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House of Marley Riddim EM-JH053 Review

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The Riddim’s “everyman” sound signature makes it extremely versatile, exhibiting capable reproductions of everything from John Denver, to Peter Gabriel, to Bob Marley himself.

(7.5 out of 10)

Pros

  • Great balance
  • Smooth sound signature
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Lack of detail
  • Lack of depth and dimension

Introduction

Recently, we got the chance to sit down with a legend……’s namesake headphones, the People Get Ready in-ears, part of the Jammin Collection from House of Marley. (Yep, it’s a mouthful.) By brandishing the name of such an iconic figure as Bob Marley, House of Marley has a lot to live up to. And while we really appreciate the fact that the company uses eco-friendly components to build its headphones and donates a bit of its prophets to the Marley family’s 1Love charity, the People Get Ready’s sound quality was anything but legendary.

To be honest, we gave the entry level headset a bit of a ripping. We were disappointed with the massive bass it substitutes for, well, everything else in the spectrum. And we couldn’t help but be a bit crestfallen after hearing its rather feeble handling of our favorite album from Mr. Marley himself, Kaya.

With our latest acquisition from House of Marley, we’ve moved up quite a bit in the company’s headphone chain to one of its new on-ear designs, the Riddim ($159.99). Already pleased with the much more succinct name, we were hoping the Riddim would supplant the bad taste in our mouth (and ears) from our previous experience, creating a sound worthy of representing the Marley name. And so, with our music catalog at the ready, and an objective optimism in our hearts, we set out to discover what the Riddim had to offer. Here’s what happened.

Out of the box

Like the People Get Ready, the Riddim sets an eco-centric tone right away with familiar brown packaging of recycled cardboard. Opening the box, we pulled apart the earth-friendly packing foam inside to reveal the Riddim, covered head to toe in blue denim, and accompanied by a square carrying case of the same material. The look is polarizing. You will either love it or hate it. Most folks we showed the headphones to fell in the latter camp.

Features and design

If you still own a jean jacket, or are looking to acquire one, the Riddim: Sky will accessorize your outfit perfectly. The striped denim that canvasses the entire headset’s exterior is accented with black aluminum buttons and brown leather patches, including a silver magnetic rivet which secures the carrying case. The unique look certainly makes an impression, and, for us, inspired a strange hankering for some John “Cougar” Mellencamp tunes. However, if denim’s not your thing, the Riddim’s canvas hide also comes in 4 other colors, including an inconspicuous charcoal grey.

house of marley riddim on ear headphones em_jh053_sk canvas and leather headband

The Riddim’s ear cups and headband are fitted with thick padding made of memory foam, wrapped in a soft cloak of the aforementioned brown leather. The circular ear cups attach to the headset via black rivets of recyclable aluminum, and are fastened with ribbed aluminum caps sporting House of Marley logos in white. The ear cups adjust for size along the headband via extendable arms, which advance and retract rather sluggishly beneath the canvas exterior. The Riddim’s 40mm neodymium drivers release sound through triangular perforations cut into the leather skins that stretch across the ear pads. A beveled ring of black aluminum circling each earcup’s outer edge adds a bit of extra grip for ear adjustment.

Extending from the left ear cup is the signature House of Marley braided headphone cable. The 52-inch cable is black and checkered with Rastafari patches of red, green, and gold. About six inches below the ear cup, the cable connects to a large 3-button iOS microphone made of black plastic, and fastened with silver rings on each end. At the tip of the cable is a right angled, 3.5mm headphone jack, plated in gold.

Comfort

Though we weren’t crazy about the style, we found the Riddim to be remarkably comfortable right from the start. The thick pad that extends across the majority of the headband perfectly conforms to the top of the head, and the leather earpads hug luxuriously against the ears with the comfort of an old baseball mitt.

Audio performance

We tested the Riddim by serving up a large collection of tunes from multiple genres. We found the headset exhibited a very well-balanced sound, notable for its punchy midrange, rolled off treble, and ample, defined lower register. The result was a smooth overall tone that provided a pleasant listening experience.

Riddim costs more than it should, and for not much more cash you can get into an elite hi-fi headset.

If that description paints the Riddim’s sound signature as a bit lackluster, that’s probably because it is — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Pleasant was a word that seemed to come to mind often as we perused our catalog with the Riddim. The headset offered a tacit approach to the music that allowed for a very comfortable listen, especially on brighter productions where the headphones lent a smooth sheen to the upper register. The rounded tonal color allowed the headset to cruise through almost any genre we threw its way with the understated ease of an old Cadillac.

However, the tame approach the Riddim takes to the frequency spectrum is definitely a double-edged sword. While we appreciated not being bowled over by the bass or treble, the Riddim’s soft-handed touch also left a lot of detail and excitement behind, especially in the percussion. At times we imagined the “pleasant” sound of the Riddim like the town Pleasantville from the Tobey Maguire movie of the same name, conjuring images of a black and white universe that lacks real emotion. The brilliant textures and sharp clarity in much of the music we tested seemed a bit glossed over. Vocals were often rendered with little body, and the brash crunch of instruments like electric guitar and saxophone were rounded off by the Riddim’s drivers like a lathe.

Still, listening less critically, we couldn’t help but enjoy a lot of what we heard from the Riddim. Its ability to carve out some decent power in the low end, while keeping a restrained overall balance, made for an awesome listen to tracks like Jay-Z’s “99 problems”, which can be pretty hard to pull-off. And we loved being able to pound rock tunes without fear of painful crash cymbals or bass lines crowding the center image. The Riddim’s “everyman” sound signature makes it extremely versatile, exhibiting capable reproductions of everything from John Denver, to Peter Gabriel, to Bob Marley himself.

Conclusion

When you buy a House of Marley headset, you’re not only purchasing a distinct sound and style, but also the company’s entire eco-friendly philosophy. And unfortunately, going green usually means spending it. The Riddim costs more than it should, and for not much more cash you can get into an elite hi-fi headset. But if you like the idea of renewable headphones, maybe you’re willing to pay a slight tax to get them. We can’t make that choice for you. But we can tell you the Riddim is a smooth sounding, comfortable headset that’s worth a listen.

By Ryan Waniata, DigitalTrends

Specifications

Key Features

  • Features : Active Noise-cancelling, In-Line Remote, In-Line Microphone

Release Information

  • Release Date : 01/2013
  • Release Price : $159.99

Design

  • Weight : Not provided
  • Color : City, Desert, Midnight, Sky
  • Form Factor : On-ear
  • Connection Type : Wired (3.5mm)
  • Wire Length : 52″
  • Use : Studio/Home

Audio

  • Drivers per ear : 1
  • Impedance : Not provided
  • Frequency response (low) : Not provided
  • Frequency response (high) : Not provided
  • Surround Sound :
  • Active noise-cancelling :
  • Sensitivity : Not provided

Microphone

  • Microphone : Yes

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