• Stylishness
  • Audio quality
  • Bass
  • Value

A while ago, when Beats Audio was all the HTC rage, and before I walked away from the “authentic sound” hype, I talked with a representative of the House of Marley about audio reproduction of Beats versus anything else. I was given three things to check out, and thus began the longest field test of anything I’ve reviewed.

The House of Marley Stir It Up on-ear headphones reproduce sound with a crispness I hadn’t heard before. The range is pretty sweet, but the low end seems to sound like old Bose speakers trying to create base, at least on the devices I’ve tested it on. The sound is there, but the feeling is not. This perhaps is due to the unpowered nature of the headphones; I’ve heard better.

The headphones include an iPod/iPhone control and a microphone. You can rig it to work with Android if you want, but by default, volume up seemed to do nothing and volume down started a voice recognizer. Having my controls kernel-wired slightly to the left or right of the home button on my EVO 4G LTE, this on-wire volume control isn’t something I was all that concerned about.

The headphones advertise ”ultimate comfort” with their lightweight padded headband, but unfortunately that’s not the case for the larger-headed individuals such as myself. The headband doesn’t expand quite enough to let the phones fit over my ears. However, I usually wear larger than “one size fits most” hats, so your cranial capacities will vary.

Since I received a pair of these, I’ve noticed a lot of hippie shops have a House of Marley setup where you can go and listen/try the gear on. I’d advise you look for one of their local retailers so you’re not just taking my word that the sound is pretty good.

House of Marley advertises that these are eco-friendly due to wrapping the wiring in hemp or cloth of some sort, using wood on the accent pieces, and using recyclable items. Given what I know about the cost in electric dollars of fabric vs plastic, I’m thinking this is all a bit of greenwashing. They’re maybe eco-friendly if you toss them out in a field to biodegrade, but the environmental cost to cut, transport, shape, and varnish the wood parts alone seems to take the impact of using man made materials in the product and triple it.

I will point out, though, that the fabric-wrapped cords are a brilliant idea. Tangles are still there, but they’re not nearly as bad.

If I’m not mistaken, the unit also includes a hemp carrying bag that I promptly misplaced on day one (I think the cats decided it was a toy).

The entire line of products seems to be aimed at people who want to buy into the Bob Marley lifestyle, which I don’t think you can purchase. Much like someone who walks into a Harley-Davidson dealership, buys the clothes and a bike, and still isn’t a rider, buying admittedly nice headsets will not induct you into the lifestyle.

But they’re also pretty expensive for the quality. I mean, the sound is nice and crisp, but for $200 I’d like some more bass and a few MP3 album downloads. Compared to other headsets of similar prices and artist names, they were a little on the low end side.

I do question the on-site reviews, also. It seems odd to me that the worst this received thus far is a four out of five, and the professional reviews are all from gitweekly.com, a site that is not available any more. It was also registered with the same domains by proxy registration that The House of Marley was, but to be fair, that could be a coincidence.

I am also a bit surprised that no one of my head-width has complained on House of Marley that they require a haircut to even use the headphones, especially since on Amazon they’re quite a bit more vocal about that.

They are, however, pretty nice all in all. But they cost more than I would pay.

The House of Marley Stir-It-Up on-ear headphones are available for $199 from the House of Marley website.