GeekDad Review: House of Marley Exodus ANC Wireless Headphones

Last year, I reviewed House of Marley’s Exodus wireless headphones. I loved the look, with its combination of natural wood, black-finished steel and aluminum, and exposed cloth-braided wires. They delivered energetic music with pounding bass and excellent battery life. Thanks to the use of those natural materials, they not only looked and sounded great, they had serious “green” cred as well. HoM is back, with new Exodus ANC headphones. They look virtually identical (although the wood ear cups are stained black), but add active noise cancellation and offer up to more than double the battery life.

At $249.99 the House of Marley Exodus ANCs offer a lot of headphones for the money.

Everything about House of Marley’s headphones reflects a commitment to sustainability, including the packaging. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Fit and Battery Life

The original Exodus headphones have an excellent 30-hour battery life. Active noise cancellation is notorious for cutting into battery life, so House of Marley included a higher capacity battery in the Exodus ANC headphones. It goes from 550mAh in the originals to 1,000mAh for the Exodus ANC. I suspect that’s at least part of the reason for the larger ear cup housing. But the company didn’t just “bump” capacity. With ANC activated these headphones are good for up to 28 hours of playtime. With ANC turned off, that goes up to a claimed 80 hours. That’s 12 hours of use every day for nearly a straight week without charging. Do they live up to that lofty claim?

To tell the truth, I’m not entirely sure. I lost track multiple times while trying to record usage. However, during the course of a week, I had no need to charge the headphones, even after leaving them sitting on a desk and running for hours at a time at high volume (these don’t detect if they’re physically on your head). Suffice it to say, if battery life is a pain point for you, House of Marley Exodus ANC wireless headphones are the answer.

Like the Exodus, the Exodus ANC headphones recharge using a USB-C cable. The new versions add fast-charging to their bag of tricks, with a 15-minute charge netting six hours of playback.

Plenty of comfortable, memory foam padding. (Photo by Brad Moon)

The Exodus ANC is almost identical to the original Exodus headphones in design, but I found them much more comfortable to wear. The reason for that is the headband. On the originals, the flexible stainless steel band is lined with a leather strap. The Exodus ANC headphones get memory foam padding instead, and it makes a noticeable difference. Not only are the new headphones more comfortable, but they fit better as well.

I should note that although the ear cups are the same size (and use the same comfortable memory foam padding), the wooden housing is larger on the new headphones. Overall weight stays the same at 9.8 ounces, and they still fold up nicely for carrying in the included REWIND fabric bag.

Audio Performance

Like the Exodus headphones, the Exodus ANC headphones are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0. I found connection to my iPhone was immediate and solid. Range is better than earlier versions of Bluetooth, but once I put two floors between my iPhone and the headphones, the connection would start to cut out.

Audio performance is on par with the Exodus headphones, as you might expect (given that they share the same 50mm drivers), but with some differences.

Both headphones emphasize muscular bass, part of that Marley “signature sound.” It’s energetic, powerful and entertaining. My teenagers love it. Both offer a more balanced and cleaner sound when directly connected to a source using an included 3.5mm audio cable. That sound is more my speed—the bass is there but not always at the forefront, mids are cleaner, and highs crisper.

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The big difference is that I found the Exodus ANC headphones were more refined using Bluetooth. The bass was still powerful but felt dialed down a notch compared to the original Exodus, and I greatly prefer this sound. With noise cancellation turned on, the Exodus ANC headphones more closely resemble the Exodus. You can still have your thundering bass if you want it, but you can have a more balanced listen without having to plug in.

Exodus ANC on left next to original Exodus headphones. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Active Noise Cancellation

The tentpole feature the Exodus ANC headphones bring over the original Exodus is ANC—active noise cancellation.

Both of these headphones are over-ear, with well-padded ear cups. Listening to music, I seldom hear much background noise bleeding through anyway. However, ANC is a big deal, especially if you commute or want to cut down on the cabin noise in an airplane.

I’ve tested some higher-end ANC headphones that I can put on, turn on the noise cancellation, and, without music playing, they make it feel as though I’m sitting in a cone of silence. House of Marley’s version doesn’t do quite that well in this scenario. Instead of silence, it’s almost like low key white noise—a very subtle hiss. Background noise is muffled, but not entirely blocked. That being said, those other headphones are typically priced $100 to $200 higher…

The combination of music playback with ANC active does a pretty good job of isolating you from unwanted background noise. For most people, I suspect it will be more than good enough.

A Focus on Environmental Sustainability

I outlined the full HoM environmental sustainability approach in my review for the original Exodus headphones, so I won’t repeat the entire spiel here. The 30-second version is the use of recyclable and/or sustainable materials (aluminum, stainless steel, FSC-certified wood, and REWIND fabric—made from hemp, reclaimed organic cotton, and recycled PET—for the carrying case), and a commitment to global charities, including the planting of 191,000 trees as part of One Tree Planted.

In a nutshell, if you find the idea of disposable consumer electronics to be distasteful, the HoM Exodus ANC headphones offer an option that minimizes guilt. It doesn’t hurt that the design of these headphones, with wooden ear cups, braided cloth-covered wires, and moving components that are metal, also makes them sturdier than headphones that rely heavily on plastic.

The resulting appearance also makes them stand out. The minimalist and modern design is a welcome contrast to the glossy plastic headphones that dominate the market.

Recommendation

HoM’s Exodus ANC headphones offer a lot for the money. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Are the Exodus ANC headphones worth the extra $50 over House of Marley’s “regular” Exodus wireless headphones? I would say so. That’s a pretty small premium for a feature that can be really useful. In addition, the ANC version of headphones gets the improved padding on the headband, making them more comfortable. And the monster battery life is a huge win.

If you’re a fan of House of Marley’s sustainable approach to audio gear, the Exodus ANC headphones are a worthy flagship. Even if you’re not shopping the brand for its “green” cred, these headphones still offer an entertaining listen, excellent battery life, and a unique style at an attractive price point. I just wish they offered the option of ear cups in a natural stain…

Disclosure: House of Marley provided headphones for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.

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This post was last modified on February 27, 2020 1:58 pm

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