These days, you have to spend at least $200 to get a decent-sounding pair of headphones. Or do you? Acoustic Research's 808 Studio Headphones can soothe even the most demanding music lover. However, with an $89.99 price tag, there are bound to be a few compromises. Read on to find out if this deal is sharp or flat.
The Acoustic Research 808s are made of a glossy black acrylic shell. It's a rather ho-hum affair that doesn't stand out in a crowded headphone landscape. However, we liked the subtle matte 808-insignia branded across the top of the band. Similar (and larger) markings can be found on the sides of the band near the earcups in a more visually stimulating gray and red. The 808s are also available in glossy white or matte black.
The earcups have a small amount of maneuverability, which comes in handy for securing a comfy fit. We appreciated the aluminum hinges, which allowed us to fold the 808s and store them neatly in our purse. However, the hinges sounded very creaky as we folded and unfolded the earcups. The sliding extenders in the earcups were also stiff.
The interior band and the earcups come wrapped in synthetic leather, which is disappointing, but not overly surprising given the 808s' price. The black material felt and sounded like paper when we ran our hands across the cups and band.
A 3.5-mm audio jack is located at the bottom of the left earcup. We loved the flat gray and black cord included with the 808s. Even when we tossed the cans haphazardly into our bag, they always came out untangled. However, we wish a little more effort had gone into the microphone control panel. The panel was solid enough, but some of the glue used to attach the device ran over onto the cable.
Here's the reason for getting the 808 headphones: they sound like they cost twice as much as the sticker price. The 808's set of 40-mm drivers delivered rich, clear audio that was well balanced across genres.
When we listened to Etta James' "At Last," the dynamic alto was equally front-and-center on the 808s and the $299 V-Moda M-100s. We heard clearly the gradual swell of the strings and the dreamy bass on both sets of headphones. We found that the 808s were a little harsher on the higher ends of the track than the more premium V-Moda Crossfade M-100s, but otherwise this was a close call, aurally.
The 808s delivered another strong performance on Ram Jam's "Black Betty." Both cans gave us loud, clear guitar with tight snares and gritty vocals. However, the pricier M-100s managed to edge out the 808s with their warmer tone.
Color us impressed. The $89.99 Acoustic Research 808 Studio Headphones deliver big audio that rivals headphones that cost more than twice as much. In terms of design and build quality, you get what you pay for, however. The 808's rickety hinges, acrylic shell and synthetic leather made us long for the sleek comforts of the $299 V-Moda Crossfade M-100. But the Acoustic Research 808's are a great choice for music lovers who want great sound without breaking the bank.