Philips O'Neill The Stretch Headband Headset review: Philips O'Neill The Stretch Headband Headset
Philips O'Neill The Stretch headphones are difficult to review because they have a lot going for them -- excellent comfort and an affordable price tag -- but their sound, while fine, doesn't exceed expectations for an over-the-ear model in this price class.
Let's start with the positives. The Stretch, which also goes by the model number TR 55LX (or Philips SHO9567BK/28) and comes in a
For over-the-ear headphones, these are pretty lightweight and have nicely cushioned earcups. Aside from the relatively plush padding, what makes these guys comfortable is the dual-headband design. They have an auto-fit inner headband that's covered in stretchy "wet-suit inspired" Neoprene padding (thus, the O'Neill connection).
What's great about the auto-fit feature is that you don't have to worry about adjusting the size of the headphone band, you just put the headphones on and you're good to go (that said, these may not fit folks who have very large heads).
As for the outer headband, it's made of highly flexible translucent nylon. We gave it a good twist and it didn't break, so the headphones -- or at least their outer headband -- seems pretty durable.
When I put these on, my immediate reaction was, "Wow, these are comfortable." Editor Justin Yu had the same reaction, and they're definitely headphones that you can wear at home (or the office), as well as on the go, though your ears will get a little steamy if you were them outside on warm days, due to their closed-back design. The upside to the closed-back design is that these headphones do a good job passively sealing out noise and they don't leak sound.
I also liked that the cord on The Stretch is detachable from the earcup and that it's covered in a cloth material (think of the cord as a shoelace on a hiking boot). Alas, there's no integrated microphone for making cell-phone calls, though a step-up model (the
The TR 55LX sounds decent enough for its price point, but there are other headphones, such as the Audio-Technica
Sure, they sound a lot better than the cheap Apple earbuds that come with iPods and iPhones, but these aren't headphones that make you say to yourself, "Wow, these sound like headphones that cost a lot more." They lack the airy, more open qualities of higher-end closed-back models, and the sound comes across a tad recessed (it lacks vibrancy and presence).
For better or worse, they sound like a modestly priced over-the-ear model. That will be good enough for some people, but if you want a set of headphones with a little more spunk (or maybe "sparkle" is the better word choice), this will probably fall a little short.
As I said in the intro, it's tough to review something that gets high marks in one area and only middling marks in another. I really liked the design of The Stretch TR 55LX, but as you can tell, I was less enamored with the sound quality. That doesn't mean these are bad-sounding headphones; they just didn't exceed my expectations like the Audio-Technicas did.
At the end of the day, these Philips O'Neill The Stretch headphones deliver a good-size bang for the buck, but it's more design and comfort bang than performance bang. If you can live with that (and the bad pun ahead), they're certainly worth considering at a price point that won't stretch your budget.