In an age of celebrity endorsements, everything from cologne to hot sauce has proved profitable. Bob Dole for Viagra, Donald Trump’s ‘Trump Steaks’ and Dita Von Teese for Perrier – evidently, nothing and no one is off limits. The latest consumer product to fall victim to this age-old business-model: headphones. Everyone from 50 Cent to Michael Phelps, Quincy Jones and Deadmau5, and most notably Dr. Dre, have flocked to this new trend and in the process established extremely lucrative lines of high-end headphones geared specifically towards their unique audiences. For better or for worse this newfound focus on high fidelity products has for the first time in this disposable MP3 culture widely positioned the value of great sound.
Of all the celebrity endorsed headphones on the market, one that may unjustly surprise most is Sony’s latest in the X Headphones by Simon Cowell. Known for his blunt and often brutally harsh commentary on American Idol and now The X Factor, the A&R executive turned entrepreneur certainly has an ear for music and a critical one at that – all qualities you would likely want from one giving his stamp of approval on audio equipment.
Unlike most of the Sony X’s celebrity endorsed counterparts, Cowell’s headphones do not feature any of the dramatic and often glaringly youthful designs. Instead, they resemble traditional headphones in their construction with a subtle ‘X’ on each speaker. Available in two variations of silver, one with red accents and the other black, the subtlety of the X Headphones make for a pair the over 25 crowd would feel comfortable taking outside. A tangle free cord with locking power and it’s vinyl carrying case also make for great additions.
On the flip side, these are extremely large headphones. So substantial in fact that when hanging around your neck they will likely push up on your jawbone. Fortunately, this added size brings with it extreme comfort. Designed with memory foam ear pads, a snug fit comes after only a few hours of use and resemble the feel of over-the-ear headphones, while these technically rest on-the-ear. It’s a comfort that makes these great for hours of office use and isolate outside noise quite well.
Most marketing for this product boast claims that the Sony X headphones deliver the “truest sound reproduction,” free of modulation, unlike the majority of their competitors whose disposition toward heavy low-end frequencies have become the standard. For the most part, Sony delivers – they generally sound great – but like all audio equipment, this promise varies throughout genres.
When listening to pop music, of which Simon Cowell is most familiar with, the pitch-perfect, auto-tuned vocals sound as accurate and faithful as impeccable tweaked vocals can. Modern rock performs similarly in that vocals sung in a clear timbre resonate well acoustically and the same applies to jazz, classical, R&B and most forms of hip-hop.
When it comes to the more ethereal stylings of say post rock and shoegaze – genres known for often lingering distortion and dense reverb – there tends to be an unshakable fogginess. Oddly enough, the brighter yet equally engrossing tonalities of electronic music fair extremely well. Heavier music such as hardcore and nearly all forms of metal encounter the most difficulties, especially when faced with walls of distortion, which these headphones have a tendency to overpower, resulting in the remaining layers becoming inaudible.
The amalgamation of classic construction, 50 mm driver units, compact folding design, pressure-free earpads and a tangle-free cord make the X headphones a feature-filled product by anyones standards and one worth taking heavy consideration when purchasing a pair of high-end earphones. Although fans of music more obscure than likely found on Cowell’s many television stints may want to explore other options, Simon Cowell’s Sony X headphones contain exceptional sound for the majority of listeners; easily the top self of celebrity endorsed headphones.