It sounds like a dream — customize your headphones to feel and sound exactly the way you want them to — whether they be extra bassy for day-to-day listening, nice and pure for audio engineering, have a spiky headband, and so on. But just how well does it work? We took the Axel Audio Soundscape FX custom headphones for a spin to find out.
The headphones themselves, which actually came about through a Kickstarter campaign, are aimed at being totally customizable — the only constant is the frame of the headphones. Otherwise, you get to pick between three headband styles and three headphone sounds, which come in the form of switchable ear cups.
The advantages of this are clear — instead of needing different headphones for different purposes, you can simply use the same headphones but switch out a component every now and then. Or, instead of scouring the web for the perfect combination of components for your headphones, you can just order the right parts and build your own.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Axel Audio Soundscape FX headphones is the packaging, and it really sets things up nicely. It looks very premium, feels great, and presents the headphones in a way that makes you excited to try them out. Inside the box you’ll find the basics — a carrying pouch (not really a case), detachable wires, etc., but you’ll also find a second headband and ear cups that you can attach to that headband.
The headphones themselves continue the tradition of a premium feel — they could be classified in the same area as Beats headphones — they look sleek, but fun at the same time. That’s partly due to the fact that we received the white version — the black version seems a lot more ‘sleek’ in the traditional sense of the word. The headphones are mostly made of plastic, however the ear cubs and parts of the head band are metallic, helping offer a more refined feel.
Of course, there’s one thing about the Soundscape FX headphones that sets them apart from other headphones — you’ll need to put them together yourself. Thankfully that’s not too hard to do — not only are there instructions in the box, but it’s all pretty self-explanatory. It took a minute for us to realize that there was a cushion already in the headband and then take it out to put the new one in, but apart from that the assembly largely went off without a hitch.
Initially these headphones feel fine, but after a few hours of use they start to get uncomfortable, and quick. That’s an important thing to consider, especially because of how long you might be using your headphones. The foam isn’t anywhere near as comfortable as the foam on the JLab Audio Omni’s we tested out earlier this week, and the headband doesn’t even use foam — it uses plastic. The spiky version of the headband is certainly more comfortable than the standard plastic version at first, but as time goes on, it tends to pull your hair a little, making it get uncomfortable, and quick.
Since headbands are interchangeable, this is not something that has to ruin the experience of these headphones. It would be great to see Axel Audio come out with a foamy headband attachment, but even if it did, that wouldn’t fix the too-tight clamping pressure. If that pressure was a little less, the headphones would be far more comfortable, even if the foam in the ear cups remained the same.
Here’s the great thing about the Soundscape FX headphones: they don’t have one sound. In fact, they have three. All three of the soundscape types offered little sound isolation, but fortunately, with a mid-level of volume, most outside sounds were blocked out. It definitely would have been nice to see a little extra isolation in the end.
Here’s a quick rundown of each if the different types of ear cups.
Pure is Axel Audio’s attempt at producing, as the name suggests, a totally pure and clean sound. That means no extra bass, no boosted treble, and so on, making it perfect for sound engineers and those who prefer to hear music as the mixing engineer intended it. It’s actually a really nice sounding soundscape. It’s probably the brightest of the three offering, but it doesn’t go overboard with the high frequencies by any means — in fact, it could have gone further with the high frequencies and still offered a great sound. Because of that, even the Pure soundscape isn’t as exciting as it could be. Pure would probably be the best choice for the rockers and pop fans among us.
The Core soundscape toned down on the highs and the bass a little more than the Pure headphones, and while that doesn’t sound like something that would sound good, the results were pretty nice. Core sounded especially great on jazz tracks and more orchestral music as it brought out those brass and string instruments without making them sound too harsh. Core is probably the least popular soundscape choice because of its limited use, but it sounds great on the right music nonetheless. Like the Pure headphones, a little more high-end would have been welcome.
As the name suggests, the Deep soundscape is the most bass-heavy of the three. It doesn’t, however, go too far by any means. The bass definitely dwarves the other frequencies, and for someone who wanted more highs in both of the other two soundscapes, this one most definitely isn’t for me, but even I could admit that it made Jay Z’s ’99 Problems’ sound great. That’s largely what they’re built for — hip-hop, rap, and anything in between — but you could obviously use them on anything where you want an extra bass boost.
Between the classy design, the nice sound, and the fact that they’re highly customizable, these headphones certainly aren’t bad at all, and I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in building their own headphones. Keep in mind, however, that they’re certainly not the most comfortable headphones out there. If you can deal with that, then these might be the headphones for you.
|20Hz – 20,000Hz
|Total harmonic distortion
|Rated input power
|Maximum input power
|Soft bag, aux cable
|Active noise cancellation