Laptop Mag Verdict
The House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC has great sound and battery life, but also lacks performance in many areas.
Effective noise reduction
Stable battery life
Sleek eco-friendly design
Really bad call quality
Transparency mode needs work
Lacks extra features
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The company followed it up with the Get Together Duo, one of the best computer speakers available that embodies brand hallmarks such as vibrant sound and an attractive eco-friendly design. Now, HoM decided to give their popular wireless headphones the active noise-cancelling treatment, bringing to market the all-new Positive Vibration XL ANC.
- Our expert picks for the best noise-cancelling headphones, per budget and style
- Check out our Apple AirPods Max review
- …and our Bose 700 review
Similar in sound and style to the original, these headphones offer lively audio and acceptable ANC at an attainable price tag. Battery life has also received a massive increase, doubling that of the first-gen model. For all of its strengths, the Positive Vibration XL ANC also comes with many weaknesses (e.g., comfort, features, call quality) that make it a questionable investment, based on your preferences.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Availability and price
The House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC is sold for $149.99 and can be purchased directly from HoM. Available colors include Black and Pink. Bundled with the purchase are a stash bag, aux cable, USB-C charging cable, quick start guide, and warranty booklet.
These headphones are geared towards eco-conscious consumers who want active noise cancellation and quality sound in a sustainable package. Other affordable noise-cancellers like the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 ($80) and Cleer Enduro ANC ($149) are suggested alternatives. Luxury options such as the Bose 700 ($400) and AirPods Max ($549) come with stronger ANC and sound quality for a premium.
Bookmark our best headphones deals page to stay alert on the latest sales.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Design and comfort
The Positive Vibration XL ANC does not stray too far from its predecessor in the looks department. That’s an understatement. Sans the embedded metallic logo, it’s the same exact design, from materials to shape to control module placement. The irony is that this doesn’t take away from the headphones’ aesthetic appeal.
HoM continues to do what other headphone makers don’t: employ eco-friendly materials in the building process. The Positive Vibration XL ANC is crafted from FSC certified wood and recyclable aluminum. Not only are these headphones durable, but they also have a premium presence that should place them in a higher price bracket. The memory foam ear cushions feel plush, and I’m digging the matte finish and canvas wrap atop the headband.
Even the included accessories are thoughtfully designed. The tangle-free braided aux cable and charging cable are built to last and look distinctive.
As well-crafted as these headphones are, HoM didn’t account for comfort whatsoever. The clamping force is excruciatingly tight. When finding the proper setting for my head size, my ears and skull were suffocating; even adjusting the yokes to the loosest setting felt cramped. The extra weight (10.9 ounces) makes them an encumbering travel item as well.
One positive is that the headphones don’t experience much slippage due to the tight grip they apply on the head. The cutouts also provide enough room for your ears to rest inside the earpads.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Controls and digital assistant
Why the brand refuses to adopt touch controls or on-ear detection remains a mystery. This leaves us with a physical button scheme that spreads across both earcups. The left cup has buttons for both listening modes (Ambient Sound, ANC), while the right cup houses a multifunctional three-button module. The volume buttons can either skip (hold + for 2 seconds) or play the previous track (hold – for 2 seconds) and the middle button manages playback (play/pause), call management (answer/end), voice activation, and power on/off.
Despite not being the most favorable input option, all of the buttons are responsive and produce nice tactility to reassure users that commands are being executed. The symbol on each button protrudes, so you can easily identify and locate them. Furthermore, you can manage functionality via an inline mic on the aux cable; the lone button does everything except raise and lower volume.
Digital assistant support operated well on Android, but not iOS/macOS. Everything I threw at Google Assistant was acknowledged and answered quickly. Speech detection was a bit off when using Siri and commands weren’t fully registered; sometimes Apple’s software would only pick up half of what was said. There were some latency issues on all platforms too, especially on macOS, which not only had me wait a few seconds to receive responses but also slowed down programs like Microsoft Word.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Active noise cancellation
The Positive Vibration XL ANC comes with hybrid active noise cancellation that uses two mics to reduce ambient noises. HoM’s ANC technology won’t completely block out all external sounds, but it will minimize most distractions to keep you focused on the music, work or any homeowner duties.
Very little caught my attention inside the house, which was ideal during work hours. My wife’s Zoom conference calls went unnoticed, along with our cat’s incessant meowing and a loud television. Household appliances like blenders and washing machines were muffled and still audible. Our infant’s cries after nap time were louder than I anticipated as well.
The feature is most serviceable outside with the mics combating wind surprisingly well. Breezes won’t affect what you’re listening to, but briskier conditions will produce a whooshing effect that isn’t as bad as other poorly engineered ANC headphones. Joggers and speeding cars didn’t draw my attention. I couldn’t say the same about landscaping tools (e.g., lawnmowers, leaf-blowers), dump trucks, and sirens, which were all loud and recognizable from afar.
Sidenote: You can also use ANC mode when in wired mode. The results are the same.
HoM created its own transparency mode called Monitor Mode to increase your awareness in different settings by piping in more ambient noise. I’ve tested better. The volume needed to be kept at 50% or lower for sounds to be distinguishable, and even then, clarity wasn’t the greatest. I could barely hear the noises coming from the barge construction across the street, plus the fact that I couldn’t hold a conversation with the missus in our quiet home office deemed the feature useless.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Audio quality
HoM’s sound profile delivers a nice balance of bass, mid-range, and treble with some highs thrown into the mix. My most satisfying listens came from contemporary music genres. Jay-Z’s “So Ghetto” had a funky bounce to it with impactful bass coming out of the 40mm hi-def drivers. The distorted piano stabs and the rapper’s brash rhymes also sounded crisp.
The Positive Vibration XL ANC handles midrange superbly. Nina Simone’s “I Put A Spell On You” was a treat that showcased definition, as the low harmonics and singer’s soulful vocals intensified the record’s somber tone. It was easy to make out individual performances with every instrument reproduced exceptionally well.
Bass can get a bit overzealous on super-boomy productions, creating minor distortion that affects vocals mostly. Also, most noise-cancelling headphones tend to increase the bass levels when enabling ANC mode, but not the Positive Vibration XL ANC. I noticed a crackling effect in the background on certain tracks – Bahamadia’s “True Honey Buns” was guilty of this.
The aux cable comes in handy when running low on battery life. Mids still sound wonderful and I found that highs were accentuated more, though the low end was brought down a smidge.
Isolation was great with the headphones passively blocking out external noises from entering the soundscape. This allowed for a fuller, more immersive sound. Leakage was also minimal. The sound would only seep out of the earcups when listening at max volume, and even then, it wasn’t as disruptive as some of the other bass-heavy headphones out there.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Battery life
HoM rates battery life at 26 hours with ANC, which, realistically, drops to about 24 hours when factoring in volume, streaming, and Monitor Mode. Playtimes can be extended to 32 hours when disabling ANC. No complaints here, especially since this is longer than the AirPods Max and Bose 700, two models that max out at 20 hours. Four days straight and 4 hours daily, I have an estimated 7 hours of use left in the tank.
Advertised is advanced quick-charge technology to speed up the charging process, though the company has yet to disclose any information around it. I saw the headphones jump from 40% to 50% in 10 minutes, which equates to about 1 hour of playtime, so the quick charging claim isn’t a lie, though I wouldn’t label it advanced.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Call quality and connectivity
It’s never fun saying this about a pair of wireless headphones, but the call quality on the Positive Vibration XL ANC is terrible. For starters, volume was ridiculously low, and I had to strain to hear what people were saying. Interference was crazy with all external sounds creeping onto calls. The wind was the biggest culprit, as the whooshing effect was super harsh on my ears. My wife said she could make out keywords, but not full sentences, and that most of what I said sounded like nonsensical babble.
Bluetooth 5.0 keeps connectivity stable and strong. I enjoyed up to 30 feet (10 meters) of wireless listening; audio and calls didn’t drop. The pairing process was quick and painless, and re-pairing to recognized devices was even quicker. Multipoint technology did not make the cut, meaning you can’t connect the headphones to two devices at the same time. However, HoM did program a function that allows you to effortlessly pair a new device by holding down the volume buttons for 2 seconds, which makes it simpler to switch from a primary to a secondary device.
House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC review: Verdict
The House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC will appeal to bass lovers who want noise cancellation and extended playtime while doing their part to better the Earth. Audio is bold with HoM’s sound signature pumping out impactful lows and terrific mids. ANC won’t compete with top dogs like the Bose 700 or AirPods Max, but at least you get longer playtimes when the mode is activated, and it’s sufficient for blocking out common distractions.
Sadly, the downsides practically equal the upsides. These might be the most uncomfortable headphones I’ve tested in a long time. The poor call quality and transparency mode are unacceptable. No extra features or app support add insult to injury as well.
If you’re a brand activist, then the Positive Vibration XL ANC will give you some value. Otherwise, seek out something that offers better overall performance at the same price point as the Enduro ANC.