If you follow the world of Kickstarter campaigns, you’ve probably heard of Grain Audio. The brainchild of “two ex-Altec Lansing guys, an architect/furniture designer and a liquor industry operational expert,” Grain Audio raised over $155k (well over the $120k goal) to produce a line-up of premium audio gear featuring solid wood design. I was sent a pair of OHEP Solid Wood Over Ear Headphones featuring FSC-certified walnut ear cups to try out. The wood certainly makes for an attractive set of headphones, but does it make them sound better?
I’ve been spending a lot of time testing our various headphones over the past few months and one thing most have in common — to one degree or another — is an emphasis on bass.
Some are very pronounced (like the House of Marley Liberate XLBTs) while others are more subtle, but it’s usually there.
The Grain Audio OHEP headphones had a much more balanced audio curve than I’ve been used to. The low end was always there, but it never dominated. In songs where bass features prominently, it had an authoritative presence instead of booming. Listening to tracks with other headphones, then switching to the Grain Audio headphones, I could often pick up instruments deep in the mix that I had missed previously. Crank up the volume and things sound even better, without distortion.
I’m not sure if the audio performance is because of the 40mm speakers with Neodymium magnets and CCAW voice coils, the walnut ear cups or a combination of the two (I suspect the wood cups definitely come into play at higher volumes), but it makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. It takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to bass enhancement, but when you start comparing tracks against other headphones to see what you’ve been missing, it’s tough to go back.
Speaking of the walnut ear cups, they’re the standout visual feature on these headphones. FSC-certified wood with a hand-applied oil finish, they look very handsome, especially paired with the dark gray leather pads. The frame is a matching gray plastic that helps to keep weight down (they tip the scales at 8 oz) without looking cheap.
The headphones look and feel quite sturdy, although the cups were just slightly small for my ears. They were still quite comfortable, but I had to shift them around a bit to get a good seal.
Also included with the headphones (which have a removable cable) are a 1/4-inch adapter and a soft carrying case.
An inline mic and remote lets you take phone calls when used with a smartphone. The documentation included a somewhat cryptic “Mic button functions will vary with playback device” and it looks like you can skip tracks using it with some devices, but I couldn’t get that feature to work with my iPhone.
I never end up using headphone remotes to control the music anyway, so that was no big deal…
If you’re in the market for some distinctive headphones with a unique look and a natural sound curve, the $199 Grain Audio OHEP Solid Wood Over Ear Headphones should definitely be on your short list.
Disclosure: Grain Audio supplied OHEP Solid Wood Over Ear Headphones for the purposes of this review.