In order to stand out in today’s crowded headphone market, you really need a sound or a look – or both. Otherwise, you’re just one of many and not particularly memorable. I-MEGO must realize that, because they have produced some very original-looking headphones called THRONE. I’m not sure where that name came from, but Old Microphone would be more appropriate, since that’s what the THRONE headphones look like. No matter, because even though the retro look is impressive, how they sound is more important. What’s interesting is that I-MEGO has supplied two headphones that look similar, but sound quite different: the THRONE Poison and THRONE Gold. Note: Although here is a THRONE Cambo version, they are not reviewed here.
The audible differences between the THRONE Poison and Gold is simple: The Poison is more neutral sounding, and the Gold has an added emphasis on bass. The differences are definitely noticeable, but it’s not night and day. There are some subtle advantages and drawbacks to each version.
Visually, the two THRONE headphones are identical, but with different color schemes. The Poison is a dark silver metallic with burgundy and black accents and the Gold is – of course – gold with just black accents. I prefer the Poison’s colors, but that’s strictly subjective. I’m not a fan of bright gold and the dark silver has a classic feel about it. From a distance, both headphones are impressive with their solid, metallic look. Unfortunately, it’s an illusion, because the “metal” is metallic-colored plastic. While I am sure this keeps the price and weight down, it’s still a bit of a disappointment. There is also a strangely out-of-place embroidery of the I-MEGO logo in an Old English font on the leather headband. It doesn’t match the 30s radio look of the ear cups.
However, the headband and memory-foam ear pads are very comfortable, even after hours of listening. The headphone’s pressure on the noggin is just right, not too loose or tight. Unfortunately, adjusting to size is hit-or-miss, because the track that the cups slide on doesn’t grab enough, which allows the cups to slip occasionally.
Both the Gold and Poison come with a MIC for phone calls and a Nokia phone adaptor, because apparently Nokia doesn’t use the standard 3.5mm mini plug. Also included is a 1/4″ stereo adaptor and travel pouch. A hard, protective case would have been preferable for commuting.
While the THRONE Poison and Gold headphones are made to sound different, just how different are they, really? Interestingly, it depends on what you are listening to. I will say up front that I preferred the Poison over the Gold hands down. However, that’s just my opinion. I loaned both headphones to a co-worker, and she much prefers the Gold. But then she’s younger and a bass head, so it’s not surprising.
Recently, I was listening to “Essence of Now,” an album track from the It’s A Beautiful Day “Marrying Maiden” album with my JH Audio JH13/PRO earphones. I was dumbstruck by the audible detail in this 1970 song. It was impressive, to say the least. I know that it’s absolutely not fair to compare a relatively inexpensive headphone to a pair of custom $1,200 six-speaker earphones, but I’m trying to make a point. While the THRONE Poison headphones paled in comparison, the song was still enjoyable! There was a clarity present that allowed the song to still be fun. However, with the Poison, the song did lack that extra “something’ the JH13/PRO had that puts a stupid grin on your face. Again, my point is to say that the Poison headphones are no slouch. No such luck with the THRONE Gold. This song has a strong bass line and the Gold managed to muddy it up.
The post-punk song, “Incubus (Blue Suit)” by the underrated Tuxedomoon, has a relentless, throbbing electronic pulse that the THRONE Gold pushes right into your brain. It’s a bass you feel as well as hear. But as powerful as that bass is, it’s not as clean and controlled as what you hear with the Poison headphones – even if it is less powerful than with the Gold. Again, others will vehemently disagree.
The opening tribal-sounding drums of Mary Fahl’s strange, but compelling version of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” literally vibrates both the Gold and Poison headphones on my ears. This is bass that will easily distort when pushed. I pushed and sure enough, it distorted – noticeably with the Poison, but way too much with the Gold. Even distorting, the Poison still managed to convey some control and clarity, but only when directly compared to the Gold.
By developing look-alike headphones with individual sound signatures, I-MEGO has tried to have it both ways. If you know what direction your tastes lean, then choosing which headphone should be easy. If you’re not sure, then it will be more difficult. Here’s an easy test: If you like the looks of the THRONE headphones but can’t find them locally, drop by a store where you can sample the Beats Phones. If you like the bass-heavy groove, go for the Gold. However, if the accentuated bass bothers you, then choose your Poison.