It’s often interesting to see how audio manufacturers try to make their headphones feel more premium – some brands add weight to their headphones; some make their headphones from metal. Others, like Grain Audio, make their headphones partly from wood, which sounds unusual, but we had to take a look and see what was what – here’s our review of the Grain Audio Over-the-Ear Headphones.
What’s in the box
Inside a box that appears to be made from recycled materials, you’ll find the headphones themselves, a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm audio cable that includes an in-line microphone, a 3.5mm-to-6.5mm adapter and a loose-fitting, soft carry bag for everything that you can see.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Grain Audio has chosen wood as their material of choice. As for why, this is what Grain Audio has to say about wood:
“It’s wonderful stuff. There”™s a reason it”™s used in its solid form on the best acoustic instruments in the world… It just sounds better.”
Sounds good to me. You’ll find the wood parts of the Over-the-Ear Headphones (we’ll just call them the OEHP) encapsulating the ear cups, matching its dark, oiled walnut with a grey-blue plastic that makes up the only other colour on the headset. It’s unusual pairing, but what really matters, of course, is how it sounds – more on that later. Overall, the headphones are incredibly light, thanks to the wood and plastic, and while it doesn’t feel particularly sturdy, it’s well put together and has survived several weeks of my manhandling. Of course, having a bag always helps in that regard, and the frankly huge bag that you get with the OEHP has more than enough space for you to hurriedly cram your cans inside them if you’re in a rush.
As for the OEHP’s technical specifications, they include:
2x40mm proprietary loudspeakers featuring Neodymium magnets and a CCAW voice coil
15 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response
The OEHP retails for $199.99 USD, which might seem a little expensive, but these headphones are aimed right at the audiophile audience. All through its marketing, Grain Audio makes a big deal of “hearing your music as the artist intended- no fake bass boost, no weird mid-range, just pure, natural sound.” That sounds great in theory, but how does it actually do? Well, I’m glad you asked.
How does it perform
If Grain Audio was aiming to achieve the clearest possible audio experience on a closed-back pair of headphones, they might just have achieved it – the OEHP are incredibly clear in all ranges. Listening to all genres of music was amazing, particularly more classical music like anything by Pentatonix or Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Because everything is so well balanced, the bass might not be up to the thumping standards of some people, but that’s the price you pay for clarity everywhere else.
It should be noted that the OEHP doesn’t really come into its own until you really start cranking it up – though that’s more of a general rule to see how good a pair of headphones are. At these higher volumes, the OEHP really start to make sense – whether it’s the wood or its driver system, the OEHP really sound fantastic and that’s just being output from my Nexus 6.
Now onto comfort, and I know what you’ve been thinking – surely, with ear cushions that big, it has to be comfortable. And you would be right. At first, the leather ear cushions felt a little firm, but they’re definitely one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. The headband is similarly firm, but cushioning, and I’ve had no issues with extended listening sessions, even whole days at work with these on without the slightest kind of an ache – and I often have issues with long-term comfort with my large, large head.
What I like about the Grain Audio Over-the-Ear Headphones
I love the overall design of the OEHP – the use of wood really gives this set of headphones a personality, something which is desperately absent in many of the options available on the market. Whether it’s actually adding to the acoustic capabilities of the OEHP, I can’t exactly say, but it’s functional in so many ways, including making the headphones incredibly light, making them relatively travel-friendly.
Another thing that I love about the OEHP is how “no-frills” it is – it’s minimal and simple and it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. From the design to what comes in the box, it’s just simply what you need when you need it.
What I don’t like about the Grain Audio Over-the-Ear Headphones
To be completely honest, I’m not a huge fan of the OEHP’s colour coordination – the grey/blue and wood combination is a little jarring for me. It’s far from ugly, but I feel a black or dark brown would have looked really good, or even white or beige matched with the walnut. As I mentioned before, in the end, it really doesn’t matter how they look if you’re into headphones for how they sound, but it’s just a small thing I noticed.
The other thing that really bothered me about the OEHP is the side that the audio cable input is i.e. the right. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what side other audiophile headphones have their inputs on, but I know that most headphones I have previously reviewed have the input on the left, as opposed to the right. Of course, it’s definitely not a dealbreaker, but I was constantly reminded about this fact on a daily basis – I’m pedantic that way.
I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this review, but I can safely say that these Grain Audio Over-the-Ear Headphones have made a believe out of me. Fantastic audio, peerless comfort, novel design with what I think is a fair price, the OEHP are the real deal for anyone who is looking for something that looks unique and has the audio credentials to back it up. If that has you in the mood for some Grain Audio, you can find out more at the Grain Audio website.