The AmazonBasics Closed-Back On-Ear headphones (first generation) were released by Amazon.com in August 2014, as they continued to expand their “house brand” of affordable products. After about a month of use, it is time to review them! To summarize for those who don’t want to read long, these are bang for the buck compact lightweight headphones for portable use, with some emphasis on bass, and surprisingly, they are big-head friendly. Only sound issue that stood out appears to be at some lower bass frequencies.
At some point in 2015, AmazonBasics released a newer version of this headphone, with the same name. The visible difference between the two is that the newer model has a cable on one side only (more convenient). I haven’t listened to the newer model so I can’t compare. The review below is for the first generation model with cables going in on both sides…
|Cable||both sides, not detachable|
|Mic & Remote||No|
|Plug||3.5mm (1/8″), 90-degree, 2 rings|
|Headband Extension||up to 3.3cm per side|
|Earcups||Fold Flat; Face Down up to 45 degrees|
|1/4″ Adapter||Not Included, but work with standard ones|
|Accessories||simple drawstring pouch only|
Despite their small size, they do well with big heads, I can wear them at full extension. As a big head comparison, I can just barely fit into the Monoprice 8323 at full extension. In fact I would say the ABs are a slightly more comfortable big-head fit. Having said that, keep in mind, big heads vary in the way they are big, so this doesn’t guarantee they will fit everyone.
These are quite comfortable, especially after the first few days of breaking them in. I can wear them for hours without side-effects. They are lightweight and do not exert a lot of pressure on the sides. I don’t think I had them get anywhere near to falling off during the one month of use. The ear padding is nice (especially considering the price), and the padding at the top of the headband helps as well, since the top of your head does not come in contact with the actual headband.
Being able to tell the Left from the Right side is an under appreciated practical feature and here, they do not do a good job. The only way to tell is a faintly engraved L and R on the inside of each headband. You really have to look, since they have a black body. You can’t tell by touch. There’s no other tell, so you may want to go DIY (sticker, marking, coloring, etc).
The cable is long enough for its intended use, and lightweight, and I haven’t had any tangling issues with it. The plug is good enough, I had no problem putting it in various phones, tablets and computers. I don’t have any big/thick cases, so I can’t test them in that fashion.
Sound and Music
Given the price, you get bang for the buck sound. You can listen to music and enjoy it without getting distracted by really bad sound. I don’t know how they were designed, but often headphones designed for portable use prioritize the sound for use in those situations (coffee shop, crowded places, etc). This appears to be the case. But even in quite places, again factoring in the $15 price, they do a pretty good job.
They do have a bass emphasis, which seems to be a popular trend these days, especially when you consider it in conjunction with portable use (they have to emphasize bass more so you can listen to it when you are at a noisy place). Bassiness also creeps into music that typically is not associated with “bassy sound effects”. If you like that effect, then it’s all good, but some people may find it objectionable for live, rock, punk and similar genres – if you are listening to them in a quiet room. For example, some Rush studio tracks and Dave Matthews Band Live Tracks (eg “#41” from “Europe 2009”, recorded in an outdoor plaza) had that “bassy” effect. But if you are listening at a busy/noisy place, it is harder to notice this.
Bass is the only place where I found a sound quality issue that was distracting with some tracks such as Portishead’s “Machine Gun” (from their album “Third” – a tricky track to get right). This track exposed this issue quite clearly. It looks like some of the lower bass frequencies are not handled very well. A listen of one of the headphone demonstration discs by Dave Chesky had 50Hz sticking out compared to other headphones.
You do not get as much isolation as you would get with big ear-sealing over-the-ear headphones, but given their size, they do a pretty good job at noisy places like cafes. They are not going to make everything go quiet, but they lower the outside sounds enough that you can actually concentrate – it can make a difference whether you can work/read at a place or not. They are pretty good at not leaking. They are not perfect, but again considering the price, you are not likely to get anyone sitting next to you at a cafe complain or hear what you are listening while you have them on.
These not only look lightweight and but they are. Here is a weigh-in of four different headphones that tells the story in numbers:
AmazonBasics On-Ears vs Sony ZX100
A natural competitor to these are the Sony ZX100, not only because of size and features, but also because of price. The AmazonBasics (ABs) are a brand new model, while the ZX100 has been around for a while and stood the test of time..
- ZX100 easier to tell Left from Right side (red mark on right side)
- ABs are lighter by 1.2oz
- ABs are smaller and they look/feel even smaller than they are
- ABs earpadding is nicer, ZX100 looks tired
- ABs has padding at the top of the headband, ZX100 does not
- ZX100 have been around for a while, have a longer history
- ABs come with a basic drawstring carrying pouch
Listening Session: AB vs Sony ZX100 vs Logitech UE4000 vs Monoprice 8323
To get a comparative feel of these headphones versus some of the competition, I did a group listening session, splitting the sound with a powered Pyle PHA40 amplifier. Playback from the Sandisk Clip Plus and iPod Touch.
The Sony ZX100 is a natural competitor (similar size, similar price). The Logitech UE4000 are now in a similar price range (I had them available and ready to go, so they joined the party uninvited). The Monoprice 8323 was included since many people are familiar with it and it also serves as a benchmark/ceiling for the other three. It is obviously a much larger over-ear headphone, not in the same category. The listening session helps in pin-pointing things that may not be as obvious with stand-alone listening, or confirms observations from stand-alone listening.
Keep in mind, I can only listen to these with my own ears, and everyone’s hearing and music preferences and perceptions are different, so there is always a YMMV in situations like this!
Here are my distilled observations from this listening session:
- as a group, the Sony ZX100 sounded the more different
- Logitech UE4000 leaked the most
- Sony ZX100 was not as loud as the other three
- Monoprice 8323 overall had the better sound
- 50 Hz issues: AB too much, ZX100 couldn’t hear it
- for some rock/punk, I preferred the ZX100 over AB
- UE4000 sounded odd with some rock/punk music
- New Order’s “Blue Monday” lost its club feel with ZX100
About This Review
As with all human endeavors, there is always a possible of errors, mistakes and confusion. If you notice any problems or issues, please let us know! You can learn a bit more about how we review headphones here at the aptly named “How We Review Headphones” post.
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