House of Marley is a newcomer to headphones and earphones. But it has arrived to the market with a force that’s most un-reggae-like, despite being effectively Bob Marley-branded. There are eleven models, each with their own colour variations – and right up at the top end sits the House of Marley Destiny TTR. They are over-ears noise cancelling headphones that use natural materials such as leather and cloth more extensively than literally any other pair I’ve ever tested.

The House of Marley Destiny TTR headphones have been designed with a conspicuous style in mind. In that sense, they’re comparable to the Monster Beats Noise Cancelling model, which costs more money than the Destiny TTR. The vibe they seek to emanate is altogether different, though – more laid back than aggresive. They’re still visually very bold compared with the more subdued on-ears Freedom Exodus pair. I personally like the professional industrial look mixed with laid back rainbow of colours. A well balanced combination of styling, comfort and durability.[nggallery id=53]
While the look is an important part of the House of Marley Destiny TTR marketing, it’s not style over substance unlike the Beats series. Build quality is quite superb, actually . The body of each earpiece and the whole frame of the headphones are made from aluminum and steel, which feels a lot stronger than the plastic used in most sets of this price range. All the metalwork is either brushed or anodized to avoid looking too garish.

All this metal stuff predictably makes the headphones heavier than most. They weigh 390g without the cable but with a pair of batteries in, which is a good 100g heavier than most over-ear rivals. These are absolutely not headphones to go out jogging with, but we found them fine when walking – but hey, if you are thinking of jogging while wearing these types of headphones, your brain needs a thorough examination.

They are comfortable. Comfort-wise they succeed against all odds because of the great leather-lined earpads and headband. In these days of eco this and that, politically correct this and that, using natural ingredients here won’t necessarily please everyone – it is animal hide after all – but it truly helps to reduce unnecessary heat a lot more effectively than the synthetic alternative (read: leatherette). The headband adjusts to your head size automatically and with a smooth indicative of the high quality of construction.

Another feature we’re happy to see included is a removable cable. Alas, there is no locking mechanism as used in Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic to keep the cable in place, but removing it does require a deliberate yank which in turn does not make accidental unplugging a problem. The connection is a standard stereo 3.5mm connector, so you can replace it very easily – although then you’ll miss out on the handsfree kit built into one of the included cables.

Included in the package are two cables: one with a right-angle jack and handsfree kit and another with a straight jack and longer 9 feet cable length. Although both use 3.5mm plugs rather than the quarter-inch plug associated with more serious headphones, the latter is clearly intended for at-home or in-studio use, and House of Marley includes the quarter-inch adapter for just this purpose. Other accessories included as part of the standard package include an airplane adapter and an excellent, stylish and classy headphone case. The case is lined with fabric but has a rigid skeleton to protect the contents from knocks. As the headphones don’t fold up, it is fairly large, but looks classy in black fabric and brown leather, with neat white stitching the stylistic white chocolate sprinkles on top.

The green, yellow (or is it gold?) and red motif seen all the way down the headphone cables, which acts as a little rubber border between the ear pads and cups, is the one conspicuous nod to the series’ roots. These are the colours of the Rastafarian flag, symbolizing peace and love and all that nice pleasant things. I’m glad there is a company that takes peace, love and laid back-ness into the design instead of the usual angry, urban, hyper modern garish approach.

Much more within our remit is the House of Marley Destiny TTR noise cancellation feature. This listens to ambient noise and pumps through an inverse sound wave to negate it. This is what the sticking-out bits on the back, bearing the House of Marley logo, are for. The one on the left side acts as a switch, turning the noise cancelling feature on and off. It needs to be on for any music to play though, as the signal cuts out entirely when cancellation is turned off.

The other side is a twist-to-release battery cover for the two AA batteries that power the headphones. Unlike the Bose Quiet Comfort 3, standard batteries are used instead of rechargeable ones (you can, if you want, use your own rechargeable AA batteries should you choose to use those). Battery life is very good, a single pair lasted the majority of my tour-de-force two-week test period.

They can’t match Bose‘s best for sheer noise cancelling performance, though. Basic ambient hums are removed, but it doesn’t come close to the eerie vacuum of noise that the best noise cancelling creates, and it adds more hiss to the output than the Bose QC3. It sounds much closer to my entry-level Pioneer noise cancelling headphone I bought at Akihabara in Japan for $80 (not available in North America, however), which is a bit disappointing considering the cost of the Destiny TTR.

On the positive side to this more laid-back approach to the technology, though, as it doesn’t create the strange feeling of inner-ear pressure that more aggressive alternatives can foster. This anomaly of a great noise cancelling headphone is the thing that pushed me away from Bose QC3 and chose the $80 Pioneer instead. I never got used to the QC3 noise cancellation, and this discomfort and the occasional feelings of nausea – and I found the less aggressive noise cancelling done by the Destiny TTR to be much more comfortable when I took the Destiny TTR with me in my 24-hour flight to Indonesia (and another 24-hour flight back).

After having gone on about quite how much better the last Bose headphones are at noise cancelling (although I still prefer the more laid-back approach of the Destiny TTR noise cancellation algorithm), I’m happy to report that the House of Marley Destiny TTR do sound better, a lot better in fact, than the QC3 (and faaaaaaaar better built too) in most respects. They offer a nice wide sound for a closed-back pair and a detailed, well-resolved treble that’s a little more insightful and much better-defined than the QC3 or those Dr Dre stuff.

Bear in mind the Destiny TTR is not designed to be a mixing monitor. They won’t challenge the best on-ear headphones around at the price. With most musical styles, they sound great, handling music that might tend towards harshness and sibilance and supplying scale we always long to hear in full-size over-ears headphones.

However, there is often simply too much bass, ramped-up to a level that’s out of proportion with the rest of the sound. It’s not fast or taut enough to avoid booming out in more low-end-heavy music, spoiling what’s an otherwise very pleasant sound signature. This doesn’t mean the headphone is bad. Not at all, in fact. The entire House of Marley headphones, docks, sound systems are designed with deliberate slightly boomy bass and somewhat harsh treble to be in line with the sound system of the Bob Marley era and these headphones and sound systems can reproduce any Bob Marley (and any Reggae music) faithfully.

If sound quality is your only concern, then, I can not endorse these headphones to represent great value for money – but then the same is true of ALL of their direct competitors. Bose, Beats and Skull Candy all trade style, marketing or sheer bass volume for sonic fidelity. That is why none of them will ever receive my recommended stamp. However, strangely enough I’m about to give one to the Destiny TTR. The materials used to make them are top-notch, building quality is impressive, and while they’re heavier than most, the leather earpads make them comfortable to wear for long periods.

Verdict

Eye-catching and properly well-built, the House of Marley Destiny TTR offer a pretty alluring alternative to the anything else at this price range. Better sound quality, better built, better design (well, this one is subjective) and subconsciously makes me feel calmer, I can’t ask much more from a headphone at this price range. No it’s not the best noise cancelling headphones out there. No it’s not the best sounding headphones out there. You will have to buy separate headphones for cover both and still you won’t have the most durable headphones out there. With these headphones at least you will get the most durable headphones on the market with more than decent noise cancelling and better-than-most sound reproduction. In fact, this is the perfect headphone for musicians’ monitor in the studio, be it for a recording session or for a jam session. Just like Bob Marley said , “We’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, I wanna jam it wid you”… and this headphone is perfect for that.

http://www.thehouseofmarley.ca/