Ameya DalviDec 24, 2020 16:41:02 IST
Price: Rs 29,414
When I heard that a Mercedes product was headed my way for review, I almost geared up for a drive. As it turned out, they were Mercedes-Benz branded headphones. My excitement turned into curiosity. Till that point, I wasn’t aware of the existence of such a product, and then couldn’t stop wondering what it would sound like. I took the headphones out for a spin, and here’s my experience.
Mercedes-Benz Noise Cancelling Headphones – Build and design: 8/10
Given the brand name, I was never in doubt about the build quality or design, and it did not disappoint. The Mercedes-Benz headphones are made of high-quality plastic with a combination of a glossy black body and metallic gray highlights. The construction is quite sturdy and the headphones look elegant. However, they aren’t among the lightest I have come across, and weigh close to 400 grams. That’s over 1.5x the weight of the Sony WH-1000XM4 that I reviewed recently.
The ear-cups have a leather-like material and are nicely cushioned. The right ear-cup is where the action is with touch controls, power on/off switch and toggles for ANC (active noise cancellation) and 3D surround sound. You also get a USB type-C connector there for charging the headphones, along with a 3.5mm jack to plug in the aux cable in case the headphones run out of battery, or if you plan to use them with a non-Bluetooth device. A USB-A to type-C cable and an Aux cable are bundled in the package along with a stylish carry pouch.
The revered Mercedes logo can be found at the back of each ear-cup, while the markings for left and right side are placed on the fabric inside the cups; a smart design choice. Just like in the case of several Sony headphones, the ear-cups can rotate and bend by 90 degrees. You can fold them and tuck them away neatly in the bundled pouch.
Mercedes-Benz Noise Cancelling Headphones – Comfort: 7/10
These headphones fit well, and the ear-cups are just large enough to go over the ears. Thanks to the quality of the padding, you don’t feel any significant discomfort around the ears. The soft cushions absorb much of the pressure, leaving just the right amount of force on the head to hold the earphones firmly in place. However, you do feel their presence and the weight after using them for a short period of time. This Mercedes-Benz pair is not one that I could wear for hours on the go. I had to take them off every hour or so, and take a short break before putting them back on.
Mercedes-Benz Noise Cancelling Headphones – Performance: 6.5/10
These headphones support Qualcomm’s aptX codecs in addition to AAC and SBC. However, if you choose to pair these Bluetooth 5.0 compliant headphones with Apple devices, the only option you get is AAC. The headphones support active noise cancellation and you get a dedicated button to switch it on and off. You can double-click it to turn ‘Transparancy’ mode on/off to allow or disallow ambient sounds to be piped in. I wouldn’t recommend turning ‘Transparancy’ mode on unless absolutely necessary. When it is turned on, there is a significant drop in loudness of audio playback and the sound distorts too.
The ANC here is more than functional but far from perfect; nowhere close to what we experienced with the Sony WH-1000XM4. It definitely cuts down on the surrounding buzz and gives you better isolation, but a lot of high- and low-frequency sounds seep through, something that the Sony managed to ward off much more effectively. There is a 3D mode that attempts to broaden the soundstage and offer a spacious sound experience. It doesn’t always enhance the experience and is a matter of individual taste.
As I had mentioned earlier, the right ear-cup has touch controls, and they work fine. Tapping it once pauses or resumes the audio, and also lets you answer an incoming call. You can end the call by a long touch, and reject it by double tapping the touch zone. You need to slide your finger from the bottom of the cup to the top to increase the volume, and from the top to the bottom to decrease it. Similarly, you can slide it horizontally to go to the previous or next track. Simple, cool and effective!
Moving on to the sound quality, the company has attempted a neutral sound profile with partial success. I tried different genres of music to gauge its performance. The mids and highs are handled well with a good amount of detail in the sound. The vocals are clear and the instrument separation is more than decent. The highs are a bit too sharp and the sound feels a little bright for my taste. Part of the reason being a below-par bass response. The lows feel subdued and the overall sound lacks thump.
I do not advocate boosting of low-end frequencies, but they could have been handled better. The sound stage is reasonably broad even without switching on the 3D mode. All said and done, the overall sound output, though pretty decent, it isn’t the best I have heard in the sub-30K segment. But then this isn’t exactly a product for the audiophiles, but more for the fans of the brand looking for a useful collectible.
Mercedes-Benz Noise Cancelling Headphones – Battery life: 7/10
The company claims a battery life of 18 hours on a full charge. I managed to get a shade over 15 hours with ANC switched on half the time. With ANC off, I could have probably squeezed a couple more hours out of it, taking the figure closer to the company claim. This is not a bad battery life, but again, I have seen better. And given the weight of the headphone, it is only fair to expect better than that.
Mercedes-Benz Noise Cancelling Headphones: Price and verdict
The Mercedes-Benz Noise Cancelling headphones are available in India for a price of Rs 29,414 on the company’s website or through some of their select distributors. It is a bit hard to apply our usual audio review yardstick to gauge the value it offers. But if I were to, then this is not a product I would recommend to someone with a budget of 30K and looking for the best audio quality available. The aforementioned Sony WH-1000XM4 would be my top pick. You get better-sounding headphones even under Rs 20,000.
But as I mentioned before, this is not a product for all. It is targeted at Mercedes-Benz fans more than audio enthusiasts. And if you are one, and have the money to buy and flaunt functional memorabilia that echoes the design elegance of the brand, this is not a bad option.