Celebrity-endorsed headphones are all the rage these days. The phenomenon started with Dr Dre's Beats line and gathered pace with spin-offs from Lady Gaga and P Diddy. The latest to join the fray is the 'Bob Marley-inspired' House of Marley range.
Eleven Marley offerings are available, but its top of the range £250 Destiny TTR model promises noise-cancelling electronics and a specification that puts it in direct competition with the Beats by Dre Studio. We put it through its paces to see whether it could hold its own in a sound clash.
The House of Marley Destiny TTR is a good-looking, highly distinctive set of headphones. They really do stand out from the crowd thanks to twin metal bars above the matching brown leather headband and inner ear cups, and the subtle Rastafarian red, green and gold colouring on the two supplied audio cables.
We're not fully satisfied with the slightly plastic-looking faux metal used on the outside of the ear cups -- at this price surely the Marley clan could have given them a more premium feel -- but we were certainly happy to wear these headphones knowing that we stood out from a sea of people rocking cans that sport the distinctive 'b' of the good Dr.
We're happy to report that the Destiny TTR is very comfortable despite its size and weight. The soft leather ear cups are well padded and fit beautifully around our ears. The headband adjusts automatically to the size of your head, so wearing them for long periods is no problem at all.
Both cables are removable. The longer of the two stretches for roughly three metres, and is ideal for use around the home or at a desk, but is entirely unsuitable for travelling with. The shorter of the two is a more standard length and features an in-line remote that allows users to play, pause and skip through tracks played via iOS devices by tapping a single button once, twice, three or four times in quick succession.
The Destiny TTR features noise-cancelling electronics that are designed to reduce annoying ambient sounds. As a result, it'll need to be loaded up with a pair of AAA batteries, which slot into the right ear cup. The noise-cancelling feature activates whenever the earphones are switched on. It's not possible to play music without noise cancellation enabled, so if your batteries are flat, you'll get no sound whatsover.
Sadly, the noise-cancelling technology isn't very effective. It does a passable job of filtering out quiet, low-frequency ambient sounds such as the whir of an office air conditioning unit, but the headphones produce a hissing sound of their own whenever they're switched on, meaning they only swap one annoying din for another.
The noise-cancellation effect is slightly more useful in louder environments such as a plane or train. Here, the hissing noise from the eletronics is barely audible, but that's only because it's being drowned out by the ambient noise that the noise-cancelling system is failing so dismally to eliminate.
Its lack of noise-cancelling prowess is thoroughly disappointing for such an expensive set of cans (we've heard better noise cancelling from units a third of its price), particularly as you'll need to constantly feed the thing with batteries for very little in return. That said, there is one slight upshot in that the Destiny TTR doesn't feel as if it's creating an annoying vacuum inside your skull, as is the case with many of the more effective noise-cancelling headphones.
The Destiny TTR makes up for its noise-cancellation shortcomings with very good sound quality. They may be designed by the house that built reggae, but they sound fantastic across a range of musical styles.
Predictably, the sound is skewed more towards the low range, so bass is exaggerated slightly, but in many cases this is no bad thing. It's actually quite desirable with some music styles, particularly if you're the sort of person that gets a tingle down your spine every time a heavy bassline drops.
Fire up Mutation by Bass Quest, for example, and the Destiny TTR will throw low frequencies around so effectively, it'll feel as if you're standing next to a subwoofer in a grimy night club. Likewise Society Bass Test or the 808s at the beginning of Kanye's Love Lockdown. Indeed, any bass-heavy track will demonstrate just how brilliant these cans are at dropping a phat b-line.
There is a downside to the Destiny TTR's bass-heavy tendencies, however. High frequencies tend to sound slightly muddier than we'd like. Treble lacks sparkle, which is particularly noticeable in tracks such as the Prodigy's Firestarter, where those famously aggressive cymbals -- which are just as important to the track as the bassier kick drums -- simply don't crash hard enough.
Likewise, they don't do full justice to so-called brostep tracks from the likes of Skrillex, due to the music's reliance on ratty high-frequency samples.
That overpowering bass negatively affects the mid-range frequencies too. Seal's vocals on It's a Man's World sound slightly muffled, and Adele seems to deliver her vocals on Make You Feel My Love with her hand just in front of her mouth. However, all this is forgiveable, as the Destiny TTR delivers its sound with such warmth and power.
The House of Marley Destiny TTR is a very good product on the whole. The noise cancelling is mediocre at best, and its high and mid-range frequencies aren't quite as pronounced as we'd like, but they're arguably better than the Beats by Dre Pro in most respects.
Where they truly shine is in music that demands heavy, unrelenting bass. If you like a set of cans that can make your tongue loll out with a well-timed drop, you need look no further.