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Incase Sonic Headphones review: Incase Sonic Headphones

Incase Sonic Headphones

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Justin Yu
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Justin Yu Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals

Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.

4 min read

Congratulations to Incase for a near-flawless introduction to the headphone marketplace. The $150 Sonic headphones are the company's first product, and their unique details demonstrate a forward-thinking R&D effort. A round of applause to the company for introducing new materials like memory foam and micro-fleece that surely have competitors wishing they thought of it first. The Sonics are light and comfortable to wear for hours at a time, and though they don't feature active noise-cancellation, Incase clearly understands the aural benefits of achieving a proper fit. If you only have room in your budget for one set of $150 headphones, the broad appeal of the Incase Sonic earns my endorsement.

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8.3

Incase Sonic Headphones

The Good

A unique collaboration of matte rubber, memory foam, and micro-fleece materials snag the <b>Incase Sonic</b> over-ear headphones extra points for comfort and durability, while the 40mm driver sharpens acoustics with impressive detail.

The Bad

Space-conscious travelers might lament the lack of a folding headband.

The Bottom Line

The Incase Sonic headphones are a standout first effort for Incase. Their elongated earcups and memory foam lend a supremely comfortable fit, and the powerful titanium drivers inside add sweetness to their sound that earns them a universal recommendation for all types of music fans.

Design and features
Incase seemed to draw inspiration from the Dieter Rams school of minimalism when designing the Sonic headphones, as it cleverly strips the chassis of all the weakest elements of a traditional headphone.

For example, the rubber-lined headband and earcups are built on a one-piece modular design that hides the notched adjustment brackets deep within the chassis. This way, the headphones don't fall victim to the exposed metal hinges on something like the insufferable Beats by Dre. Dre headphones, which creak and whimper under pressure.

Furthermore, Incase inspires another eureka moment by elongating the earcups into an oval that tapers at the bottom to mimic the shape of an ear. The adjustable nubs fit securely into the earcups yet still allow for a fully articulated rotation, and these two innovations work together to achieve a blissfully natural fit that makes me wonder why all earcups aren't modeled after ovals instead of circles.

Any traveling DJ will also tell you that the wire and plug are the most fragile part of any headphone, but Incase has the foresight to include two detachable 3.5-foot cords to match your color choice: primer, black, or gray paired with fluorescent blue, green, and gray mesh lining, respectively.

This omission of steel parts certainly shields the headphones from knocks and drops, but it also reduces the weight down to a little less than half a pound. Combined with the supple memory-foam padding that lines the earcups and the top of the headband, it's easy to forget you're wearing the headphones unless you're pumping music through them. The plush micro-fleece cloth stretched across the padding feels remarkably similar to a Snuggie, though I wouldn't recommend you fall asleep on top of them.

That said, the material does tend to pick up dirt and debris, but Incase provides a Mylar zippered bag to accompany the cans in transit. You also get an assortment of accessories including a 3.5-inch adapter plug and the aforementioned cables, both of which are equipped with a microphone and three buttons on the remote that support track navigation and volume controls for compatible iOS and Android devices.

Performance
The Sonic's pivoting ear cups and padded ear cushions work together to create a seal that efficiently blocks outside noise without putting too much pressure on your temples. That said, these aren't active noise-canceling headphones, so you'll still hear ambient noise drifting into your ears if you play your music at a moderate volume. Still, the circumaural (over-ear) design fully engages the drivers in front of your ears, so they perform equally well in an office and a crowded subway station.

Incase builds a 40mm titanium diaphragm driver into each earcup with a 20Hz-20,000Hz frequency response and an impedance of around 32 ohms, but what does that mean for the average consumer? I ran several digital music files through the headphones paired with an Apple iPhone 4S with encoding ranging from 128-320k as well as a few FLAC tracks, and the cans are capable of outstanding high-frequency extension.

Even at high volumes, my copy of Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" delivered pristine highs with no noticeable sibilance or roll-off, and I was able to hear each vocal snap articulated clearly in the middle. Low-end texture seems to be the litmus test for modern headphones now, and bass lovers and neutralizers alike will be pleased with its depth and lack of distortion.

Finally, the headphones give off an open sense of space that's particularly impressive given their closed-back design. Each instrument takes the listening experience out of the user's head and separates it from the rest of the recorded tracks -- further evidence of this device's acoustic aptitude.

Conclusion Incase proves you don't need to be in business for decades to produce a solid headphone. By crafting new build materials around a cushioned fit with lively performance, the Incase Sonic headphones succeed in producing a near-perfect headphone worthy of your $150 investment.

incase-sonic-headset-full-size-gray-blue.jpg
8.3

Incase Sonic Headphones

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8
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