Hands-on review: Kygo Xenon Bluetooth headphones
Like Dr Dre’s Beats, Kygo headphones are riding on the back of Norwegian DJ and record producer Kygo in order to bring some celebrity status to a crowded market for over-the-ear Bluetooth cans.
The new Xenon range promises all the bells and whistles you’d expect from premium headphones in 2020 – Bluetooth 5, USB-C charging, noise cancellation and support for Qualcomm’s aptX codec which is supposed to provide fuller sound when listening wirelessly.
Its got to be said that Sony’s forgettably named WH-1000XM3 are currently the ones to beat when it comes to noise cancelling headphones. Their sleek form and supreme ability to drown out annoying commuters on the tube have led to their well-deserved success. While the Xenons won’t knock them from the top spot, they are £70 cheaper so worth considering for more budget-conscious consumers.
The Xenons have clearly been designed with comfort in mind, creating a snug, soft fit over my large head. They feel a little weighty at first but this is easy to forget after a song or two. However, my ears heated up quickly while wearing these during chores and after an hour my head needed some fresh air. Out and about they feel fine, but while this review period took place in the winter, summer listening may turn out to be a more uncomfortable experience.
While the fit, feel and technical performance of headphones is obviously important, especially to tech enthusiasts, on-ear devices make a fashion statement whether you like it or not.
But while the WH-1000XM3s are relatively unostentatious for headphones of their type, the Xenons literally stand out. There’s no getting around the fact that the cans themselves are thick and protrude vertically some way. This might be a fashion statement that some are keen to make but I couldn’t help but feel like a cyberman when walking around town, and even as a fan of Doctor Who, this isn’t a good thing. Each earphone also has an illuminated X for that maximum look-at-me vibe; these can thankfully be turned off by pressing both volume buttons simultaneously.
When compared to a pair of Audio Technicas (ATH-M50xBT to be precise), they didn’t quite have the same clarity and differentiation between different instruments. They still sounded great though, with crisp, clear highs and bass that isn’t as excessively boosted as fashion-orientated brands like Beats, although more boomy than the neutral balance strived for by Audio Technica.
I mostly listened to various forms of hard rock and ambient and they sounded good enough through the Xenons. Since I’m not really a House fan, and these are made by Kygo, it’s possible that they have been tuned to sound best with the kind of music played to whacked-out 19-year-olds on grubby Ibiza beaches.
The noise cancelling feature also worked well, making most exterior ambient noise barely audible: a welcome feature for travellers. The battery performance is similarly great, using them at work for hours at time and days on end without needing to recharge. The Bluetooth connection never dropped from both a phone and a laptop and they still picked up a signal when used some distance away in an adjacent room.
USB-C charging is very welcome, although a feature that should be expected these days, especially with pricier devices. With the vast majority of Android devices using this port, most users should be able to charge their phone and headphones with one cable. iPhone users are bang out of luck here as always though.
The Xenons are built very solidly with an extending mechanism that feels like it can take a lot of wear and tear. Closer inspection reveals a few small imperfections in the build that you probably wouldn’t find in better-known brands, but it’s not a major detractor from the overall impression.
Without the best-in-class sound quality and chunkier exterior, the Xenons feel like a small step down from market leaders like the WH-1000XM3. But the £70 saving may sway those who aren’t that bothered by the way they look and don’t consider themselves audiophiles.
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