Every single time we’ve reviewed planar magnetic headphones, we’ve been blown away. The Audeze Sine headphones, for example, still have one of the highest scores we’ve ever awarded. Not only that, but the HiFiMan HE400S headphones blew us away at an extremely decent price. Now, Blue has stepped into the planar magnetic headphones market with the Blue Ella over-ear headphones.
The Blue Ella’s, however, offer something extra — a built in headphone amp, meaning you won’t have to decide between using an external one and not buying one at all. Of course, all this comes at a price — Ella costs a cool $700. But are they worth it?
You certainly couldn’t claim that the design of Blue Ella is boring. All of Blue’s headphones feature a similar, alien design. While alien, however, we quite like it. According to Blue, the large, metal frame of the headphones is modeled after a Formula 1 race car. From a looks perspective, that makes sense — although the headphones don’t carry the same lightweight philosophy behind Formula 1, as they’re quite heavy. We’ll talk a little more about that when we discuss comfort.
Under the top of that metal frame, the headphones feature a decent amount of padding and foam, as is the case on the earcups. On the left earcup, you’ll find a audio jack, which is where you’ll plug in the removable cable, and a microUSB port, which is for charging a battery that powers the amp — not for anything wireless-related.
Also on the left is a switch to turn the amp on and off. You’ll get three options — off, on, and on+. On+ basically engages a secondary circuit that enhances bass presence on the headphones.
In the box, you get a nice slew of accessories. Apart from the headphones, you’ll get a microUSB charging cable, a soft carry case, a 3.5mm – 6.3mm adapter, and two 3.5mm audio cables — one with in-line controls and one, much longer, standard cable. Blue has clearly given attention to detail here — the cables are well-built with braided nylon rather than plastic, and we don’t foresee them breaking anytime soon. That’s a good thing, as cables are one of the first things to break on a pair of headphones.
The only real downside to the Blue Ella headphones’ design is their bulk. To be sure, these are stay-at-home headphones — if you’re looking for a pair of portable cans, look elsewhere. But considering they’re headphones for home use, their bulk isn’t that big of a problem.
In general the Blue Ella headphones look great. They’re certainly a little bulky, and definitely unique, but in this case uniqueness is a good thing.
Thankfully, the headphones feature ample padding on both the headband and the earcups. They need it, because they’re not light at all. In fact, they come in at over a pound, sitting at 481g, or 16.97oz — so that padding is very welcome.
Still, after a few hours of listening, the pressure on the top of your head will be noticeable. All things considering, the Blue Ella headphones are actually very comfortable — but if they were lighter they would be much more so. The clamp of the headphones is decently tight without being too much so.
In general, the headphones are more comfortable than uncomfortable. They are pretty heavy though, so after a few hours of use you may feel like you need to take a break.
The trend of great-sounding planar magnetic headphones is thankfully carried on with the closed-back Blue Ella headphones. In fact, these are some of the best sounding headphones we’ve ever tested.
Before we talk about sound quality, let’s talk about volume. These headphones have a built in headphone amp, so they can go pretty damn loud — we would recommend turning your source device’s volume down really low before you start listening, to avoid doing any damage to your ears.
Let’s start with bass. As mentioned, the amp features an “On+” mode, which helps boost the bass a little, and it’s a very nice feature. It should be noted that even with On+ engaged, the bass isn’t overdone. It offers a simple boost, but nothing crazy. It could be described as “natural sounding with a slight bass boost,” while the normal “On” mode keeps the bass a little more tame. In other words, don’t expect Beats-level bass here — instead expect just the right amount for 99 percent of listeners.
The mids are also nice and tame, and they seem to add a slight boost to the lower-mids, giving the headphones a nice warmth. Don’t mistake that for mudiness though — the Blue Ella headphones certainly aren’t muddy, by any means.
The high end is also nice and present, and while they could do with slightly more ultra high-end, that’s not to say that they’re lacking at all.
These headphones sound great across genres. Thanks to the two different modes, they’re extremely versatile — they have plenty of bass when you need it, like in Forgot About Dre, and a nice crispness in pop tracks, like Betty Who’s I Love You, Always Forever. They even sound awesome on classical tracks — although we would recommend keeping them on “On” mode for that — they don’t need the bass boost in this genre.
Blue knows what its doing. The Blue Ella headphones look great and sound awesome. While comfort is by far the worst thing about these headphones, they’re not uncomfortable by any means. Sure, they’re not cheap headphones, but they still sound more expensive than they are — and if you have $700 to spend on a pair of over-ear headphones, these just might be the ones for you.
|Frequency response||20Hz – 20kHz||Active noise cancellation
|Driver size||50mm||Noise attenuation||Unknown|
||Planar Magnetic||In-line controls||Yes|
||50Ω passive, 10Ω active||Magnet material||Unknown|
|Total harmonic distortion
|Rated input power
|Maximum input power
||No||Cable length||1.2m – 3m (4ft – 9.8ft)|
||3.5mm||Case type||Soft bag|
||Yes||In-the-box||Carry bag, 2 audio cables, 3.5mm – 6.3mm adapter|