Excellent Marketing for Absolute Garbage

I’m ashamed to admit as an audio professional that I was taken for a fool by excellent marketing for a pair of garbage headphones.

The headphones I speak of are the Boosted Acoustic Wood Headphones. They look very stylish and were originally priced at $129 which would make them a product of interest for me. I got them for $17.99 in what appeared to be a Woot!-like flash sale through jpgmag.com’s online lifestyle shop.

As you might portend the actual listening and comfort experience was not as advertised. My thorough evaluation of the “elite styled and artfully designed” wooden headphones revealed a thin sounding, low impedance, low dynamic range, cheap materials rattling, listening experience that resulted in immense personal disappointment.

The nearest comparison I could make to these phones are the $15 – $20 Skullcandy Uprock Headband phones you buy for pre-teens that squeeze your head so hard you think it could explode. Adjusting the ear pads on this wooden pair was easy enough, but I could not settle them into a cozy position.

Whether or not you’re an audiophile, owning a pair of comfortable headphones that can reproduce barely audible treble spikes and bass roll offs is not just a symbol of your personal style or bank account, but an indicator of your discriminating audio preferences.

At work, my go to pair for all day listening are Sennheiser Momentum 2 on-ear headphones. These retail for $130, but I found a gently used pair on eBay for $80.

Sennheiser Momentum 2 on-ear headphones worn by a colleague at work

Sennheiser Momentum 2 on-ear headphones worn by a colleague at work.

For my daily commute to the city, I use a stringy pair of Philips Earhook headphones from CVS that I’ve lost and replaced many times. These retail for $10 – $15. They are incredibly comfortable, lightweight, and easy to store. Everything I need to rock out on the train discreetly and move about freely without drawing attention.

I’ve got my eye right now on a few different pair of headphones for listening with discernment while editing audio and recording out in the field. These are the Sony MDR 7506/MDR V6 and the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro.

All three are light weight, high fidelity headphones, highly rated by the trades, and comfortable for long periods of wear. I may lean Sony for their rugged build and time tested reputation as professional grade studio headphones. One could certainly argue that the Sennheiser are to be considered consumer, possibly prosumer, but they’re light as a feather and cotton-y dreamlike soft. And y’know, they’re Sennheiser.

I plan to thoroughly evaluate all contenders. 

So how did I get suckered?

By all accounts, the wooden headphones were advertised to meet my standard criteria. Loosely quoting from the listing, Boosted Acoustic headphones “deliver premium sound, fashionable, powerful bass, snappy in the treble, and comfortable.”

the technical specifications confusingly appear to read three two oh h m all one word, as opposed to 32 space Ohms .Tech spec wise, the drivers were listed as 40mm, a typical size for anything from crappy to fancy. But, the kicker was their impedance rating. Listed as “32Ohm” in a uni-formal sans serif font, I mistakenly read this as 320 Ohms. This is an impossibly high impedance rating intended for listening with sophisticated audio equipment, like a pair of Beyerdynamic headphones you find rated at 250 Ohms.

For a pair of sleek looking high priced headphones on sale, the specs were more than acceptable. And I figured if they really sucked, I could just return them.

The second reason, Valentine’s Day. I thought for the factor of fashionability that my wife may want a pair. They come in three wood stain finishes and I thought a “his and hers” in two different shades might make me the audio-pro husband of the year.

Strike 1. As usual, I searched for reviews among the bloggers and the trades, which should’ve been my first indication. All the reviews were from bloggers, not trades, and were basically reposting the marketing photos and specs in some form or another without reviewing the comfort, quality, or specs. Basically all thumbs were up and pointing to sales on their web stores at discounted prices from $30 – 50, and $99 on eBay.

Strike 2. I second guessed a previously awkward experience I had had once before with jpgmag.com, and decided to go for it anyway.

I bought a tchotchke cell phone accessory from them in 2016, but with a much more reasonable expectation for the product given the price. And, at the time, my interest in their main product which is crowdsourced art snob photography and an active art snob community, was enough to soothe the burn from that bad experience.

Strike 3.  All sales final!! I totally didn’t read the fine print. I’m usually pretty good about an awareness of terms and conditions. And even better at reasoning with customer service reps to work around their return policies, if not get a store credit. I was just so eager for a great deal that “too good to be true” completely eluded me.  

This time I’m out. Goodbye jpgmag.com. I am officially closing my jpgmag.com account, and I recommend that you do the same.  

Wisely, I front loaded my Valentine’s Day gifting with exceptional items from Gap Body, which made the headphone debacle seem totally unremarkable. That said, I’m still feeling a little bruised.

Today’s lesson: When it comes to purchasing high end audio equipment at a bargain price, Buyer Beware.

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