Alpine, a well known audio company in the auto industry, has just released a bold-looking pair of over-ear headphones. It’s their very first pair of over-ear headphones! These futuristic headphones sport a one-of-a-kind appearance, and also a one-of-a-kind set of features. There’s a built-in powered amplifier (which is optional for music playing), a bass transducer that feels like a mini subwoofer, and weirdly, Bluetooth 4.0 thats only purpose is for tuning the headphones with the iOS app.
Yes, the Alpine Over Ear headphones have built-in Bluetooth, but no, they’re not wireless headphones. The Bluetooth allows you to pair to the Alpine Play iOS app and specially tune your headphones. It was a very strange addition, and it’s possible that the headphones were originally intended to be wireless headphones. Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with a good pair of wired headphones.
These Alpines have a bold and futuristic design that might remind you of 2001: a Space Oddesey. Our model is clean white with gunmetal chrome details, and black ear cushions and band cushion. The other model is all black with shiny gold details. The earcups are diamond shaped, and interestingly, slide up and down the inside of the band. Usually, the band extends. The earcups are very well cushioned and large ears will easily fit inside of them. Unfortunately, they can start to apply a lot of pressure on your head after an hour or so. They also happen to be pretty top heavy, so if you lean your head forward or backward they can tilt off. Another strange design choice (?) is that there’s no indication of the right and left side.
These aren’t the most portable headphones, but the earcups do swivel flat for easier and safe(r) traveling. There’s an included carrying case too. The Alpine’s have a removable tangle-resistant audio cable that’s wrapped in fabric. Nicely, it’s a standard 3.5mm cable, so you can swap it out if necessary. There’s an inline microphone and ControlTalk, complete with a universal button and volume buttons. The microphone works just as well as Apple’s for making and taking phone calls.
On to the audio! The trick up Alpine’s sleeve is the built-in amplifier, the “TKR3 Full Frequency Immersion Technology”. Like most amplifiers, this one adds considerable oomph to the experience. Most notably: bass you can feel. It feels like there’s a little subwoofer, or motor even, that cranks out rumbling bass.
“Your music should be felt, not just heard,” says Alpine. While that’s personal preference, the Alpines are a very fun pair of headphones for this reason. You can legitimately feel the music, as if you were at a live music experience. Rather than pushing an outrageous amount of low frequency audio through your ears, Alpine uses the headband to help transmit the immersive amount of bass.
Without the powered amplifier and any tuning, the audio experience is still pretty enjoyable. Nicely, you can still crank out tunes without power. For the price, we’d like a little more clarity out of the mid-ranges. They can sound a bit muddy and the mids are also a bit recessed. The bass, without the power, is still really thumpy and responsive. By default, they are tuned similarly to Beats by Dre, which are also bass-heavy. For that reason, these headphones are favorable to hip hop, electronic, hard rock, and other bass-heavy genres. Music on the lighter side can leave the vocals way in the background.
To get the most out of the Alpines, you’ll want to get the app and fine tune your audio. With the app, and the bluetooth connection, you can adjust the bass and equalization to your preferences. You can make them less bass-heavy and bring the mids to the front, though they still sound a bit muddy. The headphones remember the custom tuning, but it will only work when the headphones are turned on. The app doesn’t play nicely with other music playing apps (Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, etc), but the custom tuning will still apply to those apps. The app also has a feature where it can choose music from your iTunes catalog based on the intensity you’re in the mood for. It’s a gimmicky feature and probably won’t get used outside of setting a baseline for your tuning preferences.
All-in-all, we like the approach Alpine took to building a fresh pair of over-ear headphones. They look awesome, and we love the idea of feeling your music, but the overall implementation is a bit odd. So while they look awesome, it’d be nicer if they weren’t so top heavy and maintained a longer-lasting comfort. It’s also strange that they have bluetooth but aren’t wireless. Also, we’d love if they were collapsable for much better portability. In any case, we hope that the next generation Alpines take our suggestions into consideration. The Alpine Over Ear Headphones currently price out at $299.95 from Apple.com.
The Good: Beautiful and very original design, Nice cable with ControlTalk + microphone, Micro-USB charging, Music you can feel, Custom tunable, Doesn’t require power
The Bad: Mid-ranges are muddy, App doesn’t play nice with non-iTunes music, Pricey, Don’t collapse, Not wireless, iPhone Only, No right/left indicator