Everybody knows audiophiles aren't supposed to love bass-heavy headphones like the Maiden ED-Phon3S ($299), but I found a lot to like about this one. Tuned by Iron Maiden's Steve Harris, this on-ear headphone makes a lot of bass, but it's not just the quantity of bass; it's plenty deep, and its bass definition and clarity are awfully good.
Steve Harris, as some of you may know, plays bass for the heavy-metal band Iron Maiden, and he's held down the spot since 1975. Harris has also had a hand in producing, editing and mixing some of the band's albums, so this new headphone isn't just another celebrity-endorsed headphone; Harris is deeply involved in the sound of his recordings.
The Maiden ED-Phon3S is based on Onkyo's ES-HF300 headphone ($179), but features Iron Maiden-inspired graphics, and Harris tuned the sound for what some might hear as a generous bass emphasis, but he didn't go overboard.
The Maiden ED-Phon3S's headband has an Onkyo logo over each earcup, so no one's trying to hide the Maiden ED-Phon3S's heritage. The headphone has metal earcups, but otherwise it's a mostly plastic, though reasonably robust design. Drivers are 40mm titanium coated, impedance is rated at 32 ohms, weight is 8.6 ounces, but the headphone cable isn't user replaceable, and it lacks a mic or controls.
The rumbling, deep bass lines rolling through Mouse on Mars' "Instrumental" album practically massaged my ears, but the ED-Phon3S' midrange and treble tonal balance were thin and bright. So drums and cymbals were splashy, and Patterson Hood's vocals on my Drive-By Truckers albums sounded like he was on a diet. Switching over to my NAD Viso HP50 headphones restored Hood's vocals to my liking, and the drums sounded better too, but the bass couldn't compare with the ED-Phon3S'. Moby's "Play" album had a really satisfying foundation with the ED-Phon3S, and the Viso HP50 sounded comparatively weak down there.
To finish up I checked out a few Iron Maiden tunes on both headphones, and the ED-Phon3S definitely had the home team advantage for rocking out.
So the Maiden ED-Phon3S probably isn't going to please folks who play a wide range of genres, but if bass is what you crave and you favor rock or dance music, you've come to the right place.