If you've watched any "American Idol" the last couple of years, you've probably noticed a heavy dose of record impresario Jimmy Iovine's Beats headphones on the show -- from the hat that he always wears to the omnipresence of the product itself. It's awful in many ways, but that's what corporate sponsorship is all about. And it seems to be working as plenty of teenagers keep asking their parents for overpriced $300 headphones for their birthdays.
Well, Simon Cowell and Sony want in on the celebrity headphone action and have released the $299 X Headphones. Sony's says the X Headphones are a collaboration with Syco Entertainment, a global joint venture between Simon Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment. Needless to say, they will be heavily promoted on Cowell's "The X Factor," which is just starting its second season.
Sony and Cowell set out to make stylish, high-quality headphones with the "truest sound reproduction."
"I chose to make a set of headphones with Sony because I simply wanted something better than what is in the market today," Cowell said. "I've tried all of them, literally every single one. Sony and I set out to create the best headphone in the world. We are absolutely blown away by these. With the X Headphones, it's like being in the recording studio when the records are made. The sound is that clear."
I got an early sample and I have to say the headphones do sound quite good and are overall quite comfortable. They are technically on-ear headphones, but they feel more like over-the-ear headphones when you put them on. That's because they have memory foam ear pads and the cup is big enough that they essentially wrap around your ear, offering a tight seal (yes, they will get your ears pretty steamy in warmer environments). They offer excellent passive noise cancellation.
The headphone cord is detachable and in a nice touch, locks onto the earcup with a turn to the right (the cable jack has a keyhole design). You get two sets of cables: one a straight cable for audio purists, the other has an integrated Apple three-button control with a microphone, track, and volume control functionality.
As far as style goes, I can't say these were quite my cup of tea to wear around in public. But I'm pretty conservative when it comes to headphone designs and don't like anything too flashy. That said, these definitely have a distinct look and should appeal to the younger, Beats demographic they're targeting. They also fold up to fit in an included carrying case.
In terms of specs, Sony says the X Headphones feature precision 50mm drivers that deliver "a rich, full-range audio experience that's ideal for all popular music genres." Sony says they have "exceptional bass response" and I'd say that's an accurate statement. In my limited time with them, I thought they offered excellent detail and definitely delivered big, tight bass.
We'll have a full review in the coming days. But the early bottom line is that while the X Headphones are a bit overpriced, if you're considering buying a pair of Beats, you should probably wait for our full review on these because they may be better. The X Headphones hit stores later this month.