, you can’t use them to re­peat a track.) On the left bud, two taps ac­ti­vate voice as­sis­tants like Siri or Google As­sis­tant (de­pend­ing on your phone), and two taps also let you de­cline a call. If you tap three times, you can turn on the ac­tive noise can­celling, turn on the am­bi­ent mode, or turn both fea­tures off. Want to pause with­out paus­ing them? Just pull one of the buds out of your ears. Whew.

That’s a lot of info to di­gest, and a lot of it didn’t click un­til I went on­line and watched one of House of Mar­ley’s in­struc­tional videos. For­tu­nately, it’s easy to learn the con­trols, but they’re not so in­tu­itive that you’ll eas­ily fig­ure out their full range on your own with­out some frus­tra­tion.

That said, you’ll prob­a­bly end up frus­trated any­way be­cause of the finicky con­trols. At least a third of the time the Re­demp­tion buds in­ter­preted my three taps for turn­ing off the ANC

as two taps, so I’d end up hav­ing an un­ex­pected chat with Siri. I had sim­i­lar trou­bles with the right bud when I was try­ing to skip for­ward to the next track. Even af­ter sev­eral days with the Re­demp­tion buds, this never stopped be­ing a prob­lem.

NOISE CAN­CEL­LA­TION AND SOUND QUAL­ITY

And then there’s the ac­tual noise can­celling. It works, tech­ni­cally, but some­times I wouldn’t have even known it was on were it not for the built-in voice con­fir­ma­tion. Frankly, the ANC I ex­pe­ri­enced with these headphones was about the same level of noise can­celling I might get from wrap­ping a T-shirt around my ears. Sounds that I’d nor­mally ex­pect to be muted by ANC – my desk fan, the cars go­ing by on my street and even the wind on my win­dows – still man­aged to sneak through re­gard­less of which tip I wore. In other words, these are not ear­buds for peo­ple who like to use ANC buds while work­ing in si­lence with­out mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment.

The ‘am­bi­ent’ mode

(which al­lows you to hear your sur­round­ings as if you weren’t wear­ing buds) is a lit­tle more im­pres­sive, but the in­fe­rior qual­ity of the mi­cro­phone never lets you for­get that you’re hear­ing your en­vi­rons through a piece of hard­ware. Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing this, I wasn’t too sur­prised when I called fam­ily and friends with the Re­demp­tion buds and was told the call qual­ity was merely “okay”.

I’m happy to report that the sound qual­ity of the mu­sic I played went a long way to­ward re­deem­ing the Re­demp­tion ANC buds. It’s sur­pris­ingly im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing the dis­ap­point­ments of the ANC, espe­cially if you’re a fan of tracks with heav­ier bass. Thumpin’ tracks like Bil­lie Eil­ish’s BadGuy or Of Mon­treal’s Gron­landic Edit re­sounded deeply through my head with­out smoth­er­ing the songs’

mid­dle and high ranges. On tracks with softer low ranges like The Rolling Stones’ Sweet­Vir­ginia, I was pleased to find the Re­demp­tion ANC buds hit the right de­gree of weight­i­ness.

It’s enough to make me think House of Mar­ley de­signed these buds with the as­sump­tion that you’re al­most al­ways go­ing to be play­ing mu­sic when they’re in your ears. In those cir­cum­stances, the mu­sic is go­ing to be do­ing the most of the work of the ‘noise can­celling’, and the weak ANC on the buds does pull some of the re­main­ing slack. But only some. When the mu­sic stops, as it does for a sec­ond af­ter the open­ing riff of ZZ Top’s Just GotPaid, I can still hear my desk fan chug­ging along. That’s not pleas­ant.

VERDICT

At £179, the Re­demp­tion ANC may seem steep, but for con­text, Ap­ple sells its ANC-free sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion AirPods at the same price. But even with the sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage of the ANC and sound qual­ity, the Re­demp­tion buds are tough to rec­om­mend. For one, that ac­tive noise can­cel­la­tion isn’t all that good, and the fussy con­trols and bulky size of both the case and the buds are al­ready lead­ing me to reach for other buds when I leave my apart­ment. Of course, if you’re par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with House of Mar­ley’s en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious man­u­fac­tur­ing ef­forts, these ear­buds’ short­com­ings cer­tainly aren’t so great to dis­suade you from con­sid­er­ing them.

The Re­demp­tion ANC charg­ing case next to the USB-A to USB-C charg­ing ca­ble that comes with it.

The Re­demp­tion ANC next to Ap­ple’s reg­u­lar AirPods for com­par­i­son. The Re­demp­tion case is also con­sid­er­ably thicker than the AirPods case.

The Re­demp­tion ANC with the charg­ing case open.

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