I consider myself an average person with an average budget for headphones (around $60 or less) and I’ve been fairly happy with my purchases. I’ve shied away from trying out more expensive ones in the stores because I haven’t been prepared to spend premium dollars on them and I didn’t want to spoil my blissful ignorance by hearing the difference. However, there are headphones that are offered to the Gadgeteer that are moderate level headphones like the House of Marley Liberate XLBT Bluetooth over-ear headphones. They piqued my interest. Are the build quality, comfort, and sound quality worth the increase in cost?
- Liberate XLBT Bluetooth over-ear headphones
- Fabric drawstring carrying case
- Detachable 3.5 mm, one button mic audio cable
- Micro-USB charging cable
- User Manual
Design & Build Quality
The House of Marley Liberate XLBT Bluetooth over-ear headphones are collapsible for ease of transport. The “saddle” colored (as House of Marley describes it) material covering the earpieces and inside of the headband is not quite my style (they have a midnight color that I would have preferred), but the stainless steel headband is attractive.
The headphones come with a nice durable fabric drawstring carrying case.
The metal construction of the headband makes the headphones feel sturdy and well made. The hinges are also made of metal. The metal portion that holds the earpieces also slides through the earphone to adjust to the correct fit. The multicolored thread that holds the fabric portion of the headband to the metal portion allows you to quickly identify that this is the left side of the headphones.
Each side of the headphones is also labeled on the inside of the headband just below the hinge to indicate which is the right or left sides.
The right side earphone contains all the controls. Starting at the top left of the photo above there are the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons. At the lower left are the Next/Previous Tracks buttons. Then at the upper right you’ll see the Phone, Bluetooth, and Pause/Play button while at the lower right is the Power button.
The wood used to decorate the earpieces is “responsibly harvested FSC-certified wood”.
The Bluetooth button flashes blue quickly after long pressing it to indicate that the headphones are ready for pairing, then flashes once every five seconds to indicate that they are connected. The Power button has four LEDs that will briefly light up in sequence when the headphones are powered on. After being powered on, you may short press the Power button at any time which will illuminate a certain number of LEDs based on the amount of charge left.
The 3.5 mm audio jack and microphone are also all located on the right side earpiece.
The braided audio cable contains one button that is used to answer/end phone calls and play/pause music for Android and iOS users and can also be used to skip tracks, but only for iOS users.
The microphone on the braided cable is located on the opposite side of the button.
The Bluetooth headphones can be recharged using a micro-USB charging cable (the port is located on the left side earpiece).
Quality control was somewhat lacking in the headphones that I was sent – the ear cushion for the right earpiece was not aligned properly (it can’t be rotated – it is in a fixed position).
But the alignment for the left earpiece was fine.
When using the Liberate XLBT Bluetooth headphones, I tested Bluetooth pairing and range, charging time and how many hours of use I could get out of one charge, comfort, phone features, frequency response, and finally audio quality.
My first tests were to determine how easy it was to pair the headphones to my devices. Connecting the headphones to my Nexus 6 and my iPod Touch 5G only required long pressing the Bluetooth button on the headphones, turning Bluetooth on within my device settings, entering the Bluetooth settings to finding the headphones under the list of devices found, then selecting them. I had no problems with this process on either of my devices. (Note: the Liberate headphones will only connect to one device at a time.)
The Bluetooth range was impressive. Using these headphones with my Nexus 6 and iPod I could easily maintain connectivity up to 46 feet unimpeded with my Nexus and over 55 feet unimpeded with my iPod. I was also easily able to maintain connectivity without any drops through two walls (two rooms away).
When it came time to test the headphones’ charging speed and playback time on one charge, surprisingly, I was unable to find any information in the manual or online to determine what I might expect. In my own tests, I found that the headphones charge very quickly in about 1.5 – 2 hours, but the LEDs do not shut off when the headphones are fully charged like it states in the manual. As far as the amount of playback time you can get on one charge, I listened to music for 21 hours with the volume set at a moderate level, which was MUCH longer than I expected.
Next, I tested the comfort and the call features of the headphones. The comfort of the headphones was less than ideal. I was only able to wear them for about an hour before they started hurting my ears. The call features of these headphones is fairly basic. You perform a single short press of the Phone/Bluetooth/Pause/Play button to answer a phone call and perform the same to end the call. This worked well and the call clarity was decent although not as clear as when using my phone to answer calls.
The frequency response is better than any of the headphones I have ever owned. I used the Android app Audio Test Tone Generator by Digital Antics to test this. With the volume set at a same moderate level to hear high frequencies, I was able to hear very clearly as low as 20 Hz.
So after all the other tests, how do the headphones sound? Being someone who enjoys music with a lot of bass, the audio quality suited my listening preferences. The bass is incredible when listening to electronic music like “Bullseye” by KDrew and “Lumberjack” by Samples. I also noticed while listening to the classical piece, “Canon in D Major” by Johann Pachelbel, the string bass was much stronger than listening with any of our other headphones which made listening to the music much more enjoyable. Although, according to my husband, the Liberate headphones emphasize the bass a little too much on certain bass-heavy songs like “Complications” by deadmau5. He needed to use an equalizer to adjust the bass down and the mid and upper frequencies up to improve the balance. In addition, the clarity of the mid and upper frequencies while listening to classic rock like “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf seemed less crisp and clear than the Arctic P614 BT Bluetooth headphones that I reviewed last year; yet, I still prefer the Liberate headphones over the Arctic. I also want to mention that while listening to all this music, I found it easy to skip tracks, increase and decrease the volume, and pause and play music using the controls.
The House of Marley XLBT Bluetooth headphones are a wonderful set of headphones for those who prefer bass-heavy music. They are also well made, easy to pair with devices, have great Bluetooth range, simple but effective call features, and have a fast charging time and a long playback time (21 hours of listening time on one charge). If, however, you desire crisp clear mid and high frequencies while listening to bluegrass, classical music, or classic rock, these may not be the right headphones for you. Those frequencies were less crisp and clear than the other headphones we have. They also had one other strike against them – they did make my ears sore after a little over an hour of use.
Music used in this review:
- “Bullseye” by KDrew
- “Lumberjack” by Samples
- “Canon in D Major” by Johann Pachelbel
- “Complications” by deadmau5
- “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf
One of my kids uses these headphones and loves them. They sounds great and are comfortable for a few hours before they start making her ears sore.
These have been used heavily since the review. I described them before as being ”wonderful” but my assessment today is that they are more along the lines of being ”decent” headphones simply because of the less crisp high and mid level frequencies when compared to the Phiaton BT 460 Headphones that we have. Also, after two years of use, the faux leather covering of the ear cushions are now flaking off. I contacted customer service about replacing the ear cushions and they told me that the brown color had been discontinued. However, the headphones have a two-year warranty and thus they offered to replace the headphones with the black version. What wonderful customer service!