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Shinola launches high-end headphones -- we go ears-on

Not to be confused with the shoe polish, this Detroit manufacturer is following up its exquisitely designed turntables and watches with a set of premium headphones. But how do they sound?


The Shinola Canfield On-Ears start at $495

Sarah Tew/CNET

Shinola, maker of luxury watches and high-end turntables, is branching out into headphones with a line of four new models. They're going straight for the high end -- think Bowers and Wilkins or Bang and Olufsen.

The headphones include two pairs of in-ears models, a pair of on-ears and a pair of over-ears, all called "Canfield" for some reason. 

The range starts with the $195 Canfield In-Ear Monitors, which feature a dynamic driver, and is followed by the Canfield Pro In-Ear Monitors ($495), which include a more sophisticated Quad Balanced Armature Receiver.

The Canfield On-Ear starts at $495 for the burnished metal version (and piano black for $550). It's a closed-back headphone and includes a 40mm Shinola Dynamic Transducer, and it's the model I got a chance to test.

The Canfield Over-Ear Headphones in black and cognac retail for $595 and the Canfield On-Ear Headphones in black PVD retail for $650. They feature a larger 50mm Shinola Dynamic Transducer and fit around the ear for a potentially more comfortable fit.

Shinola partnered with Campfire Audio from Portland, Oregon for the in-ear models, while the on- and over-ear models were developed in house.


The Shinola Over-Ears come in a piano black finish


How do they sound?

I had an ears-on with the $495 Shinola On-Ears. In person they look as premium as you'd expect, and build quality is generally good. Like the less-expensive B&W P5, the Shinolas feature magnetic earcups, but I found that the Shinola's came off too easily -- such as when adjusting the headband. That's my only complaint, however.

I didn't have a set of P5's on-hand to directly compare, but based on my recollection, B&W and Shinola headphones sound quite different. The P5s are generally warm while the Shinola featured more of a "smile" curve to its sound signature -- something more readily associated with Beats headphones. The bass was a little too prominent -- "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads, for example, was bassier than I'd ever heard before.

Competition is tight and by charging at least $200 more than its B&W competitor, the Canfield On-Ears may struggle. The in-ears look quite promising, however, and we look forward to hearing them as well. 

The On-Ears and Over-Ears will be available from Shinola stores, online, and at select domestic retailers from November 2017. Availability for the in-ears is yet to be determined.

Correction, November 15 at 10:09 a.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the headphones are manufactured in the United States but they are only assembled there.