Back in 2015, I reviewed the Liberate XLBT Bluetooth over-ear headphones from House of Marley (HoM). They were pretty nice headphones, particularly for fans of warm sound that’s heavy on the bass and the use of sustainable materials. This year, the company released new Exodus Bluetooth over-ear headphones, and while the basic approach is the same, the look is much different and there is an interesting development on the audio front.
HoM still offers updated Liberate XLBT headphones, but the $199.99 Exodus headphones are the new flagship.
These look very different from the Liberate XLBT’s, much more modern with an almost minimalist vibe. The headband is a thin band of black steel with a strip of thinly padded leather stretched beneath, the cups are a beautiful natural wood with leather-covered memory foam cushions, and they’re attached to the headband with thick, round steel posts. Braided wires are exposed, buttons are raised and in contrasting black, and there’s a USB-C charge port. The left cup has discrete LED power, Bluetooth, and battery indicator lights.
HoM includes a black REWIND fabric carrying bag, and the headphones fold up nicely to fit inside. Also included is a braided cable for physical connection (assuming your smartphone has a headphone jack).
They have a very premium look, they seem solidly made, and as usual, HoM makes extensive use of eco-friendly materials including: sustainable FSC certified wood, stainless steel, leather, recyclable aluminum, and that REWIND fabric (30% hemp, 30% reclaimed hemp, 40% recycled PET).
Fit and Battery Life
The cups slide up and down the stainless steel posts smoothly and stay in place when adjusted. The round post also allows the cups to rotate, although tilt adjustment is minimal. Natural leather ear cup covers are well padded with memory foam and quite comfortable. Even though the headband lacks padding, it never feels like it’s adding pressure, and offers some flex. Overall, I was extremely happy with the fit of these headphones and wearing them for hours at a time was not a problem.
I also appreciated the fact that HoM improved the buttons over the versions on the Liberate XLBTs I tested. They are raised and much easier to locate and operate by feel.
These are over-ear headphones and as a result, they do a decent of blocking out ambient noise, but they don’t have active noise cancellation. They do have a mic if taking calls on your headphones is something you do.
In terms of battery life, House of Marley says these are good for up to 30 hours on a charge. As usual, your mileage will vary depending on how loud you like your music, but even with extended listening sessions I was charging them just once a week, usually with battery still left.
Recharging is via USB-C and that means not only an easier job of connecting the cable but significantly faster charging as well—just two hours.
Like the Liberate XLBTs, the House of Marley Exodus headphones are built around big, 50mm drivers. In this case, what the company describes as high-definition drivers. And like all HoM products, they are tuned to deliver the company’s signature sound, which is described as:
“Powerful bass, stunningly precise mids, and energized highs, for positive listening vibrations.”
By far, the dominant part of that is the powerful bass. The low end to the bottom part of mid-range became a big part of the mix, no matter what kind of music I listened to. For tracks that are meant to be deep and boomy, this is kind of awesome. In other songs, the tuning brings a new life to percussion and adds warmth to vocals. The problem is if you’re not a fan of thundering bass it can be a little overwhelming (especially at loud volumes), while the high end can seem a bit on the dull side.
To be clear, it’s not bad sound, it’s just nowhere near an attempt at studio quality audio. That’s okay, there’s no claim that these deliver a flat frequency response.
Plug in the included audio cable and the story is very different. There is still a muscular bass presence, but the mid-range and high-frequency notes are much more present.
A good example of the two very different sounds is Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” I listened to this track repeatedly, switching back and forth from wired to wireless. Over Bluetooth, the audio had a distinctly warmer sound, with drums and bass dominating the mix, punctuated by crashing cymbals. When connected by a cable, there was more depth overall, and the drums faded into the background a bit. Clapton’s guitar playing was more detailed and Steve Winwood’s vocals had more emotional impact, especially when he hit high notes that were a little cut off over Bluetooth. Those cymbals were still there, but less jarring.
It’s a matter of personal preference, but I found the wired audio performance was more balanced and made for a better listening experience than Bluetooth. That being said, my teenagers preferred the driving bass of the Bluetooth.
The House of Marley Exodus Bluetooth headphones are beautiful, with a modern, minimalist design, and they make extensive use of “green” materials. If you want a pair of wireless headphones that stand out from all the high-gloss plastic, these will definitely do the trick. At $199, they’re more affordable than many premium wireless headphones and will make you feel a lot better about the environmental impact of your gadget collection.
Bluetooth audio performance is heavy on the bass and entertaining, but for serious music fans, it’s good to know there’s the option of plugging them in for a more balanced and nuanced listening experience.
Disclosure: House of Marley provided Exodus headphones for evaluation but had no input into this review.